Justin Trudeau broke ethics law in SNC-Lavalin affair: commissioner

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in Montreal on July 17, 2019. Photo by Josie Desmarais

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held firm to his belief that his actions in the SNC-Lavalin affair were justified, hours after Canada’s ethics watchdog slammed him for violating federal law.

“I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday afternoon in the southern Ontario town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Trudeau inappropriately pressured former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the Montreal-based engineering firm the option to avoid criminal prosecution on corruption charges, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found.

Hours after Dion’s investigation was released, the Prime Minister’s Office put out a related, more favourable review, authored by a former Liberal cabinet member and dated late June.

“The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” Dion said in a statement.

Trudeau later told reporters in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where he was previously scheduled to make a different announcement, that he did “fully accept this (Dion’s) report and take responsibility for everything that happened,” but that he also disagreed with some of the commissioner’s conclusions.

The SNC-Lavalin affair rocked Canadian politics earlier this year, a drama that unfolded over several months and involved high-profile resignations, secretly recorded phone calls and explosive committee testimony.

Trudeau, along with senior advisors in his office and elsewhere in government, repeatedly asked Wilson-Raybould late last year and into 2019 about allowing SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution.

This was after the public prosecution service had already determined that a so-called deferred prosecution agreement should not be offered to the company.

Dion said Trudeau’s actions were contrary to Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars government officials responsible for high-level decision-making from influencing the decision of another person to “improperly further another person’s private interests.”

Dion’s report was expected in early September, but released without warning Wednesday. Hours later, the PMO released a separate report by former attorney general Anne McLellan, who was appointed in March to look into whether the roles of justice minister and attorney general should be separated in light of the SNC-Lavalin affair. Trudeau revealed yesterday that the McLellan report would not be released before the ethics commissioner’s.

The commissioner’s report is titled Trudeau II, a reference to the fact that this is the second time Trudeau has been investigated by the office. In December 2017, the office found that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules when he and his family vacationed on the Aga Khan’s private island.

“I will be taking all precautions in the future,” Trudeau told media at the time.

The prime minister had already accepted responsibility in March for being blind to an “erosion of trust” between his office and Wilson-Raybould. “I was not aware of that erosion of trust. As prime minister and leader of the federal ministry, I should have been,” he said.

But at that time, as on Wednesday, he did not apologize for the affair, and continued to say there was “no inappropriate pressure” placed on the former justice minister. MORE


Trudeau’s Ethics Violation Is ‘Political Dynamite’

The SNC-Lavalin scandal is back in the headlines. And that’s very bad news for the Liberals’ re-election hopes.

Is Trudeau in for another hit in the polls because of the SNC-Lavalin ethics report?

Liberal support dropped 7 points after controversy broke, and has yet to fully recover

Singh calls Trudeau’s withholding of SNC-Lavalin report ‘troubling’

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks at the 2019 Climate Caucus Summit in Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 13, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood

Justin Trudeau has decided not to release a report by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Instead, the prime minister will wait until the federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, releases his report, expected in early September.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh called Trudeau’s decision a “cynical” and “troubling” move, in comments at an event in Vancouver on Aug. 13.

Singh told National Observer that Trudeau may be hoping to minimize the negative impact from Dion’s report by releasing McLellan’s at the same time. He also questioned the independence of the report, given that Trudeau’s government commissioned McLellan.

“The ethics commissioner is independent, and that report might be very scathing, and the timing to blunt the scathing report with one that’s paid for by the government is troubling,” he said.

National Observer requested comment from the Prime Minister’s Office but a spokesperson said they had nothing to add.

Trudeau’s withholding of McLellan’s SNC-Lavalin report ‘cynical’ and ‘troubling,’ says Jagmeet Singh.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trudeau revealed that the government had handed the report over to Dion. “We have provided that report to the ethics commissioner to allow the ethics commissioner to finish his own investigation,” he said when asked about the report at an event in Toronto.

“We will be releasing the report at the same time as the ethics commissioner makes his report public.”

The prime minister appointed McLellan in March to look into the SNC-Lavalin affair, and whether the roles of minister of justice and attorney general should be separated.

This issue became central after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was inappropriately pressured by the PMO to push a deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal engineering company facing charges of fraud.

Wilson-Raybould said pressure from the PMO she received as justice minister interfered with her position as attorney general.

