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Trudeau government has adopted dozens of secret cabinet orders since coming to power – CBC News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has adopted 72 secret orders-in-council — hidden from Parliament and Canadians — since coming to office, CBC News has learned.

A review by CBC News of nearly 8,900 orders-in-council (OICs) — or cabinet decrees — adopted by the federal government shows the number of secret or unpublished OICs has been rising since Trudeau came to power in 2015.

The only outside indication that a secret OIC even exists is a missing number in the Privy Council’s orders-in-council database. OICs have a wide range of applications, from stopping a foreign company from buying a Canadian business to outlining who is authorized to give the order to shoot down a commercial airliner hijacked by terrorists.

More than half of the secret orders-in-council adopted by the Trudeau government have arrived since April 2020, a month after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Eleven have been adopted so far this year.

While the Liberals criticized the Conservatives in 2015 for the number of secret OICs they adopted, Trudeau’s government has adopted more than twice as many over its years in office.

The Trudeau government adopted five secret orders-in-council in 2016, seven in 2017, eight in 2018 and 12 in 2019. It adopted none in 2015. The number of new secret OICs spiked at 21 in 2020 before dropping to eight in 2021.

The four secret OIC’s adopted in 2015 were adopted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

The government can cite a small number of reasons for exempting an order-in-council from publication — such as national security or military operations, or because the OIC in question is related to national security reviews of proposed foreign investments in Canadian companies.

Fuel for conspiracy theories

Opposition critics say there can be legitimate reasons for adopting secret OICs — but they’re concerned by the large number of them adopted by the Trudeau government. They say they also fear that the government’s refusal to reveal anything about the secret OICs could fuel misinformation or conspiracy theories.

Some of the secret OICs were adopted under the Investment Canada Act. It allows the government to avoid publishing cabinet orders related to national security reviews of certain transactions, such as a foreign company’s purchase of a Canadian business.

Laurie Bouchard, spokesperson for Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, said 32 of the secret OICs adopted between November 2015 — when the Trudeau government came to power — and March 31, 2021 were related to the Investment Canada Act.

The government adopted 55 secret OICs during that time period.

Bouchard said the number of secret OICs specifically related to the Investment Canada Act is not yet available for the period of March 31, 2021 to the present. During that period, the government adopted 17 secret orders-in-council.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers a question during question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

During a six-year period under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, eight secret orders-in-council were introduced that were related to the Investment Canada Act, said Bouchard. During that period — April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2015 — the Harper government adopted 22 secret orders-in-council.

But the Investment Canada Act would only explain a portion of the secret OICs that have been adopted.

The Privy Council has refused to release at least two of the secret OICs adopted this year, citing a section of federal access to information law that allows the government to keep secret documents which, if revealed, “could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada, or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.”

One of those two OICs was adopted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, 2022. The second was adopted on Feb. 18.

Police officers push back protesters in front of the Senate of Canada building on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The first of those two OICs was adopted around the time the convoy protest began to occupy downtown Ottawa. The second was adopted as police began arresting protest leaders and were about to launch an operation to clear protesters from the streets.

That second secret OIC also appeared a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. COVID-19 was also continuing to spread at the time.

The Privy Council Office refused to reveal any details of the OICs or their subjects.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the two leaders arrive for a joint press conference in Kyiv on May 8, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Four more secret orders-in-council were adopted around May 6 — the day before Trudeau’s surprise trip to Ukraine. The one OIC in that sequence that was published added Russian individuals and entities to Canada’s sanctions list.

The Prime Minister’s Office won’t say whether those OICs were related to the conflict in Ukraine.

The five remaining secret OICs of 2022 were adopted between March and May.

Privy Council won’t say why orders were kept secret

Beyond revealing that two orders-in-council were being kept secret under access to information law, the Privy Council refuses to explain the grounds used to justify keeping secret the other unpublished OICs, or to say whether any of the secret OICs are related to the COVID-19 pandemic or renewals of previous orders.

The Privy Council Office said in a media statement that it believes in transparency.

“The number of orders that either are, or are not, published in any given year is not a proxy measure for transparency of government,” PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold said in the statement.

“That is because the legislative, socio-economic and national security context evolves and changes significantly year over year.”

Normally, orders-in-council are published on a Privy Council website where Canadians and parliamentarians can see them. But an exception can be made for OICs that meet a very narrow list of conditions that allow them to remain unpublished or secret.

