STORIES FOR SEPTEMBER 26, 2015

Former B.C. MLA Tony Bhullar wants B.C. Supreme Court to declare Senate as undemocratic, MPs are entitled to cast free votes

 

Bhullar says Senate violates Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

 

BY RATTAN MALL

 

(PHOTO: Tony Bhullar)

 

FORMER B.C. MLA Tony Bhullar on Tuesday filed a suit in the Supreme Court of B.C. seeking a declaration that the Senate is an undemocratic legislative institution.

Bhullar, who is a lawyer, told The VOICE that following such a declaration, it was his opinion that the federal government must then take some sort of action to fashion a remedy or, in the alternative, abolish the Senate because it serves no purpose currently except that it’s an expense to the taxpayers. “Annually they spend approximately $100 million that could be better used elsewhere to help those who are in the unfortunate situation of being homeless or suffering from drug problems … or finance a new university,” added Bhullar.

The defendants in the suit are the Governor General and the Prime Minister.

Bhullar in his suit states that “asserts that the Senate has no real purpose and is an undemocratic legislative institution, that has morphed into a vessel for cronyism and patronage at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.”

He adds: “The Senate violates the Canadian Charter Rights and Freedoms, supra (“Constitutional Rights”) specifically its purpose and spirit and particularly section seven (7) of this document.”

Bhullar told The VOICE that section 7 is the one where if your life, liberty or security is in anyway violated in accordance with the fundamental principles of justice, the court can take action to fashion a remedy for that.

In his suit, Bhullar says: “The amending formula for the Canadian constitution is near impossible and / or is the cause of constitutional gridlock.”

He adds: “All parts of a constitution are normally equal, except in the Canadian constitution, the plaintiff Bhullar asserts that in the Canadian context the Constitutional Rights supersede other parts because of section thirty-two (32) [that] supersedes [other parts of] the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

 

HENCE, Bhullar seeks:

“* A declaration the Senate is an undemocratic institution.

“* A declaration the [Governor General] refuse to appoint any Senators until the Senate is democratized, or in the alternative, the [Governor General] be enjoined from accepting advice from the [Prime Minister] to appoint Senators.

“* A declaration the private members serving in Parliament of any party are entitled to cast “free votes” and not be compelled to vote with the party line and exercise their Constitutional Rights of section two (2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“* A declaration the House of Commons may democratize the Senate without resorting to the constitutional amending protocol on the basis such a formula is flawed and shall always fail rejecting the concept the constitutional proviso that such a document is organic, more specifically a “living tree.”

“* A declaration that the Westminster model is incompatible with a parliament that adopts a Constitution with [an] entrenched bill of rights that enshrines basic democratic freedoms.

“* That the Court fashion a suitable remedy for violation of Constitutional Rights pursuant to section twenty four subsection one 24(1) that is “just and fair.””

 

BHULLAR told The VOICE that what then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau did was to introduce “in essence a constructive veto” for Quebec and Ontario to any amendments of the constitution. And now only the courts can change this.

 

 

 

Amarpreet Samra, 21, of Richmond and Shakiel Basra, 21, of Delta charged with attempt to commit murder in September 15 Surrey shooting.

 

 

(PHOTOS:

Superintendent Mandip “Manny” Mann (left) and Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy addressing the media. Photo by Jay Sharma of Mahi Photo Studio)

 

 

SURREY RCMP are looking for Amarpreet Samra, 21, of Richmond and Shakiel Basra, 21, of Delta have been charged with two counts each of attempt to commit murder and intentionally discharge a firearm in the September 15 Surrey shooting vehicles in a cul-de-sac at 75th Avenue and 124th Street beside Strawberry Hills Elementary School.

Police consider these men armed and dangerous. Do not attempt to contact, approach, or apprehend these individuals on your own. Call 911 if they are spotted.

Surrey RCMP Officer-in-Charge, Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy and Superintendent Mandip “Manny” Mann, Investigative Services Officer, told the media that the September 15 incident is believed to be related to the ongoing shooting conflicts that have occurred in Surrey this year.

They said that both individuals are believed to be associated to a light coloured Jeep with Saskatchewan license plate: 685 JUD. (See photos)

Samra is described as a South Asian male, 6’0”, 141 lbs, with black hair and brown eyes.

Basra is described as a South Asian male, 6’3”, 150 lbs, with black hair and brown eyes. (See photos on front page)

Anyone with further information on the whereabouts of these individuals is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP’s dedicated tip line at 604-915-6566 or local police in your area. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or visit www.solvecrime.ca.

 

ON September 15, around 6 p.m., one person was injured following a confrontation between two groups in two vehicles in a cul-de-sac at 75th Avenue and 124th Street beside Strawberry Hills Elementary School.

Police were contacted by BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) who had received a call from a gunshot victim. Police were on scene within a few minutes and located one person with an apparent gunshot wound in the area.

RCMP said the victim was a 22-year-old male known to police. He was transported by BCAS to a local area hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Several bullets struck the elementary school behind the houses in the cul-de-sac as one gunman apparently chased the victim who ran through a narrow passageway between two houses towards the school.

During that chase, one bullet ripped through a house at the side of the passageway and it was a miracle that no member of the family that was present in the house was injured or killed.

That one bullet zipped through the garage door in front of the building, entering the couple’s bedroom then going through the closet between that bedroom and the next one before hitting the back wall and falling on the floor just behind the bed.

And in that process, the bullet could have hit three members of the family that comes from the state of Gujarat in India – only that the father, who had been reading in bed, had decided to get up and leave his bedroom just a minute before the shooting; the grandmother, who was standing near the wall in the adjoining bedroom, was a few inches shorter than the spot from where the bullet entered that room; and her teenage granddaughter, who she was urging to get out of bed as it was too early to sleep, was still laying down.

Samina Sufi narrated her family’s terrifying experience to The VOICE as she pointed out the bullet holes inside her house as her mother looked on.

She said that her family had been living in the house for the past year and were to move out at the end of this month as they had just bought their own house. This was the last thing they could have imagined.

She said that it took them all some time to figure out what exactly had happened. When the bullet crashed through the bedrooms and fell behind the bed, they thought that there was some electrical problem that had caused something to fall down.

She was in an adjoining room and thought the sound was that of her neighbour, who was working on the balcony on top of their suite in the back, falling down. She went out to check on him and he warned her to get back inside as one man was chasing another man and shooting away.

“We had never heard the sound of firing before,” she explained.

Within minutes, the place was flooded with police officers.

 

 

 

 

RATTAN’S RUMBLE: COPS – OR CRIMINALS?

 

SO you thought police officers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were corrupt and dirty – while those in Canada were oh-so-perfect?

I did when I came here in 1990 – and I was the son of an Indian Police Service officer and a former crime reporter with The Times of India in New Delhi.

But the reality here keeps hitting me time and time again.

The first rude awakening were the cases of innocent victims such as David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin, who were finally cleared of murder charges after years in prison thanks to DNA tests.

(For many more such cases, click on this link:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canada-s-wrongful-convictions-1.783998)

Last Saturday, the Toronto Star in an article titled “Hundreds of officers in the Greater Toronto Area disciplined for ‘serious’ misconduct in past five years” reported:

“In the last five years, nearly 350 officers from police services in the Greater Toronto Area — Toronto, Peel, York, Halton and Durham — and the OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] have been disciplined for what their own services call “serious” misconduct, a Star investigation has found.”

It added: “Roughly one in five of those officers was disciplined because he or she had been found guilty of criminal offences, including assaulting his or her spouse, drunk driving, possessing drugs and theft.”

One cop hit his wife so hard that he ruptured her eardrum.

Another cop cheated on his sergeant exam three times by having his girlfriend radio him the answers – and she, too, was a cop!

Yet another cop left a homeless aboriginal male several kilometres out of town to walk back at dusk along a busy highway in near-freezing temperatures.

And the Star noted: “They’re all still cops.”

If all this does not scare the living daylights out of you – what will?!

But hold on!

The Star went on to report: “Nearly 50 of the officers were disciplined more than once; some were nailed for new offences just months after being penalized for past misconduct. One officer was busted for being drunk behind the wheel twice in one week.”

Great role models, eh!

As the Star noted, you can’t become a cop if you have a criminal record – BUT if you are a cop, you can keep your job even after being convicted of criminal offences.

It pointed out that only seven police officers were successfully forced out of their jobs.

See, this is the big mistake criminals make. They should first become cops – and then break the law!

Yes, I would still like to believe that MOST cops in Canada are honest and dedicated – but that is cold comfort to those who have had to deal with rogue cops.

One very common tactic cops use to BULLY innocent citizens is to charge them with “obstruction of justice” on just any pretext – and the judges will always believe them. You try to argue with a cop and even if you are right, you can get charged with obstruction of justice; they can cook up anything especially when there are no witnesses.

Happy Halloween!

 

Interpol issues red notices for at least nine Canadians allegedly for involvement in Jagdish Bhola case in Punjab

 

 

(PHOTOS)

 

INTERPOL has issued red notices for at least nine Canadians allegedly in connection with the case involving notorious drug kingpin Jagdish Singh Bhola, a dismissed police deputy superintendent of police and former international medal-winning wrestler. The case had resulted in all kinds of rumours about his connections to top political figures in India’s state of Punjab in the $1.2 billion [Rs.6,000 crore] synthetic drug racket.

Local Punjabi newspapers and radio stations broke the news on Wednesday.

Names of Canadians have cropped up time and again, with all of them denying their involvement and accusing the Punjab Police of being corrupt.

It is not clear why the Indian Police had their photos and info put up on the Interpol site instead of requesting extradition from Canada or if they have approached Canada for their extradition.

However, now if they leave Canada they can be arrested by the police of the country they visit.

The VOICE is only publishing information and photos as they appear on the Interpol website.

 

Wanted by the judicial authorities of India for prosecution / to serve a sentence:

 

  1. Lehmber Singh Daleh, 51

Place of birth:  Village Mehsampur, PS: Phillaur, District. Jalandhar, Punjab, India

Charges: Dealing in (arranging and sending abroad) Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, theft, stolen property (retaining with knowledge), use of forged documents and criminal conspiracy.

 

  1. Gursewak Singh Dhillon, 44

Place of birth:  Village Leel, Tehsil Jagraon, PS: Sudhar, District Ludhiana, India

Charges: Dealing (arranging and sending abroad) in narcotic drugs and psycotrophic substances

Dealing in narcotic drugs and psycotrophic substances cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents

 

  1. Parminder Singh Deo, 60

Place of birth:  Kharoudi, Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India

Charges: Narcotic Drugs and Psychotrophic Substances Act, cheating, forgery, thefts, criminal conspiracy, and Arms Act.

 

  1. Ranjit Singh Aujla, 45

Place of birth:  Village Muthada Kalan, PS: Philaur, District Jalandhar, Punjab, India

Charges: Dealing (collecting and sending abroad) in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents.

 

  1. Sarabjit Singh Sandar, 51

Place of birth:  Village Balio, PS: Samrala, District Ludhiana, Punjab, India

Charges: Dealing in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents etc.

 

  1. Harbans Singh Sidhu, 57 (no photo)

Place of birth:  Village Buraj Littan, PS: Sudhar, District Ludhiana ( Punjab), India

Charges: Dealing in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents.

