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Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, bids farewell to public service

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OTTAWA — Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, has bid farewell to the more than 200,000 workers in the federal public service.
Wernick announced in mid-March that he would leave his post as the top federal bureaucrat pri…


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  • OTTAWA — Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, has bid farewell to the more than 200,000 workers in the federal public service.

    Wernick announced in mid-March that he would leave his post as the top federal bureaucrat prior to the fall election campaign.

    At the time, he told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a letter that he would no longer be able to fulfil central aspects of his role, including being an impartial arbiter of whether foreign interference occurs during the campaign and to help whichever party is elected to form government.

    He said it became apparent there was no path for him to have a relationship of “mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties” in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

    His farewell message released Thursday expressed how proud he was to serve as clerk of the Privy Council and reminded those still working in government that what they do matters.

    He said a non-partisan public service that is “guided by values, fuelled by evidence” and “a never-ending quest to learn” is key to the success of the country.

    “For almost 38 years, I have had the very good fortune to work in jobs that have been stimulating and rewarding alongside wonderful people,” Wernick said in his statement.

    “I have great confidence that the public service is in good hands and that you will rise to the many challenges and even greater opportunities of the months and years ahead.”

    Opposition parties called for Wernick’s resignation after he rejected allegations that he and others improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on charges of bribery and corruption related to contracts in Libya.

    Wernick’s testimony to the House of Commons justice committee was critiqued by MPs as being partisan and unbecoming an impartial senior bureaucrat.

    Wilson-Raybould also accused Wernick of making “veiled threats” that she would lose her job as justice minister and attorney general if she didn’t respond to pressure and went on to release a recording of a conversation with him to the committee.

    The Canadian Press


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    National

    Canadian Press NewsAlert: Canadian citizen killed in Honduras plane crash

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    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.
    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.
    Stefano Maron says consular offic…


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  • TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.

    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.

    Stefano Maron says consular officials in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the victim’s family.

    Local media report that all five people who died in yesterday’s crash were foreigners.

    More coming.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    ‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

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    EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.
    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people …


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  • EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.

    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people who follow this closely are going to look at this as amateur hour,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.

    “Chasing environmentalists might play well politically, but it’s not actually relevant to the discussion that Alberta and Canada need to be having,” added Simon Dyer of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute.

    Both groups have been singled out by Kenney as examples of ones distorting the truth about the impact of the oilsands. The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies.

    Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

    “Stay tuned,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Tuesday. “We’ll have something to talk about next week.”

    Environmental groups have already been discussing informally what the United Conservative government might have in mind and how they should react.

    “We’ve been contacted,” said Devon Page of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm. “We’ve been saying to the groups, ‘We’re here. We’ll respond and represent you as we have in the past.’

    “What we’re trying hard not to do is to do what I think the Kenney government wants, which is to get distracted.”

    Dyer and Stewart said their groups are about 85 per cent funded by Canadians. The Pembina Institute was founded in Drayton Valley, Alta., and its headquarters remain in Calgary.

    Both called the war room political posturing aimed at the party’s base.

    “A lot of the rhetoric around our work and our contribution to Alberta has been based on complete misinformation,” said Dyer, who pointed out Pembina has worked with virtually every major energy company in the province.

    Stewart called the threats a rerun of the 2012 campaign against environmental groups fuelled by the right-wing The Rebel media group and led by Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives.

    “We learned to play rope-a-dope,” said Stewart. “Stephen Harper was our best recruiter.

    “We had people contacting us saying, ‘How do I lie down in front of a bulldozer?’ We don’t usually get a lot of those calls but we were getting a lot of those calls.”

    Each group is confident in the accuracy of the facts it cites. Dyer said Pembina research has been used by investors, academics and governments.

    Stewart said the issue isn’t facts, but how they are understood. 

    “Often what it is is a disagreement over which fact is important. Industry will say, ‘We’re reducing emissions per barrel.’ We’ll say, ‘Emissions are going up.’ Both statements are true and it depends which you think is more important.”

    Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the Kenney government must tread carefully. It’s OK to defend your position, but not to threaten, she said.

    “If we’re talking about initiating lawsuits against individuals or organizations on the basis of speaking out on issues of public importance, then that raises serious problems,” she said. “Then we have a much more obvious impact and potential violation on freedom of expression.”

    The province could possibly expose itself to legal action if its statements harm a group or individual — say, by putting them at the centre of a Twitter firestorm, said an Edmonton lawyer.

    “There’s certainly some kind of moral responsibility in terms of understanding that kind of highly charged rhetoric,” said Sean Ward, who practises media law. “You have to understand the consequences that are likely to follow.”

    Ward said any cases the government funds would also be tough to win. 

    “There are a lot of available defences. It’s difficult to see that this sort of general debate they’re going to be able to shut down with defamation law.”

    Environmentalists say their response will be to avoid distraction and carry on.

    “The vast majority active in this place don’t want to go back to a high conflict, polarizing environment,” Dyer said. “We’re not interested in polarizing this debate.”

    Bob Weber, The Canadian Press




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