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COVID-19

Opposition requests Auditor General look into 900 million dollar outsourcing to WE Charity

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Last week Prime Minister Trudeau announced WE Charity was going to be hired to pay post-secondary students between $1,000 and $5,000 for volunteer work. The outsourcing of a contract of nearly a billion dollars to deliver a government program is setting off alarm bells with the Conservative Opposition.  Pierre Poilievre has responded by writing the following letter to Canada’s Auditor General.


Dear Auditor General,
WE may have a problem.

Ms. Karen Hogan
Auditor General of Canada
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

June 28, 2020

Dear Auditor General Hogan,

On Thursday, June 25th, the Liberal government announced they will be outsourcing the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), a $900 million-dollar program, to the internationally mandated WE Charity. The CSSG will pay post-secondary students and recent graduates between $1,000 and $5,000 dollars for volunteer work. Outsourcing a $900 million-dollar program designed to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work to a third party raises justifiable concerns and a number of questions. In addition, the connections between WE Charity and the Prime Minister are well documented.

In a display of cross-partisan collaboration, the House of Commons mandated your office to conduct an audit of the government’s COVID-19 spending. Your office included the COVID-19 spending audit in its top three prioritized audits to be completed. On June 9th, the Standing Committee on Finance passed a unanimous motion (10 YEAS to 0 NAYS) calling on your office to audit all programs associated with COVID-19, and for the government to provide your office with sufficient funding to do so. During your appearance at Finance Committee on Monday, June 22nd, you stated:

“We viewed the committee’s motion as reinforcing the importance of our work and its value to parliament. We pride ourselves in supporting Parliament to the best of our abilities. Given our current resourcing and funding levels, we need to be selective when deciding on the audits that we conduct; we will not be able to audit each, and every federal program associated with Canada’s COVID-19 response.”

Auditor General, we are writing to ask your office and team of auditors to include the $900 million-dollar CSSG program and the government’s outsourcing of it to WE Charity in your final report to Parliament on the government’s pandemic spending. By outsourcing this program to a third party, the proper channels for Opposition scrutiny, the very bedrock of our parliamentary democracy, have been circumvented. Indeed, it is your office that will provide the most legitimate and transparent examination of this program.

The Trudeau government has brought forward unprecedented levels of spending and administration of programs due to COVID-19, but this does not mean that accountability, transparency and value for money should be ignored. Simply put, they can never be ignored.

Auditor General, we look forward to your response to our request to include the government’s $900 million-dollar Canada Student Service Grant, and the administration of this program to the internationally run WE Charity, in your final report to Parliament on the government’s COVID-19 spending.

Sincerely,

Hon. Pierre Poilievre, M.P.
Shadow Minister for Finance

Dan Albas, M.P.
Shadow Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Raquel Dancho, M.P.
Shadow Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth

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Alberta

What’s on Tap? – Rediscover Moonshine with Skunkworks Distillery

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An exciting new addition to the Calgary Barley Belt might look a little bit different than what regular patrons are used to seeing, or drinking. Skunkworks Distillery, a locally owned and operated micro-distillery, is bringing premium engineered moonshine to the craft beer party!  

Originating in 2015 as an after-work-over-drinks project idea, the concept of Skunkworks Distillery was in the works for a few years before it began to take shape with Faye Warrington and Marty Lastiwka at the helm. Skunk Works is an engineering term coined at Lockheed Martin, referring to the Advanced Development Department, which focuses on innovative and unconventional approaches to new science and technology. “Skunk Works is a department that operates outside the mainstream of their company working on weird little side science projects or on new tech stuff,” says Faye, “for Marty and I, this is our Skunk Works. This is our science project.” 

Located on the Barley Belt, southeast Calgary’s signature walking distance collection of craft breweries, Skunkworks distills smooth, small batch premium engineered moonshine that is as good over ice as it is in one of their many cocktails. Made from sugar beets refined in Taber, Alberta, Skunkworks offers three unique products: the original Skunkworks Moonshine, Hypersonic and Moonwater. With Skunkworks, Faye and Marty are committed to challenging the mason jar mentality that associates moonshine with a bootleg burn. 

