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iPolitics AM: Trudeau hits Montreal year-end media circuit with SNC-Lavalin controversy back in the headlines – iPolitics.ca

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ALSO TODAY: Conservative Party reportedly looking into Scheer office expense claims — Indian foreign affairs minister visits Ottawa

After a serendipitous twist of timing led to his year-end interview with the Canadian Press taking place just hours after news broke that the embattled Quebec engineering firm at the centre of the high-stakes political controversy that dominated the news cycle last spring had struck a deal to avoid prosecution on corruption charges, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found himself once again on the defensive over how he and his government handled the SNC-Lavalin case.

“Obviously, as we look back over the past year and this issue, there are things we could have, should have, would have done differently had we known, had we known all sorts of different aspects of it,” he acknowledged in an afternoon roundtable suggestion with the wire service.

“But you don’t get do-overs in politics. You only do the best you can to protect jobs, to respect the independence of the judiciary and that’s exactly what we did every step of the way.”

As CBC News reporter Peter Zimonjic points out, the agreement between the company and the federal prosecution service “looks a lot like what it asked the government for in the first place,” as it allowed SNC-Lavalin to avoid a conviction on bribery charges that could have put it on an international contracting blacklist, which is why it’s no wonder that the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin told reporters that they’re “very happy” with the outcome.

Trudeau should likely expect to face more questions on the now seemingly closed case when he hits the Montreal media circuit today, which, as per his itinerary, will include back-to-back interviews on 98.5 FM’s Puisqu’il faut se lever and TVA’s Salut Bonjour as well as his yearly chat with longtime friend Terry DiMonte, host of CHOM FM’s Mornings Rock and an evening appearance on CBC News’ Power and Politics.

Also on his itinerary today: A “community event” at Magasin-Partage Villeray, a “sharing store” that aims to help lower-income families celebrate the holidays.

Meanwhile, if Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was still clinging to a scintilla of hope that serving notice of his intention to step aside would allow him to shuffle out of the spotlight, the latest dispatch from Global News should squelch any such optimism.

The network is now reporting that the panel of senior Conservatives responsible for overseeing the party’s coffers is now raising questions over nearly $1 million in expenses claimed by Scheer’s office this year.

Citing “multiple party sources,” Global News notes that “the usual expenses submitted from the leader’s office to the Conservative National Council sit in the range of about $200,000 per fiscal year,” but “Scheer’s office expenses came in at over $900,000 for the last fiscal year.”

Finally, the list of high-profile potential contenders for the Conservative leadership now includes former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who, as per Radio Canada, is now “consulting his family” on whether to take the plunge back into federal politics.

OUTSIDE THE PRECINCT

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne holds a tete-a-tete with his visiting Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay  will “formally unveil the updated display dedicated to Daniel J. MacDonald” during a morning event at the Charlottetown building named in honour of MacDonald, who lost an arm and a leg in the Second World War, and later served as veterans minister under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Moving west to Saskatoon, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller teams up with Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations chief Bobby Cameron to share the details of new federal support for “youth empowerment, healing and wellness.”

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Regular House and Senate committee meetings will resume when the House and Senate re-open for parliamentary business.

Committee highlights courtesy of our friends at iPoliticsINTEL.

Don’t miss today’s complete legislative brief in GovGuide.ca!

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Doctor at hospital in China's Hubei province dies from coronavirus -state media – National Post

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BEIJING — A doctor at a hospital in China’s Hubei province, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, has died from the virus, China Global Television Network reported in a tweet.

Liang Wudong, a doctor at Hubei Xinhua Hospital who had been at the front line of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan city, died from the virus aged 62, it said. (Reporting by Se Young Lee and Judy Hua; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Mountain of paperwork in BEI’s investigation of UPAC’s leaks to media

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Before BEI even took over the investigation of UPAC leaks to media, the probe had already generated 4.8 million electronic documents


The BEI has assigned 14 investigators “including managers” to look into how information from UPAC investigations into people like former premier Jean Charest, his friend Marc Bibeau and Nathalie Normandeau, a former minister in the Charest government, were leaked to media outlets.


