Trudeau government proposes opening St. Lawrence marine protected area to oil exploration

The Liberal government is proposing to allow oil and gas exploration in a new marine protected area that it plans to establish where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Ottawa released an impact statement Friday on its Laurentian Channel protected area, a 11,619-square-kilometre stretch of ocean in which commercial activity would be limited in order to protect vulnerable marine life. The establishment of the marine protected area (MPA) is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to set aside 10 per cent of Canada’s coastal waters by 2020.

But some environmental groups and ocean scientists argue Ottawa is undermining the effort by allowing future oil and gas exploration in the zone. A study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, released last week, concluded that intense acoustic signals used in oil and gas exploration cause significant damage to zooplankton populations that are critical elements of the marine food chain.

“Protected area should mean exactly that – protected,” Sabine Jessen, oceans director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said in an interview. “These are the places [where] we’re trying to protect intact ecosystems for the long term. It’s ridiculous to continue to allow oil and gas activity in this area.”

In an impact statement published Friday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the draft regulations “would prohibit any activity that disturbs, damages, destroys or removes from the Laurentian Channel MPA a living marine organism or any part of its habitat.” A government spokeswoman suggested the plan is not finalized.

“We look forward to listening to what Canadians have to say about the proposed Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area, which aims to protect and conserve important species and habitat so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come,” Laura Gareau, a spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc, said in an e-mailed statement Friday.

“Only activities that are determined to be compatible with the conservation objectives of this MPA would be allowed,” she added.

The government plans to ban recreational and commercial fishing in the area, but the department said such a prohibition would have little economic impact because there is little commercial fishing currently being done within the borders of the proposed protected area.

The proposed regulations would prohibit oil and gas activities within smaller, particularly sensitive sectors but allow it with some restrictions in most of the protected area. Seismic activity, which uses acoustic waves to detect oil and gas formations, would be prohibited from Aug. 1 to Nov. 30 to protect certain species “during sensitive life-cycle periods.”

Halifax-based Corridor Resources Inc., has an exploration licence for the “Old Harry” site in the Gulf of Lawrence about 150 km northwest of the protected area. However, Natural Resources Canada says there is little prospect of oil and gas drilling in the protected area of Laurentian Channel due to low resource potential and high costs.

If that’s the case, the government should have no problem banning drilling in the area, said David Miller, president of World Wildlife Fund Canada.

“Our view is marine protected areas should not have extractive industries in them, particularly oil and gas because of the ecological impacts,” Mr. Miller said. “If you allow industry in, it’s not really protected; it’s just a line on a map.”

Along with environmental groups, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) was involved in consultations prior to the government’s decision on how much activity to allow in the channel.

CAPP vice-president Paul Barnes noted that the Oceans Act, which governs the creation of marine protected areas, allows for oil and gas activity within those zones as long as the impact can be mitigated so as not to harm threatened species. The restrictions on seismic activity will protect marine mammals and other migratory species during critical periods, he said.

However, the CAPP vice-president said there is industry interest in exploring in the region. Calgary-based Husky Oil Ltd. – a big producer in the offshore industry off Newfoundland’s southeast coast – had an exploration licence in the area that expired in 2014.

“We think that whole area still holds some promise,” Mr. Barnes said. “It’s a gas-prone area … but there are companies that think there’s the presence of oil there as well.’’



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Canada’s Trudeau dodges budget bullet, but Senate battles loom

By Andrea Hopkins
| OTTAWA, June 22

Canada’s Liberal government
avoided a battle over its budget bill on Thursday as the Senate
backed down over proposed changes, but standoffs with the
unelected upper house may become the new normal.

Senators agreed to pass the budget without amendments,
despite disputes over several parts of the legislation, after
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his finance minister said the
government would not accept changes.

While the Senate has had periods when it took a more
activist approach, it has been decades since the body forced a
showdown with the House of Commons, whose elected members
include Trudeau, his cabinet ministers and opposition leaders.

The Senate became a major irritant to Trudeau in the past
few weeks, offering amendments to high-profile bills on assisted
dying, terrorism, the budget and other issues, at a time when he
hoped to head into the parliament’s summer recess on a high note
to counter a refreshed Conservative opposition.

“What you’ve seen in the last year is sort of a natural
evolution. The Senate is playing more of an activist role,” said
Senator Andre Pratte, an independent who pushed for changes to
the budget bill.

Trudeau himself may be partly responsible for the Senate’s
sudden independence. In 2014, while in opposition, Trudeau
expelled all 32 Liberal senators from the party’s caucus amid a
Senate expenses scandal in a bid to curb partisanship. They
remained members of the Senate but are no longer subject to
party discipline.

Since taking office in 2015, Trudeau has appointed a range
of non-partisan community leaders to the upper house, giving him
less leverage to pressure them to support his agenda.

“More senators are now independent of political parties, so
we feel freer to suggest amendments than in the past,” said
Pratte, who was appointed by Trudeau in 2015.

Few senators are prominent public figures, except a few
former hockey players and journalists or those made infamous
through scandals.