 

  1. Nirankar Singh Dhillon, 53 (no photo)

Place of birth:  Village Mandi, PS: Phillaur, District Jalandhar, Punjab, India

Charges: Dealing with narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents

 

  1. Amarjit Singh, 59 (no photo)

Place of birth:  Village Mehmadpur, PS: Adampur, District Jalandhar, Punjab, India

Charges: Cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

 

  1. Pardeep Singh, 38

Place of birth:  Village Leela Megh Singh, PS: Sadar Jagraon, District Ludhiana, Punjab, India

Charges: Cheating, forgery, forgery of documents, use of forged documents, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

 

 

 

 

 

Jessie Farrar, 22, arrested and charged in June’s stabbing and robbery of taxi driver

 

(PHOTOS)

 

SURREY RCMP on Monday announced that Jessie Farrar, 22, has been arrested and charged in connection with the June 21 stabbing and robbery of taxi driver Satnam Bahia of Guildford Cab.

He has been charged with one count each of robbery, assault, and assault causing bodily harm. He was located and arrested out of province on a Canada-wide warrant.

“Our robbery investigators received a number of tips from the public which aided them in corroborating the identity of the accused in this investigation,” said Cpl. Scotty Schumann. “Thanks to the help from the public, further evidence was secured and charges approved by Crown Counsel, which will help ease the concern of other local cab companies.”

The incident took place in the 13300-block of 105A Avenue at about 5:30 a.m. on June 21. The injured taxi driver called police for help. He told police that he had picked up a lone male fare in the area of 108th Avenue and 144th Street in Surrey. The passenger whipped out a knife, stabbed the taxi driver in the arm and hand and took off with his wallet, cash and cell phone.

The taxi driver, who was bleeding, got out of the taxi and was assisted by pedestrians who just happened to be in the immediate area.  Police officers along with several members of the Integrated Police Dog Services attempted to track down the suspect, but were unable to locate him.

The taxi driver was transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries and was later released.

 

THIS was one of several robberies or attempted robberies with assault of taxi drivers that had taken place in the city over some months, as The VOICE had reported in June.

Guildford Cab General Manager Moonyem Mohammad told this newspaper at the time that several taxi drivers had been assaulted in the last few months in such robbery incidents.

He said: “There was an assault before too – the driver was injured on top of his left eye. That happened in April. He was taken to hospital. There were a few minor ones where the drivers didn’t have to go to the hospital, but there were several of them too.”

He said the taxi companies had spoken to each other about how to tackle such incidents. He added: “Anytime this happens, we inform each other to prepare ourselves better and I think that’s the best we can offer.”

Also, the companies had taken the initiative to upgrade their cameras to take better quality pictures which would help in getting a better conviction rate.

He added: “So far every camera that we have installed has been in working condition and the drivers are responsible to maintain them 100 per cent.”

 

 

 

Surrey Delta Volleyball Club win Salem Punjabi community-organized annual tournament

 

(PHOTO)

 

FOR the fourth year in a row, the Surrey Delta Volleyball Club bagged the annual volleyball championship organized by the Salem Punjabi community in the U.S. on September 20.

This tournament is considered the best volleyball event in the U.S. held by the Punjabi community. This year, the Surrey Delta Volleyball Club once again dominated the tournament, winning all their six matches and beating California club in the final. A total of 10 teams from the U.S. and Canada participated in the tournament.

Sonu Johal was declared the MVP of the event. Amaan Brar was nominated the best setter of the tournament. Chris Singh was the most appreciated player by spectators. Winners were awarded cash prizes and trophies.

Salem has a small Punjabi community that is mostly business orientated. They are excited to promote volleyball amongst the younger generation. Delicious Mexican and Punjabi buffet food was provided to all players and spectators. Vancouver (Washington) sports committee collaborated with Salem committee to help them financially and to organize this event. Credit goes to Surrey Team manager Jaggit Bassi who contributed a lot of his valuable time to organize this highly successful club.

Surrey Delta Volleyball Club has been the winner of all tournaments this year in the U.S. and Canada and is considered the best in the North American South Asian community.

If any player of South Asian descent (school, college or university level) wants to join this club, contact 604-590-2581 or 604-767-6235.

 

(Contributed by SUKHWANT SINGH GREWAL)

 

 

 

New gurdwara coming up in Ontario

 

(PHOTOS Photos: Guelph Sikh Society)

 

Toronto (IANS): Hundreds of Sikhs gathered at a ceremony for the start of construction of a new gurdwara in Guelph city, Ontario, a media report said on Tuesday.
“The ceremony marked the beginning of a building process that starts now (Monday) and should take about nine months to complete,” Guelph Mercury newspaper quoted Ravi Rai, spokesperson for the Guelph Sikh Society, as saying.
“The estimated cost of the building is $7 million Canadian dollars,” he added.
Rai said $200,000 were raised over the weekend while hundreds of thousands of dollars had been donated by devotees previously.
About $5.1 million in loans have been secured.
At the ceremony, Rai also talked about the challenges the Sikh community has faced over the past two decades in the city, including acts of vandalism and prejudice.
“We deserve to have a place to worship where our elders can convene, where our children can learn,” he said.
The planning for the gurdwara began five years ago but the gurdwara construction faced opposition from Westminster Woods Residents’ Association who pressurised the Ontario Municipal Board to reject the proposal of construction.
The construction was approved after the challenge was dropped and the planning and designing work was started.

 

 

Hardev Sihota, associate of Punjabi singer K.S. Makhan, sentenced to six years in prison in 2010 heroin smuggling case

 

(PHOTO: K.S. Makhan)

 

HARDEV Sihota of Surrey, an associate of Punjabi singer K.S. Makhan (aka Kuldeep Singh Takhar), who had been convicted by  B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy Baker last July of attempting to smuggle heroin through Vancouver airport when he arrived on a flight from India on April 22, 2010, has been sentenced to six years in prison.

As reported in The VOICE last July, Sihota’s suitcase had a false bottom containing two plastic bags with two kilograms worth of heroin with a street value of $645,000.

The only issue was whether Sihota was aware of the narcotics.

The judge said in her ruling: “The only reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence that I do accept is that Mr. Sihota was an active participant in a scheme to bring narcotics from India to Canada and that he was aware at all times that he was bringing narcotics to Canada and that those narcotics were being distributed here.”

The ruling noted that Makhan hired Sihota, an unlicensed electrician, for work on houses he was building and at some stage, Sihota learned that Makhan was involved in importing narcotics from India and in their distribution in the Lower Mainland here. Sihota also said there was a report in India news that Makhan was involved in drugs.

The judge wrote that Sihota learned that Makhan was using his relatives and some elderly people from India to bring drugs here. Makhan had picked up passengers and their luggage on many occasions at Makhan’s instructions.

The ruling noted that Sihota testified that sometimes packets that Makhan gave him to keep for a day or two at his home contained as much as $40,000 or $50,000 in cash. Sihota bought a scale for Makhan that was used to weigh white powder.

The judge said that Sihota was aware that Makhan’s younger brother in India was involved in the drug importation scheme.

When Sihota was arrested he absolutely denied any knowledge of the drugs, but five weeks later he suggested that they had been placed there by Makhan’s younger brother.

But the judge rejected Sihota’s claims because she found numerous inconsistencies in his evidence.

In a similar case last year, Chamkaur Singh Pandher had been acquitted of smuggling four kilograms of heroin in a suitcase into Canada after he claimed he was set up by a brother of K.S. Makhan.

Baker noted that while there were similarities in the two cases, the relevant in Sihota’s case were quite different

In her ruling, Baker said she had carefully considered the Pandher ruling but that in her assessment, while there were similarities, the relevant factors in Sihota’s case were quite different. There was no evidence of previous involvement of Pandher with Makhan and his drug scheme.

Sihota’s lawyer Rajdeep Basra told The Province newspaper that his understanding was that

because his client is not a Canadian citizen, he will be deported to India once he completes his sentence.

 

 

Filmmaker Deepa Mehta to join film screening at SFU’s Surrey campus

 

(PHOTOS: Deepa Mehta / Indira Prahst Photo by Chandra Bodalia)

 

THIS year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) will include a special appearance by noted filmmaker Deepa Mehta and the screening of her films at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus, on September 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Presented by VIFF, SFU Woodward’s Cultural programs and the Surrey campus, the event will include a live interview with the Oscar-nominated screenwriter, director and producer, prior to the screening of two films, Heaven on Earth and Earth. Indira Prahst, head of Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Langara College and board member of the South Asian Film Education Society, will moderate the session.

Considered one of the most provocative and exciting new directors to make her mark on world cinema at the turn of the millennium, the Toronto-based filmmaker, who received an honorary degree from SFU in June, is known for her rich, complex explorations of the cultural taboos and tensions at play in the society of her native India.

Beginning with the controversial film Fire in 1996, Mehta embarked on her ambitious trilogy of the elements: fire, earth, and water. Earth, the trilogy’s second installment, was released in 1998.

Born in India in 1950, Mehta received a degree in philosophy from the University of Delhi. After immigrating to Canada in 1973, she embarked on her professional cinematic career as a scriptwriter for children’s films, and in 1991, she made her feature-film debut as a director and producer with Sam & Me.

Heaven on Earth a.k.a. Videsh is a 2008 Canadian film directed and written by Mehta. Preity Zinta plays the leading role of Chand, a young Indian Punjabi woman who finds herself in an abusive arranged marriage with an Indo-Canadian man, played by theatre actor Vansh Bhardwaj. The film was released in India dubbed into Hindi under the title Videsh.

Earth, which was adapted from Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, Cracking India, premiered at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival. A film that centered on the politics of land and nationalism, it was set amongst the catastrophic turmoil that accompanied the 1947 partition of India from Pakistan.

Mehta’s films have been called courageous, provocative and breathtaking, and often focus on controversial aspects of Indian culture. Her films have received significant awards and recognition at major film festivals and have been distributed around the world.

In 2012, Mehta received a lifetime Artistic Achievement Award for Film from the Governor General of Canada. In 2013, she was appointed to the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada for her work.

This year’s VIFF will feature Mehta’s latest film Beeba Boys, Vancouver’s answer to Goodfellas.

VIFF, one of the largest film festivals in North America, will take place in Vancouver from September 24-October 9 at various venues, including 80 screenings at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. For more information please see www.viff.org

 

 

 

 

Jessi Jasraj: Another voice of AAP

 

(PHOTOS: Photos by Paul Pawar)

 

JESSI Jasraj, a well-known Punjabi singer and a social activist visited Abbotsford recently to take part in the Gadri Mela, organized by the Lok Virsa Group. AAP Support Group BC, a group of social activists who have been working tirelessly in the Lower Mainland for the past three years to raise awareness and support for India’s, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) arranged for his participation in this mela. Jasraj ran in the last Indian federal election as the AAP candidate from Bathinda, where bigwigs Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal) and Manpreet Badal (People’s Party of Punjab) were his opponents.

Before Jessi, many singers and performers entertained the audience, but there were two who really stood out: senior and respected members of the AAP Support Group BC, Karam Singh, 89, who gave a moving speech, and his wife Veera, who is the daughter of Shaheed Baba Bhakna ji, who recited a revolutionary poem that shifted the energy of the event to the next level of devotion and dedication.

Jessi sang his “Hor gadar di lorh” number for the audience that raised their arms to show their full faith and support in the leadership of AAP Leader Arvind Kejriwal.

AAP Support Group BC say they are now looking forward to their next initiative: that of standing shoulder to shoulder with the Sikh Nation in their annual blood donation drive that they hold every November. The group will plan their activities for the blood donation event under the leadership of Tarlochan Sohal, Sukhdev Mann and Gurpal Dhillion. Coordinator Darshan Mann encourages all to join hands to not only bring change in India but also participate in local initiatives run by socialistic and progressive organizations such as Our Global Village Charitable Organization, Sikh Nation, Canadian Pressure Group and others. For any future activities of the group, Darshan Mann can be contacted at 778-883-4262.