In a phone call with former clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, Wilson-Raybould called pressure from the PMO “political interference” that could breach “prosecutorial independence.”

Singh said the scandal shows the Liberals’ priority is “covering themselves, and their wealthy and powerful and connected friends.” MORE

Spectre at the Feast

The livestock industry is trashing the living world, and free-range, pasture-fed meat is the worst offender.

It’s tragic missed opportunity. The new report on land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shies away from the big issues and fails properly to represent the science. As a result, it gives us few clues about how we might survive the century. Has it been nobbled? Was the fear of taking on the farming industry – alongside the oil and coal companies whose paid shills have attacked it so fiercely – too much to bear? At the moment, I have no idea. But what the panel has produced is pathetic.

The problem is that it concentrates on just one of the two ways of counting the carbon costs of farming. The first way – the IPCC’s approach – could be described as farming’s current account. How much greenhouse gas does driving tractors, spreading fertiliser and raising livestock produce every year? According to the panel’s report, the answer is around 23% of the planet-heating gases we currently produce.

But this fails miserably to capture the overall impact of food production. The second accounting method is more important. This could be described as the capital account: how does farming compare to the natural ecosystems that would otherwise have occupied the land? A paper published in Nature last year, but not mentioned by the IPCC, sought to count this cost. Please read these figures carefully. They could change your life.

It estimates that the total greenhouse gas cost – in terms of lost opportunities for storing carbon – of an average Northern European diet is 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year. The official carbon footprint of people in the UK is 5.4 tonnes. In other words, if we counted the “carbon opportunity costs” of our diet, our total footprint would almost triple.

Why is this figure so high? Because we eat so much meat and dairy. The Nature paper estimates the carbon cost of a kilo of soya protein at 17kg. The carbon cost of chicken is six times higher, while milk is 15 times higher, and beef 73 times. One kilogram of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1250kg. That’s roughly equal to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.

These are global average figures, raised by beef production in places like the Amazon basin. But even in the UK, the costs are astonishing. A paper in the journal Food Policy estimates that a kilogramme of beef protein reared on a British hill farm whose soils are rich in carbon has a carbon opportunity cost of 643kg, while a kilo of lamb protein costs 749kg.

Research published in April by the Harvard academics Helen Harwatt and Matthew Hayek, also missed by the IPCC, shows that, alongside millions of hectares of pasture land, an astonishing 55% of cropping land (in other words, land that is ploughed and seeded) in the UK is used to grow feed for livestock, rather than food for humans. If our grazing land was allowed to revert to natural ecosystems, and the land currently used to grow feed for livestock was used to grow grains, beans, fruit, nuts and vegetables for humans, this switch would allow the UK to absorb an astonishing quantity of carbon: equivalent, the paper estimates, to 9 years of our total emissions. And farming in this country could then feed everyone, without the need for imports. A plant-based diet would make the difference between the UK’s current failure to meet its international commitments, and success. MORE

RCMP ‘sitting on’ watchdog report into alleged spying on anti-oil protesters

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, April 13, 2018. File photo by The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

The RCMP has been sitting for two years on a watchdog report into alleged Mountie surveillance of anti-oil protesters, a civil liberties group charges.

In a letter this month to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association laments the “inordinate delay” that has effectively obstructed the report’s release.

The association lodged a complaint in February 2014 with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. It alleged the national police force improperly collected and shared information about people and groups who peacefully opposed the planned Northern Gateway pipeline project and attended National Energy Board meetings.

The association said monitoring, surveillance and information sharing with other government agencies and the private sector created a chilling effect for those who might wish to take part in hearings or other public discussions on petroleum issues.

The commission launched a public interest investigation and completed an interim report into the matter in June 2017, forwarding it to the RCMP for comment on the conclusions and recommendations.

The commission cannot prepare a final report until the RCMP commissioner responds, which also means the findings can’t be disclosed to the civil liberties association or the public.

In March, Paul Champ, a lawyer for the association, wrote commission chairwoman Michelaine Lahaie to express concern that more than five years had passed since the complaint was filed, saying the RCMP may have violated the fundamental freedoms of Canadians exercising their democratic rights.

“It is our view that this interminable delay undermines the credibility of the CRCC and, more importantly, calls into question its ability to fulfil its primary function: ensuring accountability of the RCMP and fostering public trust and confidence in Canada’s national police force,” Champ’s letter said.