While the new independents have been largely loyal to
Trudeau, his old Liberal colleagues are less predictable.

“There is a strong sense in which the Senate Liberals are
holding onto a bit of a grievance from … (when) Trudeau kicked
them out of caucus,” said Emmett Macfarlane, a University of
Waterloo political scientist who advised Trudeau on the Senate
reform.

But he said the prime minister need not fear the Senate
given its lack of public support. Nearly a third of Canadians
believe the Senate should be abolished, according to an April
Angus Reid poll, but attempts to do so have proven
constitutionally difficult.

“It is the Senate that needs to tread a little carefully
here,” Macfarlane said. “If it becomes obstructionist, it does
that at its own peril, because it doesn’t have the political
capital to spend on a big fight with the House of Commons.”

The prime minister’s office declined to say whether it
expected more battles when parliament resumes in the fall.
Spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle said the office hoped to “continue
to work productively with the Senate” to pass legislation.

But Campbell Sharman, a political science professor at the
University of British Columbia, said he hopes the genie is out
of the bottle and the Senate independence will continue.

“We are in this kind of transitory interesting phase,”
Sharman said. “Of course the government hates it – they always
hate strong upper houses.”
(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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British Columbia Convenes First Minority Government in 65 Years

(Bloomberg) — The western province of British Columbia convened its first minority government in more than six decades after a dramatic election that’s sparking political turmoil in Canada’s fastest-growing economy.

The legislature resumed in Victoria Thursday with Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon set to deliver a throne speech starting at 2 p.m. local time. Parliamentary procedure dictates the speech — which typically lays out the government’s agenda for the session — must be debated for four days before Premier Christy Clark can test the confidence of the house as she promised after her Liberal Party failed to win a majority last month.

That vote is expected on June 29 and is set to oust the Liberals after 16 years in power. A period of political upheaval is set to follow, raising speculation about a fresh election in the Pacific Coast province. That would spell further uncertainty in a region that’s home to proposed multibillion-dollar energy projects and is one of Canada’s main engines for jobs and growth.

An alliance between the left-leaning New Democratic Party and the Green Party holds a one-seat majority in the 87-member legislature — just enough to oust the Liberals. However, they’re likely to lose that edge if they are forced to give up a member to be Speaker, without which nothing can happen in the legislature. 

Why Politics in a Canadian Province Matters for Business

While Steve Thomson, a Liberal lawmaker, was elected Speaker on Thursday to allow the session to proceed, he is expected to step down when Clark loses the confidence vote, which will leave the two opposing sides in a deadlock over who will replace him.

What will happen thereafter is testing political convention and constitutional law.

The province, which hasn’t had a minority government since 1952, is headed for a hung legislature. The Liberals and the NDP-Green alliance could each hold 43 votes, making legislation difficult to pass. The Speaker — a traditionally non-partisan, ceremonial enforcer of house rules — would turn into a constant tie-breaker.

Under their pact, the NDP and Greens have pledged to maintain an NDP-led government until the next scheduled election in four years. Michael de Jong, the incumbent Liberal finance minister and house leader, told reporters last week such a scenario is “not workable” and suggested it could lead to a snap election.

A poll by the Angus Reid Institute this week indicated about one in 10 would vote differently if given another chance, especially among those who had backed the Greens.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Four of Canada’s biggest banks are key Trans Mountain lenders: filings

(Adds majority owner of Kinder Morgan Canada in fourth
paragraph)

By Ethan Lou

Four of Canada’s
biggest banks are the largest providers of C$5.5 billion ($4.16
billion) in credit for Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd’s Trans
Mountain pipeline expansion project, the company said in
regulatory filings on Thursday.

Along with 20 other banks backing the expansion, they are
expected to face increasing pressure from environmental and
indigenous activists, who have said they would ask the financial
institutions to drop Trans Mountain once they are named.

Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of
Commerce, Bank of Nova Scotia and
Toronto-Dominion Bank provided nearly a third of the
credit, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission.

The four lenders to Kinder Morgan Canada, majority-owned by
Kinder Morgan Inc of Houston, did not immediately
respond to requests for comment.

Energy infrastructure projects in Canada have faced
opposition from environmental groups and aboriginal communities
whose land they cross.

Opposition to Trans Mountain’s expansion is set to mount
after the effective rise of an unfriendly provincial government
last month in Canada’s British Columbia, which the pipeline
passes through.

A coalition of more than 20 indigenous and environmental
organizations this month called on 28 major banks – including
all four of the main lenders – to back away from Trans Mountain.

Jason Opena Disterhoft, senior campaigner for Rainforest
Action Network, one of the groups, said the banks have chosen to
back the expansion despite being aware of what he says are the
environmental impacts.

“We are in communication with those banks,” he said. “We’ll
be following up with them and holding them to account.”

One bank targeted by the groups’ letter has since publicly
distanced itself from the expansion. ING Groep NV of
the Netherlands said last week on Twitter that it is not among
the banks funding Trans Mountain.

A bank spokesman said on Thursday it does not lend to
projects directly linked to oil sands.

