B.C. pub where Ford drank after hours cited

VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s liquor regulator says a Vancouver-area pub that was apparently visited by Rob Ford during the Toronto Mayor’s brief trip to the West Coast was cited for serving patrons after hours over the incident, but it won’t face fines or suspensions. The Toronto Star published a story in February that alleged the […]

Marois stays positive, tries to reverse PQ slide

MONTREAL — Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois put on a brave face Friday as she tried to reverse her party’s fortunes entering the final weekend of the election campaign. With opinion polls suggesting the PQ trails the Liberals heading into Monday’s vote, Marois told reporters that she’s received mostly warm receptions on the campaign trail […]

Resource regulatory reforms will save firms $4.7 billion: Raitt

The Conservatives have a new number in the arsenal they use to defend their record on the resource economy — $4.7 billion. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, speaking for newly-minted Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, told a Toronto audience this morning that the figure is how much investors will save due to legislative and regulatory reforms […]

Lukiwski: committee witnesses should disclose payments from Elections Canada

In an apparent pre-emptive attempt to frame the testimony of certain witnesses, Tory MP Tom Lukiwski has issued a letter to the chair of the procedure and House affairs committee asking that all future witnesses disclose any work they’ve done with or for Elections Canada as the committee continues to study the much-disputed Fair Elections […]

Evening Brief: Friday, April 4th, 2014

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Quebec Liberals holding lead as Quebecers turn their backs onsovereignty — and on Canada

As Quebec’s election campaign draws to a close, one thing seems almost certain: Pauline Marois’ gamble on an early election to secure a majority mandate and a path to a new sovereignty referendum has gone completely, horribly wrong for her and the Parti Québécois.

Absent some unforeseeable collapse, Philippe Couillard’s Liberal party is going to win on Monday. It’s not clear right now whether he’ll win a majority, but the PQ’s high hopes certainly lie in ruins. The wild card in all of this will be turnout and seat efficiencies — but it’s almost inconceivable at this stage that the PQ could eke out any form of victory.

With this poll we applied a new “likely voter” model which drops “serial” non-voters (i.e., those who did not vote in either the last provincial election or the last federal election) and we weighted the remaining results to the demographic composition of those who actually voted in the 2012 Quebec general election (normally we weight the result to match the demographic composition of the population as a whole). This new model had only a trivial impact on the results.

We think that our projections of popular vote are solid — but we don’t pretend to have the same fluency on the peculiarities and nuances of Quebec politics as some of our colleagues in Quebec. What we do have is background and a serious interest in how the result in Quebec connects to the federal political scene.

Putin beats a path to the past

What kind of country is Vladimir Putin’s Russia? The third year of his third presidential term has offered plenty of clues: the Crimea invasion, the shuttering of uncensored media outlets, prison terms for protesters. Now, Putin is planning to put the intellectual and ideological foundations of the new regime into words.

A document called ‘Foundations of the State Cultural Policy’ has been under development since 2012. A special working group under Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov will soon roll it out for a month of “public debate” before Putin gets to sign it. Quotes from the culture ministry’s draft, presumably the basis for the final one, have leaked out.

“Russia must be viewed as a unique and original civilization that cannot be reduced to ‘East’ or ‘West,’” reads the document, signed by Deputy Culture Minister Vladimir Aristarkhov. “A concise way of formulating this stand would be, ‘Russia is not Europe,’ and that is confirmed by the entire history of the country and the people.”

Russia’s non-European path should be marked by “the rejection of such principles as multiculturalism and tolerance,” according to the draft. “No references to ‘creative freedom’ and ‘national originality’ can justify behaviour considered unacceptable from the point of view of Russia’s traditional value system.” That, the document stresses, is not an infringement on basic freedoms but merely the withdrawal of government support from “projects imposing alien values on society.”

Is the death penalty making a global comeback?

An Indian court today sentenced three men to death for the horrific gang rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai last year. They are the first to be sentenced under India’s tough new anti-rape law.

The sentence drives home something that’s been obvious for some time now: After appearing to be on the verge of abolishing the death penalty entirely, India has now firmly rejoined the ranks of the world’s executioners. It’s one of a number of countries — including some of the world’s largest democracies — that have recently re-embraced capital punishment.

A 1983 Indian Supreme Court decision allows for capital punishment in only the “rarest of the rare” cases and from 2004 to 2011 the country didn’t carry out any executions at all. From 1995 to 2012, it carried out only three.

Then in 2012, Amjal Kasab — the last surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terror attack — was hanged in secret in what appeared to be an unusually swift and haphazard execution. The Kashmiri militant Afzal Guru was hanged under similar circumstances last year. Seventy-two people in total were sentenced to die in India last year, including four of the men involved in the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi last year — a case that shocked the country and prompted the drafting of new laws aimed at speeding up the prosecution of rapists.

How the pardon system treats the presumption of innocence

Is it okay to punish a criminal for the same crime twice? The Conservative government thinks so. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed, ruling that the government’s attempt to retroactively impose tougher parole eligibility rules would violate offenders’ charter rights.

But what about punishing someone for crimes that may not have happened? Would it be okay to judge a person based on allegations that could not be proven in court?

I have a client whose application for a pardon (incidentally, it’s now called a “record suspension”) was refused based on subsequent charges — all of which were dismissed or withdrawn. The arrest happened more than a decade ago — which means he’s fulfilled the period of good conduct as it applies to the application for a pardon.

Unfortunately, my client — let’s call him John — can’t get a pardon because he was not convicted of those crimes. Since we are supposedly innocent until found guilty, it’s hard to understand that decision.

In the interest of fairness, I must point out that there is a case precedent which allows the Parole Board to ignore the presumption of innocence when someone is applying for a pardon. It was upheld in federal court long before the Tories made changes to the pardon system and so many other aspects of criminal justice.

First Nations and employment: lessons from Cold Lake

Unemployment is notoriously higher among Canadian aboriginal people than in the general population. Some observers emphasize the need for better government programs for education, job training and counseling. Without discounting the role of government, we would point out that aboriginal people can and do succeed on their own initiative.

One of many such success stories is furnished by the Cold Lake First Nations, which have taken advantage of opportunities furnished by oilsands and heavy oil development in their area. Resource companies recognize that it is in their own interest to develop an aboriginal labour force close to where the work is, and so have made special provision for contracting with aboriginal companies. The Cold Lake First Nations have made remarkable use of this opportunity.