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Red Deer – Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign

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What We Know About Trudeau’s Latest Ethics Scandal

BLAINE CALKINS

 

Over the past several weeks Canadians have been shocked at the details coming to light regarding Justin Trudeau’s WE Scandal. Justin Trudeau and the Kielburgers have been happy to benefit from each other for years. While they are quick to downplay their relationship, the facts tell a different story. According to WE Charity, Justin Trudeau and his family have participated in over 50 WE Events where they have been able to share their political message with young Canadians.

In 2017 WE created a campaign style ad featuring Justin Trudeau for Canada 150 and even pressured employees to go to a political event for the Minister of Finance in his Toronto riding. The Kielburger brothers have donated to the Liberal Party in the past, and under the Trudeau government WE has received upwards of $5.5 million in government funding.

This reciprocal relationship is concerning all on its own, before even considering the current scandal regarding the Canada Student Service Grant, Justin Trudeau and WE. The twists and turns in the story can be difficult to track, but it is clear that Justin Trudeau and former Finance Minister Bill Morneau have once again failed to live up to their legal obligations laid out in Canada’s conflict of interest laws. Here is what we know so far.

In April, WE sent an unsolicited proposal for a youth entrepreneurship program to Minister Chagger and Minister Ng. Ten days later WE received a call from Rachel Wernick, a senior bureaucrat with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) about the yet to be announced Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG). When the program was announced to the public a few days later WE co-founder Craig Kielburger sent Ms. Wernick a proposal to administer the grant that same day.

According to the Kielburgers someone at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) contacted them the next day about delivering the program, which they later recanted claiming it was a public servant who contacted them. Ms. Wernick is credited as being the public servant who recommended that WE was the only organization that could deliver the program.

 

On June 25th WE Charity was announced as the partner for the $900 million CSSG program, and Canadians were told they would receive $19.5 million to administer it. When asked, Trudeau suggested there was no conflict of interest because he and his wife had never been paid by the organization. A few days later Conservatives asked the Auditor General to probe the deal since parliamentary oversight was hindered by the program being outsourced, and due to concern over the well documented relationship between Trudeau and the Kielburgers.

 

By July 3rd Mark and Craig Kielburger announced that WE would be giving up the contract to administer the CSSG. On the same day, the Ethics Commissioner confirmed that he would be starting an investigation into Justin Trudeau for the third time. Less than a week later WE confirmed that the Prime Minister’s Mother, Margaret Trudeau had been paid $312,000 for 28 appearances since 2016 and that his brother, Alexandre Trudeau, was paid $40,000 for 8 events in 2017-2018. They also acknowledged that the Prime Minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau had received $1,400 for an appearance in 2012.

We later found out that on top of those fees WE Charity also paid an additional $212,846 in expenses between the three members of the Trudeau family. This brings the total remuneration to over $566,000. This revelation, in part, led to the Conservatives writing to the Commissioner of the RCMP to request that they look into this matter as it pertains to potential criminal code violations.

 

The Prime Minister isn’t the only one with an apparent conflict of interest in this matter, with former Minister Morneau also having close family ties with WE. Like the Prime Minister, he did not recuse himself despite the fact that his one daughter works for WE and another has been a speaker in the past and received a book endorsement. This led to the Ethics Commissioner launching an investigation into former Minister Morneau as well.

At an appearance before the Finance Committee former Minister Morneau would later go on to acknowledge that he and his wife had recently made two large donations, roughly $50,0000 each, and that he had also just written a cheque for over $41,000 to reimburse WE for expenses he and his family incurred on two vacations to Africa and South America, where they visited WE projects. WE later confirmed that the complementary trip was offered to former Minister Morneau and his family because of their history of significant donations to similar programs. These revelations led to the Conservative caucus calling for the now former Minister to resign.

 

The Finance Committee and the Ethics Committee began to look into this latest scandal, and the testimony and information they have received has painted a confusing and troubling picture. They uncovered a number of very concerning details before the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in order to shut down the committees.

· WE stood to collect $45.53 million in fees, over double what was initially stated.

· The program, originally announced at over $900 million, was actually contracted out at $544 million instead. Why the discrepancy?

· The Clerk of the Privy Council stated that there were no red flags when considering WE, but that the Public Service didn’t probe the organizations finances. This is quite odd.