Britain’s Prince Charles shakes hands with Governor General Mary Simon in Ottawa on May 18, 2022. Because the Governor General can sign a secret order-in-council that has been signed by only four cabinet ministers, some members of cabinet might not know about them. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Some cabinet ministers may not even know about them. While OICs must be signed by the Governor General, convention states that only four members of cabinet have to sign the documents first.

Former Privy Council officials say OICs are supposed to be kept secret only in rare circumstances because publicity is the only real check on their use.

In 2015, Privy Council officials said secret orders-in-council were being kept in a safe, separate from other OICs, and cabinet ministers were only being briefed on them in rooms that had no wireless access.

Privy Council officials now refuse to confirm whether those same security measures are still in place.

A review by CBC News of secret orders-in-council since 2002 found none adopted in 2002 or 2003 under then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, while three were adopted in 2004 and 2005 under then-prime minister Paul Martin.

Secret orders-in-council were rare under the government of Paul Martin. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

That number began to rise under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, fuelled in part by provisions adopted in 2009 requiring that OICs stemming from national security reviews under the Investment Canada Act be left unpublished.

During its nine years in office, the Harper government adopted 29 secret orders-in-council.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said Trudeau promised a more open and accountable government.

“While unpublished orders-in-council are sometimes necessary, the number of unpublished orders-in-council under this government raises concerns,” he said. “It’s incumbent on the government to provide a more detailed explanation of why the number of unpublished orders-in-council [has] increased.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong says he wants to know why the number of secret orders-in-council has increased under the Trudeau government. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

NDP ethics critic Matthew Green questioned why Canada doesn’t have an arms-length, third party non-partisan review of orders-in-council.

“There is a growing propensity of this government to have everything be categorized as national security,” said Green.

Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May said she was surprised by the number of secret OICs — particularly given the cooperation between the government and opposition parties to adopt emergency measures at the outset of the pandemic.

May said the government should give Canadians some indication of why an order-in-council has to be secret.

“I think they should provide a general descriptor if they’re not going to make an order-in-council public, say that this is a national security concern involving our use of the such-and-such act,” May said.

“But to have that many orders-in-council … without any indication as to what they were is not transparency.”

Three secret Harper government OICs unveiled

While the Trudeau government’s 72 secret orders-in-council remain cloaked in secrecy, the subjects of three of the Harper government’s secret OICs are known.

In 2017, the Department of National Defence accidentally released improperly redacted briefing records for the chief of defence staff to CBC News. It revealed that Order in Council 2010-0192, adopted between Feb. 11 and Feb. 16, 2010, was related to NORAD’s Operation Noble Eagle. It outlined who was authorized to give the order to shoot down a commercial airliner in the event of a terrorist air attack.

Order in Council 2010-1639, adopted sometime between Dec. 23 and 31, 2010, authorized the military to assist law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP in the event of “a more traditional hijacking scenario where a disgruntled individual may want to take out his aggressions on a company headquarters or specific person(s), or even the government.”

Order in Council 2015-1070 blocked a Chinese company, O-Net Communications, from buying the Montreal-area company ITF Technologies. O-Net filed for a judicial review in Federal Court, which granted the application. O-Net Communications now owns ITF Technologies.

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‘Looked awesome’: Accused in murder-conspiracy trial says unaware gun prohibited

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – One of two men charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers at the Coutts, Alta., border blockade two years ago testified Tuesday he wasn’t aware that the custom-made rifle he had purchased was a prohibited weapon.

Chris Carbert said he paid $5,000 for the DPS Panther A15 rifle found under his mattress in an early morning police raid of a trailer in the village the night he was arrested.

Carbert and Anthony Olienick are being tried together before a jury in Court of King’s Bench in Lethbridge.

The two were charged after police made arrests and seized weapons at the blockade in early 2022.

Carbert said he purchased the assault rifle two weeks before the blockade began but hadn’t even sighted the scope for it.

“It says DPS Panther A15. Did you know what kind of gun it was? What I mean by that is…what type of firearm it was?” Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston asked Carbert. “What made it special to you?”

“That it was custom built and just it looked awesome,” Carbert replied.

“Do you know what an AR-15 is?” said Johnston. “I’m going to suggest to you that the reason you paid $5,000 plus another $1,500 for a scope for it is because you knew it was an AR-15. That’s a special gun in Canada.”

“OK, but I didn’t know,” Carbert said.

Carbert has testified he brought guns and body armour to the blockade but said there was no plan for violence unless he had to perhaps flee to the mountains and fend off someone trying to give him a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

He also told the jury that he had little to do with Olienick and others staying in the trailer, that he was “grumpy and sick” as he tried to recover from COVID-19.

