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'We aren't going to turn the page': Conservatives try again to tie Norman trial to SNC-Lavalin fallout

‘We aren’t going to turn the page’: Conservatives try again to tie Norman trial to SNC-Lavalin fallout


Federal Conservatives made a pitch today — in the wake of the SNC Lavalin affair — to turn the criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman into the spinoff political scandal of the spring.

While the pace of the SNC-Lavalin scandal could start slowing down now, following the ejection of both former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus this week, Conservatives effectively served notice Friday that they’re not letting the Liberal government off the hook over allegations of political interference in criminal cases.

“We aren’t going to turn the page on the rule-of-law corruption from this government,” former Conservative veterans minister Erin O’Toole said Friday as debate began on an opposition motion which, among other things, repeated a demand that the federal government cover Norman’s legal bills.

The motion also insisted that senior political staff and bureaucrats around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sign “an affidavit affirming that no evidence or records” related to the criminal case against the former vice chief of the defence staff have been destroyed.

The Conservatives have made similar demands before as they’ve pressed the Liberal government to account for inconsistencies and allegations of political interference in the prosecution of Norman, who faces a single count of breach of trust.

The Crown accused of him of leaking cabinet secrets to a shipyard executive and a CBC journalist related to a $668 million deal to lease a supply ship for the navy.

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould referenced the Norman case in her secretly-recorded conversation with  Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, suggesting alleged attempts to interfere in SNC Lavalin’s prosecution could taint the public’s perceptions of both the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and the Norman case.

‘This is worse than the SNC-Lavalin scandal’

“Canadians should be outraged,” said O’Toole.

“This is worse than the SNC scandal … you may have issues with a company and bad practice by a company, but here is a Canadian who gave three decades of his life to his country, and before that grew up in a family serving the country, who is being hung out to dry.”

The parliamentary secretary for the justice minister, Arif Virani, responded — as the government has before when faced with questions about the Norman case — by chastising the opposition for talking about a matter still before the courts.

Norman’s lawyers will be back in court in two weeks to resume their fight for access to federal government documents to prove their theory that his prosecution is politically motivated.

The federal government has released a few thousand pages of internal documents, but many pertinent ones — including Wernick’s 60 page memo on the case to Trudeau — have been redacted due to solicitor-client privilege.

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman follows his lawyer Marie Henein as they leave the courthouse in Ottawa following his first appearance for his trial for breach of trust, on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Conservatives repeatedly have sought assurances that government documents related to the case have not been destroyed. They’ve attempted to connect the handling of Norman’s case against Norman with a scandal that erupted in Ontario over the cancellation of gas plant construction under the former Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. Government records were destroyed in the course of that scandal.

O’Toole pointed out that many of Trudeau’s government’s current and ex-senior advisers served in the McGuinty government, or its successor under former premier Kathleen Wynne.

“That was the same crew that brought us the billion-dollar scandal in Ontario,” he said.

The RCMP have separately charged a mid-level federal government procurement official with leaking cabinet secrets related to the same shipbuilding deal.

Matthew Matchett is also charged with breach of trust. He is accused of leaking a cabinet memo and slide deck presentation to an Ottawa lobbyist working for one of the shipyards before a meeting on Nov. 19, 2015, while Norman is alleged to have disclosed the results of the secret discussions

O’Toole insisted that Norman was the “only one [that] has been set up as the fall guy.”

The opposition motion will be voted on next week.



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Boeing responds to 2nd software problem on troubled 737 Max jets

Boeing responds to 2nd software problem on troubled 737 Max jets


Boeing has found another software issue that needs fixing on its 737 Max jets, and the discovery explains why the aircraft maker is delaying its schedule for getting the planes back in the air.

A Boeing spokesman on Friday called it a “relatively minor issue” and said the plane maker already has a fix in the works.

The spokesman, Charles Bickers, said the latest issue is not part of the flight-control software that Boeing has been working to upgrade for months.

That software, known by its acronym MCAS, is suspected in two recent deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that led regulators to ground the plane worldwide last month.

FAA defends record

Meanwhile, the acting head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration told a senator that safety inspectors who certified the Boeing 737 Max jet are properly trained.

In a letter to the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Daniel Elwell said members of the flight standardization board that evaluated the Max are fully qualified for their jobs.

Committee chairman Roger Wicker wrote in a letter to Elwell that whistleblowers had told senators the inspectors didn’t have all the training required by the agency.

The FAA’s certification of the Max is under scrutiny after the crashes, which killed a total of 346 people.



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Feds commit $1.3B to repair crumbling Toronto community housing units

Feds commit $1.3B to repair crumbling Toronto community housing units


Financial relief to help fix Toronto’s decade-long problem of crumbling community housing stock could finally be on the way.

