B.C. legislature clerk retires; report says benefits wrongly claimed

By Dirk Meissner

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA _ A spending scandal that shook British Columbia’s legislature came to a partial conclusion Thursday with the abrupt retirement of the clerk and the suspended sergeant-at-arms asking for his job back after a report by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Beverley McLachlin, appointed last March to probe overspending allegations against clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, concluded James engaged in misconduct, but Lenz did not.

She also noted in her report there was a “lack of clarity” in authority over expenses and administrative matters that were at the heart of her investigation of Lenz and James, the top two administration officials at the legislature.

New Democrat House Leader Mike Farnworth told the legislature Thursday that James has retired with a  “non-financial” settlement.

“We have all worked very hard, together, and it has not been on the basis of partisanship or anything like that other than to do what’s right, and what’s in the best interest of this institution,” said Farnworth at a joint news conference with house leaders from the Green and Liberal parties.

The NDP government said in its throne speech last February the spending scandal shook public trust in the legislature and the government will implement  “reforms that restore trust in this core institution.”

Both James and Lenz were suspended last November amid allegations of receiving improper benefits and expensing spending on personal items, which they have denied.

McLachlin’s report found four of five administrative allegations against James were substantiated, while she said Lenz did not engage in misconduct. Farnworth says Lenz will remain on paid leave, while the search for a new clerk will begin this month.

McLachlin says James engaged in misconduct in expense claims for suits, luggage and a private life insurance premium for himself.

Her report says he engaged in misconduct by directing the creation of three benefits for his personal advantage: the 2012 retirement benefit, the 2018 resignation benefit and the death benefit proposed in a 2017 letter.

She says James also took alcohol from the legislative precinct without accounting for it and kept a wood splitter and its trailer under his personal control, in the face of clear consensus that there is no reason for the equipment not to be at the legislature.

McLachlin’s report only looked at the administrative allegations made by Speaker Darryl Plecas in a report he released in January.

The Speaker alleged that Lenz and James engaged in inappropriate spending on personal items and foreign trips. His report also alleged inappropriate vacation payouts and retirement allowances.

An RCMP investigation continues with the help of two special prosecutors.

James said in a statement that he has been in public service for more than four decades and has fond memories of his time at the legislature, but he has now “had enough.”

“I have been publicly ridiculed and vilified. My family has been deeply hurt and continues to suffer humiliation. In an effort to put an end to that, I have decided to retire, and reach a settlement with the legislative assembly,” he said.

He added that when the allegations were disclosed to him, he provided detailed written submissions and supporting documents to the legislative assembly, but many of them are not referred to or addressed in McLachlin’s report.

“I believe the public has a right to see those submissions and documents, so they can know and understand the whole picture and judge the truth of these matters for themselves,” he said.

Lenz told a news conference that McLachlin’s report cleared him of misconduct allegations and he asked to be reinstated but was told he is still the subject of a police investigation.

“I greatly respect the fair and independent process that has been in place. I am confident there will be no findings of wrongdoing,” he told reporters gathered in his backyard.

Lenz said he holds no ill will for what has happened over the past seven months, but added it has been “brutal.”

“It was devastating,” he said.

He has yet to be interviewed by police but Lenz said he’ll answer the questions they have.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Lenz said.

Plecas said he was happy with the conclusions of the report.

“I think it says that the issues I had raised were accurate. I mean, of course, it’s not everything. But I’m reminded that her terms of reference were very narrow. So there’s a number of things which weren’t considered.”

Farnworth told the legislature that McLachlin noted several policy areas that it needs to consider. The three party house leaders accepted all of her recommendations and Farnworth said he has tabled a status report detailing “considerable efforts” already undertaken by staff to address those issues.

McLachlin’s report says there was a lack of clarity over who had the authority for the administrative matters at the legislature. The legislation indicates the office of the Speaker has control, but in practice, the clerk seems to hold that authority, it says.

The report says vacation entitlement policies and practices, expenses, travel and benefits all need to be clarified for staff, and the legislature may also want to put a formal policy in place for the management of alcohol purchases.

