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Vancouver businessman David Sidoo pleads not guilty in U.S. college bribery case

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BOSTON — Lawyers for a prominent Vancouver businessman say their client has pleaded not guilty in court in an alleged college admissions scam in the United States.

The U.S. attorney office in Massachusetts says in a tweet that David Sidoo has been released by the federal court in Boston on a secured bond of US$1.5 million and his travel restricted to Canada and the United States.

Sidoo was charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as part of a prosecution by United States authorities of an alleged college admissions scam involving dozens of accused people.

An indictment released Tuesday alleged Sidoo paid $200,000 in total for someone to take an entrance exam on behalf of both his sons, and that he also paid an undisclosed amount for someone to fly to Vancouver and take a high school test.

St. George’s School says a review of its records from 2012 indicates no school or provincial exams were written at the school by the student in question on or around the date referenced by the indictment.

Sidoo, known for his philanthropic causes in British Columbia, was CEO of Advantage Lithium and is a former Canadian Football League player for the B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, are among those who have been charged in an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.

No students were charged. Authorities have said that in many cases the teenagers were not aware of what was going on.

Advantage Lithium said Thursday that Sidoo has taken a leave of absence from his executive role as company president and that his responsibilities as CEO have been assumed by another executive on an interim basis.

The law firm representing Sidoo says he “looks forward to fully contesting the charges in a well-respected court and not in the media.”

“He will be returning to his home in Canada and asks people not to rush to judgment.”

The U.S. Justice Department says Sidoo, 59, was arrested in San Jose, Calif., on March 8.

An indictment alleges Sidoo paid $100,000 in 2011 to have an individual secretly take the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, in place of his older son. It also asserts that Sidoo emailed copies of his son’s driver’s licence and student card for the purpose of creating a falsified identification card for the individual. 

The individual, whose name is redacted, flew from Tampa, Fla., to Vancouver to take the SAT on behalf of Sidoo’s son, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says the test score was emailed to an administrator at Chapman University, a private California university, where Sidoo’s son was admitted and later enrolled.

The indictment also alleges Sidoo agreed to pay another $100,000 in 2012 for someone to take the SAT in place of his younger son.

It claims that in 2013 and 2014 the falsified SAT scores obtained on behalf of his younger son were sent to universities, including Yale and Georgetown, as part of his college applications. The score was also sent to the University of California-Berkeley, where the younger son was accepted and later enrolled, it says.

Sidoo’s legal team has said the two sons have not been accused of any impropriety.

If convicted of the charge, Sidoo must forfeit any property that is derived from proceeds traceable to the offence, the indictment says.

 

The Canadian Press

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Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levels

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OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he is concerned by numbers in a new poll that suggest a majority of Canadians believe the federal government should limit the number of immigrants it accepts.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents to a recent Leger poll said the government should prioritize limiting immigration levels, while just 37 per cent said the priority should be on increasing the number of immigrants to meet economic demands.

Hussen says the result is concerning because he has heard directly from employers who are in desperate need of workers, and immigration is key to meeting those needs.

He says he understands some Canadians may be worried about the ability of communities to absorb more newcomers due to housing and other infrastructure shortages, but he says the answer is to invest more in those areas rather than cut immigration.

The poll suggests Conservative voters are far more likely to disagree with Hussen — 81 per cent of Conservative respondents said they favoured limiting immigration levels, while 41 per cent of Liberals, 44 per cent of NDP supporters and 57 per cent of Greens were in favour.

The online survey of 1,528 Canadians, randomly recruited from Leger’s online panel, was conducted between June 7 and 10 for The Canadian Press. 

The Canadian Press

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NDP promise to expand universal health care, starting with national drug plan

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HAMILTON — The federal NDP says if it is elected this fall it will expand Canada’s health-care system, starting with fast-tracking a universal drug plan to ensure a late 2020 start date.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says if his party forms government after the October federal election, it will inject $10 billion annually into a national pharmacare program.

The NDP proposal would see the pharmacare program start sooner than an expert panel recently recommended.

The panel said a national list of prescription drugs for pharmacare should be established by Jan. 1, 2022, and be expanded no later than Jan. 1, 2027.

The NDP policy comes in a new “commitments document” — dubbed A New Deal for People — unveiled today at the Ontario NDP convention in Hamilton.

In remarks provided to the media in advance of his convention speech Sunday morning, Singh says the plan would save families who already have insurance coverage $550 a year.

“For the first time, every single Canadian can count on this,” he said. “If you need medication, if someone you love needs medication, you can get it — period. Paid for with your health card, not your credit card.”

Singh said the NDP plan would also eventually expand universal coverage to dental, vision and hearing care as well.

The 109-page document also contains promises to create 500,000 more affordable housing units, expand grant programs for post-secondary education and address the cost of cellphone service and high-speed broadband.

The party is pledging to spend a billion dollars in 2020 to enhance child care across the country.

The document also promises to restore door-to-door mail delivery to all communities that have lost it — which would cost $100 million — and to establish a gasoline-price watchdog to monitor fuel prices and prevent “gouging.”

The party says it would raise government revenues to pay for its policies through a number of measures including increasing corporate taxes and by creating a so-called “wealth tax.”

Taxes on the richest Canadians — those with net worth of $20 million or more — would jump by one per cent, generating several billion dollars annually in revenue.

“The Liberals and Conservatives have been working for the people at the very top instead of working for you,” Singh said. “We are going to change that.”

The party would roll back corporate tax cuts provided by previous governments to 2010 levels, an increase from the current 15 to 18 per cent, generating billions more for government coffers a year.

Singh said the party would also institute a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax on residential purchases to prevent housing markets from overheating.

The NDP does not make a specific promise to balance the federal budget.

“In all cases, we will manage debt and deficits responsibly, borrowing when required to defend the services that Canadians and their families rely on, and moving to balance when prudent,” the document says.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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