Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly wants this moment to be a turning point, and maybe it even will be. But his attempted pivot has been brutal and inelegant.
Former finance minister Bill Morneau has been trampled underfoot, and now Parliament — including multiple committee inquiries into the WE affair — has been adjourned for a month. Leaks from within government and cries of wrongdoing from the opposition benches will now be joined by charges of hypocrisy and obfuscation.
But Trudeau now has a well-regarded new finance minister — the first woman in Canada to ever occupy that office — and he will soon come forward with a new agenda, one that he promises will meet the historic moment of this pandemic. And he is presumably wagering that that vision and those policies will ultimately supersede everything that has occurred over both the last 48 hours and the last two months.
Canada at a ‘crossroads’
Everywhere, people are trying to move forward with a new normal, even while a contagious virus still threatens to wreak new havoc. Ahead of Canadians, Trudeau suggested Tuesday afternoon, is a “crossroads.”
“We have a choice to make,” the prime minister said. “We can decide to move forward instead of returning to the status quo. We can choose to embrace bold new solutions to the challenges we face and refuse to be held back by old ways of thinking.”
The pandemic was an “unexpected challenge,” but it now presented “an unprecedented opportunity,” Trudeau said, enunciating an idea that senior Liberals have been hinting at in recent weeks.
“This is our chance to build a more resilient Canada,” Trudeau said. “A Canada that is healthier and safer, greener and more competitive. A Canada that is more welcoming and more fair. This is our moment to change the future for the better.”
It’s all obvious fodder for a new throne speech this fall. It has been nearly a year since the last speech from the throne and that post-election statement of intent was read into a pre-pandemic Canada that no longer exists.
To present a new throne speech — as the government now intends to do on Sept. 23 — the prime minister necessarily had to ask the Governor General to end the current session of Parliament. But he could have officially made that request for prorogation on Sept. 22. Instead, he asked Julie Payette on Tuesday.
WE affair on hold
As a result, Parliament will be adjourned for five weeks. That will only result in the cancellation of one sitting day of the House of Commons, which would have occurred on Aug. 26. But it also means that, until Parliament reconvenes, no committees of the House will be able to sit — including any of the committees that are currently pursuing the WE affair.
Trudeau vowed that all of the internal government correspondence and documents that have been requested by the finance committee will be released forthwith. Opposition MPs will also be able to resume their formal studies once Parliament reconvenes and the committees are reconstituted.
But those details can’t obscure the fact that adjourning Parliament for a month was egregious.
It was former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s conspicuously political use of prorogation in 2008 and 2009 that gave the procedural mechanism a bad name. The Liberals, in response, swore never to abuse it.
They might argue that they have a lot to do to prepare a throne speech over the next month, but the government’s relative workload will always be an unsympathetic argument for sidestepping Parliament.
Liberals say their intent is innocent
They might tell themselves that this prorogation is somehow less egregious than 2008 and 2009, and they might reassure each other that the Conservatives will be in no position to criticize. They could insist that the WE hearings were partisan games, and that one political turn deserves another. They might believe that other issues are likely to swamp any concerns about prorogation — just as Harper’s Conservatives did by subsequently winning a majority in 2011.
As a small measure of accountability, the Liberals will have to at least submit to their own change to the rules in 2017. Governments are now required to submit a report after the fact explaining the decision to prorogue, and that report will be taken up by a committee.
Watch | Trudeau says his prorogation is nothing like Harper’s:
But Trudeau’s Liberals will have a hard time claiming perfectly innocent intent. They will now likely be charged as hypocrites, and perhaps even accused of damaging Parliament.
Even as a matter of pure politics, prorogation threatens to detract from what was presumably the government’s desired headline: that Chrystia Freeland is now finance minister. In theory, prorogation might clear the political airspace for the next month, and the WE affair might be swamped later this fall by that new agenda.
But prorogation risks turning out to be even more trouble than further committee hearings over the next five weeks would have ever been.
In the quick and unsparing approach to the recent turmoil, one might see an inversion of what occurred the last time there was significant tumult within Trudeau’s government.
Watch | Trudeau is asked whether he plans to run in the next election:
When the SNC-Lavalin affair exploded across the front page of the Globe and Mail in February 2019, followed Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott quitting the party, there was a long — too long, some would say — attempt to patch things up and reconcile. Maybe the two former cabinet ministers were of such public standing that Trudeau felt it necessary to try, but some of his predecessors as prime minister privately expressed bewilderment that he did not move more quickly and aggressively to turn the page. To that, Trudeau insisted that he wanted to do politics differently.
That sort of spirit might have been in evidence when Trudeau agreed to appear before the finance committee to testify about WE and the Canada Student Service Grant. But the lesson Trudeau might have taken from the spring of 2019 was that there is not always any great reward for trying to do things differently — that his predecessors were right, and that sometimes, the unsentimental approach is the smart one.