Edited for ILSTV

Time for Ottawa to discuss health insurance for tourists

It’s not fair that the Canadian system has to pay when visitors fall ill and need care.

Excerpted article was written by Dr. Charles S. Shaver Hamilton Spectator

rad Hazzard was referring to $30 million in unpaid medical expenses per year, and is proposing that all tourists to Australia be required to have health insurance. Should Canada do the same?

Increasingly, such insurance is necessary to cover tourists unexpectedly injured in auto accidents, floods, fires, bridge collapses, and in the remote event of shootings and other acts of terrorism.

Proof of health insurance is required by Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Aruba, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, the Falkland Islands, Latvia, Slovakia and Russia, and possibly Thailand in the near future. It is mandated to obtain a visa to the 26 countries in the Schengen zone of Europe.

The number of overseas tourists to Canada may increase by 6.7 per cent this year. Total visitors to Toronto increased by 3.6 per cent; this included a jump in those from Mexico by 72 per cent, India by 31 per cent, Brazil by 23 per cent, and China by 9.1 per cent.

Certainly, the need for travel health insurance already exists in Canada. A bus crash on Highway 401 east of Kingston in June killed three and injured 34 Chinese tourists. A German tourist was shot in the head near Calgary in early August. Toronto now has a higher homicide rate than does New York City, and has witnessed a greater number this year than in all of 2017.

Because of the Canada Health Act and Ontario Bill 94, physicians here cannot charge wealthier patients more to compensate for those who are uninsured. With the recent dispute between Ottawa and Saudi Arabia, Canadian medical schools are losing $100,000 for each medical resident or fellow forced to leave our country. Hence, both hospitals and MDs are hardly in a position to provide free care to visitors; all should be urged to buy health insurance. Possibly, it should even be mandated by Ottawa.

Sadly, such insurance does not cover routine office visits nor complications of a pre-existing illness. The solution is much more complicated.

Many of our larger cities are now multicultural. Many new Canadians may wish to arrange for prolonged visits for parents, grandparents, etc. Yet pre-existing diabetes, cardiac disease, etc. may preclude buying adequate private insurance. Sponsors are legally responsible for medical bills incurred by their relatives. How can we be fair to the sponsors, temporary visitors, but also to physicians and hospitals?

Possibly, Medavie Blue Cross (or a similar company) — which handles the Interim Federal Health Program for refugees, as well as benefits for the military and the RCMP — could expand coverage to include these long-term visitors, under the supervision of Ottawa, with premiums to be paid by the sponsors. To reduce costs, there would be a deductible, and routine office visits and elective surgery would be excluded. It would, however, cover critical illnesses requiring in-hospital treatment. These might include a heart attack, stroke, severe infection, acute congestive heart failure, fall with a fracture, etc.

Sponsors would pay a significant premium per week. This would encourage them to keep the length of stay of relatives in Canada to a minimum; this would minimize the chance that such complications might occur.

Ottawa permits all temporary visitors to enter Canada. It follows that it now has an obligation to health providers and hospitals to ensure that they will be fairly and promptly remunerated should any visitor need unexpected medical or surgical treatment in this country.

 

Warning signs show Canada could be heading towards Recession

Canada’s credit-to-GDP is over 11, which is usually a critical sign of oncoming recessions.

Canada is third on the list indicating warnings of stress in domestic banking systems, Interests rates are rising in Canada, and so is the average household debt causing red flags.

The cause of the red flags is said to be from the housing market and is a contributing factor causing risk to the financial market.

With thousands of jobs lost from higher taxes and a slow moving infrastructure plan the the Liberal government, it will be hard to recover from a recession that could last for months, or even years.

There’s no real plan from Justin Trudeau to create more full-time jobs, without jobs a recession is going to be hard to recover from.

They imposed Carbon Tax in Alberta caused big oil investors to pull out of the province, and in some cases out of the country.

Canada’s last recession, which rated a category 4 slump on a five-point severity scale, began in November, 2008, and ended seven months later in May, 2009, oil prices crashed causing thousands of jobs, but as interest rates rise, things could get worse for Canada this time around.

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