 

 

Justice Minister and Surrey Mayor express happiness as charges laid against those allegedly involved in September 15 Surrey shooting incident

 

(PHOTO: Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy. Photo by Jay Sharma of Mahi Photo Studio)

 

 

JUSTICE Minister Suzanne Anton and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner on Friday commended Surrey RCMP and their policing partners and community members who stepped up with information to help police lay charges of attempt to commit murder against Amarpreet Samra, 21, of Richmond and Shakiel Basra, 21, of Delta in the September 15 Surrey shooting in a cul-de-sac at 75th Avenue and 124th Street beside Strawberry Hills Elementary School.

Anton said: “I want to commend the RCMP and their policing partners for their hard work and dedication in investigating this gang activity. In this particular incident, police investigated shots fired on a school playground. This is alarming and completely unacceptable – gang activity in our province must stop.

“I urge those who have information about these individuals or knowledge of criminal activity to come forward to police. The police are working flat out to find these people – if you have information, step up now and do the right thing. The police and your community need you.

“I would particularly like to compliment Surrey RCMP, assisted throughout by members of the anti-gang unit in CFSEU-BC, who have devoted extraordinary attention and resources to resolving the gang issues in Surrey. These efforts are starting to produce results, which we see today.

“Community safety is a priority of the provincial government as seen today in the announcement by Premier Christy Clark of an additional $5 million into targeting prolific, violent and gang-affiliated offenders and also going after the roots of crime through education.”

Hepner said: “The progress made in this case today can be largely credited to the wall of silence breaking down. I want to commend and thank the members of the community who have stepped up and done the right thing in helping investigators in such a critical manner.

“I continue to urge anyone with relevant information to come forward and speak with the police.”

The VOICE had noted earlier this month in an article titled “Surrey RCMP Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy deserves praise and recognition for appointing South Asian officers in key posts”: “Fordy … sure deserves praise and recognition for taking bold, practical steps to deal with law and order, and that is graphically reflected in three appointments of South Asian officers to key posts since May.

“With almost 40 per cent of Surrey’s population being South Asian and with South Asians playing a major role in every field, that is bound to instill not only more confidence in police but also to generate appreciation for what will be seen as Fordy’s sense of fairness and inclusion.”

Fordy promoted Inspector Sharnjit (Shawn) Gill, Operations Officer for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), to the rank of superintendent in the position of Community Services Officer, making him the second South Asian RCMP superintendent in B.C.

Last May, he appointed the first South Asian superintendent in B.C.: Mandip “Manny” Mann, who was Senior Investigator of the Major Crime Section at the time, to the rank of superintendent in the position of Investigative Services Officer.

Also in May, he appointed Sgt. Parmvir (Parm) Prihar as the new District Commander for the detachment’s Newton District Office.

Anyone with further information on the whereabouts of these individuals is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP’s dedicated tip line at 604 915-6566 or local police in your area. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1 800-222-TIPS or visit: www.solvecrime.ca

 

 

Two arrested and charged in targeted attacks on Justice Institute of B.C. students and staff, more arrests expected

 

(PHOTO: Map)

 

AFTER a four year-long investigation, charges have been laid in the investigation into the targeting of staff and students of the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC). This joint-forces investigation that spanned multiple jurisdictions has resulted in the arrests of two men, one of whom police allege to be the orchestrator of the attacks, and another who police allege to be someone contracted to carry out one of the arsons. They were arrested on Friday, September 18.

Vincent Eric Gia-Hwa Cheung, 40, of Langley, who was arrested in Burnaby, is the alleged orchestrator. Police allege he has ties to the United Nations gang.

According to one media report he was the lottery winner of a $2.4-million Shaughnessy mansion, a $60,000 BMW and $25,000 in tax- free cash in 2003.

He faces 23 charges, including five counts of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property (vehicle), 11 counts of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property (house), one count of intentional discharge a firearm into or at a place (vehicle), three counts of intentionally discharging a firearm into or at a place knowing that or being reckless as to whether another person is present in that dwelling, one count of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property (trailer), and two counts of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property within a residence.

Thurman Ronley Taffe, 54, of Burnaby, who was also arrested in Burnaby, is charged with one count of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property (house).

Between April 2011 and January 2012, 15 innocent individuals were targeted in a series of offences which occurred in multiple jurisdictions. Their homes, vehicles and property were the subject of shootings and arsons.

In July 2011, a threatening email was received by the JIBC. The email referenced nine individuals. All but one of those individuals had their homes or vehicles targeted in the preceding months.

The RCMP determined that the victims were linked as a result of a connection to the JIBC. They then collaborated with their policing partners, shared information, and coordinated resources. Previously, the police agencies in each jurisdiction where the attacks occurred had investigated, but no suspects were identified and the motive for the attacks was unknown at the time.

The investigation established that an ICBC employee had queried the 15 victims’ license plates which provided their personal details.

In January 2012, the investigation advanced after three suspects connected to an arson in Surrey were identified. The investigation into these suspects enabled police to identify an individual as the contractor of that arson. This led to the identification of the person that is alleged to have orchestrated all of the offences.

The investigation continued despite no new offences and then, between December 31, 2014, and January 13, 2015, a number of the victims received suspicious letters in the mail. One of the letters contained a warning that attacks would resume in the New Year. Investigators reconnected with all the victims to ensure adequate safety plans were in place.

“We know there are still people who have additional information about these offences and this investigation is continuing with further arrests and charges anticipated,” said the CFSEU-BC Chief Officer Kevin Hackett. “The investigation was complicated and made even more challenging by the efforts of the accused to disguise their intent through cunning and calculated misdirection. These past four-and-a-half-years have been difficult for the victims and their families and their cooperation and support has been appreciated.”

“This investigation has been a top priority for the Lower Mainland District and a significant number of regional specialized units were brought in to support the investigation,” said Chief Superintendent Jodie Boudreau, Assistant Commander, Lower Mainland District. “Ongoing intelligence work, information sharing and the expertise of investigators were instrumental in helping us figure out how the pieces fit together and how they contributed to the whole picture.”

 

 

Next coffee break in jail?

 

ONE man has been charged after allegedly stealing a delivery van downtown early Monday morning and driving it next to the police station.

At about 6 a.m. on September 21, a driver stopped his van on Robson near Homer Street to make a quick delivery at a local business. He shut the engine off, but left the keys in the ignition. A man got into the unoccupied vehicle and drove away with the owner running behind in hot pursuit. When it was clear the thief was not going to stop, the delivery driver immediately called 9-1-1.

Within minutes of the vehicle being reported stolen, several Vancouver Police officers starting their shift saw the van as it drove past VPD headquarters on Cambie Street. To their amazement, they observed the driver of the van park and walk to the coffee shop at the end of the block.

Police entered the coffee shop and after a brief struggle, arrested the man.

Police said it does not appear that either mental health or drugs were a factor in the incident. Officers were able to quickly return the van to a thankful delivery driver with his cargo intact and untouched.

Fifty-five-year-old Brian Ross Phillips has been charged with theft of a motor vehicle and taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent. He has been released from custody with several conditions until his court appearance on September 30.

Next coffee break in jail?

 

 

 

 

Surrey RCMP warn public to be vigilant as 32 suspects arrested in three months for robberies

 

 

(PHOTO: Cpl. Scotty Schumann)

 

SINCE July 1, 32 suspects have been arrested and are facing up to 72 charges, with additional charges pending, in connection to multiple robberies in Surrey.

The majority of these individuals have also either been charged or are suspects in additional robberies across the region.

Surrey RCMP’s Robbery Unit continues to make arrests of prolific offenders responsible for robberies across the city and police are reminding the public to be vigilant when it comes to their personal safety.

While the frequency of robberies has been on the incline, Surrey RCMP officers have been working in collaboration with multiple law enforcement partners and specialized sections to identify, track, and arrest those responsible for committing the large majority of these crimes. Some of the offenders who have been recently charged for Surrey robberies include:

* Michael Langlet, 23: charged with four counts of robbery and four counts of disguise with intent for a series of ATM robberies.

* Russel Amos, 30: charged with two counts of robbery for a series of business robberies.

* Matthew Tofflemire, 45: charged with three counts of robbery, two counts of disguise with intent, three counts of use of imitation firearm, and one count of fail to comply with probation for a series of sandwich store robberies.

* Dimytro Shevchenko, 29: charged with three counts of armed robbery for a series of bank robberies.

“Personal robberies continue to make up almost 40% of reported robberies in the city and, as such, citizens need to be aware of this ongoing trend and elevate their personal safety practices,” says Cpl. Scotty Schumann. “These incidents usually involve suspects taking advantage of victim vulnerability or distraction.”

Police say that a simple yet effective strategy to avoid being robbed is to maintain awareness of your surroundings at all times and limit distractions. Criminals will often target individuals who are distracted by phones or other devices or may be leaving a place of business /residence and not paying attention to where they are going. Staying visible and sticking to well-lit areas as well as walking with confidence will make you less of a target.

Next month, the Surrey RCMP is holding a number of Neighbourhood Safety Presentations to inform residents about crime prevention and reduction strategies they can use in the in their own neighbourhoods. For more information, contact your local district office or visit www.surrey.rcmp.ca.

 

 

 

 

Richmond RCMP arrest 24-year-old male posing as massage therapy student in sexual assault

 

RICHMOND RCMP officers have made an arrest in an alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old female that occurred at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) in Richmond.

On September 16, shortly after 8:30 p.m., the victim was allegedly approached by a 24-year-old male posing as a massage therapy student conducting a survey. Upon the completion of the survey, the victim was alleged to have been awarded a complimentary massage. Instead, the victim was allegedly sexually assaulted by the male.

On September 22, a Richmond male was arrested shortly before 1 p.m. He is not known to police nor is he a student at KPU.

The Richmond RCMP pursued a number of investigative avenues in this high priority case including the expertise of the LMD Forensic Identification Unit.  Police said they are thankful for the assistance from their community partner at KPU.

“We are obviously very interested in knowing if there are any additional victims out there,” said. Cpl. Eric Baskette. “We also wish to alleviate any concerns by other students or the public. We mobilized quickly in making this arrest.”

If you are a victim of this crime have any information about it, or contact Constable Chu of the Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212. To leave a tip on this crime, email Richmond_Tips@rcmp-grc.gc.ca or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

 

 

 

 

Bakery owner turned cop adds a new uniform to his collection

 

(PHOTO)

 

HE has been baking his way into the hearts and stomachs of Cops for Cancer riders and support staff for many years by fueling them with sandwiches and snacks from his Langley bakery (the maple bacon donuts are said to be a rider favourite.)  Constable Mark Peterse admits not too many people can say they have been on both sides of the donut counter as a bakery owner and police officer.  Now he can add spandex to his list of uniforms, as he embarks on an 800 km bike ride for the 2015 Cops for Cancer – Tour de Valley.

Peterse is well acquainted with the preparation and training involved for the Tour, having trained to do the ride as an auxiliary constable with the Langley RCMP in 2013. But a phone call from Depot in Regina one week before the ride changed his plans. Fast forward two years and he is getting his chance to ride as a member of the Surrey RCMP.

Growing up, Peterse lost his best friend to cancer. Ever since, he has been committed to raising funds for cancer research and support programs.

Juggling the shift work of general duty policing, family life, and bike training isn’t always easy. He credits his fellow riders, support crew, colleagues, family and – most importantly – the kids undergoing cancer treatments, with helping him keep it all in perspective.

“When I am struggling with those early mornings or pushing up a big hill on the bike, I remember the kids undergoing chemo and radiation who don’t complain,” says  Peterse. “Seeing their bravery, their resilience – I know I can do this ride to support treatment and a week at Camp Goodtimes to allow them to be kids again.”