In proroguing Parliament for a month — and in the destructive leaks around Morneau — the Trudeau government has done politics in something resembling the usual fashion.
Trudeau must hope that, however unflattering, the events of recent days have at least somehow advanced the cause of all the big things he hoped to do — or that his vision and the values underpinning it will be enough for Canadian voters to overlook the uninspiring revelations and actions of this summer.
Spouse witnessed N.S. gunman torching their cottage, court documents say – CBC.ca
The man responsible for April’s mass shootings in Nova Scotia took a leisurely drive around a community close to his rural cottage, stopped to chat with a fellow denturist and oversaw work being done on his property in the hours before the massacre began.
The details of a seemingly mundane day leading up to the shootings are contained in sections of court records that a provincial court judge ordered released Monday following a court hearing.
The documents also say that on the evening of April 18, the gunman’s spouse was present inside as he doused the floor of the cottage they shared with gasoline — before grabbing guns and igniting the log building he’d prized. The woman, whose name is redacted from the records, later told police he said, “I’m done, I’m done. It’s too late [redacted], I’m done.”
On April 18 and 19, Gabriel Wortman killed 22 neighbours, acquaintances and strangers in several communities in rural Nova Scotia. He torched his own cottage and garage, and three other homes over a 13-hour period before being shot dead by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. after a lengthy search.
A judge on Monday approved the release of six more of the approximately 23 judicial authorizations RCMP have obtained since the massacre — to search gunman’s properties in Portapique and Dartmouth, and for his financial records. Redacted copies of seven were previously released.
Though the new documents are heavily redacted, each is about 90 pages long and includes information about how the gunman procured decommissioned RCMP cruisers and police equipment and about his financial transactions months prior to the attacks. All information related to the type of firearms used remains blacked out.
Expected to head to Dartmouth
It’s unclear why the gunman “snapped,” as his spouse described it to police. The documents also offer little information about why Wortman targeted his victims, some of whom he knew. His partner told police she did not know their neighbours well.
She also told police that, that night, she believed he was going to take her to Dartmouth, where they had another home and a clinic, to kill people or burn buildings, according to the documents. The specifics are blacked out. The woman has never spoken publicly about what she saw on April 18. Her lawyer has declined requests for comment from CBC News.
At some point after Wortman loaded guns and ammunition into his mock cruiser, the woman escaped. She told investigators she initially hid in a truck before spending hours in a wooded area in Portapique. Though she heard someone announcing they were police on a loudspeaker, she said she feared it was her partner. Around dawn she went to the home of a neighbour who called 911.
Large cash withdrawal
RCMP have previously said Wortman liquidated his assets and stockpiled gas and food due to COVID-19 fears. A warrant that the court released in May revealed people told the investigators the gunman was paranoid and had a history of abuse.
According to the new documents, his spouse also told police in the weeks prior to the attacks he was “consumed” by the pandemic, talking about it constantly and saying he “knew he was going to die.”
She also said he feared that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would find a way to control money and that prompted him to withdraw nearly half a million dollars from his own accounts. The RCMP interviewed officials from CIBC and Brinks about a March 30 withdrawal in Dartmouth.
Officials from the bank told police that Wortman asked to liquidate investments and then transferred the money to his business accounts. On March 25 at a branch in Dartmouth, he asked the bank’s director that his $475,000 be paid out in $100 bills, according to the court documents.
The records state the bank worked with Brinks to set up a pick-up on March 30.
RCMP have not said how much cash police have recovered. The search warrant documents show that on April 22, investigators found cash folded in tinfoil packets inside an ammunition box discovered at the Portapique property.
Suspicious transactions flagged
Canada’s money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), reported on Wortman’s personal and professional financial activities after the massacre, according to the newly released documents.
The records say Wortman’s PayPal account was used to buy vehicle accessories labelled as being for police use on eBay. The court documents describe the purchases as “for items utilized in the facilitation of domestic terrorist activities.”
According to the court documents, the Fintrac review found that PayPal flagged suspicious transactions between March 22 and Dec. 5, 2019 — though it’s not clear from the records if that’s when they were reported as suspicious or if that’s when they occurred.
Those purchases included accessories for police vehicles such as:
- A centre console for a 2013 Ford Taurus.
- A ram for the front bumper of a Taurus sedan.
- Siren lights.
- A dashcam.
- Thin blue line vinyl decal.
- A gun rack.
Other transactions listed as suspicious include $15,045 worth of items — including decommissioned cars — purchased with credit cards from GCSurplus in Ottawa. The site is run by Public Services and Procurement Canada.
There’s also reference to cash deposits payable to Wortman from Northumberland Investments, one of his companies. The Fintrac review found three questionable transactions: two cash deposits in 2010 totalling $200,000 and another for $246,000. The transactions happened in Fredericton and Dartmouth, but the documents don’t elaborate on the circumstances.