· The President of the Public Service Alliance disputed that only WE could have delivered the CSSG, stating that to say the Public Service was unable to was insulting. He pointed to the various government grant programs, Canada Summer Jobs and the Canada Service Corps as comparable programs. The theory that only WE could handle the program was further dismantled when it turned out that they had to subcontract part of the program because they weren’t able to deliver it in French.

· The contract for the CSSG wasn’t actually with WE Charity, but with WE Charity Foundation, a shell foundation that had no previous experience in delivering these types of programs.

· The former Chair of the Board at WE Charity testified that she had been forced to resign by Craig Kielburger for requesting financial documents from WE Executives to justify the layoff of hundreds of employees.

· The Kielburger brothers testified, claiming that they were running the program as a favour to Canada, and that their organization was to be reimbursed for expenses, but not make money off of the program. In a leaked document, a draft budget dated May 4th outlined some expenses including for staff salary. This included 175 program managers at $30,0000 each for 4.5 months work, ten supervisors at $45,000 each for 5.5months work, five group leaders at $70,000 each for 6 months work, and two project leaders for $125,000 for eight months work.

· WE Charity started to incur eligible expenses on May 5th, despite Cabinet not approving the program until May 22nd. This was being done with the full knowledge of ESDC, and allegedly at the financial liability of WE.

· Trudeau testified that he only found out about WE’s involvement on May 8th, shortly before it was set to be discussed at Cabinet. He claims that he removed it from the agenda and asked the public service to complete additional due diligence given his family connection to WE. He did not contact the Ethics Commissioner despite the concerns. This additional due diligence did not unearth any of the problems disclosed by the former Chair of the Board. It is noteworthy that no Minister, prior to the Prime Minister making his claim, had a story that would corroborate this feeble explanation.

 

The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff confirmed that a handful of employees in PMO were aware of WE’s involvement and had interactions with the organization in the lead up to the approval. This included an interaction on May 5th, the day WE started incurring eligible expenses. So far, every time someone has come forward to try and explain away the Liberal’s latest mess, Canadians are left with more questions than when they started. Canadians deserve answers, and my Conservative colleagues and I are committed to finding them using every tool at our disposal.

While the studies at committee may have been temporarily halted by Trudeau’s prorogation Conservatives will continue to investigate this matter, and pursue every whiff of corruption like when we called on the Elections Commissioner to look into the political benefits that the Liberals have been given by WE. While the Prime Minister may be attempting to prevent Canadians from knowing the truth, Members of the Finance committee received thousands of heavily redacted documents from the Liberal government on the same day that Trudeau prorogued Parliament. They paint a very different picture of how WE came to be selected for this program than the one that the Liberals have offered up.

These documents suggest that the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth told WE to develop a proposal for a summer service opportunity before the CSSG was even announced. They go on to claim that the former Minister of Finance was “besties” with WE and that senior members of the Prime Minister’s office were involved in the development of the program and were having conversations with WE from an early stage. You can see these documents for yourself at wedocuments.ca.

 

The timeline of Mr. Trudeau’s version of events simply doesn’t add up. The CSSG was announced on April 22nd. A member of PMO spoke with WE about their proposal on May 5th, the same day they started to charge expenses for administering the program, but Cabinet wouldn’t approve the program for two and a half weeks.

Why was a charity that had to recently lay off hundreds of employees due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 so willing to accept the liability of starting the program without approval? Why were they so sure they would be approved? Why were they told they could start charging expenses before approval?

To answer that, you only need to look at the cozy relationship between Justin Trudeau, former Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, the Liberal Party and WE. Now that the former Minister Bill Morneau has resigned and more than 5000 pages of documents have been released for review, Canadians are hungrier for that truth than ever before. The Liberals are banking on Canadians forgetting about this scandal during their prorogation and hoping that they can change the channel later this month with a new Throne Speech, but it isn’t going to work. Despite prorogation and all of the confusion and misdirection, one thing is absolutely clear – Justin Trudeau must resign for his part in this scandal.

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Exploring Gros Morne Newfoundland with Gerry Feehan

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Exploring Gros Morne Newfoundland with Gerry Feehan

The view from atop Gros Morne is spectacular.

The talk of salt cod and moose started before we’d even made landfall on The Rock. On the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, a wizened fellow regaled us with stories of jigging for fish with his cousin and bagging a bull moose with his wife. It was late September.

