West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson said the day his nine-year-old son caught a nine pound fish, a dolly varden, in the Williston reservoir should have been a proud moment.
“He caught it in the reservoir but because of what I know about the mercury we couldn’t eat it,” Willson said. “He had snagged it so bad we had to take it home and it ended up going in the garbage.”
The Williston reservoir, resulting from the creation of the W.A.C Bennett dam, is known for containing high levels of mercury, a common feature of large man-made reservoirs containing high levels of organic material. In 2000 the B.C. government issued a fish consumption advisory for the reservoir.
Although that day of fishing on the reservoir was seven years ago Willson has a new reason to fear those high levels of mercury: the recent approval of the Site C dam.
Willson said he’s concerned the Site C dam will result in similarly-contaminated reservoir water.
“Site C is proposed for the same river,” Willson said. “There’s no reason to think this problem is not going to transfer.”
A sweeping Auditor General’s audit of the Senate has cost taxpayers $21 million, and uncovered troubling expense claims from 10 more sitting and former senators, CTV News has learned. The 10 senators filed questionable expenses amounting to more than $100,000, sources told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife. Just as the questionable spending of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb were sent to the RCMP, sources say the latest cases will be, too.
Public-service unions are asking the federal government for the first time to enshrine scientific integrity language into their collective agreements.
The language is intended to ensure that researchers employed by the government can speak openly about their work, publish results without fear of censorship and collaborate with peers.
With contract negotiations set to resume this week, there will also be a series of demonstrations for the Ottawa area on Tuesday to focus attention on the issue.
If successful, the effort could mark a precedent-setting turn in what the government’s critics portray as a struggle between intellectual independence and political prerogative.
“Our science members said to us: What’s more important than anything else is our ability to do our jobs as professionals,” said Peter Bleyer, an adviser with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, whose membership includes some 15,000 scientists and engineers.
The Senate may have have no choice but to suspend any current senators flagged by the auditor general for improper spending because that's what was done to Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, some legal experts say.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson is to submit his audit of every senator in the first week of June, and CBC News has already reported that the expenses of between five and 10 senators have been flagged with having serious problems.
Luxembourg has been a prime destination for Canadians looking for a tax haven.
Secretive. Discreet. Accommodating.
These features were so attractive that Canadian companies, including a federal pension fund, sent $36 billion there in 2013. But new Statistics Canada data shows that more than $5 billion got pulled out of Luxembourg in 2014.
What happened? Has Canada finally started to act on its promise to tackle tax havens?
Likely not. Government action to date has not matched the three-year-old promise to crack down on those who shuffle money out of the country to avoid paying their taxes. Last month's federal budget promised $16 million a year for the Canada Revenue Agency to hire more auditors to go after aggressive tax planning that uses tax havens. But that hardly makes up for more than $600 million was cut over a two-year period in previous years.
More likely it could be the result of a leaked hard drive from accounting giant PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The information from the so-called LuxLeaks shows that PwC secured secret tax deals for Pepsi, Ikea and 340 other companies. PwC was good at its job. Some of those clients paid less than one per cent tax. And it isn't just the corporate world that is complicit. That leak also showed the agency that invests Canadian civil servants' pensions set up a complex scheme of shell companies to avoid paying tax.
At a time when the Canadian economy is sputtering -- with virtually no growth, weak job creation, poor job quality, large trade deficits, record household debt, and low confidence levels -- governments need to be careful in their policy choices.
What will best drive jobs and growth, and provide the most help to the largest number of those who really need help the most? Growth and fairness must be prime objectives.
One policy choice made by the Harper government is to increase the annual limit on contributions to "tax fee savings accounts" (TFSAs). Created in 2009, TFSAs currently allow taxpayers to deposit up to $5500 in after-tax money every year in a designated account, which will grow over time on a tax-free basis. Mr. Harper is nearly doubling the annual contribution maximum to make it $10,000.
According to the government's calculations, this will cost the federal treasury several hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, and some tens of billions of dollars over the longer-term. It will also reduce provincial government revenues.
OTTAWA - Veterans Affairs Minister Eric O'Toole has a simple explanation for a controversial $1.13 billion spending lapse and the subsequent return of the cash to the federal treasury: it's hard to predict spending when so many elderly vets are dying.
But an opposition critic says there is much more certainty in the numbers than O'Toole is admitting, pointing to the department's statistical research branch and the detailed, quarterly forecasts it produces.
The issue of unspent cash between 2006 and 2014 caused the Conservatives a major political headache last fall as they tried to rebuild bridges with the angry and frustrated community of ex-soldiers.