Johnston, in a tense exchange with the accused, suggested when Carbert was arrested in the police raid, he did more than just call a lawyer before surrendering. He said Carbert attempted to hide his weapons and had to make a decision.

“You were trying to decide, ‘How do I come out? Do I come with my hands on my head’ or on the trigger of your gun? That’s what you were trying to decide.” said Johnston.

“Definitely not,” Carbert said.

“You were thinking, ‘Is this the war? Is this them coming for me and is this my war?'” Johnston continued.

“Definitely not.”

“Even all that talk that you’ve given us if they came for you out in the mountains.” Johnston said.

“But we’re nowhere near that point, Mr. Johnston,” Carbert said. “They’re not coming to stick a needle in my arm.”

The protest against COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates tied up traffic for two weeks at the Alberta-U.S. border crossing at Coutts.

It ended quickly and peacefully when police seized weapons and made arrests.

Johnston also asked Carbert about a conversation Carbert had with a friend in late 2021 in which he said, “If they think they are coming for my kids they better be prepared because they will likely be leaving in a body bag.”

“Did you say that to him?” Johnston queried.

“Yeah, I said that. I mean I’ve said some colourful things. There’s no doubt about it,” he replied. “I’ve also said if they came to put the vaccine in me and my kid that they weren’t doing it.”

Court has heard Olienick considered the blockade the fight of a lifetime against a government bent on ending individual freedoms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Calgary loosening outdoor water restrictions as extreme heat continues

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EDMONTON – Calgary residents can now turn on their sprinklers for longer as the city swelters under an extreme heat warning.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says outdoor watering restrictions may be fully lifted within days, but for now residents can turn on their hoses for up to two hours twice a week to water grass and outdoor plants.

Michael Thompson, Calgary’s infrastructure services general manager, says operational pump issues have been fixed, but other mechanical problems need to be resolved before the city can give the full green light.

He says the city’s water system is approaching 75 per cent capacity, but how it can meet that demand depends on usage.

Outdoor watering restrictions have been in place since a catastrophic water main break on June 5, with a ban on all outdoor water use loosened last week.

Voluntary restrictions on indoor water use were lifted three weeks ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Tesla’s 2Q profit falls 45% to $1.48 billion as sales drop despite price cuts and low-interest loans

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DETROIT (AP) — Tesla’s second-quarter net income fell 45% compared with a year ago as the company’s global electric vehicle sales tumbled despite price cuts and low-interest financing.

The Austin, Texas, company said Tuesday that it made $1.48 billion from April through June, less than the $2.7 billion it made in the same period of 2023. It was Tesla’s second-straight quarterly net income decline.

Second quarter revenue rose 2% to $25.5 billion, beating Wall Street estimates of $24.54 billion, according to FactSet. Excluding one time items, Tesla made 52 cents per share, below analyst expectations of 61 cents.

Earlier this month Tesla said it sold 443,956 vehicles from April through June, down 4.8% from 466,140 sold the same period a year ago. Although the sales were were better than the 436,000 that analysts had expected, they still were a sign of weakening demand for the company’s aging product lineup.

For the first half of the year, Tesla has sold about 831,000 vehicles worldwide, far short of the more than 1.8 million for the full year that CEO Elon Musk has predicted.

The company’s widely watched gross profit margin, the percentage of revenue it gets to keep after expenses, fell once again to 18%. A year ago it was 18.2%, and it peaked at 29.1% in the first quarter of 2022.

Tesla said it posted record quarterly revenue “despite a difficult operating environment.” The company’s energy-storage business took in just over $3 billion in revenue, double the amount in the same period last year.

Shares of Tesla fell 4% in trading after Tuesday’s closing bell. The shares had been down more than 40% earlier in the year, but have since recovered most of the losses.

Revenue from regulatory credits purchased by other automakers who can’t meet government emissions targets hit $890 million for the quarter, double Tesla’s amount of most previous quarters.

The company reported $622 million in “restructuring and other” expenses for the quarter, when it laid off over 10% of its workforce.

Tesla said in a note to investors that it’s between two major growth waves, with the next one coming through advances in autonomous vehicles and new models. But the company reiterated caution that its sales growth “may be notably lower than the growth rate achieved in 2023.”

The company said plans for new vehicles, including more affordable models, are on track for production to start in the first half of next year. Tesla has hinted at a smaller model costing around $25,000. The models are to be built using some aspects of current vehicles and others from the next-generation underpinnings.

The company said average selling prices for its Models S, X, 3 and Y all dropped due to the price cuts and financing offers. It also said that the Cybertruck became the best selling electric pickup in the U.S. during the quarter.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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