He was pleased as punch that the freezer was stocked with sufficient cod and moose meat to see the family through a harsh Newfoundland winter. As

Florence and I drove off the ferry the man motioned us with a gnarly finger. I rolled down the window.

“Safe travels me-son. And don’t drive at night on The Rock,” he warned, “sometimes the moose are so thick you have to get out of the car and push them off the road.”

We were on Newfoundland’s southwest tip. The island is bigger than I had expected. The first road sign we saw proclaimed, ‘St John’s 890km’. But before heading to the distant capital on the Avalon Peninsula we wanted to explore the west of Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse Aux Meadows, where Leif Erickson established North America’s first European settlement 1000 years ago—500 years before Columbus set foot on Hispaniola in the sunny Caribbean.

The drive north from Port Aux Basques was slow going. Along the highway, workers were installing the new transmission line from Muskrat Falls in neighbouring Labrador on the mainland. This project is an expensive undertaking—and considered by some Newfoundlanders just another dam boondoggle. Many Islanders also still bristle at the mention of Churchill Falls, a hydroelectric legacy from the era of Joey Smallwood, Canada’s last Father of Confederation.

Fall colours were near peak as we drove past lovely Corner Brook and leafy Marble Mountain. We enjoyed a late-season round of golf at Humber Valley Resort, ranked Canada’s 6th best public golf course. The rolling fairways were flanked by yellow, gold and red-hued deciduous trees and stoic evergreens. There were no moose on course, but a solitary black fox did greedily eye my ball on the green at the signature par 4 10th.  A little further down the TransCanada we made a sharp left at Deer Lake onto Hwy 430, bound for Gros Morne and the rugged west coast.

 

Life is hard on The Rock.

Gros Morne National Park is remarkably diverse. The pebbled shoreline of Rocky Harbour gives way to a series of finger lakes, forming magnificent inland fjords. South, across Bonne Bay, lie the Tablelands where Earth’s mantle has squeezed to the surface and only the odd pitcher plant and a few other hardy species can survive the acidic, infertile ancient soil. And lording over all is Gros Morne, Newfoundland’s second highest mountain, which we intended to climb.

The night before our ascent we stopped at Park Headquarters to pick up a trail map.

“Be careful me-loves,” warned the ranger, “specially if you see a tick fag.”

“We most certainly will,” I assured her, glancing over my shoulder. In the morning, low dense clouds roiled out over the sea but the sky above Gros Morne was crystal clear. No tick fag up there.

The hard part about summiting Gros Morne Mountain isn’t the summit itself. The top is flat as a pancake, a broad sparse plain where caribou graze on lichen—and rock ptarmigan nest. The difficult portion of the ascent is ‘the Gully’ a breathless hour of bouldering through frost-shattered rock that precedes the Arctic tundra of the plateau. ‘Big Lone Mountain’ tops out at 806m (2600 ft) and since the hike starts pretty much at sea level, the elevation gain is just that. As we exited the Gully, our calm fall day rapidly deteriorated into wintery conditions atop the windswept barren.

A rock ptarmigan strolls the summit.

We snapped a quick pic at the signpost marking the high point before scurrying toward the descent on the far side of the mesa. There we met two young women who had stopped for a terrifying selfie on the precipice overlooking Ten Mile Pond. I could barely stand upright as we screamed at each other over the wind. The Parks Canada brochure warns trekkers to be prepared for an arduous climb and that “hikers have fallen from the ledge… and died.” Watching the gals pose near the cliff in this gale, I wondered, “Fallen? More likely blown.”

That night, at the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour, we enjoyed our first Newfoundland kitchen party, where we were screeched in and kissed the cod, courtesy of local celebrity Dave Shears. I joined our host on stage for a couple of songs.

“Stick around and strum a few after the others have left,” he offered, “and we’ll have a cuffer ‘bout dis and dat.”

So, long after the cod had been smooched, the screech ‘inned’ and the bar doors barred, we were still singing, quaffing—and trading yarns with our convivial hosts.

Western Brook Pond is a glacier-carved, masterpiece of nature. A cruise on this fresh-water fjord is mandatory for any visit to Gros Morne. But check the forecast. Chances are that you’ll walk 40 minutes from the parking area to the pier only to find the boat ride has been cancelled due to foul weather.