The federal government announced a $1.3-billion funding infusion on Friday aimed at helping the city agency that oversees public housing with a $1.6-billion repair backlog. About $810-million will come in the form of loans, while the  remaining $530-million will be contributions. All of the funding will be distributed over a 10-year period. 

The money for overdue repairs to Toronto Community Housing (TCH) will come from the $13.2-billion National Housing Co-Investment Fund, launched in May 2018. The federal initiative hopes to create up to 60,000 new homes and repair some 240,000 existing units nationwide over the next 10 years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Mayor John Tory at a TCH building in Scarborough to announce the funding boost. The news conference was delayed nearly an hour by protesters who continued to shout while the prime minister spoke.

The $1.3 billion will go to renovating some 58,000 TCH units, according to the federal government. The work is scheduled to begin this spring.

TCH had already budgeted $313 million for repairs this year.



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All B.C. schools must provide free menstrual products for students, government orders

All B.C. schools must provide free menstrual products for students, government orders


All B.C. public schools are now required to provide free menstrual products for students in school bathrooms, the provincial government has announced.

Under a ministerial order issued Friday, schools must make the products available by the end of 2019. 

“This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need, with no stigma and no barriers.”

A statement from the ministry said B.C. is the first province in Canada to mandate free menstrual products in all bathrooms.

The ministerial order comes with $300,000 in provincial startup funding. A statement said the education ministry will be working with school districts in the coming months to ensure they have funding to meet the new requirements.

In February, the New Westminster school district passed a motion to provide free menstrual products in all its schools. The board said it hoped the move would inspire other districts in B.C. — or the provincial government — to do the same.

The move in New Westminster follows a United Way campaign called Period Promise, which advocates for access to free menstrual products.

Members of the New Westminster school district backed calls by Period Promise to provide free menstrual products in schools in February. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

Rebecca Ballard, a Grade 11 student in New Westminster, applauded the government’s decision.

“In my own experience, I know that many young women feel awkward asking for menstrual products at a school office, especially if there isn’t an adult there with whom they feel comfortable,” she said at a news conference on Friday.

“I believe the decision to provide this free service also symbolizes a progression towards eliminating the taboo nature of menstruation. This is something all young women go through and should never feel bad about, or ashamed.”

Rebecca Ballard, left, a Grade 11 student in New Westminster, B.C., said young women should never feel ashamed about having their period. (CBC)

Fleming said the stigma-free aspect of providing menstrual products in bathrooms is important for students, who would sometimes need to ask school staff for tampons or pads.

“Administrative leaders … they understand that students don’t want to talk about everything that’s going on with them,” the education minister said Friday.

“This is something that will help students not only have access to a product they can’t afford, that sometimes isn’t available in the school systems, but [now] principals, vice-principals, teachers and support staff won’t necessarily have to know what your business is on a particular day.”

Susanne Skidmore, co-chair of the Period Promise campaign, said she and her colleagues have been working toward this goal — and other, national goals — for 10 years.

“This a fundamental shift to improve accessibility of menstrual products and reduce period poverty across British Columbia.”

The province also announced Friday that it’s providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise research project. The money will pay for menstrual products at up to 10 non-profit agencies and for research into how best to provide services and products.



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SNC-Lavalin revives court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal trial

SNC-Lavalin revives court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal trial


SNC-Lavalin, the company at the centre of a national political storm, underscores what it calls new and troubling facts in a fresh court bid for a special agreement to avoid prosecution on corruption charges.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction firm cites revelations from recent parliamentary-committee testimony in trying to revive its Federal Court case against the director of public prosecutions.

SNC-Lavalin is asking the Federal Court of Appeal to give it another chance to challenge the director’s decision to not negotiate an agreement that would see the company avoid a criminal trial and a possible prohibition from receiving federal contracts for 10 years.

In a March ruling, the Federal Court tossed out the company’s plea for a judicial review of the 2018 decision.

SNC-Lavalin faces prosecution over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to obtain government business in Libya.

The company unsuccessfully pressed the director of prosecutions to negotiate a “remediation agreement,” a means of holding an organization to account without formal criminal proceedings.



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Driver hurt after attempting U-turn on highway west of Edmonton

Driver hurt after attempting U-turn on highway west of Edmonton


A woman was seriously injured after her van was hit while making a U-turn on a highway west of Edmonton Friday.

The van was travelling east on Highway 627 when it attempted a U-turn at  Range Road 275 at 7:42 a.m., RCMP said in a news release.

  

The van was hit by a westbound SUV.

The 37-year-old woman driving the van was taken to hospital with serious injuries by air ambulance, RCMP said. 

The 45-year-old driver of the SUV suffered minor injuries.

Traffic was diverted onto Highway 779 and Campsite Road for most of Friday morning while police investigated.