Peterse will be joined by Surrey RCMP Auxiliary Constable Zoe Johnston and 20 other riders for the Tour de Valley which runs from September 24-October 2.

“Mark and the team will visit over 40 schools and make almost 100 stops as ambassadors in the fight against cancer,” explains Allan Mugford, Regional Director for the Canadian Cancer Society Fraser Valley Region. “The funds they raise go towards childhood cancer research and Camp Goodtimes, a place kids and families go to smile and connect with others facing the same struggles.”

Learn more about the Tour by visiting www.tourdevalley.ca or follow the riders on their ride through the Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley Facebook and Twitter accounts.

 

 

 

Peel Regional Police’s Fraud Bureau warns of new tactic used in Canada Revenue Agency scams

 

 

INVESTIGATORS from Ontario’s Peel Regional Police Fraud Bureau are advising the public of an incident involving suspects in police uniforms attending a residence and claiming they were there to collect money on behalf of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

On Thursday, September 23 at about 12:30 p.m., two suspects attended a residence in the area of Bovaird Road and Kennedy Road in Brampton. The two suspects were dressed in police uniforms and demanded that the homeowner pay them money that was owed to Canada Revenue Agency.

The victim told them that he had no money and the suspects directed him to attend a bank to transfer funds to an account number that they provided. The victim then contacted 911 to report the incident. The victim didn’t sustain any injuries. The two suspects then left the residence and told the victim they would contact him later.

The first suspect is described as a white male, 6 feet tall, blonde hair, scruffy beard, wearing a full police uniform.

The second suspect is described as a white male, 6’2”, dark straight hair, scruffy facial hair, also wearing a police uniform.

Police want to remind the public that police DO NOT attend your home to make monetary collections, and if you are uncertain about the authenticity of any person in uniform ask for identification or verify by calling 911.

Police have also received numerous reports from residents having received phone, mail or emails appearing to be from CRA.  These communications indicate to the receiver that either CRA owes them a refund or that they owe CRA back taxes, which is to be paid immediately.  The communications will go on to instruct the receiver to provide personal information in order to either receive the benefit or pay the outstanding bill.

As per the CRA website, the CRA will not request personal information of any kind of a taxpayer by email.

Here are some tips to remember when you are in receipt of any communications (phone, mail or e-mail) appearing to be from CRA:

* Do not take immediate action. Verify that what you are being told is the truth.

* Ask yourself why CRA would be asking for personal information over the phone or e-mail that they likely already have on file for you as a taxpayer.

* Contact CRA to confirm that you in fact owe back taxes or are entitled to a refund, before providing any personal or banking information.

For more information about fraud scams involving the CRA, visit the Canada Revenue web page at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/ntcs/bwr-eng.html

To learn more about this type of scam and other fraud scams currently affecting Canadians, please visit the Canadian Anti-fraud centre website at www.antifraudcentre.ca

Consumers who feel that they have been the victim of a criminal act should contact the Fraud Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3335, to speak with an investigator who can advise them on whether the complaint is criminal in nature.

 

 

 

ON THE ROAD with Harvey

 

 

Can we change distracted driving habits?

 

BY HARVEY KOONER

ICBC Road Safety Coordinator

 

(PHOTOS)

 

WE’VE all heard our parents’ stories about how “back in the day” everyone had a few drinks and then drove home – it was no big deal. People even drove around without wearing seatbelts! Now, after more than 35 years of education and enforcement, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in impaired driving related deaths and it’s no longer socially acceptable to drink and drive.

But while we’ve made serious strides with impaired driving, the number of people killed and injured as a result of distracted driving is steadily increasing in B.C. and has now, in fact, surpassed impaired driving.

We know answering our phone, sending a text message or programming a GPS takes our focus away from the road, yet we don’t seem to make the connection that it’s dangerous. Perhaps because as a society we’re used to multi-tasking and, most of the time, nothing bad happens. But not all multi-tasking is equal.

We can drive and do something like turn up the volume on the radio or roll down the window without much danger. But if we’re driving and want to call someone or send a text message, our brain has to do a lot more conscious thinking: choosing the right words or keystrokes, or responding quickly to avoid gaps in the conversation. These tasks are more complex and require greater mental resources. So our brain switches “off” of driving and “on” to the phone conversation or text message. In those few seconds, the likelihood of crashing greatly increases. In fact, we are four times more likely to crash if we use our phone while driving.

It’s time we all agree to put our phones away when we’re behind the wheel. Although we can feel like we should be constantly accessible, it can actually feel good to disconnect – to enjoy a few moments of silence, listen to music or take in the scenery. Companies who have implemented a “no phones while driving” policy report no loss in productivity, happier employees and more importantly, improved safety records.

Distracted driving is dangerous – one in four deaths on B.C. roads involves distracted driving. Distractions are also a leading factor in crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. In order for change to happen, we need to see more people talking about the issue and agreeing it’s not okay to drive while you’re distracted.

Police will be cracking down on distracted drivers this month. Cell Watch volunteers will also be out there reminding drivers to stay focused on the road and local ICBC road safety coordinators will be setting up a driving simulator at community events around the province to help drivers understand how distractions can impact your ability to complete simple tasks.

Everyone plays a role in keeping our roads safe including drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Get involved – encourage a safe driving policy at work, talk to your family and friends about the issue or put a “not while driving” decal on your car. Remember, when you’re on the road, stay off the phone. #eyesfwdbc

 

B.C. invests $5 million to further tackle crime

 

(PHOTO: Premier Christy Clark  Photo by Chandra Bodalia)

 

ALL British Columbians deserve to feel safe in their homes and neighbourhoods. Investments in the provincial anti-gang strategy, community safety and policing have been successful in driving down crime in B.C. – with youth and violent crime at historical lows – but more needs to be done, says the Province.

A $5-million investment over the next two years to enhance community safety will build on that success by addressing three priority areas:

* Targeting prolific, violent and gang-affiliated offenders.

* Getting tough on the roots of crime through education and outreach.

* Strengthening safety for First Nation communities and vulnerable women.

“Our Guns and Gangs strategy is making progress in shutting down gang activity throughout B.C. – it has provided police with tools to help them investigate, charge and disrupt gangs,” said Premier Christy Clark at the 2015 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention on Friday. “But violence continues to confront us, so we must do more to protect innocent bystanders and other victims of gang violence. That’s why we are investing an additional $5 million on behalf of British Columbians.”

As this investment rolls out over the next two years, some of the specific programs the Province is exploring include a gang-exit program, increased investments in education and outreach projects focused on at-risk and Aboriginal youth, and community-focused crime prevention.

“With B.C.’s violent crime rate trending downward over the last decade, we want to make sure that we keep our foot on the pedal to catch criminals, rehabilitate offenders and do everything we can to keep B.C. communities safe,” said Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. “This is an issue that requires the engagement of many partners, including British Columbians. I urge those who have information about criminal activity to come forward to police.”

To further tackle crime, the Province will also launch a regional, integrated community safety pilot project, which will bring together local government and non-government agencies. Through this pilot, the Province will prioritize community safety goals, focus resources and programs accordingly, and measure and evaluate the outcomes.

“Community safety is a partnership – this investment will advance a more integrated approach between the Province, local governments, police, and community organizations,” said Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Peter Fassbender. “We are working collaboratively to drive down crime and protect our communities – and in particular, our youth – from criminal activity.”

 

Quick Facts:

* Approximately $60 million a year is provided to the RCMP for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) and anti-gang initiatives. This supports front-line efforts to keep young people out of gangs and remove gangsters, their associates and illegal weapons from our streets.

* The civil forfeiture program helps keep our communities safe and contributes to a Violence Free BC by targeting the profit motive behind unlawful activity, and benefits victims of crime. Since 2011-12, more than $3.2 million in civil forfeiture grants have gone to helping prevent youth involvement in gangs in communities throughout B.C.

* Government provides more than $70 million per year for prevention and intervention services and programs to help B.C. families involved in domestic violence and other crimes.

 

 

 

TEDxSFU wants to “Connect the Dots” with 2015 Conference

 

THE annual TEDxSFU conference has returned for its fifth year. This year’s theme is “Connect the Dots”. Connecting the Dots and Cross-pollinating are ideas that engage us in a dialogue that builds upon the vast mental, societal, and academic pools of resources with ambitions of a collective future. This all­day conference will take place at the Vancouver Playhouse on November 15 at 9 a.m. Applications to attend are open at www.tedxsfu.com from now until October 9.

TEDxSFU has been a contributing member of the TEDx community since its inaugural conference in 2011, amassing thousands of views on the YouTube TEDx Talks channel. Past speakers include Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, Sliammon First Nation’s Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Simon Fraser Alumni Chief Constable Jim Chu, Mobify CEO Igor Faletski and their most popular talk by Sexual Health Educator Jane Langton.

This year’s speakers include:

Mandy Catron, Teacher of English and Creative Writing at UBC

Bryce Evans, Founder of The One Project

Manny Bahia, CBDO and co-­founder of Vancity Buzz

Daniel Dubois, Canadian G20 Delegate and Founder of ShareShed

Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner of TELUS Transformation Office and author

Craig Cerhit, Producer/ Director of Found In The Forest

Zoya Jiwa, Founder of As We Are and recipient of the 2015 SFU Terry Fox Gold Medal & Prize

Aidan Scott, Founder of SpeakerBOX

Ryan D’Arcy, Professor and Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation BC Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovation

Richard Tuck, CEO of Riipen

Erin Ireland, Owner of To Die For Fine Foods and editor for Vancouver Dining Guide To Die For

With Idris Hudson, founder of We Can Hear Awareness Society, as the Master of Ceremonies

You can follow TEDxSFU on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest news and updates.

 

 

 

 

 

Canada offers condolences following tragedy near Mecca

 

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson on Thursday issued the following statement concerning reports that at more than 700 pilgrims were killed, and more than 800 injured in a stampede in Mina outside Mecca:

“We are saddened to learn of this tragic loss of life. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the pilgrims who died in this terrible accident.

“I also extend my wishes for a swift recovery to the worshippers who sustained injuries in the accident.”

Canadian citizens in Mina, Saudi Arabia, requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the Embassy of Canada in Riyadh at +966 (11) 488-2288, or call DFATD’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre at +1 613 996 8885.

An email can also be sent to sos@international.gc.ca.

 

 

 

Federal party leaders wish Eid Mubarak

 

 

PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday offered his best wishes for health and happiness to all those celebrating Eid al-Adha, wishing them “Eid Mubarak.”

He said in a statement: “During Eid al-Adha, families, friends and communities will celebrate the Feast of the Sacrifice, which commemorates Ibrahim’s dedication to God. For many Muslims, celebrations will include making charitable donations, sharing festive meals, exchanging gifts, and prayer. It is also a time for forgiveness and compassion.

“For all Canadians, Eid al-Adha presents an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Canada’s diverse Muslim community in shaping the economically and culturally rich country we live in. I was pleased to attend Eid on the Hill in 2011, which our Conservative government has made an annual tradition.

“In July, Laureen and I were pleased to host the first-ever Iftar reception at 24 Sussex with Muslim families of many backgrounds from across Canada, including some of the four Muslim candidates nominated to run for the Conservative Party of Canada in the election this fall.”

 

LIBERAL Party Leader Justin Trudeau said: “Muslims across Canada, and around the world, will come together in observance of Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj.

“To mark this special occasion, they will attend morning prayers, share meals, and exchange gifts and greetings with family, friends, and neighbours. Based on the principles of sacrifice and charity, generosity and compassion, it is an opportunity for us all to reflect on these values, which unite all Canadians.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, Sophie and I extend our best wishes to those marking this special day. Eid Mubarak!”