John Kenney / Montreal Gazette files

The independent unit created to investigate police shootings was handed a mountain of paperwork to sort through when it was also asked to investigate how information from high-profile UPAC investigations was leaked to the media.

According to information made public on Friday, Project Serment (Oath in English), the name the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes assigned to the investigation, already consisted of “approximately 4.8 million electronic documents” when the investigation was turned over to them. UPAC originally dubbed the investigation Project A. But, in 2018, it was ordered to turn over the millions of documents over to BEI on 33 hard drives, three memory cards, 23 computer discs and 13 USB keys. All told the evidence turned over to BEI investigators totalled 24 terabytes of digital information.

While the BEI normally assigns eight investigators to probe a fatal police shooting, it has assigned 14 investigators “including managers” to look into how information from UPAC investigations into people like former premier Jean Charest, his friend Marc Bibeau and Nathalie Normandeau, a former minister in the Charest government, were leaked to media outlets like Radio-Canada, L’Actualité and the Journal de Montréal before evidence was disclosed to defence lawyers. The BEI has a total of 42 investigators, not including managers. On Nov. 12, 2018, Michel Lacerte, a former Montreal police investigator who worked as a homicide detective and later an internal affairs investigator, was named as Serment’s principal investigator. The Serment investigation is actually independent of the independent bureau.

“Given the sensitive and delicate nature of the subjects treated and the actors implicated, the administrative and operational structure is independent of the BEI and its location is situated outside of BEI’s offices,” the BEI wrote in a motion filed before Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer at the Montreal courthouse on Friday. The motion is part of BEI’s efforts to maintain a seal on information prepared during the investigation. Cournoyer agreed to hear arguments on the issue at a later date through what might turn out to be closed-door hearings. At the same time, prosecutor Pascal Grimard provided a heavily redacted copy of BEI’s motion to a few media, including The Montreal Gazette, who are following the case.

Lawyers representing other interested parties involved in the case were asked by Cournoyer to not state who they were representing in open court on Friday. The names of the suspects targeted in Project Serment were redacted from the document made public on Friday, as is BEI’s theory of the case.

To support its argument that information related to Project Serment should remain sealed, the bureau contends that some of it falls under attorney-client privilege. The BEI also highlighted how last year it provided evidence related to Project Serment as part of an ongoing case being heard in St-Jérôme involving four men charged with municipal corruption. Less than a month after the information was provided to the court, two of the three documents the BEI provided were referred to in a Journal de Montréal story alleging that a Sûreté du Québec lieutenant was suspected of having misdirected the investigation into Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellete, a retired SQ investigator, to a point that led to his arrest in 2017.

An affidavit produced in Project A, when UPAC was investigating the media leaks, identified Ouellette, a former Liberal MNA who now sits as an independent, as one of four people suspected of leaking information, but he was not charged with any wrongdoing.

Another person who was investigated by UPAC as one of four possible sources of the leaks was an active Sûreté du Québec investigator who had access to sensitive UPAC documents. In 2017, UPAC obtained a warrant to access the SQ investigator’s cellphone. Days after obtaining the warrant, the investigator was asked to turn over his phone but he claimed that was impossible because, during the previous weekend, his cellphone was destroyed after he dropped it while taking a walk and a car ran over it.

To further support its arguments to keep its information under wraps, the BEI highlighted how it disclosed evidence of the “principal elements” of its investigation as part of the criminal case pending against Nathalie Normandeau and four other people in Quebec City in a breach of trust case. In December, a Quebec Court judge agreed, in part, with BEI’s motion to maintain a publication ban on information related to its investigation of media leaks. Part of the evidence presented by BEI for Normandeau’s case was done during a court hearing closed off to the public.

