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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.”

FRESH FROM iPOLITICS

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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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Trump Media Agency Chief to Defy Subpoena, Angering Republicans – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — The head of the agency that oversees the Voice of America and other government media outlets won’t appear at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing later this week, defying a subpoena to testify about changes at the agency, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Michael Pack, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, was supposed to appear Thursday before the committee voluntarily, but withdrew on Sept. 18. The panel’s chairman, Democrat Eliot Engel, said Pack failed to provide alternative dates or offer an acceptable excuse, and issued a subpoena to force his testimony.

Pack’s withdrawal also drew a strong statement from the committee’s ranking Republican, Representative Michael McCaul, who called for Pack to testify. In a sharply divided Congress, the bipartisan response was unusual, particularly with regard to pressing a Trump nominee to appear before a Democratically controlled committee.

McCaul said that since being confirmed by the Senate in June, Pack had placed critical national security programs “in jeopardy” and that the CEO “needs to come before this committee and explain those actions.”

Representatives of the agency didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pack’s Firings

The focus of McCaul’s ire is Pack’s actions related to the Open Technology Fund, or OTF, an organization that promotes internet freedom abroad and receives grant money from the Agency for Global Media. McCaul was one of the lead authors of the law that established the OTF as an independent grantee of the agency.

In June, Pack dismissed the heads of four news outlets, including Radio Free Europe, as well as staff and governing board members at the OTF. A federal appeals court in Washington issued an injunction in July blocking the dismissals, as it determines whether the firing was lawful.

Pack’s nomination was controversial, both for his association with former Trump campaign and White House adviser Steve Bannon, but also over unresolved questions about his business dealings while running an nonprofit media organization called the Public Media Lab. The attorney general of the District of Columbia is investigating the organization for unlawful use of funds.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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WFPS to investigate 'unacceptable behaviours' on social media – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
An investigation is coming into social media behaviour the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) calls “unacceptable”.

An internal memo from WFPS Chief John Lane on Sept. 18, obtained by CTV News, calls recent instances reported to the department disappointing and says frank discussions are happening in the world about racism, sexism, and prejudice.

In the memo, Lane points to a previous memo reminding staff about city and department expectations for social media use, and says it appears some may not be adhering to those policies.

“Unfortunately, despite these and many efforts to instil and reinforce the importance of compliance with these requirements, it is apparent that unacceptable behaviours continue on social media and occasionally among individuals,” Lane said in the memo.

“Instances have recently been brought to our attention. This is profoundly disappointing for me, both professionally and personally.”

While the memo does not go into detail regarding the behaviour on social media, The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) which represents paramedics, said some of its members have come forward with concerns.

“It doesn’t really matter who it is, it should not be happening,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky.

“Our members have come forward to say that there’s racism and sexism going on and they have provided documentation to the employer.”

The memo goes on to say the department will investigate the instances and that employees who are found to violate the city’s code of conduct could be subject to disciplinary matters including termination.

The memo also says staff are encouraged to bring forward details of behaviours which are ‘not consistent’ with city standards.

To help employees feel comfortable, Lane said in the memo that a third party is being hired to provide additional assurances of confidentiality.

“It is time for the WFPS to put some action behind the words that were in the memos, saying this isn’t allowed and it needs to stop.”

Alex Forrest, the president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said he is not commenting at this time as these are personal HR matters.

In a statement to CTV News, the WFPS said as a practice it sends out reminders about corporate policies and said no information will be provided about specific human resources matters involving individuals.

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Canadians use social media to shine light on live music industry left in dark by COVID-19 – Global News

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Canadians who have a passion for the performing arts are taking to social media on Tuesday night to raise awareness about the live events industry that they say has been left on life support by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We risk not having events,” said Jennifer Hildebrandt, who helped to organize a social media campaign using the hashtags #lightuplive and #lightuplivecanada in Edmonton. “We risk thousands of people being out of work [and] we risk coming out of this pandemic and not having events, not having concerts for people to go back to.

“I think that’s the one thing that a lot of people aren’t grasping right now, is that that’s a very real possibility. Venues are shutting down all across the country. It’s been going on for six months and it’s only going to get worse.”

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READ MORE: ‘The show cannot go on’: Canada’s arts scene takes hit from COVID-19 

Inspired by similar movements in Germany and the United Kingdom, the Light Up Live event on Tuesday asks venues, performers and events workers to take photos of themselves or venues with red lighting and then post them on social media accompanied by the movement’s hashtags.

“I think it will be a fantastic show,” said Christian Zeretzke, an Edmonton freelancer who specializes in rigging and carpentry for theatres. “It’s to raise awareness to the plight of events workers at the moment.

“Bring attention to this. That way we can ask the government to continue giving meaningful support… We’re writing and ready to go back to work because this is what we love to do.”

READ MORE: The show must go on for Edmonton’s arts community amid COVID-19 pandemic

Zeretzke, who came up with the #lightuplivecanada hashtag, said since the pandemic hit in March, he has only had one gig in the arts and has been forced to take other jobs to support himself.

He said from performers, lighting technicians, sound technicians, promoters, florists, security, cleaners and caterers to hospitality groups, an incredible number of people were impacted when live shows came to a screeching halt.

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“The list is mind-boggling how many people it takes to put on an event,” Zeretzke said.

Organizers of the social media movement say the live events sector employs about one-million Canadians, directly and indirectly.

In Alberta, the arts — including live events — contribute to the province’s economic growth as well as quality of life, according to the provincial government.

“This is an additional $1.3 billion in GDP generated, while sustaining nearly 20,000 jobs here in Alberta,” Michael Forian, press secretary for the minister of of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, told Global News in a statement. “Live experience events also generate economic activity through out-of-town tourism, at an average of $10 million in economic impact for larger events.

“Every $1 million in output from live performance businesses in Alberta generates 17 direct and indirect jobs. When arts and culture thrive, Alberta is well positioned to be seen as a good place to live, invest and do business.”

Over 600 venues across Canada, ranging from arenas to theatres and concert halls, are taking part in Tuesday’s social media event.

READ MORE: Ontario theatre to glow red for national event raising awareness for pandemic-hit live event industry

Zeretzke said even though some venues have been able to reopen in some areas, the limited capacity to accommodate social distancing — something he understands and agrees with — makes it very difficult to break even on a performance.

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“If you have a 100-seat capacity… and 15 of those are technicians and box office staff and actors or whatever, it’s really tough to make a profit off that,” he said.

“We’re really hoping to bring awareness and bring… [more] support from government and from the public for our industry and moving forward, you know, we need to maintain support for gig workers and live event workers,” Hildebrandt said.

“We need an economic recovery plan for our industry.”

READ MORE: Hit hard by COVID-19, Ontario music venues ‘in desperate need of help’ 

People are being asked to begin taking photos and posting them to social media once the sun sets in their region on Tuesday night.

For more information, click here.

–With files from Global News’ Kendra Slugoski

View some tweets with the hashtag #lightuplive below:

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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