 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in a statement said: “Eid Mubarak! On this very special day of Eid al-Adha, the entire NDP team would like to wish Muslim Canadians peace, prosperity and happiness.

“We are grateful to Muslim communities for their significant and valuable contributions to Canada over many generations, and for their steadfast commitment to respect and dialogue.

“ … As you celebrate Eid al-Adha, New Democrats join you in renewing our faith and hope for a more peaceful world filled with opportunity where, together, our children and grand-children can build a better tomorrow for us all.”

 

 

 

 

 

Forget the bonus, the real money is in severance pay

 

BY DERMOD TRAVIS

Executive Director

IntegrityBC

 

(PHOTO)

 

NEIL Sedaka is right breaking up is hard to do. It’s also expensive.

On September 15, residents of Vancouver learned that former chief administrator officer (CAO) Penny Ballem’s services had been “concluded” that day by Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Ballem, 65, will receive $556,000 as a parting gift for the hastily arranged exit. News that undoubtedly warmed the cockles of the hearts of residents across the city when they learned of it.

Falling on the heels of word that Arvind Gupta will be paid $446,750 after he resigned as University of B.C. president in August, it’s no wonder taxpayers are irate.

In just over a month, they’re down $1 million, the same amount the B.C. government has pledged to help Syrian refugees.

Ballem’s going away deal isn’t the exception that proves the rule. Sudbury’s former CAO will deposit a severance cheque in the neighbourhood of $330,000 after he was let go earlier this year.

But nor is Ballem’s deal the norm.

Fortunately – depending upon your perspective – there are two cities of comparable size that have parted ways with their CAOs in the last two years: Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Back when Ballem started at the city, in 2009, she made $313,577, a nice bump from the $230,958 she was pulling down as a deputy minister in the B.C. government.

Last year, she made $334,617. Former Winnipeg CAO Phil Sheegl made $235,334 in 2013.

When Sheegl quit or was fired – take your pick – he walked away with $250,000. Peggers weren’t happy about it, though Vancouverites might see it as a bit of a bargain.

When the top guns at city halls get canned, it’s a pretty safe bet that a six-figure severance cheque is attached to ease the transition, but the vast majority of severance agreements fly by unnoticed.

In the six years from 2003 to 2008, Vancouver signed 31 agreements with its non-unionized staff. Severance ranged from one month to 18 months.

In the following six years, Vancouver signed another 49 agreements. Severance ranged from two weeks to 20 months.

One reason for the high number may lie in the “out with the old and in with the new” approach that comes with new mayors and their top staff in Vancouver.

When Larry Campbell took over as mayor, 10 severance agreements were signed within a year. When Sam Sullivan took over, nine agreements. And when Gregor Robertson took over, seven, some for up to 20 months in severance.

Over at Metro Vancouver after signing 10 agreements between 2012 and 2013, they kept it to one last year.

At the labyrinth otherwise known as TransLink, 13 severance agreements were inked in 2014 for between half a month and 15 months pay.

It might be an idea for Vancouver – and the B.C. government for that matter – to look to the Quebec government for a little guidance in negotiating contracts with senior staff.

Last month, the Quebec government fired the CEO of the Agence métropolitaine de transport, a regional transit service in the Montreal area.

Since it was a political choice, they had to pay severance, all $103,120 of it.

When the B.C. government axed the general manager of BC Place Stadium in 2013, he left with $460,140.

In the midst of a recent leadership crisis, seven of Manitoba premier Greg Selinger’s staff left with a total of $670,000 in severance, an average of $95,714 each or about half the $184,615 average that 13 members of former premier Gordon Campbell’s staff pocketed in 2011.

In five years ICBC paid out $25 million in severance, according to a 2012 government audit. To fix that mess the Crown corporation then spent another $2 million to say goodbye to seven more executives.

The Capital Regional District might want to sit in on any negotiating severance workshops as well.

The head of the CRD’s Seaterra sewage program is walking away with $500,000 at the end of September. Residents are supposed to take some solace in the fact that it’s meant to save money.

The big problem when severance cheques are so tempting is that there’s little incentive to make things work, which goes to underscore a political cartoon captioned: “Who cares if we didn’t get a bonus, the big money is in severance pay.”

 

 

 

British Columbians deserve better than yet another costly B.C. Liberal I.T. failure: B.C. NDP

 

IN the first two weeks of school, the new K-12 student information system, MyEducation BC, is letting teachers and students down, says the B.C. NDP.

The fumbled roll-out of MyEducation BC is only the latest in a long list of B.C. Liberal information system failures that have wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. People deserve better.

BCeSIS: Initiated by then-Minister of Education Christy Clark in 2003, BCeSIS was the $97 million failed system that MyEd BC is replacing.

MyEd BC: $95 million dollar system brought in to replace BCeSIS, leaving administrators and teachers with new headaches.

Integrated Case Management: The $182 million system meant to help deliver social services. The Representative for Children and Youth called it a “colossal failure” that is putting vulnerable children at risk.

Clinical Systems Transformation Project: The B.C. Liberals recently fired the primary contractor on this $842 million project and it is now unclear when it will be ready or how over budget it will be.

Panorama eHealth I.T. system: With $114 million spent to date, this project is already 420 per cent over budget and is not yet fully functional.

Electronic Health Records Initiative: A report by the Auditor General in 2010 found that this online service responsible for providing medical information to British Columbians was poorly planned and grossly over budget by almost $100 million.

Maximus health care I.T. management: This contract was renewed in 2013 at a 40% increased cost, $264 million for an extra five years, even though the bidding had no competitors and the Auditor General had reported serious problems with service levels and privacy protection.

B.C. Hydro: In 2009, Hydro embarked on a 5-year, $400 million plan to upgrade its I.T. systems, saying it would save money. Six years later they’re $100 million over budget, the job is only half done and operating costs are up.

JUSTIN System: An integrated criminal case management database responsible for storing some of the most sensitive information in government – police investigations, court documents and victims or witnesses of crime – was found by the auditor general to be inadequately protected from external or internal security breaches. The system wasn’t even able to determine if a breach occurred, meaning if a breach had already happened, we wouldn’t know.

 

 

Government launches review, info line after backup hard drive misplaced

 

(PHOTO: Amrik Virk)

 

 

MANAGEMENT of personal information by government ministries will be reviewed by the Office of the Chief Information Officer in the wake of a misplaced backup hard drive containing B.C. and Yukon student information from 1986 to 2009.

Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk has announced the review today to ensure government is doing everything possible to protect personal information and prevent privacy breaches.

The issue of the backup drives and their content was discovered during a complete records review undertaken by the Ministry of Education to ensure it was in compliance with data-storage standards. The Ministry of Education did extensive physical and electronic searches but was unable to locate a Western Digital external hard drive that was one of two backups the ministry created in 2011.

Virk also announced that the Service BC info line is able to help British Columbians and others find out if their information is likely on the drive, and what sort of information it would be.

When they contact Service BC, people should be able to note when they attended K-12 or post-secondary school in British Columbia. The contact centre is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached by calling:

Victoria: 250 387-6121

Vancouver: 604 660-2421

Elsewhere in B.C.: 1 800 663-7867

Government has no indication that data from the missing hard drive has been accessed or used. The risk to individuals is thought to be low because the data on the missing hard drive does not contain financial or banking information, social insurance numbers or driver’s licence numbers. As well, the data is at least six years old and up to 30 years old.

In total, the missing hard drive contains about 3.4 million education records tied to individuals between 1986 and 2009, and includes their names, postal codes, grades and personal education numbers.

There are also a smaller number of records in files that include more sensitive personal information, such as:

* 825 survey results from 2003 of teachers aged 53 or older on their retirement plans.

* 1,052 personal education numbers, birth years, and grad dates for cancer survivors from a study on their education outcomes.

* 9,273 personal education numbers connected to children in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development before 2006-07, including information such as health and behaviour issues and supervision status.

This sensitive information could be connected to names by comparing the personal education numbers to names through the larger data file. Full details on the data on the missing hard drive are online at: http://bit.ly/1YzSt9p

The Province says it is important to note that the hard drives were backups. All files related to student records are still with the government under standard data security processes.

Virk said: “British Columbians expect us to ensure their information is safe – and this is an incident that should have never happened. I have directed the province’s chief information officer to undertake a review to make sure that our privacy protection policies and procedures are as robust as they possibly can be. The Ministry of Education will be the first ministry to be examined as part of this cross-government review. British Columbians deserve the highest standards of information management.”

 

 

BCTF says there’s enormous potential for violation of privacy

 

(PHOTO: Jim Iker)

B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker in a statement on Tuesday said that he was given a short briefing by the Deputy Minister of Education on the missing unencrypted hard drive that contains more than three million student records and noted: “This is a serious breach of security with enormous potential to violate the privacy of hundreds of thousands of British Columbians—teachers, parents, students, and children-in-care as well as other vulnerable youth.”

In a statement, Iker said: “As a parent myself of children who went to school between 1986 and 2009, I fully understand the concern and worry people have.

“First, I want to say that the government must continue to work overtime to find this missing hard drive as soon as possible and secure its information.

“Second, I want to raise broader concerns about student data collection, its storage and the centralization of that data.

“For years now, we have been worried about the growth of data collection in BC schools.

“From the glitchy, $100 million dollar BCeSIS program to the brand new and equally frustrating $100 million dollar MyEducationBC program, the government insists on collecting more and more data and maintaining centralized data bases.

“But we have seen today how easily mistakes happen.

“Mental health information, special education designations, exam marks, Foundation Skills “Assessment results and very sensitive data on children-in-care is now at risk.

“And with MyEducationBC, the government wants to expand the data collected and the number of people with access to it.

“We have huge concerns about that. Why is the data collected? How is it secured? When is it destroyed? At what point do students get the right to be forgotten?

“Why is a 35-year-old today worried about her or his privacy being violated from student records collected 25 years ago?

“The BCTF has been strongly raising these concerns for several years. I hope now the government will take our concerns and student privacy seriously.”

 

 

B.C. helps to right historical wrongs with new curriculum addition

 

BY TERESA WAT

Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism

 

LEARNING from the past to prevent future discrimination was on the lesson plan when I joined the back-to-school crowd earlier this month to introduce a new curriculum supplement for grades 5 and 10 students: Bamboo Shoots: Chinese Canadian Legacies in BC.

As the most ethnically diverse province in Canada, British Columbia is known for its multiculturalism and respect for people of different cultures and backgrounds – in fact, that is partly why my family emigrated here over 25 years ago. But it wasn’t always this way.

Early Chinese pioneers came to British Columbia because they heard that B.C. welcomed diversity. But when more than 15,000 Chinese arrived during the early 1880s, they were denied the rights and privileges of other immigrants, including citizenship.

This was a shameful chapter for B.C. and that’s why, in 2014, a formal apology on behalf of all members of the B.C. legislature was made to Chinese Canadians for historical wrongs by past governments. At provincewide consultations, we asked British Columbians what the apology should look like and the overwhelming consensus at every forum was the need to integrate this forgotten chapter of B.C.’s Chinese Canadian history into our educational curriculum.

Starting this year, a dark chapter of B.C.’s history is explored in new online lesson plans and teaching tools titled Bamboo Shoots. The classroom materials reflect B.C.’s rich multicultural heritage and the immense social, cultural and economic contributions Chinese Canadians made to the development of British Columbia.

I am especially proud of the vivid tapestry of stories that are woven within the curriculum’s lesson plans. Photos, archival poems and even a printable card game bring the history of B.C. to life, challenging students to consider the deep roots of discrimination and the long-term effects it has on all British Columbians.