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Former SNC-Lavalin CEO rejects allegations firm paid bribes with EDC money

Former SNC-Lavalin CEO rejects allegations firm paid bribes with EDC money


The former CEO of SNC-Lavalin has lashed out at allegations made by an unnamed company insider, denying taxpayer-backed loans from Canada were ever used to pay bribes under his watch.

“People who talk behind the scenes — they are just chicken,” said Jacques Lamarre in an interview with CBC News. 

CBC News is not naming the SNC-Lavalin insider, who worked on numerous EDC-backed projects, as he fears for his job.

On Wednesday, CBC News reported claims from the insider that it was an “open secret” in the company that money intended for bribes overseas was buried in budgets, disguised as “technical fees” in applications for financing from Export Development Canada

EDC is a Crown agency that provides financial backing and insurance to Canadian companies operating in other countries. Over the past 25 years, EDC has provided up to $4.7 billion in loans to SNC-Lavalin.

The agency says the claim from the insider has prompted it to hire outside legal counsel to review at least one former deal with SNC-Lavalin.

Lamarre was CEO of SNC-Lavalin from the mid-1990’s until 2009. The Quebec business mogul was in charge of thousands of projects — some of which became mired in corruption and bribery allegations, resulting in numerous police investigations and, in 2014, the conviction of the head of the company’s construction division.

He says “technical fees” were often used to hire local staff in foreign countries where it was “very difficult” for SNC-Lavalin to establish operations. According to Lamarre, all contractors were required to sign agreements stating they were not to use money for illegal payments such as bribes or kickbacks.

“It is written in the contract, that they cannot pay bribes. It says it in black and white.”

Lamarre insists paying bribes was not necessary, despite operating in some of the world’s most notoriously corrupt countries.

“No. No. No. For me, I’m not in that business. If we have to pay bribes, I prefer not to bid on that job.”

EDC wants to meet with insider

Export Development Canada has hired outside lawyers to probe allegations from the insider that EDC turned a blind eye to SNC-Lavalin’s abuse of “technical fees.”

Out of the 26 SNC-Lavalin projects EDC has backed since 1995, the agency is reviewing one project in Angola flagged by the insider as involving illicit payments. EDC provided political risk insurance to SNC-Lavalin on a $250-million deal to repair the Matala hydroelectric dam.

“Based on any outcomes of the review, we will carefully examine whether we need to expand the scope,” wrote EDC spokesperson Jessica Draker.

Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin is a construction and engineering giant, with thousands of employees and projects around the world. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

“We would welcome the opportunity to meet with your source regarding his or her concerns,” Draker added.

It’s unlikely EDC will make its findings public, as the agency says it doesn’t discuss details of its agreements with clients, including how much money SNC-Lavalin currently owes EDC. 

The insider also alleges EDC signed off on SNC-Lavalin’s technical fees, counting them as Canadian expenses, while knowing the payments were destined for foreign contractors.

(EDC requires projects to meet certain “Canadian content” quotas to be eligible for financing, as the agency exists to support Canadian exports).

EDC has not directly answered questions put to it by CBC News about this claim.

SNC-Lavalin, this week, declined to comment.

Former CEO Jacques Lamarre acknowledges the foreign payments were counted as Canadian expenses.

“I have no good answer for that,” Lamarre said, insisting EDC was fully aware of SNC-Lavalin’s budget details.

Criminal case

In recent years, SNC-Lavalin has faced a string of bribery scandals both in Canada and abroad, including corruption allegations tied to EDC-backed projects in India, Angola and Algeria. 

The company is also facing criminal prosecution in Canada for alleged offences in Libya between 2001 and 2011. One company executive has already pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud in connection with contracts in that country. A judge in Montreal will rule next month on whether the Quebec-based engineering giant itself should stand trial.  If convicted, SNC-Lavalin could face a 10-year ban from bidding on federal contracts.

Lamarre says he never knew of — or sanctioned — bribery and says any instances where it occurred were isolated, and the result of lone, corrupt employees.

“We never took any chances. We were always black and white,” Lamarre said. “But on the other hand, I cannot say that with 10,000 projects, [that] once and a while we didn’t have problems.”

The company has been lobbying for a deferred prosecution agreement, which former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould opposed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced her in January with a new attorney general who could still intervene and impose a settlement that would not bar the company from federal work.

(CBC )

Send tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca or rachel.houlihan@cbc.ca



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The Pollcast: What went down at the Alberta leaders debate

The Pollcast: What went down at the Alberta leaders debate


In 2015, a comment about the challenges of arithmetic during that year’s leaders debate helped propel Rachel Notley into the Alberta premier’s office. The trends were already starting to head in the NDP’s direction when the late Jim Prentice made the remark, but it was still a turning point in what turned out to be a historic election.

Trailing the United Conservatives’ Jason Kenney in the polls, Notley needed Thursday’s debate to be another turning point.