As the negative coverage of the government’s surprise decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings and performances mounts (Billboard, National Post), it is worth remembering that it is Canadian consumers that will bear the costs with decreased choice and increased prices. I touch on this in my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version), but a more detailed discussion is warranted (see here, here, and here for previous posts on the proposed extension).
OTTAWA - An independent report on Canada's war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant says the threat posed by extremists is real, but perhaps exaggerated, while the Harper government ignores other important political concerns.
An analysis by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, says the horrific violence meted out by extremists is just the latest expression of Sunni alienation in Iraq, something which few Canadians can relate to.
Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, says Canada's endorsement of air strikes and the training of local security forces will not be enough to defeat the Islamic State.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment was too concerned with the interests of Rio Tinto Alcan when it granted the company a permit to dramatically increase the release of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the Kitimat airshed, attendants of a tribunal heard in Victoria on Monday.
“This case raises the specter, in a very real way, of regulatory capture,” Chris Tollefson, lawyer for the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, argued in his opening statement.
Tollefson said the B.C. Ministry of Environment put senior official Frazer McKenzie in a conflicted position when it allowed Rio Tinto Alcan to pay his salary between 2007 and 2013 — during which time McKenzie was tasked with reviewing an upgrading application for the company’s Kitimat smelter.
In 2013, the province, acting through Ian Sharpe, environmental manager for the Ministry of Environment, granted Rio Tinto Alcan permission to proceed with a $3.3 billion modernization project that would increase production and the amount of sulphur dioxide emissions released into the Kitimat airshed.
The difference between how much women and men are paid in Canada isn't just a large amount — it’s actually a life-changing one.
According to Catalyst Canada, a nonprofit organization that focuses on expanding opportunities for women and business, Canadian women earn $0.82 to every $1 earned by men. That’s marginally better than the U.S.’s $0.78 for every $1, but sets the gap in Canada at 18 per cent — much higher than in other countries, specifically in Europe.
“The global pay gap was about $4,000 on average between men and women, and the Canadian pay gap was just over $8,000,” Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada, told the Globe and Mail.
OTTAWA - In August 2011, with six provincial elections on the horizon, the Prime Minister's Office circulated a set of rules for Conservative MPs to keep in mind when wading into provincial politics, including leadership races.
The basic principle was simple — support conservative candidates, but do it quietly.
Increased sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the expanded Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C. will result in increased health costs for local households, an expert witness told an Environmental Appeals Board panel in Victoria, Monday.
Dr. Brian Scarfe, an economist and cost-benefit analyst from the University of Victoria, testified before the tribunal that the externalized health costs placed on residents living near the Kitimat smelter will outstrip the cost of introducing scrubbers — which remove SO2 pollution from effluent — to the RTA plant.
In 2013 the B.C. government approved RTA’s permit to increase production of the smelter. The ‘modernization’ project will limit the release of other aluminum-associated emissions including greenhouse gases, but will result in a 56 per cent increase of sulphur dioxide being pumped into the airshed.
B.C. ruled RTA was not required to install scrubbers to prevent the SO2 increase from 27 to 42 tonnes per day.
In Stephen Harper’s government, the Prime Minister makes almost all the important announcements, the ones the Conservatives want the electorate to remember.
There are a few exceptions to this practice, as when the Finance Minister delivers the budget and speaks about it thereafter. Generally speaking, however, the more important the file, the greater the likelihood that the Prime Minister will do the talking.
Which explains why poor Leona Aglukkaq, the Environment Minister, got to announce on Friday the damp squib of the government’s greenhouse-gas targets for the December international meeting on climate change in Paris.
Being the Environment Minister in the Harper government is political purgatory. The environment generally, and greenhouse-gas emissions reduction in particular, are far, far down the list of priorities, and the ministers have tended to therefore be of marginal importance in the government.
A government waste-watching group once headed by Defence Minister Jason Kenney is calling out the federal government for using taxpayer money to pay for partisan ads.
Veterans Affairs ads that cost $4.3M fell flat with viewers: report Ottawa adds another $11 million to ad budget as year-end nears Ottawa's ads called a pre-election campaign funded by taxpayers In a release issued Wednesday, Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Aaron Wudrick points to several recent ad campaigns that have been in heavy rotation, including the anti-pot messaging launched last year and commercials touting new tax cuts.
"These ads are all paid for with your tax dollars," he notes.
And while he acknowledges that, in some cases, such campaigns serve a "legitimate purpose" by providing the public with important information about available programs and services, that wasn't the case with the $2.5 million spent on ads for the Canada Job Grant — a program that, Wudrick points out in his release, "didn't even exist at the time."
"The reality is that for an incumbent government, the temptation to torque ads for partisan gain will always be great," Wudrick said.