With the help of B.C. teachers, Open School BC, the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council, my ministry is proud of the collaboration and historical knowledge that went into Bamboo Shoots. The supplement is also accessible to the general public, ensuring global audiences can also learn from this chapter of B.C.’s history.

We can’t undo the past but we can move forward and leave a legacy for future generations to learn from. Bamboo Shoots will help today’s generation ensure that the wrongful acts of the past are not repeated in B.C.’s future.

 

 

Metro Vancouver returns to Stage One water restrictions

 

EFFECTIVE immediately through October 15, Metro Vancouver will return to Stage One water restrictions. The recent rain has helped to restore reservoirs to well within acceptable levels for a sustained period of time, and cooler temperatures have reduced water consumption throughout the region to seasonal averages.

During Stage One restrictions, watering lawns is permitted in the morning but prohibited during evening hours when demand is highest for domestic uses including dishwashing, laundry, and showers.

Carol Mason, Commissioner of the Greater Vancouver Water District and Metro Vancouver’s CAO, on Tuesday signed a declaration returning the region’s Water Shortage Response Plan to the first stage from the second, which had been in place since September 9. Given the extraordinary weather conditions through much of this year, Stage 3 water restrictions were implemented from July 20 to September 9 because of this summer’s extremely hot, dry weather.

“We’ve only implemented Stage Three water use restrictions once before in 2003, and there have been many important lessons learned during the past several months,” said Mason. ”I would like to acknowledge the collective efforts of everyone who helped us to achieve our goal of reducing water consumption during drought conditions region-wide to below 1.2 billion litres per day.”

The Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam reservoirs have stabilized at approximately 60 per cent of their storage capacity, which is typical for this time of year. Metro Vancouver’s three alpine lakes, which provide water to the reservoirs in the summer, have also been replenished by the recent rains.

“It was a long hot, dry summer in Metro Vancouver to say the least, with the extreme weather severely impacting our water supply, incidence and risks of forest fires, and air quality,” said Greg Moore, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors.

“We thank everyone who made adjustments to comply with the necessary water use restrictions for the greater good, and I would especially like to recognize the businesses whose operations were temporarily affected,” he added.

Commencing this fall, Metro Vancouver will evaluate the Water Shortage Response Plan, and consider the input received this summer from residents, businesses, and member municipalities to determine opportunities for improvements in the future.

“This year has proven to be a real wake-up call and may be the new norm going forward,” said Darrell Mussatto, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee. “The adjustments we made prove our region’s ability to dramatically reduce water consumption by eliminating unnecessary outdoor use for aesthetic purposes.”

“We now know that our water system is resilient, and no matter what weather conditions we face in the future, we should always use our water wisely in order to conserve this vital natural resource” he added.

Thanks to conservation programs like the lawn sprinkling regulations, there has been a 27-per-cent decline in per-capita water use in our region since 1993. While Metro Vancouver establishes the annual water use restrictions, our member municipalities enforce them.

 

 

UBC to welcome Mohamed Fahmy following release from Egyptian prison

 

UBC has welcomed the news of Mohamed Fahmy’s release from an Egyptian prison and looks forward to him joining UBC later this year.

Fahmy, former Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera’s English network, was released after a pardon from Egyptian President Sisi following a lengthy imprisonment. Fahmy will spend a semester at UBC, serving as the W. Maurice Young Centre Visit Fellow in Applied Ethics and as a Global Reporting Journalist in Residence.

“We are thrilled to hear the news today of Mohamed Fahmy’s pardon and release,” said Interim President Martha Piper. “We look forward to welcoming him to UBC’s Vancouver campus this fall. Mohamed’s resiliency during this ordeal is an inspiration to us all.”

Fahmy has long captured the attention of international media and underscored the challenges of reporting in a constantly changing political environment like Egypt.

As Global Reporting Journalist in Residence, Fahmy will be sharing his experiences and his reflections on the state of the Middle East with students and faculty throughout campus.

An official start date has yet to be determined.

 

 

 

Southeast Vancouver Seniors Centre gets green light

 

THE Killarney Community Centre Association has approved the final hurdle of clarifying facility ownership, which now permits the immediate issuance of a request for proposal for the design and construction of the centre. The successful company will be selected by January 2016. A full construction schedule will be released in the coming months.

The Park Board thanked the Killarney Community Centre Association, the Killarney Seniors Centre Society, and the Southeast Vancouver Seniors’ Arts and Cultural Society for their collective commitment and leadership in ensuring that this much needed facility gets built as soon as possible.

Vancouver Park Board Chair John Coupar said: “Thiss important step illustrates the benefit of the new, positive tone set by the Park Board toward a more collaborative relationship with our community partners.”

NPA Park Board Commissioner Erin Shum, who serves as the Park Board liaison to the Killarney Community Centre, and is also the Park Board Liaison to the City of Vancouver Seniors’ Advisory Committee, said she is pleased that the Seniors Centre project is finally moving ahead after many frustrating years for the community’s seniors.

“The seniors in South Vancouver have waited a long time for this centre to be built, and building it was a key election promise we made. I’m pleased with this huge step forward and that we’re finally delivering on our promise to the seniors,” said Shum. “This facility will be an important asset to the community and go a long way towards reducing isolation and loneliness for seniors in the community, and we will continue to work with our community partners in good faith.”

Once completed, the Southeast Vancouver Seniors Centre will serve more than 27,000 seniors who live in the South Vancouver area. Plans call for a 10,000 square foot facility with a separate kitchen and a number of multipurpose and other rooms.

A total of $7.5 million in funding has been secured for the project, split equally between the City of Vancouver ($2.5 million), the Province of British Columbia ($2.5 million), and the Government of Canada ($2.5 million), with land next to the Killarney Community Centre allocated by the Park Board.

 

 

 

Surrey, Abbotsford, City of Langley among five communities that win Open for Business Awards

 

(PHOTO)

 

FIVE communities were presented with Open for Business Awards for their innovative programs and projects that support local businesses at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention.

The awards, issued by the Small Business Roundtable, honour municipalities and First Nations who follow the spirit of the B.C. Small Business Accord. This year the winners are: Abbotsford, the City of Langley, Sidney, Surrey, and the Tsawwassen First Nation.

They will each receive $10,000 to fund a local, small business-friendly project in their community. The roundtable also recognized Mayor Stewart Young of Langford, who received an honourable mention for his leadership in red tape reduction.

The Small Business Roundtable was established in 2005 to be the voice of small business to government. Through its diverse sector membership of small-business owners and association leaders, the roundtable helps government develop strategies to support the growth and success of small business throughout the province.

In 2015, the Open for Business Awards Best Practices Guide was released. The guide highlights best practices identified by the roundtable through the evaluation of past award submissions to show future applicants winning examples of projects that reduce regulatory overlap or create strong partnerships to improve government interactions with small businesses, and generate local economic development for the small-business community.

Coralee Oakes, Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch, said: “Congratulations to all the winners for understanding and supporting small businesses in your communities and promoting the spirit of the Small Business Accord. Your work helps us move closer toward our goal to make British Columbia the most small-business friendly jurisdiction in Canada.”

Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport, Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for Translink, said: “Through my experience in local government and as a former business owner, I know first-hand that small businesses are at the heart of many communities across B.C. The five municipalities receiving Open for Business Awards have done an exemplary job of providing the business blocks at the local level to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed.”

Cybele Negris, Small Business Roundtable member, managing partner, co-founder and President of Webnames.ca Inc., said: “After a decade of consultation with small business owners the Small Business Roundtable has consistently heard that removal of red tape and creating a small business friendly environment like those upheld by the principles of the Small Business Accord, particularly by local governments, have real significant impact on business success. Congratulations to the winners of the Open for Business Awards who are leading the way for other communities.”

 

 

Conservative minority government with Liberal opposition: Forum Poll

 

Conservatives – 125 seats (45 short of majority), Liberals – 107, NDP – 104

 

IN a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll among 1,557 Canadian voters taken September 21-23, exactly equal proportions, about 3-in-10, will vote either for the Conservatives or the Liberals in the upcoming election (31% each). The NDP fall slightly behind the two leading parties (28%).

The results are based on an interactive voice response telephone survey and are considered accurate +/- 3%, 19 times out of 20.

This is in contrast to earlier this week, when the Conservatives led and the two other parties tied (September 20: Conservative – 33%, Liberal and NDP -29% each).

Few will vote Green or Bloc Quebecois (4%) or for other parties (1%).

If these results are projected up to the newly distributed 338-seat House of Commons:

* The Conservatives would win a slim minority of 125 seats, 45 fewer than required for a majority.

* The Liberals would form the opposition with 107 seats.

* The NDP would be very close behind with 104 seats.

* The Green Party would seat their leader.

* The Bloc would seat one member.

 

Regions:

 

* B.C.: NDP – 35%, Liberals – 30%, Conservatives – 28%

* Ontario: Liberals – 38%, Conservatives – 32%, NDP – 24%

* Quebec: NDP – 34%, Conservatives – 23, Liberals – 22%

* Alberta: Conservatives – 52%, Liberals – 25%, NDP – 18%

* Manitoba / Saskatchewan: Conservatives – 40%, NDP – 31%, Liberals – 25%

* Atlantic: Liberals – 45%, Conservatives – 25%, NDP – 24%

 

Conservatives most fervent partisans, NDP, Liberals less so: Close to three quarters of Conservative voters are strong supporters of their party (73%), while just more than half of Liberals (58%) and New Democrats are (55%). This is explained by the relatively loose bonds these voters have with their parties; close to one fifth of 2011 Liberal voters will support the NDP this time (18%) while a similar number of past New Democrats will vote Liberal (22%).

 

Both Conservatives and Liberals expected to win: Conservatives (29%) and Liberals (27%) are relatively equally likely to be seen as the eventual victors, with the NDP close behind (25%).

 

Trudeau, Harper, Mulcair tied for best PM: One quarter each see Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau as the best Prime Minister (25%) each), while Tom Mulcair, who has led this measure recently, is tied with these two (24%).

 

Trudeau, Mulcair see favourables up: Tom Mulcair has seen his approval increase from just more than 4-in-10 (September 20 – 42%) to closer to half now (46%), while Justin Trudeau has also seen an increase (from 43% to 48%). Stephen Harper’s approval has stayed stable at 3-in10 (31% now, 32% last Monday).

 

6-in-10 say government must change

 

While more than half say the government “has done a bad job and shouldn’t be re-elected” (49%) and a further tenth say the government “has done a good job but it’s time to give someone else a chance” (12%), and this makes a total of more than 6-in-10 who see a need for a change in government (61%), just one fifth say the government has “done a good job and should be re-elected” (21%) or that it has “done a bad job but it’s better than the alternatives” (8%) for a total of about 3-in-10 who don’t see a need to change the government (29%). This is significant in that it is thought that a government must score at about a total of 40% on the re-election option in order to be re-elected.

“It may be that the NDP have had their day in the sun, and it’s time for a new leader in this incredibly tight race. While the Prime Minister fares no worse than he or his party have recently, both Mulcair and Trudeau outdo their parties in approval, and Justin particularly is showing some momentum, as are the Liberals, after being the cellar dwellers in the race,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

 

* An Ekos poll conducted for Montreal’s La Presse newspaper showed that the Conservatives are on top with the support of 35.4 per cent of voters. The Liberals are second with 26.3 per cent support, while the NDP is last with 24.5 per cent support. The poll, which used a dual landline / cell phone sampling frame, questioned 2,343 people between September 17 and 22 and is considered accurate to within two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

* An Insights West poll taken September 18-21, showed the NDP leading with 34 per cent, followed by the Conservatives with 24 per cent support and the Liberals with 26 per cent support. It was conducted online.

