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People’s Party of Canada paying leader Maxime Bernier $104K salary

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After raising just over $2.6 million in donations but failing to win a single seat in the October 2019 election, the People’s Party is paying its founding leader, Maxime Bernier, an annual salary of $104,000 this year.

The party made the disclosure on Friday, as it spelled out the details of its annual filings with Elections Canada.

The filings show the People’s Party raised just under $2 million in 2019 after it was registered as an official party at the end of January. Prior to that registration, the party says Bernier raised $625,000 as an independent candidate, the surplus of which was transferred to People’s Party coffers once the registration went through.

Filings from 150 candidates also show they collectively raised another $379,000 over the course of last fall’s election campaign. The national party spent $604,000 on the election, significantly less than the other parties. The Conservatives spent $28.9 million and the Liberals $26.1 million. The PPC’s closest competitor in election spending countrywide was the Green Party, which spent $2.4 million and secured three seats.

In an email to members and supporters explaining the financial statements, the PPC said that Bernier did not receive a salary from the party while he was drawing his salary as the MP for the Quebec riding of Beauce. Since the beginning of the year, however, Bernier has been paid a salary worth $104,000 annually.

In an email to CBC News, the party said Bernier’s salary was decided by common agreement between three of the party’s directors — Bernier himself, Charles Laflamme and Martin Masse — along with the party’s official agent, Christian Roy.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was without a seat in the House of Commons from October 2017 when he became leader to February 2019 when he won a byelection, did not receive a salary from his party.

23,000 donors

The filings show the People’s Party received donations from 23,000 contributors in 2019. Money from those who donated at least $200 — meaning their names and locations must be disclosed — came disproportionately from British Columbia and Alberta, with just eight per cent coming from Bernier’s home province.

While the numbers suggest the People’s Party had a big drop-off in donations in November and December, after Bernier had lost his bid for re-election in Beauce, this decrease does not appear to be significantly different from what was experienced by the parties that succeeded in securing seats in the House of Commons.

The annual statements show the People’s Party ended 2019 in the black, running a surplus of some $375,000. By comparison, the Liberals and Greens respectively ran a $1 million and $880,000 operating deficit. The annual statements of the Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens have yet to be posted.

The People’s Party also ended the year with $462,000 in cash and cash equivalents on the books, compared to $4.4 million for the Liberals and $720,000 for the Greens.

While this suggests the People’s Party is in decent fiscal shape, the money raised by the party pales in comparison to its main rivals.

In 2019, the Conservatives raised $30.9 million, the Liberals $21 million, the NDP $8.1 million and the Greens $6.5 million. Among the major parties, the People’s Party raised more money in 2019 than only the Bloc Québécois, which has 32 seats in the House of Commons but runs candidates in only one province.

Donations have dropped in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and every party in the House, with the exception of the Bloc, has taken advantage of the federal government’s wage subsidy program.

Though the People’s Party reduced its staffing to four full-time employees after the October election and instituted a 20 per cent cut in wages when the pandemic hit, the PPC also said it did not participate in the wage subsidy program.

It says it has hired two new full-time employees and has a cushion to help pay for another campaign if there is a snap election in the fall.

Source:cbc-ca

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Calgary Stampede to proceed with limited events

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The Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival that is also Canada‘s biggest and booziest party, will go ahead this year after being pulled in 2020 due to the pandemic, though it will not look and feel the same, an event organizer told CBC Radio.

“It won’t be your typical Stampede … it’s not the experience that you had in years past,” Kristina Barnes, communications manager with the Calgary Stampede, told a CBC Radio programme on Friday.

She said organizers were still deciding whether to include rodeo or the grandstand show in this year’s version.

Known as “the greatest outdoor show on earth,” the Stampede draws tourists from around the world for its rodeo and chuckwagon races, but much of the action happens away from official venues at parties hosted by oil and gas companies.

“The Safest and Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth is what we’re going to call it this year,” Barnes said, adding the organizers are working directly with Alberta Health to ensure Stampede experiences stay “within the guidelines” that may be in effect in July.

