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Little Movement Wednesday On Red Deer’s Proposed 2017 Property Tax Rate

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By Sheldon Spackman

It’s day eight of Operating Budget deliberations at Red Deer City Hall today and the current proposed property tax rate increase for 2017 still stands at 2.1 percent.

Items of note from Wednesday’s meeting include Council’s decision to no longer buy Renewable or “Green” Energy Certificates at a cost of $56,000 to local tax payers. Another $42,000 would be self-supported. Much discussion took place regarding this item, with many Councillors feeling that the City is already doing many things to lead the way in environmental stewardship. Most also felt that with Red Deer and all Alberta Municipalities now paying for the new Carbon Tax, this would be a cost they could do without this year.

Elsewhere, City Councillors approved a recommendation to go ahead with implementing “Speed on Green” cameras at some of the City’s high collision intersections. The recommendation was made by Red Deer’s Traffic Safety Working Group who cited this as a current safety issue in the City. Officials feel this could result in a $250,000 increase in net revenue for Policing Services and add it is already working well in other communities such as Calgary and Spruce Grove. Speed on Green cameras will result in tickets for drivers who speed or excelerate through intersections. City Manager Craig Curtis says there will be a two month approval period before the cameras are installed, then a one month grace period where warnings will first be issued to offending drivers.

Finally, Council also opted to reduce late night service on one of the City’s transit routes, citing low ridership numbers. The route that runs out of Sorensen Station in downtown Red Deer will see late night service come by every hour now instead of the previous every half hour.

Operating Budget deliberations continue at Red Deer City Hall today and are slated to wrap up on Friday, January 20th.

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CP NewsAlert: Quebec legislature adopts Bill 96 language reform

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QUEBEC — The Quebec legislature has voted to adopt Bill 96, the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s language reform.

The controversial bill passed by a vote of 78-29, with the opposition Liberals and Parti Québécois opposing it.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

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International

Kremlin critic Browder urges forced oligarch whistleblowers

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By Jamey Keaten in Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Kremlin critic Bill Browder wants governments to step up efforts to get to the riches squirreled away by Russian oligarchs and linked to President Vladimir Putin by forcing the accountants, lawyers and others who set up murky legal and financial structures to become whistleblowers.

Browder, author of the nonfiction best-seller “Freezing Order: “A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath,” says Russia’s war in Ukraine has increased attention on how oligarchs are custodians of the Russian leader’s wealth.

“But the oligarchs are not naïve,” Browder told The Associated Press on Tuesday at the annual World Economic Forum meetingin Davos. “They’ve hired the best lawyers, best asset protection specialists, and there are shell companies and trust companies and offshore companies and nominees and proxies — and the whole thing is extremely well thought-through.”

The founder of Heritage Capital, an early investor in post-Soviet Russia, Browder raised the alarm after his Russian tax adviser, Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian prison in 2009. He has become arguably one of the world’s biggest critics of Putin ever since.

Browder credited Biden administration efforts to put a squeeze on Putin and his government since the war began by putting a freeze on assets of Russia’s central bank, chasing the oligarchs, halting exports of technology to Russia and supplying weapons to Ukraine.

But when it comes to getting Russian oligarchs’ money, “we’re only scratching the surface,” Browder said.

“There’s only 35 oligarchs out of 118 who are on the Forbes (richest people) list who have been sanctioned by the either the U.S., EU, U.K., Canada or Australia. We need to get 118,” he said.

Browder says their money is held in top banks in places like London, New York and Zurich as well as in real estate, hedge funds and private equity funds:.

“It’s right in front of our eyes and the amounts are unbelievably big,” he said. “I estimate that since Vladimir Putin took power, he and the 1,000 people around him have stolen $1 trillion from the Russian state. And that money is stored in our financial capitals.”

He acknowledged that what he sees as the solution is “quite radical” — forcing “the people who set up these structures, the enablers, the lawyers, the accountants, the trustees under law to become whistleblowers for the government.”

“In other words, put an amendment into all money laundering and all sanctions law to say that people who are involved in setting up structures for sanctioned individuals have to come forward with the information to the government — or face a punishment of fines and imprisonment,” Browder said.

Jacques Attali, a former top French government official and past president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, expressed hesitation about Browder’s idea.

To begin with, “it must be said that a lawyer shouldn’t do anything illegal — and that would be enough,” said Attali, an eminence grise at Davos. “A lawyer is necessarily at the service of his or her client.”

“You can strengthen legislation. You can’t ask a lawyer to turn in his or her client,” he said.

Vitaly Klitschko, mayor of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, supported the idea of further cracking down on Russian oligarchs’ money, saying, “I think we have to use every leverage to stop the aggression, and it’s not a secret that the Russians use the money for his (Putin’s) army.”

“Right now, sanctions work pretty well. Why? Because sanctions stop the financing of the Russian army,” Klitschko said.

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