“It is regrettable that the CRCC may not be treating this complaint with the seriousness it deserves.”

After receiving no reply, he followed up with another letter in May.

Nika Joncas-Bourget, the commission’s director and general counsel for reviews, told Champ in late May the watchdog shared his frustration with the Mounties.

“We can assure you that we have repeatedly expressed concern to the RCMP regarding the time it is taking to receive the Commissioner’s Response,” she wrote.

Joncas-Bourget said once the commission receives Lucki’s response, it will “promptly issue” its final report, something it usually does within 30 days of getting the top Mountie’s input.

The RCMP had no immediate comment on the reason for the delay or when the commissioner’s response might be coming.

In his Aug. 9 letter to Lucki, Champ noted the RCMP Act imposes a legal duty to provide a response to the commission’s interim report “as soon as feasible.”

“In short, the RCMP has been sitting on this report for over two years and effectively obstructing its release to my client and the public,” he wrote.

“It is our view that two years for your review and response to the CRCC’s interim report is clearly an unreasonable delay not contemplated by the statute, whether the delay is due to insufficient allocation of resources or any other cause.

“This delay is all the more serious when the allegations concern fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Canadian Constitution.”

The civil liberties association also complained in early 2014 about improper monitoring of anti-pipeline activists by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

The review committee that oversees CSIS dismissed the complaint in 2017, prompting the association to ask the Federal Court to revisit the outcome, a proceeding that is ongoing.



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Call on Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to ensure the report is finally released?
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Canada Invests in World’s First, Fully Automated Pick-Up Parking System in London

Image result for london west 5London’s West 5 community: safe, walkable, pedestrian-centric design with a vision for 100% energy efficiency.

As Canadians continue to make greener choices, the Government of Canada is delivering more options for them to drive where they need to go while reducing pollution.

Today the government announced an investment of $2.4 million to s2e Technologies to test the world’s first integrated, automated electric vehicle (EV) parking system, offering residents fully automated pick-up and parking within their community.

This investment will demonstrate a new and innovative parking and charging infrastructure for autonomous and electric vehicles and will test capabilities at a smaller scale to see if Canadian communities can support the technology.

This innovative parking tower, situated in London’s West 5 community, will function as an automated valet service for community-shared electric vehicles. The driverless vehicles will be dispatched to a resident’s doorstep when prompted, reducing the need for car ownership within the community. The control system will demonstrate the integration of a number of innovative charging technologies and will address the lack of high-density EV charging in parking-restricted urban environments.

This investment, through Natural Resources Canada’s Green Infrastructure Program, is key to building Canada’s clean growth economy, helping accelerate the deployment and market entry of next-generation clean energy infrastructure, including Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstrations.

s2e Technologies, based in St. Jacobs, Ontario, develops economically and ecologically beneficial clean energy solutions for Canadians and strives to tackle climate change head-on. With operations around the world, its technological advancements in energy solutions aim to build resilient, sustainable communities through specialized energy transformation offerings.

Through Canada’s national energy dialogue, Generation Energy, Canadians made it clear that cleaner transportation options are a necessity for Canada’s low-carbon future. The Government of Canada continues to support green infrastructure projects that will advance Canada’s green future and help us reach our domestic and international climate targets. MORE


Building a department store powered by geothermal and solar

La Maison Simons is working to convert their stores across Canada to net-zero

The clothes that we wear have a far-reaching impact on the planet – from the extraction of the raw materials and manufacturing process all the way down to the mounds of textile waste from fast fashion and other discarded clothing. With all of these environmental concerns, it’s easy to overlook the energy requirements of the buildings that house their retail locations.

Seven years ago, Quebec City-based department store La Maison Simons set out to construct a building that generates as much energy on-site annually as it consumes. Teaming up with Oxford Properties, the shopping centre landlord for its Galeries de la Capitale location, the company began mapping out the different technologies required to become the first major net-zero retail store in the country.

The retailer decided to first road-test some of its plans at the Londonderry Simons store in Edmonton, installing a sizeable 636 kilowatt solar array and making numerous energy efficiency upgrades throughout the building. It led to a building that is 30-40% more energy efficient than an average Simons store, and where half the energy is generated on-site through renewables. It also benefited from an Alberta government green incentive program that covered 25% of the cost of the solar panels.

