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RCMP found no evidence Jean Chretien lobbied illegally on N.S. visit: premier

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s premier says the RCMP has found no evidence that former prime minister Jean Chretien carried out illegal lobbying during a visit to his Halifax office last year.
Stephen McNeil said a complaint that Chretien carried out lobbying…

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  • HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s premier says the RCMP has found no evidence that former prime minister Jean Chretien carried out illegal lobbying during a visit to his Halifax office last year.

    Stephen McNeil said a complaint that Chretien carried out lobbying on behalf of a proposed container port in Cape Breton had been investigated and dropped, citing a news release Wednesday from the Mounties.

    The Mounties declined to confirm if Chretien was the unidentified subject of their news release.

    The release said police “began an investigation which determined there was no evidence of lobbying and the investigation concluded without charges.”

    McNeil told reporters at the legislature that the findings are clear.

    “I went through the (police) interview and the RCMP have confirmed it,” he said.

    “They went through a number of questions with me. …I have all the faith of law enforcement in the province to follow all the complaints that brought forward to them.”

    “They followed this one through and confirmed no lobbying had taken place.”

    Retired union activist John McCracken launched a complaint last year to the RCMP, alleging the former politician should have registered under the provincial Lobbyists Act before visiting the premier.

    At the time of the March 21, 2018, meeting, Chretien was an international adviser to Sydney Harbour Investment Partners, which was seeking investor support for the Cape Breton container port project.

    The day before the meeting, Chretien had attended a conference in Sydney and told reporters about his role as an international adviser to the group.

    When a Cape Breton Post reporter asked Chretien how he’d market the Sydney container port to the premier, the former prime minister said he felt the premier would be in favour of a provincewide approach to container ports.

    The provincial Liberal government has been cautious about the Sydney proposal, as a 2016 study prepared for the province and the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency recommended against public money for a terminal that would compete against the Halifax port.

    As the interview continued, Chretien was asked if the province should invest money in the container port proposal, and he replied: “I hope so.”

    According to the registrar of lobbyists, the former prime minister was not a registered lobbyist at the time of his visit, and she sent him a letter at the time informing about requirements of the act.

    McCracken said the RCMP’s lead investigator told him that in order to proceed further, one of the three people at the meeting would have had to have provided evidence that lobbying occurred.

    “Obviously, I’m disappointed. Very disappointed,” he said in an interview.

    However, McNeil repeated his view that no lobbying occurred.

    “We were working towards whether or not there are economic opportunities for the province and the region,” he said.

    “He (Chretien) often gets a chance to regale great stories about his time when he was in office when you’re around him and often that’s what you spend a lot of time talking about.”

    Aides to the former prime minister did not respond to emails asking for comment on the news release.

    Tim Houston, the leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party, said the fact police had to become involved means the province’s rules around lobbying need to be updated in order to provide more transparency.

    “Nova Scotians should be able to know if somebody lobbied their government and what the topic was,” said Houston.

    “We shouldn’t have to call the RCMP to see if that happened. It’s silly that’s what had to happen here.”

    NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the province needs a registrar of lobbyists capable of making determinations around lobbying.

    “A registrar of lobbyists would have made an assessment here and made a judgment and everybody would have to follow it,” said Burrill.

    He said it’s unclear what definition of lobbying police used.

    “They (police) are offering an analysis of private conversations that took place,” Burrill said. “On the basis of what evidence we don’t know.”

    — Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

    Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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    National

    Parties shop for housing ideas for platforms with issue high on voters’ lists

    OTTAWA — Federal parties are preparing to chase voters with ideas for dealing with what a new survey suggests is a major concern across the country: Housing affordability.
    The ideas being shopped around to stakeholders in the housing sector i…

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  • OTTAWA — Federal parties are preparing to chase voters with ideas for dealing with what a new survey suggests is a major concern across the country: Housing affordability.

    The ideas being shopped around to stakeholders in the housing sector include targeted spending towards certain groups, such as veterans, and more spending to increase the supply of lower-cost housing units to further cool housing prices.

    Last week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he would ease the mortgage stress-test the Liberals brought in and make it easier for homebuyers to borrow money, while eliminating red tape to help provinces and municipalities build more low-cost housing.

    Sources who have heard the detailed pitch, and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said they are still waiting on the details of Conservative plan.

    Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has repeatedly pushed the Liberals to immediately help build some 500,000 affordable housing units, but sources said the New Democrats are still working on how to pay for such a thing if they get elected and have to do it themselves.

    The struggle with affordability and the price of housing in some markets is shaping up to be a key campaign issue.

    A survey being released today, conducted for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, suggests the cost of housing is seen as having the largest effect on quality of life in Canadian cities.

    The polling from Abacus Data suggests that making housing more affordable is second only to improving roads and sewers as a priority voters have for all levels of government.

    Abacus chief executive David Coletto said worries about housing costs extend beyond big-city markets to rural communities as well.

    “There’s a sense that housing has become unaffordable and therefore that’s having an impact on the quality of life people have come to expect and seek,” he said.

    The survey of 5,106 Canadians aged 18 and over was conducted between March 14 and 28 using a random sample of members of online panels invited to complete the survey. Polling industry experts say online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not generate a random sample of the population.

    The municipal federation is hoping the results of the survey boost its bid in this election to secure a promise to revamp the financial relationship between Parliament and Canadian cities.

    Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2019 budget, the last before the fall vote, had a one-time doubling of federal transfers to municipalities from gas-tax revenues, to do an end-run around provincial governments that have been slow to apply for other infrastructure money. Municipalities have lobbied for that type of spending — cash transfers with few strings attached — to become the only way they receive funding, rather than requiring application-based programs.

    The survey results suggest that giving cities more direct money, rather than submitting specific projects for provincial and federal approval, has equal support from Liberal, Conservative and New Democrat voters and from respondents in urban, suburban and rural communities.

    “That doesn’t happen all that often. There are a handful of issues that I’ve been tracking over the last few years that show that kind of cross-party, cross-community-type consistency. It is really rare these days to find it,” Coletto said.

    “What this reflects is the quality of your roads, the quality of infrastructure, the quality of parks and communities you live in is not a Liberal, Conservative or New Democrat idea.”

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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    Ottawa will implement Senate proposals to strengthen accessibility law: minister

    Canada’s accessibility minister says the government will be acting on the Senate’s proposed recommendations to strengthen the country’s first piece of accessibility legislation for people with disabilities.
    Carla Qualtrough sent a letter to disabl…

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  • Canada’s accessibility minister says the government will be acting on the Senate’s proposed recommendations to strengthen the country’s first piece of accessibility legislation for people with disabilities.

    Carla Qualtrough sent a letter to disabled advocates saying the government planned to accept all the amendments senators had proposed for Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act.

    Earlier this month, the Senate committee on social affairs, science and technology adopted several amendments that nearly a hundred disability organizations said were necessary to make the law effective.

    Chief among them was a call to set a timeline requiring the act to be fully implemented in all areas under federal jurisdiction by 2040, as well as recognition of sign language as an official language among deaf Canadians.

    The federal government had resisted some of those measures as the bill worked its way through the House of Commons, but Qualtrough says all proposed Senate amendments will now be included.

    The amended bill is expected to come back before Parliament for final consideration next week.

     

       

     

    The Canadian Press

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