 

 

 

 

 

Conservatives headed for a majority: Ekos poll

 

B.C.: Conservatives – 34.5%, NDP – 28.5%, Liberals – 23.4%, Greens – 12.5%

 

THE Conservatives are now on top with the support of 35.4 per cent of voters, according to an Ekos poll conducted for Montreal’s La Presse newspaper.

The Liberals are second with 26.3 per cent support, while the NDP is last with 24.5 per cent support.

The poll, which used a dual landline / cell phone sampling frame, questioned 2,343 people between September 17 and 22 and is considered accurate to within two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have clear leads in British Columbia, Alberta, the Prairie provinces and Ontario.

In seat-rich Ontario, Conservatives have 38.7 per cent support as compared to 30.3 per cent for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and 19.9 per cent for Tom Mulcair’s NDP.

But in Quebec, the NDP still leads with 32.8 per cent voter support. However, the Conservatives have increased their support to 23.7 per cent. The Liberals have 19.3 per cent support.

In B.C., the Conservatives have 34.5 per cent support, the NDP have 28.5 per cent support and the Liberals are third with 23.4 per cent support.

(The Insights West poll taken September 18-21, which shows the NDP leading with 34 per cent, followed by the Conservatives with 24 per cent support and the Liberals with 26 per cent support, was conducted online, while the Ekos poll used a dual landline / cell phone sampling frame.)

If Harper fails to secure a majority, there appears to be no doubt that the NDP and the Liberals will end up forming a coalition as the Ekos survey shows tremendous support for this among Liberal and NDP supporters who have a anyone-but-Harper attitude.

Harper’s stand on Syrian refugees and the niqab issue (the Conservative Government wants Muslim women to remove their niqab during the citizenship oath-swearing though the courts disagree) seem to have given his party a boost for now, especially in Quebec.

 

 

 

Smaller lead for NDP as Conservatives gain ground in British Columbia

 

NDP – 34%, Conservatives – 28%, Liberals – 26%

 

WITH less than a month to go before Canadians cast their ballots in the federal election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is holding on to first place in British Columbia, a new Insights West poll conducted online September 18-21 has found.

The online survey of a representative provincial sample shows that, if the federal election were held today, 34% of decided voters in the province (-7 since an Insights West poll conducted in August) would support for the NDP candidate in their constituency, followed by the governing Conservative Party with 28% (+6), the Liberal Party with 26% (+2), and the Green Party with 11% (-1).

The New Democrats are particularly popular with women (39%) and residents aged 18-to-34 (42%).

The Conservatives are the top choice for men (33%) and residents aged 55 and over (37%).

The Liberals and the New Democrats are practically tied among middle-aged voters (32% and 31% respectively)

 

IN Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, the New Democrats are in first place with 34%, followed by the Liberals with 30% and the Conservatives with 28%.

In Vancouver Island – where a total of 395 interviews were conducted for this wave – the NDP is also on top (34%). The Greens and Conservatives are tied for second place with 24% each, followed by the Liberals (16%).

More than a third of decided voters (35%, -7) say they could change their mind and support another party’s candidate in the federal election. The Conservatives (76%) and the NDP (70%) continue to keep the highest proportion of fully committed voters, followed by the Liberals (55%) and the Greens (48%).

“The Conservatives have definitely improved their standing in British Columbia and their voters remain extremely committed,” says Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs, at Insights West. “The New Democrats are also attracting a large proportion of voters who are unlikely to change their mind.”

 

Approval, Momentum and Best PM

 

Official Opposition and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has the best approval rating with 60% (+5 since August), followed by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (53%, +1) and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau (51%, =). While the numbers for Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper improved (from 28% last month to 32% in September), they are still the lowest among the four main leaders.

As was the case last month, May continues to post the best momentum score at +14. She is followed by Trudeau at +10 and Mulcair at +8. Harper has a momentum score of -39 this month (with 46% of residents saying their opinion of him has worsened since the start of the campaign).

When asked who would make the Best Prime Minister of Canada, Mulcair remains in first place with 28% (+1), followed by Harper with 22% (+3), Trudeau with 20% (=) and May with 8% (-1).

 

Issues and the Contenders

 

The economy and jobs is still regarded as the most important issue facing Canada (39%, +6), followed by government accountability (16%, -3), health care (11%, -1), housing, poverty and homelessness (also 11%, +1), and the environment (8%, -4).

The three main party leaders are practically tied when British Columbians are asked who would be the best one to handle the economy and jobs (Harper 27%, Mulcair 26%, Trudeau 25%). May keeps a sizeable advantage as the best person to handle the environment (45%).

NDP leader Mulcair holds the upper hand on health care (37%), housing, poverty and homelessness (also 37%) and government accountability (28%).

Prime Minister Harper leads on foreign affairs (30%) crime and public safety (28%) and energy and pipelines (24%).

Harper has increased his standing as the best leader to deal with the fight against ISIS (30%, +7), while Mulcair is still ahead on five other issues: child care (29%), helping Canada’s war veterans (25%), the future of the Senate (24%), surveillance and Bill C-51 (also 24%) and the future of Canada Post (22%).

Across British Columbia, 73% of residents (-2) think it is time for a change of government in Canada, including 41% of those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2011. In addition, almost two thirds of the province’s residents (64%, +4) say they would be “very upset” if the Conservatives form the federal government again. In contrast, fewer than two-in-five British Columbians would be unhappy with a government headed by the Liberals (38%) or the NDP (37%).

 

 

 

 

Liberal government immigration plan will make family reunification a core priority

 

Liberals will double the number of applications for parents, grandparents to 10,000 annually

 

A Liberal government will bring real change to Canada’s immigration system so it is focused on compassion, economic opportunity and family reunification, said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau on Friday.

“Immigration is critical to job creation and long-term economic growth for the middle class. In so many ways, Canada is what it is today thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of those who chose to build their lives here,” said Trudeau. “During the Harper decade, our immigration system has been mismanaged, politicized, and re-oriented away from welcoming those who choose to make Canada their new and permanent home. Liberals will reform our immigration system, and make family reunification a core priority of our government.”

Liberals will significantly improve the current immigration system to, among other things, ensure that families can stay together and successfully integrate into their new communities. We will immediately double the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year. To help make that happen, and to restore processing times to levels that existed before the Harper decade, we will nearly double the budget for processing family class applications. In addition, we will provide greater access to applicants who have Canadian siblings, and we will restore the maximum age for dependents to 22 from 19, to allow more Canadians to bring their children to Canada. A Liberal government will also change the rules so that spouses immigrating to Canada receive immediate permanent residency, getting rid of the current two-year waiting period.

“The Harper Conservatives froze family reunification applications for two years, then made the rules so rigid that thousands of hard-working people who would like to bring their parents to Canada don’t even bother to apply. Making it easier for families to be together makes good economic sense. When Canadians have support – like family involvement in child care – it helps to drive our productivity and economic growth, while strengthening the middle class,” said Trudeau. “I’m constantly inspired by the way Canadians come together to build strong communities, create jobs, and grow our economy. Liberals will continue to work with all Canadians to build a country where everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support for Bill C-51 split evenly, fewer now see ISIS as direct threat

 

IN a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll, conducted September 14-15, among 1,402 Canadian voters, 4-in-10 (41%)  support Bill C-51, the new anti-terror legislation, while just fewer oppose the bill (37%). More than a fifth can’t make up their minds (22%).

Opposition to the bill is characteristic of the youngest (47%), males (42%), the very wealthiest ($100K to $250K – 44%), in Atlantic Canada (50%) and BC (50%) but less so in Quebec (30%), among New Democrats (61%), but not among Conservatives (10%) obviously. These findings compare to June 2015 (support – 39%, oppose – 41%, don’t know – 20%).

 

Vote switching on this issue favours NDP

 

As many Canadians are less likely to vote Conservative as are more likely to do so (15% and 16%, respectively) because of Bill C-51.

Many will be more likely to vote Liberal (10%) as are less likely to do so (7%).

The number more willing to vote NDP on this issue (16%) is twice those less likely to vote for the party (8%).

 

Fewer now see ISIS as direct threat

 

Just more than one half of Canadian voters see ISIS as a direct threat to Canada (55%), while 3-in-10 disagree this is the case (30%). Just more than a tenth don’t know if this is the case (14%). This compares with January, 2015, at the beginning of the Middle East mission, when agreement ISIS was a threat was characteristic of two thirds (67%).

 

“On the one hand, Bill C-51 doesn’t arouse the general public anger the NDP seems to expect, and many people support it. On the other hand, there is seen to be less support for viewing ISIS as a direct threat to Canada, which is a concept that underpins most of our strategy in the Mid East,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

 

 

Harper sets target of 1.3 million new jobs by 2020

 

PRIME Minister Stephen Harper announced on Tuesday that a re-elected Conservative government would aim to create 1.3 million net new jobs by 2020.

“Our Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan is focused on protecting Canada’s economy and creating jobs,” he said. “That’s why we’ve balanced the budget, kept taxes low, and made affordable, targeted investments – in infrastructure, skills training, and innovation – to keep our economy moving forward. This plan will create the well-paying jobs for Canadians and keep our economy strong.”

Harper said that the Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan has helped Canada become a leader among industrialized countries on a range of economic indicators including low debt levels, infrastructure spending, and public investments in science and technology. But most importantly, Canada’s economy has created 1.3 million net new jobs since the depths of the global recession – one of the strongest job creation records in the G-7.

“The global economy is weak and in turmoil,” he said. “But Canada’s economy has performed relatively well, particularly with respect to job creation. Setting a job-creation target will keep our focus on creating new, well-paying jobs over the next four years.”

Harper outlined his ambitious goal of creating another 1.3 million net new jobs by 2020, noting that this level of job growth would see new jobs created at a slightly faster pace than Canada has experienced in the past five years.  But with the Conservative government’s low-tax, balanced budget plan, he stated that it was an achievable “stretch” target for the next four years.

“Our plan to cut payroll taxes by 20 percent and introduce a new, permanent Home Renovation Tax Credit are examples of the steps we’ll take to keep Canada’s economy growing and creating jobs,” he said.

Harper claimed his plan to create jobs stands in stark contrast with the plans put forward by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Tom Mulcair’s NDP. The Liberals have promised to significantly raise payroll taxes on small businesses, forcing them to lay off workers or close down altogether. Meanwhile, experts have confirmed that the NDP’s plan to hike taxes will kill 250,000 jobs across Canada.

“The Liberals and NDP would run permanent deficits, raise taxes on Canadians and their employers, and kill jobs,” he said.  “Only our Conservative government can be trusted to protect our economy and continue creating new jobs in a weak and unstable global economic environment.”

 

 

NDP EI plan delivers major expansion of access to job training and support for families

 

AN NDP government will hold Employment Insurance premiums steady for four years and invest in expanded training and benefits for young Canadians, precarious workers and new parents, NDP leader Tom Mulcair said on Tuesday.

“The nature of work has changed and it’s harder for young Canadians to find a steady, lasting and solid footing in the job market,” said Mulcair. “Instead of raiding the EI fund like Liberals and Conservatives, we will help young people get a strong start, by making EI eligibility fairer, and by investing in training that will help young workers find a permanent place in the workforce.”

Tom Mulcair’s plan to make EI sustainable and reliable will:

* Protect EI premiums so they provide benefits to Canadians and are not used as the government’s piggy bank;

* Create as many as 90,000 training and work transition opportunities;

* Help working moms and dads with expanded parental benefits, and help those with chronically ill relatives with compassionate care benefits;

* Make eligibility rules more fair in recognition of the changing nature of work; and

* Provide greater flexibility and options that support the needs of workers and their families.