“Moonshine is a good way to bring people together. We all have a moonshine story,” Marty laughs, “It’s something people can always talk about, for better or for worse.” 

The tasting room, much of which Faye and Marty built themselves, combines industrial space race vibes with a Mad Max steampunk flare that can’t be found anywhere else. Sip your Skunktail (Skunkworks cocktail) from a science lab beaker and enjoy some light snacks on a replica plane wing turned coffee table, while listening to live music from the in-house studio. 

After countless hours of planning, searching and building, the taproom officially opened in November of 2019. Launching amidst the upheaval of a global pandemic and ensuing economic crash has made Skunkworks an operation well versed in thinking on their feet. “None of the normal rules for growing a business apply right now,” says Marty, “So we’re just adapting, we’re pivoting every day.” 

Like a number of other breweries and distilleries around the city, Skunkworks transitioned to the production of hand sanitizer to help fill the gap during the height of the pandemic. The public response, according to Marty, was far more than they ever could have anticipated. “Everyone was just so desperate for it,” he says, “we were making it just to give away, and suddenly people were lined up around the block for it.” 

While this wasn’t how they exactly envisioned their first few months in operation, it turned out to be a great way for the distillery to begin connecting with the community while helping out people in need. Given the uncertain circumstances and difficulties of the last several months, Faye says the support of the community and other local distilleries has been invaluable. 

As things settle down, Faye and Marty are looking forward to being able to host live music again and are even exploring the idea of an outdoor concert on their (dog-friendly!) patio. Above all, the two are excited for the upcoming release of their latest product, a seasonal feature that is like “nothing you’ve ever tasted!” coming very soon. 

To learn more about Skunkworks Distillery and what the Calgary Barley Belt has to offer, visit https://www.skunkworksdistillery.com

 

Follow Todayville Calgary to learn more about Calgary’s unique breweries and distilleries, now featuring exclusive weekly updates from Whats on Tap? 

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Alberta

Future of junior football murky as Covid-19 forces cancellation of season

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This simple equation is perhaps the easiest way to enter a description of the Wednesday decision, and Thursday public announcement, that the Canadian Junior Football League has dropped all plans for games this year.

CJFL president Jim Pankovich made it clear that the decision by the Prairie Junior Football Conference and allied leagues in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia supported the decision unanimously.

“Canadian junior football has 18 teams with 18 different ideas — no, make it 18 teams with about 50 ideas — but this was a combined decision and every organization had a chance to provide input,” Pankovich continued. “It has been a long process.”

The Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats and Calgary Colts are affected by the decision. All teams were part of the national negotiation.

Coupled with a previous USports decision to wipe out university football across the country in 2020, the junior move leaves only the Canadian Football League as an option for players and fans, with a decision due from the struggling CFL soon, after a bid for $30 million in federal support money is evaluated.

Pankovich, Prairie Football Conference leader Curtis Craig and Edmonton Huskies owner Bob Bula mentioned in separate telephone conversations Thursday afternoon that the COVID-19 regulations made it impossible to consider a 2020 season. All three mentioned the importance of keeping players involved .

“:Small-group sessions and skill-specific training” were mentioned by Pankovich as a necessity for all teams. He and others mentioned that the game is as important for the lessons it provides to young males as it is for the actual on-field competition.

As soon as the announcement became public, there was serious suggestion that high school players hoping to move into junior ranks and current juniors designing their athletic future around possible participation in university programs.may run into traffic jams because eligibility issues are more complicated than before.

Huskies head coach Iain MacLean agreed fully with the decision: “it’s about the safety of our players and all the others who would have to work with us during the virus.”

He lamented that “this will be the first year of my life without a football season since I was 10 years old” and suggested there will be less pressure than anticipated on young players competing against more potential teammates than usual.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few of the young guys just stop playing,” he added, “and I think a lot of coaches will be considering the same thing.”

Bula insisted that there was no opposition to government regulations that limit the number of persons — 50 in any on-field cohort at one time — able to participate in games. “We might need as many as 100 or more, including other staff.”

Craig, who also is vice-president of the national governing body, said no Prairie team has the potential to develop a “hub” similar to those now employed by the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association.

For CFL fans the last refuge is always hope

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