A group of senators, including a Conservative, say senators David Tkachuk and Marjory LeBreton should step down from a committee that will deal with the fall-out of the Auditor General's report into Senate expenses.
The senators, who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity, say Tkachuk and LeBreton should not remain on the Senate's internal economy committee given their involvement in the alleged mishandling of the Mike Duffy affair.
Last year, Canadian corporations held $71 billion in assets in Barbados. They had another $36 billion in the Cayman Islands.
Is Canada’s business elite anticipating a massive boom in beachfront hotels and little paper umbrellas for mixed drinks?
Not likely. More likely, they’re sheltering income earned in Canada from taxes at home. According to a recent estimate from Canadians for Tax Fairness (CTF), the amount of money Canadian corporations held in the world's top 10 tax havens jumped to $199 billion in 2014, from $187 billion a year earlier.
Most of that money “is there to avoid paying taxes back home in Canada,” says Dennis Howlett, CTF’s executive director.
“Walk down a street in Cayman Islands and you will see very little evidence of $36 billion in Canadian investment. But what you will see are small buildings with hundreds of mail boxes that are head office to more than 18,000 shell companies – most of them subsidiaries of corporations trying to avoid tax. The same scenario plays itself out in Luxembourg and other tax havens."
Luxembourg is one tax haven Canadian companies are bailing on; $5 billion in Canadian cash pulled out last year. The CTF thinks that may be partly because of last year's widely publicized leak of secret accounts held in the country.
Canada has retreated on past promises to fight climate change, setting out lower targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions than any other industralised country so far ahead of a critical conference in Paris.
The announcement was a setback to efforts to reach a deal in the French capital that would limit warming to 2C (3.6F), the threshold for dangerous climate change.
Under the announcement, Canada committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
That is a far weaker target than the European Union or the US. The European Union pledged to reduce emissions by at least 40% from 1990 levels, and the US committed to cut emissions to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
The RCMP apologized on Monday for the comparing Idle No More to “bacteria” in an internal report obtained by APTN News.
“It is unfortunate that one of our employees has referred in an internal e-mail to the Idle No More movement in such a manner,” said Staff-Sgt. Julie Gagnon in a statement. She explained the words used were “not reflective of the views and opinion” of Mounties.
“The RCMP apologizes to anyone who may have been offended by this unfortunate choice of words to describe the Idle no More movement,” she said.
On Dec. 25, 2012, Cpl. Wayne Russet wrote, “This Idle No More Movement is like bacteria, it has grown a life of its own across this nation,” in a site report collected during Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s liquid-only fast.
OTTAWA - The shroud of secrecy surrounding the residency requirement for Canadian senators just got a bit thicker.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to answer repeated oral questions about the process he follows to ensure that an individual meets the constitutional residency requirement for appointment to the Senate.
So NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus figured his best chance at getting an answer lay in placing a written question on the order paper of the House of Commons — a procedural manoeuvre to which the government is obligated to give a detailed response.
Late Saturday afternoon, Transport Canada officially cleared the Marathassa to leave Canadian waters. As it slowly moves out of the Salish Sea, the bulk carrier leaves angry mayors, a combative coast guard, a distrustful public and many, many questions in its wake.
Even U.S. authorities are anxiously looking north wondering if Canada knows anything about marine oil spill response.
What we know about this spill is important, but there’s a lot more we don’t know, and might never know, about what happened in English Bay.
OTTAWA - Canada's trade deficit grew to a record $3 billion for March as the drop in oil prices weighed on exports, Statistics Canada said Tuesday, but economists suggested things may pick up.
"Canada's trade deficit widened to a record in the first quarter, as the weaker Canadian dollar doesn't appear to have had a meaningful positive impact yet and the U.S. economy struggled in the period," Bank of Montreal senior Benjamin Reitzes wrote in a note.
"However, with our neighbour to the south expected to bounce back in the second quarter, the loonie staying relatively weak (even if it rebounded in recent weeks), and oil prices staging a modest comeback, Canada's trade profile is expected to improve in the months ahead."
Stephen Harper is already taking credit for jobs he says will be created by the Canada-European Union trade and investment pact. He may be premature. “Put very simply, it’s because our government negotiated a free-trade deal,” the prime minister said in March after Honda announced plans to export an unspecified number of autos to Europe from its Alliston, Ont., plant. “This is an example of what our government is doing.” There were only two problems with this pre-election bit of braggadocio. First, Honda says its planned exports to Europe will create only a “modest” number of jobs. Second, and more important, the Canada-EU deal, formally known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), is by no means a done deal. Growing opposition inside Europe to a similar free-trade pact being negotiated with the United States has already sideswiped CETA. At the very least, this opposition promises to delay the EU’s final ratification of the Canada deal. It could derail it.
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