Simons applied many of the lessons learned from the Edmonton project in designing its net-zero Galeries location, which opened in March 2018 in Quebec City. It doubled the amount of solar power covering the parking lot and roof, while drilling 27 geothermal boreholes into the ground under the parking lot for geothermal heating and cooling. A high-tech LED lighting program combined with an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reduced energy consumption by 60% compared to its older location.

Buoyed by positive feedback from customers, the company is now exploring plans for several potential new net-zero retail locations throughout Quebec. MORE

COLIN MACKAY: Climate change will be key in elections


Hundreds of beach umbrellas on Outlet Beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park. Rising floodwaters have forced park staff to turn away visitors just days before the August long weekend. (FRÉDÉRIC PEPIN/RADIO-CANADA)

High water levels still remain along the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte.

Even into August, there are small sections of the waterfront trail under water. Climate change is mainly responsible for the higher water levels, although a few people will point to an International Joint Commission Plan 2014 as a culprit too. With a federal election approaching in October 2019, how politicians tackle climate change will be extremely important. At the provincial level, too many politicians consider carbon pricing as strictly detrimental, ignoring science, while spewing only opinions.

Nevertheless, scientists have been warning that a failure to act on climate change could have enormous consequences, particularly in Canada. Fortunately, William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, winners of the Nobel prize for economics in 2018, have shown that putting a price on carbon emissions is the best way for governments to combat climate change.

Already, in the Belleville area, there have been two years out of the past three that water levels have created massive flooding resulting in considerable issues, including additional costs for our municipal government. Floods in basements, rising insurance costs, and even having to move pop-up shops to higher ground are a few of these issues.

Scientists have proven the Earth is warming considerably, almost exponentially, mainly due to increasing carbon emissions. An additional three degrees of warming during this century is predicted. Scientists from Alberta have issued an even more dire report highlighting that Canada is warming twice as quickly. A six degree increase in average temperatures would be catastrophic for the north in particular. Scientists have been ringing the warning bells for a considerable amount of time, and for the most part, politicians have failed to act.

Putting a price on carbon has proven to be the best way to reduce carbon emissions. Yet, in Canada, the political will to implement this, from a provincial level, is inconsistent. Under Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, the cap and trade program has been dismantled, removing billions in revenue. A price on carbon is viewed, by Ford, strictly as a tax with no benefits. Yet, in British Columbia, emissions have dropped considerably due to putting a price on emissions, with their provincial economy moving along just fine. Companies wanting to avoid paying a price on carbon emissions become innovative, which is one of moving forces of carbon pricing. Sadly, in Ontario, a considerable number of innovative companies weren’t given much of a chance to succeed. MORE

Hydroponic farms use less land, water to grow vegetables

Greenhouses allow year-round growing and protection from freezes and extreme rainfall.

Image result for palm beach post: Hydroponic farms use less land, water to grow vegetablesGreenhouse Farms hydroponic greenhouse occupies nearly 3 acres. It expects to yield 750,000 pounds of premium leaf green produce through the year.

Growing lettuce and other leafy greens indoors is gaining traction nationwide, as such big players as New Jersey-based Aero Farms and Bowery, are producing huge quantities in giant warehouses fueled by millions of dollars in investment.

The push comes as farmland becomes increasingly expensive and in short supply, and consumers demand locally grown produce that’s fresher because it hasn’t been transported hundreds of miles

In Palm Beach County two new hydroponic farms—Green Life Farms and Patagonia Green Leaf— are being launched in greenhouses off U.S. 441 west of the Lake Worth Beach/Boynton Beach area. Hydroponic farming uses no soil. Instead, crops are grown in perlite, coconut fiber or nutrient-rich water in a controlled and enclosed environment.

Art Kirstein, agricultural economic development coordinator with the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service, said that hydroponic farming offers advantages such as year-round growing, increased capacity on a smaller amount of land and protection from freezes and weather events such as extreme rainfall.

Green Life Farms harvested its first crop of baby arugula, baby romaine and baby spinach in mid-July. Its greenhouse occupies nearly 3 acres and will yield approximately 750,000 pounds of premium leaf green produce throughout the year, said Mike Ferree, vice president.

The greens are grown, harvested and packaged onsite, then picked up or shipped directly from the farm. They are also GMO and pesticide-free. MORE


Vertical farming grows in Nova Scotia

Bedford-based TruLeaf aims to be a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming


What does climate change have to do with socialism?