This debate lacked the kind of memorable moment we saw in 2015, but sometimes the impact of a debate can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight. There isn’t much time left for the polling trend line to move — Albertans go to the polls on Apr. 16.

To break down the debate and discuss how this campaign has played out so far, Pollcast host Éric Grenier is joined by Kim Trynacity, the CBC’s provincial affairs reporter in Alberta.

As voting day nears in Alberta, the CBC’s Kim Trynacity joins Éric Grenier to break down Thursday’s leaders debate, talk about how the players performed and who stood out. 18:58

Listen to the full discussion above — or subscribe to the CBC Pollcast and listen to past episodes of the show.



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Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file

Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file


Jody Wilson-Raybould says she never tried to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin file after she was shuffled out of the attorney general’s job.

In an interview with CBC Radio Vancouver’s The Early Edition, Wilson-Raybould denied reports that she demanded that her successor, David Lametti, be directed not to override an independent prosecutor’s decision to make SNC-Lavalin face a criminal trial.

The Vancouver Granville MP insisted she has always been clear on the independent role and authority of the attorney general, and flatly denied trying to bind Lametti on her decision not to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

 “I would absolutely never do that,” she told host Stephen Quinn.

Sources have told CBC News that Wilson-Raybould made at least five demands in order to resolve the bitter SNC-Lavalin dispute, including that three top government officials be fired. Sources also said she wanted a formal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his assurance that his new attorney general would not overturn her decision not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).

“There were a number of discussions. What I will say about those conditions that were reported, one of them was around whether or not the current attorney general would issue a DPA and I have to say unequivocally that I would never interfere with the independence of the attorney general,” Wilson-Raybould said.

Wilson-Raybould has testified that she faced inappropriate, intense political pressure and veiled threats to persuade her to overrule the decision by Kathleen Roussel, director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and offer the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm a DPA.

CBC News reached out to Wilson-Raybould Wednesday night about the list of demands, but she declined to comment.

Contradictory version of events

In an email to CBC News Thursday night, she said, “I have never and would never seek to interfere with the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the attorney general of Canada.”

After Wilson-Raybould issued that statement, CBC news re-contacted the sources for this story. One said Wilson-Raybould raised the demand that the DPP’s decision on SNC-Lavalin be respected directly with Trudeau during their conversations in Vancouver before she resigned from cabinet.

But, the source said, that condition was not part of the conversations in the recent days leading up to Tuesday’s expulsion from caucus, as the demands Wilson-Raybould wanted met evolved and changed throughout the weeks of discussions.

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said he was “confused” by that condition because it flies in the face of her claim that the attorney general should always be independent of political direction.

“I dont understand how you can say you should never interfere with an attorney general’s decision, and yet she wanted to effectively handcuff the new attorney general,” he said Thursday. “Either you believe in that principle, and I respect her for believing in it, or you don’t.”

Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus this week, explaining that trust had been irreparably broken with the former cabinet ministers.

Philpott told CBC Radio’s The Current on Thursday the controversy that has dogged the government for months could have been contained much earlier with an apology from the prime minister for alleged political interference in a criminal trial — and a promise that it wouldn’t happen again.

Apology would have ‘gone a long way’

Wilson-Raybould echoed that today, saying an apology to Canadians would have gone a long way.

“I had hoped all along that the prime minister would have accepted some responsibility for wrongdoing in the case and essentially apologize to Canadians,” she told The Early Edition.

In the interview, Wilson-Raybould said she had no regrets about anything she had done, including the secret taping of a Dec. 19 conversation she had with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

She also acknowledged that her actions have caused damage to the Liberal Party and how that could have helped lead to a Conservative government being elected in the fall, which may not be good for advancing Indigenous rights.

“I think that is a worry. I think that we need to have an approach to resolving and recognizing Indigenous rights that can’t be confined to one political party, can’t be confined to the government party, the Conservative Party, the NDP and other parties,” she said. 

Wilson-Raybould said she still shares the Liberal values of equality and inclusion in policy-making. She’s now reflecting on her political future and will speak with family, volunteers and constituents and said she remains “incredibly open” to a continued role in federal politics.

“I think I still have an important voice,” she said.

Read more and listen to the full interview with the CBC’s Stephen Quinn.



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Beyonce signs deal with Adidas for 'partnership of a lifetime'

Beyonce signs deal with Adidas for ‘partnership of a lifetime’


Beyonce has announced a new collaboration: a creative partnership with Adidas.

The pop star on Thursday says she will develop new footwear and apparel for the brand. Beyonce is also planning to re-launch her activewear clothing line, Ivy Park, with Adidas.

The Grammy-winning superstar says in a statement that she and the company “share a philosophy that puts creativity, growth and social responsibility at the forefront of business.”

She also calls the collaboration “the partnership of a lifetime for me.”



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