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Five questions about what could be next in the SNC-Lavalin saga

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OTTAWA — As the fallout continues in the wake of Wednesday’s damning ethics report on the SNC-Lavalin affair, there are still a number of twists and turns in the road ahead for what has turned out to be an enduring political saga. Here are five:

Will the RCMP lay charges, and if so, when?

A spokesperson for the Mounties said Wednesday they are “examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required.” Hardly compelling stuff, but it raised eyebrows among those more accustomed to the standard “no comment” when it comes to matters not yet under investigation — and leaves open the possibility of criminal charges on the eve of a federal election campaign (although the standards for an ethical breach are far different from those for criminal conduct). Timing will be everything. The RCMP faced criticism in the wake of the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy, who was acquitted on all 31 charges after a courtroom spectacle that did nothing to help the doomed re-election bid of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Will that scar tissue — or the lingering memory of the botched prosecution of Vice-Adm. Mark Norman — give the authorities pause?

How will the ethics commissioner’s report play with voters?

The Liberals took a hit in public opinion polls when the SNC-Lavalin controversy first rocked the national capital earlier this year. Recent polls suggested they were recouping some of those losses. Will Wednesday’s fresh wound hurt the Liberals come election day? It’s too early to say. Reaction on social media and in comment sections would suggest those already upset with the Trudeau Liberals and deeply partisan Conservatives, NDP and Green supporters have made up their minds already. Liberal partisans, meanwhile, say they are pleased with the prime minister’s recent show of defiance, refusing to apologize for what he characterizes as trying to protect Canadian jobs. That leaves the undecideds — and among those who believe this election is about trust, the Liberals are likely to take a hit. But local races do matter, and strong local MPs could help ease the sting.

What’s the long game for Jody Wilson-Raybould?

The former attorney general-turned Independent MP at the heart of the saga has expressed vindication from Dion’s report, and dismay at the evidence therein that Trudeau’s lawyer tried to “discredit” her through submissions made to the ethics commissioner. But the savvy political operative within her is not going to leave it at that. As an Independent in a race against well-funded, established candidates, she will need to leverage as much political capital as possible to regain her seat in the House of Commons. Just how she might use this report to do that remains a mystery — for now. One thing is certain: she’s not going away. Her forthcoming book is to be released just in time for the election.

What will opposition parties do to capitalize?

Both the Conservatives and NDP have already launched their first move, calling for the Commons ethics committee to be “urgently convened” in order to call Dion to testify. They point to the fact former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson testified after finding in 2017 that Trudeau broke ethics rules when he took his family on vacation in 2016 to the private Bahamian island owned by the Aga Khan. The meeting will likely happen, but the Liberal majority on the committee will determine the outcome — even successfully blocking testimony will be fodder for their opposition rivals.

Do voters care about SNC-Lavalin anymore?

As the Bard once said: that is the question. In the wake of the marathon hearings and relentless media coverage earlier this year, there was a palpable sense of fatigue when it finally started to die down. Many voters have likely already formed an opinion about how they feel Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould and others behaved on the file and the ethics commissioner’s ruling may not change those views. However, given the uncertainty about how many of the issues raised above could play out on the campaign trail, political watchers and voters alike would be wise not to close the book on SNC-Lavalin yet.

 

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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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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