UPAC began the investigation in 2016 after it noticed two reports, by Radio-Canada and the magazine L’Actualité, that appeared to be based on leaks of evidence gathered in its investigations into Normandeau, 51, and Marc-Yvan Côté, 72, a former cabinet minister who is also charged in the case in Quebec City.

pcherry@postmedia.com

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Gladu says media treatment of her campaign is 'not fair' – iPolitics.ca

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Conservative leadership candidate Marilyn Gladu says the media is giving unfair attention to prominent male Conservatives who haven’t announced their intentions to run to be the party’s leader instead of to her campaign.

The race for the Conservative Party leadership kicked off earlier this month in the wake of leader Andrew Scheer’s resignation. Gladu, the only female to confirm her candidacy so far, said much news coverage briefly references her candidacy while allocating more time or space to potential male candidates who haven’t announced a bid for leadership. 

“I think that there’s been more attention paid to those that have not yet announced, and they get lots of press,” she said. “I think that it’s not fair and it doesn’t necessarily look good on the media because they should be promoting women in politics.”

Gladu’s comments come about two weeks after many leadership hopefuls began mobilizing their campaigns. Speculation over whether well-known politicians like former Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, and Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre will enter the race have dominated media headlines in recent weeks.

But Gladu said her candidacy often receives the “cursory one statement” from media outlets.

For instance, this CBC News article that said Gladu has the “steepest hill to climb ” in the race while allotting full graphs to four male politicians, including potential candidates, Poilievre, Charest, and former cabinet minister Erin O’Toole, who hadn’t announced bids for the leadership. Both Poilievre and Charest have since announced they will not be entering the race. O’Toole, meanwhile, has yet to formally announce his candidacy, but has assembled a campaign team.

An engineer of 32 years, Gladu said she’s experienced treatment like this before. While she said she doesn’t know the reason for the media’s treatment of her campaign, she acknowledged that she’s less well-known than candidates like Peter MacKay, who was a Conservative MP from 1997 to 2015 and served as a senior minister in Stephen Harper’s government for almost a decade.

Gladu has been an MP since 2015, serving as the Tories’ health critic since 2017. She also worked as the science critic, and as the chair for the House Status of Women Committee. Gladu was also a youth leader for over 30 years, prior to her career in federal politics, as well as being an engineer. She began her career at Dow Chemical, where she worked for 21 years before becoming the director of engineering at Suncor followed by a consultant role at WorleyParsons.

Recent polls have shown that the only female contestant has the most ground to make up in the race.

A Jan. 16-17 poll conducted by Mainstreet Research for iPolitics found that Peter MacKay would perform the best out of Conservative leadership candidates.

The poll asked 1,470 Canadian adults who they would vote for if a federal election were held today, with four different scenarios of who is Conservative leader: Andrew Scheer, Pierre Poilievre, Marilyn Gladu and Peter MacKay.

MacKay came in first place polling at 31.7 per cent of the vote, followed by Scheer at 30 per cent, Poilievre at 26.9 per cent, and Gladu in fourth place with 24.1 per cent of the vote.

The survey did not ask respondents which party they would back if Erin O’Toole was Conservative leader. 

READ MORE: Peter MacKay would do best out of three Tory leadership hopefuls in federal vote: Mainstreet poll

While she knowingly calls herself the race’s “dark horse,” Gladu believes that her personality will resonate with Canadians. 

“To know me is to love me and Canadians are going to get to know me over this campaign,” she said.

The Sarnia—Lambton MP also says a female leader would help the party attract new voters, something she said is necessary if the party hopes to win future elections.  She also said she’s able to build relationships with young people, another key factor to winning election as the younger voting demographic becomes larger.

Along with Gladu and MacKay, the leadership race includes Richard Decarie, a social conservative from Quebec; Alberta-based businessman Rick Peterson; and rookie MP Derek Sloan.

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