Safety Rule Took Four Years

Inter-provincial trucking and commercial bus fleets yesterday were ordered to install electronic engine monitors for public safety. The reform comes four years after the Commons transport committee recommended Canada abolish drivers’ paper logbooks: “Pay attention to the road.”

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$2M Windfall For The Globe

The Department of Public Works awarded the Globe & Mail an untendered contract for news clippings worth $2 million, more than double a previous Globe contract. An independent publisher and former Liberal cabinet minister yesterday described lucrative election-year fees to corporate media as ridiculous. “What’s in the Kool-Aid?”

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CRA Deletes A Million Pages

The Canada Revenue Agency has erased a million pages of charity filings from its website, the Commons finance committee was told yesterday. The Agency said the deletion was unrelated to claims of suspected fraud by shell charities: “I totally expect you to believe that.”

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MPs Reject School Bus Belts

The Commons transport committee yesterday rejected any federal regulation mandating seatbelts on school buses. Transport Canada calculated a seatbelt requirement would cost school boards $20,000 per vehicle refit, the equivalent of $400 million nationwide: “The issue of retrofitting school buses is very complex.”

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Jobs Costing $4,200 Each

A federal loan program for small business costs taxpayers about $4,000 per job created, says Department of Industry research. Staff noted claims of job creation are estimates only and could be lower than stated: “It reflects expectations.”

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Ridership Up, No Subsidy

Public transit ridership increased 1.5 percent last year despite Parliament’s repeal of a $210 million transit tax credit, says the Canadian Urban Transit Association. The advocacy group said it still considered the credit useful: “It was unfortunate the Department of Finance took an opposite view.”

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Would Decriminalize Heroin

The Commons health committee yesterday recommended Parliament work with provinces and cities to decriminalize simple possession of heroin, cocaine and all other narcotics. Cabinet repeatedly vowed it had no plans to remove criminal sanctions on street drugs when it legalized marijuana in 2018: “God knows what else.”

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Won’t Pledge To End Bailout

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer yesterday would not commit any future Conservative cabinet to repealing a $595 million media bailout under the Income Tax Act. His remarks followed disclosure of an untendered $5.5 million federal contract for “communications research services” to Postmedia that endorsed Conservatives in the 2015 campaign: “We’re going to have our own plan.”

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Fault Slipshod Rights Probe

A federal judge has faulted the Canadian Human Rights Commission for a slipshod review of a discrimination complaint. Investigators “only heard one side of the story” and quickly closed the case, wrote Federal Court Justice Susan Elliott: “That failure is inexplicable.”

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House Bans Whale Capture

MPs yesterday passed into law a bill to ban the capture of live whales for profit. No federal license has been issued for whale capture in Canadian waters since 1992: “This bill does not help one single marine mammal that is currently living in captivity.”

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Fake News Cops Too Slow

Promised federal monitoring of fake election news appears weak and slow, New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh yesterday told reporters. Singh is the subject of a first-ever Elections Canada probe of fake news targeting a candidate: “We’ve got to do better.”

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Feds Eye Higher Farm Debt

The Department of Agriculture will consider expanding taxpayer-guaranteed farm loans in 2020, says a report. Researchers noted farm debt in Canada has grown 56 percent since 2009 to more than $98 billion: “I remember the 1980s.”

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Postmedia Awarded $5.5M

The Department of Public Works quietly awarded millions in untendered contract fees to the nation’s largest newspaper chain twelve days after announcing a media bailout, records show. The sole-sourced contract to Postmedia Network Inc. was the largest of its kind approved for “communications research services”.

Neither Postmedia nor the department commented on the contract worth $5,551,698. It was awarded April 1, only days after cabinet’s March 19 budget proposed a $595 million bailout for federally-approved media in a bill that has yet to pass Parliament.

Postmedia’s flagship daily National Post in news coverage of the bailout wrote: “The federal government’s plan to invest $595 million in local journalism should assist Postmedia in continuing to make its transition from relying on print revenue streams to those in the digital realm.”

Records did not explain why Postmedia was paid for “communications research”, or what justified the $5.55 million fee on a contract to expire in a year. The department on the same day awarded a similar untendered communications research contract to the rival Torstar Corporation’s iPolitics division worth $266,545, one-twentieth the value.

The newspaper chain has reported a total $962.23 million in net losses in the past six years. No Postmedia executive has testified at parliamentary hearings on the bailout detailed in Bill C-97 the Budget Implementation Act.

Then-CEO Paul Godfrey in his last appearance at parliamentary hearings in 2016, at the Commons heritage committee, told MPs dailies would die without taxpayers’ aid. “We’re asking the government to be an ally,” said Godfrey: “We know that a free press isn’t really free.”

“There have been no fiercer critics of subsidies to the media than the Toronto Sun and the National Post; how do you square your editorial position with your corporate position?” asked Liberal MP Adam Vaughan (Spadina-Fort York, Ont.). “You realize that columnists have the right to say what they want,” replied Godfrey.

The Department of Canadian Heritage in earlier 2016 Access To Information memos questioned whether Postmedia could “keep the wolf from the door” amid annual, multi-million dollar losses. Postmedia that year announced it would cut its payroll 20 percent and stop hiring freelancers. “Postmedia’s valiant efforts to keep the wolf from the door do not mean the chain can survive in its current form,” wrote Ramzi Saad, then-deputy director general of cultural industries.

“What is happening to Postmedia papers will now happen to the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star in five years,” wrote Ben Schnitzer, then-senior policy analyst with Heritage Canada’s periodical publishing policy division.

Collapse of the Postmedia chain would leave 28 cities without a daily newspaper. The heritage department as late as 2017 opposed any attempt to “bail out industry models that are no longer viable”, said then-Minister Mélanie Joly.

By Staff

Bill Costs Advertisers $1B

A bill to ban junk food advertising to children will cost industry at least $956 million, according to lobbyists’ submissions to Health Canada obtained through Access To Information. The bill is one Senate vote away from becoming law: “A blunt instrument is being applied here.”

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