The event is scheduled to take place between July 9-18, according to the Calgary Stampede website.

Last month, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters the Calgary Stampede can probably go ahead this year as Alberta’s coronavirus vaccination campaign accelerates.

Barnes and the office of the Alberta premier were not available for immediate comment.

The cancellation of the event last year was a crushing disappointment for Canada‘s oil capital.

The news comes as Alberta has been dealing with a punishing third wave of the pandemic, with the province having among the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 cases in the country. Data released on Friday showed the province had 1,433 new cases, compared with the seven-day average of 1,644.

 

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Chris Reese)

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U.S. trade chief pressured to lift duties on Canadian lumber

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 As U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai prepares to meet her Canadian and Mexican counterparts on Monday to review progress in the new North American trade agreement, she is under pressure from home builders and lawmakers to cut U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber.

Shortages of softwood lumber amid soaring U.S. housing demand and mill production curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused prices to triple in the past year, adding $36,000 to the average cost of a new single-family home, according to estimates by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Republican lawmakers have taken up the builders’ cause, asking Tai during hearings in Congress last week to eliminate the 9% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Senator John Thune told Tai that high lumber costs were “having a tremendous impact on the ground” in his home state of South Dakota and putting homes out of reach for some working families.

The Trump administration initially imposed 20% duties in 2018 after the collapse of talks on a new quota arrangement, but reduced the level in December 2020.

“The Biden administration must address these unprecedented lumber and steel costs and broader supply-chain woes or risk undermining the economic recovery,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Without tariff relief and other measures, vital construction projects will fall behind schedule or be canceled.”

On Friday, White House economic adviser Cecilia Rouse said the Biden administration was weighing concerns about commodity shortages and inflation as it reviews trade policy.

The tariffs are allowed under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which permits duties to combat price dumping and unfair subsidies.

The U.S. Commerce Department has ruled that lumber from most Canadian provinces is unfairly subsidized because it is largely grown on public lands with cheap harvesting fees set by Ottawa. U.S. timber is mainly harvested from privately-owned land.

Tai said she would bring up the lumber issue with Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng at the first meeting of the USMCA Free Trade Council, a minister-level body that oversees the trade deal.

WILLING PARTNER

But Tai told U.S. senators that despite higher prices, the fundamental dispute remains and there have been no talks on a new lumber quota arrangement.

“In order to have an agreement and in order to have a negotiation, you need to have a partner. And thus far, the Canadians have not expressed interest in engaging,” Tai said.

Youmy Han, a spokeswoman for Canada‘s trade ministry, said the U.S. duties were “unjustified,” and that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Our government believes a negotiated agreement is possible and in the best interests of both countries,” Han said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

But builders are growing frustrated with a lack of high-level engagement with high-level Biden administration officials on the issue as they watch lumber prices rise.

“They are clearly still gathering facts, which is even more frustrating given that this issue has been going on since before the election, before the inaugural,” said James Tobin, a vice president and top lobbyist at the NAHB.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder and Jarrett Renshaw in Washington and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Centerra to fight Kyrgyzstan takeover of its gold mine

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Centerra Gold said on Sunday it has initiated binding arbitration against Kyrgyzstan government, after the parliament passed a law allowing the state to temporarily take over the country’s biggest industrial enterprise, the Kumtor gold mine operated by Centerra.

Recently, a Kyrgyzstan court also imposed $3.1 billion fine on Kumtor Gold Company (KGC), which operates the gold mine, after ruling that the firm had violated environmental laws.

The gold miner said that it intends to hold the government accountable in the arbitration for “any and all losses and damage” due to its recent actions against KGC and the Kumtor mine if no resolution is reached.

“The Government’s actions have left Centerra no choice but to exercise our legal rights, through the pursuit of arbitration and otherwise, to protect the interests of KGC, Centerra and our shareholders,” Centerra’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Perry said in a press release.

Kyrgyzstan has a long history of disputes with Centerra Gold over how to share profits from the former Soviet republic’s biggest industrial enterprise.

 

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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