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Liberals block hearings into scathing ethics report on SNC-Lavalin affair

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Mario Dion

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

Agriculture

What the USMCA Might Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

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Canada, USA, Mexico flags

We welcome guest writers to all of our Todayville platforms. Here’s a submission from Emily Folk.  Emily is passionate about agricultural sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks. In this story, Emily Folk explains the USMCA Impact on Agriculture. 

What Could USMCA Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been in the news a lot lately. The leaders of the respective nations signed the trade agreement on November 30, 2019, and ratification is pending. You can think of the USMCA as an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA after publicly speaking unfavourably about it. The USMCA is the result of that vow. The agreement spans several areas, such as the origin of automobile parts and new labor laws in Mexico that make it easier for workers to unionize. The USMCA also has a “sunset clause” that makes its terms expire after 16 years. Plus, every six years, the leaders of the countries involved must agree on whether to extend the deal.

Some agriculture-specific stipulations also exist within the USMCA. Additionally, the agreement notably mentions biotechnology. Here’s a closer look at how the USMCA might change these two industries.

More Exporting Opportunities for Farmers

One of the key points often mentioned about the USMCA is that parties expect the agreement to cause a $2 billion increase in U.S. agriculture exports, triggering a $65 billion rise in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Canada and Mexico are currently the top two exporting markets for American farmers, supporting more than 325,000 American jobs. In 2018, the food and agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico totaled more than $39.7 billion.

The USMCA also opens exporting opportunities that did not exist before. Now, U.S. dairy farmers will have expanded access to send products such as fluid and powdered milk, cheese and cream to Canadian parties. There will also no longer be U.S. tariffs on whey and margarine. This change is notable, considering the Canadian dairy market produced roughly 17% of the United States’ annual output over the past three years.

In exchange, Canada will give the United States new access to chicken and eggs, plus increased access to turkey. Plus, all other agriculture products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will be under a zero-tariff model.

Moving Forward With Agricultural Biotechnology

Another improvement associated with the USMCA is that it looks at agricultural technology more broadly than other trade agreements have.

For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between 12 nations — only addressed biotechnology regarding recombinant DNA (rDNA). That process involves joining the molecules from two different species, then inserting the product into a host to create new genetic combinations. Instead, the USMCA opens possibilities for all kinds of agricultural technology, including gene editing. Moving ahead with biotechnology could be crucial for addressing pressing matters that affect agriculture, such as water scarcity.

Approximately 700 million people suffer from water scarcity, and that number could double by 2025. Also, the agriculture industry is the greatest user of water. Things must change — both to address the growing water scarcity problem and to give farmers more options for growing things without using so much water.

Biotechnology has already helped, and it seems highly likely to continue spurring progress. In one example, scientists altered the expression of one gene common to all plants. This change led to a 25% increase in the plants’ water-use efficiency without adversely impacting yield or photosynthesis.

As part of the USMCA, Mexico, Canada and the United States agreed to improve information sharing and cooperation about biotechnology matters related to trade. That change could speed new developments, resulting in positive outcomes for all involved groups and the world at large.

Fairer Agricultural Grading Standards

A grading system for agricultural products defines trading procedures. For example, commercial buyers of a product grown in another country refer to the grading standards to set expectations about a product’s quality. The USMCA specifies that Canada will evaluate U.S. imported wheat and assign it a grade no less favourable than it would give Canadian-grown wheat.

Canada will also no longer require country of origin statements associated with inspection certificates or quality grades. The United States and Canada will discuss issues related to seed regulations under the USMCA, too.

Concerning Mexico and the United States, the two countries agreed to non-discriminatory grading standards and services. Moreover, a dialogue will begin between the two countries to flesh out the details for quality standards and grading regarding trade.

A Promising Future

It’s too early to say what the real-life effects will be of the changes outlined here. But, the commitments laid out within the USMCA seem like they’ll represent clear improvements for agriculture professionals, as well as everyone who benefits from their goods.

 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link:   Conservation Folks.

 

 

 

Extreme Weather Patterns Causing State of Agricultural Emergency in Canada

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Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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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

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february, 2020

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sun02feb(feb 2)7:00 pmsun15mar(mar 15)8:00 pm7:00 pm - (march 15) 8:00 pm Festival Hall, 4214 58 St, Red Deer, AB Event Organized By: Country Pride Dance Club

tue25feb5:30 pm7:30 pmDiabetes Discussion Drop InLearn about Type 2 diabetes5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

wed26feb7:30 pm11:00 pmCeltic Illusiion7:30 pm - 11:00 pm

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fri28febsun01mar54th Annual Sport & Outdoor Show4:00 pm - (march 1) 9:00 pm

fri28feb6:00 pm11:00 pmFriday Family DanceFamily Dance6:00 pm - 11:00 pm

fri28feb7:00 pm11:00 pmBattle of the Bands for Crime Prevention7:00 pm - 11:00 pm Burgundy's Food & Stage, 5008 48 ST Event Organized By: The Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre

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