For many climate skeptics, climate change has little to do with science. One of the most vocal strains of opposition to mainstream climate science appears to be rooted in fears of socialism

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (left) shakes hands with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler after Mr. Wheeler signed the Affordalble Clean Energy Rule,  June 19, 2019, in Washington.

As public concern over global warming grows, more Republicans have begun to break ranks. After years of denying or deflecting mainstream climate science, GOP lawmakers are pivoting toward a belated acceptance of man-made warming and calling for bipartisan action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and boost investment in clean energy.

But one faction in the conservative movement continues to push against such calls with warnings that the agenda for climate action is part of a socialist plot to undermine the American way of life.

“It’s a climate delusion. It’s a climate collusion,” James Taylor, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, told an audience of around 250 gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for the institute’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change in late July.

Other speakers argued that any warming of the Earth is part of a natural cycle and not the result of human activity, as record heat swept through Europe, toppling records in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Chicago-based Heartland is part of a nesting group of right-wing organizations that for decades have sought to undermine public confidence in mainstream climate science. It publishes “climate realist” books and articles that find their way into Republican platforms and into the media, and has tried to push materials into schools.

That it calls itself a free-market think tank is telling: Climate denial in the U.S. is deeply rooted in an anti-government ideology that sees virtually all regulations, including curbs on carbon emissions, as leftist attacks on free enterprise. MORE

Is Canada a socialist country?

Doug Ford: Continuing to turn his back on ‘the people’ despite new faces

Image result for the conversation: Doug Ford: Continuing to turn his back on ‘the people’ despite new faces
Ontario Premier Doug Ford faces the Toronto skyline as he attends a recent event. Ford’s campaign slogan was ‘for the people,’ but his first year in office suggests he’s not paying attention to their anger about his government’s cuts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Despite the chaos of the past few months, featuring a major cabinet shuffle that included the dumping of Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, the demise of the premier’s controversial chief of staff Dean French and statements that Ford’s administration is now “a government that listens,” remarkably little has actually changed.

Several high-profile political appointments attributed to French have been scrapped and others are now under review. The question of how these appointments, which by statute were subject to cabinet approval, occurred in the first place remains unanswered.

Ford, centre, is flanked by Fedeli, right, and French in May 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young 

The government also backed down on current in-year funding cuts to municipalities, particularly for public health services, in the face of an outcry from local governments, health professionals and others. A reversal on the funding of services for children with autism seems to be underway as well, along with a retreat on cancelling OHIP funding for out-of-country dialysis treatments.

Beyond these specific steps however, the provisions of the province’s April 2019 budget, sweeping omnibus bills pushed through the legislature and a wide array of administrative decisions remain very much intact and in motion.

Major reductions remain in place

The major reductions in provincial funding in health, education and social services, along with everything from tree-planting to small business start-up and training support, set in motion via Fedeli’s budget remain in place.

Even deeper cuts are scheduled for future years — a point highlighted again by recent protests over the government’s 30 per cent cut to the province’s legal aid system.

The changes in Bill 108 to the province’s planning legislation favouring developers remain very much on the books, as do more specific developer-friendly changes made to the province’s planning policies.

These moves have included unprecedented interventions in neighbourhood-specific plans, like the city of Toronto’s Midtown in Focus and TO Core initiatives, to systemically eliminate height limits on new developments and remove references to the nature of public spaces in these areas.

The dismantling of programs ranging from energy efficiency to the prevention of toxic pollution also continues apace.

The radical changes made to provincial and municipal institutions similarly persist. The Ontario Child Advocate and the Office of the Environmental Commissioner have been eliminated as independent entities. Toronto City Council stands at half of its pre-election size and the province’s moves to take control of the city’s subway system continue to advance.

No news on climate plan progress

Amid all of this, there has been one notable exception to the province’s policy inertia. Last December, the Ford government introduced a high-profile “made in Ontario” environment and climate plan.

But since then, there’s been little information about the plan’s climate change provisions, including a carbon trust fund and some form of carbon pricing for industry. This even as parts of the Muskoka River watershed and the Ottawa River valley disappeared under unprecedented spring floods and storms, and the premier himself acknowledged that climate change partly caused the disasters. MORE

Ontario PCs Brought Climate Action To ‘Wrenching Halt,’ Watchdog Says