But even if the outing is kiboshed, the 2km hike through tuckamore forest, with long stretches of boardwalk over peaty bogs and around fragile wetlands, is worth the amble. Luckily we had a good day for it. The boat meandered slowly to the far end of the long, narrow lake, squeezing between sheer, 750m high cliffs. Everywhere waterfalls cascaded to the surface from the dizzying heights. Since Newfoundland is a land of perpetual impromptu music, the boat’s crew couldn’t refrain from scratching their musical itch during the two-hour tour.

When not attending to his maritime duties, the first mate played the spoons. Passengers clapped accompaniment while Celtic jigs blared over the ship’s loudspeakers.

Sheer cliffs define the fresh-water fjord.

The next evening the live entertainment continued at the Gros Morne Music Festival in Cow Head with fiddling, percussion and a sad, a capella ballad recounting the hard life of early Newfoundlanders. After midnight, walking back to our campground, the wind began to freshen. At 3am we were shaken awake by a strong sou’ wester – and slept only in fits and starts for the rest of the night.

Our plan was to hit the road early for the 350km drive to l’Anse aux Meadows on the extreme tip of the Northern Peninsula. But by morning the gusts were blowing in at 100kph – a sad portent for motor home travel. We decided to hunker down and wait out the tempest. But one by one our resolute fellow campers pulled up stakes. Soon we were the sole remainders. Suffering from FOMO, I threw caution to the gale-force wind, pulled out onto the narrow, winding highway and, as they oddly say in Newfoundland, steered north ‘down the coast.’

Next time: L’Anse aux Meadows and more tales from The Rock.

Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He lives in Kimberley, BC.

Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence live in Kimberley, BC!

Thanks to Kennedy Wealth Management for sponsoring this series.  Click on the ads and learn more about this long-term local business.

 

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Alberta

Stand Together Against Bullying – Pink Shirt Day 2021

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021 is the 14th annual Pink Shirt Day, a globally recognized movement to end bullying in all its forms and encourage the growth of a global community built on acceptance and support regardless of sex, age, background, gender identity, sexual orientation or cultural differences. 

Pink Shirt Day originated in 2007 in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, in a local story that captured national – and eventually international – attention, when a new 9th grade student walked in on the first day of school wearing a pink polo shirt. 

Travis Price and David Shepherd are the two young men responsible for unintentionally launching the global pink shirt movement. According to Price and Shepherd, a group of students were physically and verbally bullying the young man for wearing pink to school. As senior students, Price and Shepherd saw the situation as an opportunity to set an example and take a stand against bullying in their school.
That night the two went and purchased 75 pink tank tops and released a call on social media (MSN messenger at the time) encouraging their fellow students to show up at school the next day wearing pink. According to Price, in a school of roughly 1000 students, “700 to 850 kids showed up wearing pink. It was incredible.” 

 

Since 2007, the movement has gained exponential traction and is now recognized in communities all around the world as individuals come together in an international display of solidarity against the devastating impacts of bullying.
The global movement to end bullying has led to the creation of countless local, national and internationally available resources, but there is still a long way to go.

Bullying Canada identifies 4 distinct types of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyber. Short term and long term effects of bullying vary based on each situation, and can lead to damaging and dangerous outcomes for victims, friends, bystanders and countless others. While commonly associated with children and young adults in school, bullying impacts individuals of all ages and backgrounds in many areas of life, including the workplace.
Statistics released by Safe Canada revealed that 47% of Canadian parents have at least one child that has experienced bullying, while approximately 33% of the population experienced bullying as a child, and 33% of teenagers reported being bullied recently. Furthermore, around 40% of Canadians reportedly experience bullying in the workplace on a weekly basis.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with bullying, reaching out is the first step. You are not alone, and help is available. Extensive networks of resources exist in Alberta and across Canada to provide support, aid and solutions for those experiencing bullying. 

For support from Bullying Canada, call (877) 352-4497, or email [email protected]

The Alberta 24-hour Bullying Helpline can be reached at 1-888-456-2323, or the online Bullying Helpline Chat can be accessed here.

For more resources on how to identify a bullying situation, get help, or help someone in need, visit https://www.alberta.ca/bullying-how-to-help-others.aspx.

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