What is clear is that over the years, people around the gunman knew he had a penchant for acquiring car parts and collecting motorcycles. Some also knew he had guns and one car that he’d outfitted to resemble an actual cruiser.
The documents reference interviews with two people who responded to a Kijiji ad about an off-road vehicle in the weeks prior to April’s attacks. In both cases, Wortman showed off his replica cruiser inside the large garage he had in Portapique.
Using one of his companies, he purchased the 2017 Ford Taurus used in the attacks on July 3, 2019, from the RCMP, according to the search warrant records.
A friend of Aaron Tuck, who was one of Wortman’s victims, told police that in August 2019, Tuck told him that Wortman’s mock cruiser was indistinguishable from an actual police vehicle and that he kept a holster for a gun in the back of it. Tuck was killed alongside his wife, Jolene Oliver, and his daughter, Emily, at their home in Portapique.
Peter Griffon, a neighbour who was on parole and who printed the decals for the cruiser, initially lied to police about his involvement but later showed investigators images of the vehicle he kept on his phone. He did odd jobs for Wortman and on April 18 had been splitting wood for him. He last saw him around noon that day, before Wortman headed out for a drive.
Wortman also stopped and talked with a fellow denturist, who is not identified, about work and COVID-19.
The gunman’s spouse said Wortman was constantly scouring sites for police gear which he bought in both Canada and the U.S.
Records the RCMP obtained from Canada Border Services Agency showed that Wortman crossed the U.S.-Canada border in Woodstock, N.B., 15 times over a two-year period, with his last return to Canada on March 6. He did not have permits to import supplies for his denturist business, but the CBSA said he was personally importing car parts.
Wortman appears to have had a long history of threats and violence. A former neighbour has spoken out about being harassed by Wortman after reporting to RCMP that Wortman abused his spouse. The spouse and another relative relayed to police an account of Wortman’s vicious attack on his father during a trip to the Caribbean. In 2011, someone reported to Truro police that the denturist threatened to “kill a cop.”
The documents released Monday are the second batch of search warrant documents the court has agreed to release. CBC applied in April for access to the records and seven other media outlets joined the application.
David Coles, the lawyer representing the media organizations, has filed a request for a judicial review of decisions Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie had made in the case. Halfpenny MacQuarrie will consider that request Oct. 2 in Halifax provincial court.
If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.
Canada's biggest maker of paper towel concerned about supply amid COVID-19 – CBC.ca
The head of Canada’s largest manufacturer of tissue products says he’s concerned about the industry’s supply of paper towel ahead of a potential second wave of COVID-19.
Kruger Products CEO Dino Bianco says demand for paper towel has soared as people stay at home and clean more frequently.
He says the industry is “very tight” on paper towel inventory across North America, despite efforts to build up supply.
Bianco says Kruger, which makes SpongeTowels paper towels, is pushing to open its new plant in Sherbrooke, Que., to add more capacity in Canada.
Although slated to open in February 2021, he said the company is trying to get the factory up and running faster. Some machines started over the summer, while more are set to come online in October.
Bianco said the plant will increase the company’s paper towel and toilet paper manufacturing capacity by 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, he says the company is also seeing a shortage of the recycled fibres used in about 25 per cent of its tissue products.
Bianco says Kruger recycles white paper used in offices, but that the market has dried up because people aren’t in offices printing.
Woman suspected of mailing ricin to White House arrested at U.S.-Canada border – CBC.ca
Three U.S. law enforcement officials say a woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to the White House and President Donald Trump, has been arrested at the New York-Canada border.
The officials say the woman was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and is expected to face federal charges. The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Aaron Bowker of the CBP confirmed with CBC News that the arrest took place at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y., and that the individual was travelling from Canada into the United States.
The letter had been intercepted earlier this week before it reached the White House.
An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday that it was assisting the FBI in the investigation and that “initial information from the investigation suggests that the letter originated in Canada.”
An official from the Western District of New York told CBC News on Monday they “don’t have a time yet for a court appearance.”
There have been several prior instances in which U.S. officials have been targeted with ricin, which can be derived from castor oil plants.
A navy veteran was arrested in 2018 and confessed to sending envelopes containing the substance from which ricin is derived to Trump, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and James Mattis, then the secretary of defence. At least two of the letters made it to a Pentagon mail sorting facility.
The Utah man has yet to be tried in the case and could face life in prison if found guilty.
In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after sending letters dusted with ricin to then-president Barack Obama and other officials.
The previous year, a woman was accused of mailing ricin-laced letters to Obama and Michael Bloomberg, then the mayor of New York City. The woman, who tried to frame her husband for the scheme, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after reaching a plea deal.
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