Mulcair said that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan isn’t working. He’s slashed EI benefits, continued the Liberal raid on the EI fund and made it much harder for Canadians to access the coverage they have earned. Today, fewer Canadians than ever qualify for benefits, and cuts to Service Canada mean that people who have followed all the rules are forced to wait weeks before receiving benefits they have paid for.

“Paul Martin launched the Liberals’ cuts to Employment Insurance benefits in the 1990s and raided more than $50 billion from the EI Fund. Justin Trudeau says that was the ‘right decision,’” said Mulcair. “An NDP government will take the politics out of EI once and for all, so premiums go to Canadians who have earned benefits, not into general revenue.”

All EI commitments are paid for from within the EI fund.

 

 

 

Liberals slam Mulcair for siding with Harper to support F-35 stealth fighters as he reverses NDP’s stand

 

(PHOTO: F-35  Photo: Lockheed Martin Corporation)

 

PROVING once again that he will say whatever is convenient, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair suddenly reversed his long-standing opposition to Harper’s F-35 boondoggle, the Liberals pointed out on Tuesday.

Known as “the jet that ate the Pentagon,” the F-35 is widely acknowledged as one of the most expensive and mismanaged military procurements in modern history. Its estimated delivery cost has ballooned each year, while questions about its capabilities have persisted throughout the process.

On Monday, when asked about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s commitment to scrap plans to purchase the F-35, Mulcair went on the attack, claiming that Trudeau’s opposition to the project is evidence of his “lack of experience” – even though Mulcair and the NDP held the same position, until yesterday.

Mulcair went on to promise on Monday to keep the bloated F-35 program alive.

“Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair both blasted Justin Trudeau for announcing a day earlier he would scrap the multi-billion dollar purchase of 65 F-35 stealth fighters.”

(Canadian Press, September 21, 2015)

Beaches-York (Ontario) NDP MP Matt Kelway is actively campaigning against the F-35 in campaign flyers distributed in Toronto.

Here’s what Thomas Mulcair and Jack Layton said about the F-35:

“If we don’t buy the F-35, we will have acted as prudent administrators.”

(Thomas Mulcair, December 10, 2012)

“Mr. Speaker, in the words of one of Canada’s top defence journalists, David Pugliese, ‘it appears to be total confusion on the F-35 front in Ottawa these days’. Yet the Prime Minister still seems poised to blindly push ahead with the expensive and risky single engine F-35.”

(Thomas Mulcair, June 11, 2014)

“Instead of focusing on F-35 fighter jets, I’ll get the job done when it comes to building joint support ships for our naval forces,” he said Friday from Esquimalt, B.C.

(Jack Layton, CBC News, April 8, 2011)

“The Canadian military should concentrate on peacekeeping and not making war, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Friday. And he said that means scrapping the $16-billion F-35 jet fighters deal along greater attention to Canada’s naval needs.”

(Toronto Star, April 8, 2011)

 

 

 

Liberals to invest in Canadian culture and middle class jobs

 

A Liberal government will reinvest in our cultural and creative industries, to create jobs, grow the economy and middle class, and strengthen our rich Canadian identity, said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau o n Tuesday.

“Canada’s cultural and creative industries are a vibrant part of our economy and our national identity. Our artists, producers, composers, and technicians are world leaders in their fields and undeniable Canadian assets,” said Trudeau. “With more platforms available to share our Canadian content, now is the time for targeted investment that will grow local economies, create jobs for the middle class, and help Canadian artists share our stories.”

A new Liberal government will reinvest in cultural and creative industries:

* It will invest $150 million in new annual funding for CBC / Radio-Canada, a commitment that reverses Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cuts and goes even further to ensure that the national broadcaster is able to fulfill its mandate – promoting Canadian culture, identity, bilingualism, and minority voices across the country.

* It will double investment to the Canada Council for the Arts to $360 million per year from $180 million.

* It will increase funding for Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board, with a new investment totalling $25 million per year.

* It will restore the Promart and Trade Routes international cultural promotion programs that Harper cut, and increase funding to $25 milllion per year.

* It will increase funding for the Young Canada Works program to help prepare the next generation of Canadians working in the heritage sector, as part of a renewed Youth Employment Strategy.

* As part of its historic new investment in social infrastructure of nearly $6 billion over the next four years and almost $20 billion over 10 years, it will invest significantly more in cultural infrastructure. These investments will include facilities used by communities to express and promote their culture.

“Culture is what defines us. It brings us together. Yet for a decade, our cultural and creative industries have been under attack by Harper,” said Trudeau. “I want our creators, in all fields, in all communities – including Indigenous Peoples and linguistic minorities – to feel supported and valued by their government. Cultural investment creates jobs, stimulates tourism, and improves our overall quality of life and sense of community. A Liberal government is committed to celebrating and supporting our rich heritage that makes us distinctly Canadian.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trudeau announces plan to ensure greater economic security for middleclass families

 

A Liberal government will support economic security for middleclass Canadian families, and those working hard to join them, by putting more money in the pockets of those who need it most, providing high-quality, affordable child care spaces, and offering more flexibility for working parents, said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau on Monday.

“Liberals understand that for most Canadians, balancing work and family responsibilities is a daily challenge. We believe that government has a responsibility to ensure that all families have a real and fair chance to succeed,” said Trudeau. “After a decade in office, it is clear that {Prime Minister] Stephen Harper is out of touch with Canadian families – with parents worried about finding decent child care that won’t break the bank, or who have to work two jobs just to make ends meet – and won’t help them in any meaningful way. It’s time for real change.”

He said a Liberal government will enhance the economic security of families in the following ways:

* It will create the Canada Child Benefit (CCB): one bigger, fair, tax-free, automatic monthly child benefit to put more money back in the pockets of the Canadian families who need it most.

* It will work with provinces, territories, and First Nations to create a new National Early Learning and Child Care Framework, administered as part of the party’s investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure over the next 10 years. It will work collaboratively on funding agreements to create affordable, high-quality, accessible, inclusive early learning and child care spaces across the country.

* It will offer greater flexibility for parents who are providing care for their children by making parental leave more flexible to family circumstances, amending the Canada Labour Code to allow for more flexible working arrangements, and providing a more accessible and flexible Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefit.

“Thomas Mulcair talks about child care needing an urgent solution, yet his program is back-loaded, will be delayed for years, and is significantly underfunded. While no plan for economic security for families can exclude child care, Canadians deserve more than Mulcair’s empty promises,” said Trudeau. “With the Liberal plan, Canadians will get the help they need to strengthen their families and build better communities.”

 

 

 

Prime Minister Harper announces new support for manufacturing

 

PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Monday set out his low-tax, balanced budget Manufacturing Strategy to support Canadian manufacturing, create new business opportunities, and increase the number of well-paying manufacturing jobs.

“Our Conservative government has a low-tax, balanced budget plan to strengthen Canada’s manufacturing industry, which is a key pillar of the Canadian economy,” Harper said. “While we have been working to create new jobs in this essential sector, the Liberals and NDP have promised tax hikes that would put the jobs of over 1.6 million Canadians who work in manufacturing at risk.”

As part of his Manufacturing Strategy, the Prime Minister announced that a re-elected Conservative government will create a new $100 million Manufacturing Technology Demonstration Fund to support large, pre-commercial projects in the advanced manufacturing sector.

“Under our plan, Canadians will benefit from new, major industrial research and development investment and our manufacturing sector will remain competitive in the global marketplace,” Harper said. “This new fund will provide big benefits across the country, but especially those regions where hard-working Canadians rely heavily on jobs in manufacturing.”

Under Harper, Canadian manufacturers came through the global recession and now benefit from unprecedented global trade opportunities, incentives for new investment in facilities, modern infrastructure, a skilled workforce and one of the most advantageous business tax environments in the world, the Conservatives claimed.

In fact, Statistics Canada reported this week that manufacturing sales rose 1.7% to $52.2 billion in July, as sales in the motor vehicle parts and motor vehicle assembly industries increased. That gain follows increases in May and June. The outlook for the manufacturing sector is bright. Canadian manufacturers today are well positioned to capitalize on new opportunities and expand their businesses, both here at home and in new markets around the world.

The Conservative Government says its Manufacturing Strategy stands in stark contrast with the plans put forward by Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

“Justin’s strategy for manufacturing in Canada is to give up on it, telling workers in Southern Ontario he wants to transition away from manufacturing-based employment as a driver in the economy,” Harper noted. “This irresponsible approach would put the jobs of 1.6 million Canadians at risk, and damage Canada’s economy.”

He added: “Meanwhile, the NDP are promising massive tax hikes that will make it unaffordable for Canadian manufacturers to operate and drive Canadian manufacturing jobs out of the country. Canadian families who rely on high-quality jobs in the manufacturing sector simply can’t afford the NDP.”

 

 

NDP to enhance support and improve medical care for Canada’s veterans and their families 

 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair on Monday announced his plan to reverse the Conservatives’ “disrespect of Canadian veterans” with investments to enhance support and improve medical care for Canada’s veterans and their families.

“Stephen Harper clawed back veterans’ pensions, cut front-line services, failed veterans with PTSD, and spent nearly a million dollars fighting veterans in court,” said Mulcair. “As Prime Minister, I will ensure our government honours the sacrifices of our veterans and provides the services and benefits they’ve earned.”

An NDP government will support Canadian veterans and their families with a $454 million investment over four years to provide better treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress and mental health issues; enhance long-term care and expand the Veterans Independence Program; as well as increase survivors’ pensions and ensure funding is in place to support dignified funerals for veterans through the Last Post Program.

“For many years, the NDP and local MPs like Peter Stoffer have fought for Canada’s veterans and their families so that they get the services and care they deserve,” said Mulcair. “We will also apologize and make amends to those who were dismissed or forced out of the military on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity – fairness that is long overdue.”

 

 

 

Laureen Harper: “Nina has been a very hardworking MP and we need her in Ottawa”

 

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LAUREEN Harper, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife, on Sunday attended a ‘meet and greet event with supporters at Conservative candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells, Nina Grewal’s campaign headquarters to highlight Conservative accomplishments and talk with the campaign team and supporters.

“Nina has been a very hardworking MP and we need her in Ottawa,” said Harper.

“The campaign event was a great opportunity to connect with business leaders, supporters and members of our community to celebrate the success of our party’s proven leadership in protecting the economy,” said Grewal. “It was also an occasion to hear from my good friend Laureen, who wanted to remind people that their support for the campaign in Fleetwood-Port Kells is vital to the protection of our economy. Only our Conservative Government can be trusted to manage the Canadian economy and protect our jobs and standard of living.”

Grewal added: “I am proud of my record of getting tough on crime and legislation that I have proposed has already become law; particularly, raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 years, protecting children from child pornography and from sex-tourism, personal identity theft, terrorist activity, minimum and tougher sentencing for major sexual assault, regulations on controlled drugs and substances, among others.”

She said: “I have sought solutions to the crime and gang violence that plagues our city. I have hosted community meetings; met with residents, stakeholders and the RCMP; participated in RCMP ride-alongs; introduced private members bills and motions, raised the issues of crime in the House of Commons; and brought cabinet ministers to the riding to see first-hand the problems we are dealing with and to hear from local residents.”

Grewal said she has worked hard to ensure that Surrey has received its fair share of infrastructure investments. Almost $1.5 billion has been invested in Surrey. Some of these investments include money for the Surrey Art Gallery, a new City Hall, Tynehead Regional Park, Fraser River flood protection, Newton Recreation Centre, the new RCMP headquarters, PICS, the Fleetwood Community Centre, and much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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