OTTAWA — Cries of a coverup competed with claims of pre-election, hyper-partisan excess Wednesday after Liberal MPs blocked an opposition attempt to hold hearings on ethics commissioner Mario Dion’s scathing report into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Only one of six Liberal MPs on the 10-member House of Commons ethics committee supported a Conservative motion to call Dion, and possibly others, to testify about the report.
The lone Liberal outlier, Toronto MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, supported the motion only because he said he wanted Dion to explain what he considered the commissioner’s “legally flawed” conclusion that Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act.
All six Liberals voted against a subsequent NDP motion to call Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his former chief of staff, Ben Chin, to testify about their roles in the affair.
They were joined by New Democrat Charlie Angus in defeating another Conservative motion which would have called on CBC journalist Aaron Wherry to table all his recordings and notes from interviews with Trudeau in his newly released book on the prime minister’s first term in office, “Promise and Peril.”
Speaking for his fellow Liberals, Quebec MP Steven MacKinnon dismissed the motions as blatantly partisan attempts to re-ignite public outrage over the SNC-Lavalin controversy on the eve an election call.
“This has been an exhaustively analyzed situation,” MacKinnon said following a three-hour emergency meeting of the ethics committee.
“We’ve had 13 hours of testimony, we’ve had 10 witnesses, we’ve had five weeks of hearings (by the justice committee), a 63-page report (from Dion).”
He called the attempt to force further hearings “a partisan game,” in which opposition parties deployed “their most partisan, paint-peeling members” to Wednesday’s committee meeting — referring to deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt and Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre, both of whom spoke at length during the meeting although they couldn’t vote on the motions because they’re not committee members.
“So I think we all know that on the eve of an election, this kind of partisan gamesmanship by the opposition is what it exactly appears to be,” said MacKinnon.
In turn, Conservative MP Peter Kent accused Liberal committee members of abdicating their responsibility to “shine a little light on the SNC corruption scandal.”
“Instead, they joined the prime minister in attempting this coverup. They are complicit in his attempt at obstruction of justice.”
Kent also referred to MacKinnon, who was filling in on the committee for another Liberal MP, as a “hit man” deployed by the Prime Minister’s Office to gag his fellow Liberals.
Dion was “standing by,” prepared to immediately testify via video conference had the committee voted to hear from him. As it turned out, he needn’t have bothered.
In a report released last week, Dion concluded that Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges related to contracts in Libya.
Dion also disclosed in his report that he couldn’t get all the information he required, as potential witnesses claimed cabinet confidence stopped from them from sharing everything they knew.
Trudeau has acknowledged that he wanted Wilson-Raybould to reconsider her refusal to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who decided last fall not to invite the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant to negotiate a remediation agreement. Such an agreement would have allowed the company to avoid the risk of a criminal conviction, which would result in it being barred from federal contracts for 10 years.
While he has taken full responsibility for the mistakes that were made, Trudeau has refused to apologize. He has insisted that he was only standing up for the interests of SNC-Lavalin’s 9,000 employees, pensioners and suppliers, who stood to be negatively affected by the potentially crippling cost of a conviction.
Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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