The Trans Mountain expansion almost triples the capacity of
the existing pipeline, which is designed to carry crude from
Canada’s oil sands to the West Coast.

The expansion has obtained both federal and regulatory
approvals and has passed an environmental assessment under
British Columbia’s incumbent Liberal Party, which lost its
legislative majority in a May 9 election.

The opposition Greens and New Democrats parties, both of
which oppose Trans Mountain’s expansion, have sealed a deal to
unseat the Liberals.
($1 = 1.3231 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Ethan Lou; Editing by G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)


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Senate drama showcases how poorly the Trudeau Liberals manage Parliament

For a moment, the Senate threatened a summer cliffhanger: Would it refuse to pass the government’s budget bill? And though the threat fizzled as Senate threats often do – with an agreement to break for summer – it underlined the Liberals’ frustrations in Parliament.

The drama ended with the Senate sending an unprecedented message to the House of Commons – proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder – asserting that the Red Chamber has every right to amend the government’s budget bills. That was a response to a blunt message sent up a day earlier from the Commons – put forward by Government House Leader Bardish Chagger – asserting that the Senate has no business touching such bills.

Huh? Here were the Trudeau government’s own representatives in the Commons and Senate sending formal messages contradicting each other on how Parliament works.

Read more: Parliament’s recess: A guide to the Liberals’ legislative accomplishments so far

It highlighted a problem catching up to the Liberals: they haven’t been good at managing Parliament.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trudeau probably wondered what kind of Senate monster he had created – independent senators he appointed and Liberal senators he expelled from his caucus led a ruckus. They almost split the government’s budget bill, to force separate scrutiny on a centrepiece initiative, the Canada Infrastructure Bank. When that failed, the senators stripped out a tax on booze, sending an amended budget bill back to the Commons.

But the new Senate hasn’t yet turned out to be a danger to democracy. It’s amending more bills, but not insisting on getting its way: When the Commons has undone those Senate amendments, the Senate accepted the will of elected MPs, every time.

But it has been a headache for Mr. Trudeau’s government – as has Parliament as a whole, including the Commons. The Trudeau Liberals have had trouble finding that combination of clever tactics and velvet touch that keeps egos unruffled and government business rolling.

This week’s Senate drama was an oddity: Most senators believe they should eventually defer to the Commons, except in extreme cases – but it almost came to a showdown over a tax on booze.

Mr. Harder proposed Thursday’s motion asserting the Senate’s right to amend budgets as a means to soothe senators who were upset at Ms. Chagger and her colleagues in the Commons. It wasn’t just that MPs had sent senators a message saying budget bills were none of their business – it was that no Liberal minister had responded to the Senate’s amendments with the traditional statement explaining why the government rejected them. That, to many in the Senate, was an insult.

Back in 2015, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals promised a new, collaborative Parliament – but managing the legislature has never seemed like a big priority for his PMO. Failing to take care of the procedural politics of Parliament has consequences and Liberal legislation has generally moved slowly.

The stickier Senate was one reason. Another was a slow start – Mr. Trudeau began his tenure with furious activity at summits and premiers’ meetings, but his government put few bills before the legislature in its first months. One major item, a contentious bill on assisted dying, was forced onto its legislative agenda by the courts.

But they’ve also misstepped. Governments must carefully budget the parliamentary calendar for debates and Opposition days; several Opposition days were still unscheduled as the spring sitting neared its end.

Most telling: Ms. Chagger’s handling of Liberal parliamentary-reform proposals, supposed to make Parliament more collaborative, sparked bitterness. She tried to push through changes to Commons rules in a rush, rather than finessing a consensus. The Opposition launched a series of time-wasting tactics in response.

There have been Opposition delays – the Conservatives have been guilty at times in both the Commons and Senate. Behind the scenes, the Liberals suggest they were too generous at first. Now, they say, since the Opposition won’t accept the changes, they’ll use tougher tactics, resorting to time-allocation motions to shut down debate – a tactic that they called autocratic when it was repeatedly used by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

But if they use it too often, there goes the promise to do things differently. That was Mr. Trudeau’s promise. So was the new Senate. And he made a lot of promises that require passing legislation. If they want to balance all that, the Liberals will have to manage the mundane business of Parliament better.



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Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on accomplishments made by the Government of Canada since January 2017

Information contained on this page is provided by an independent third-party content provider. Frankly and this Site make no warranties or representations in connection therewith. If you are affiliated with this page and would like it removed please contact pressreleases@franklyinc.com

SOURCE Prime Minister’s Office

OTTAWA, June 22, 2017 /CNW/ – The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement today to highlight some of the accomplishments made by the Government of Canada since January 2017:

“Last year, we raised taxes on the wealthiest one per cent so we could cut taxes for the middle class. We put more money in the pockets of nine out of ten families through the Canada Child Benefit, and strengthened the Canada Pension Plan so more Canadians can achieve a strong, secure, and stable retirement. In 2017, we have built on these accomplishments, and taken further steps to create good, middle class jobs while growing the economy over the long term.

“Between February and June, I signed agreements with the leaders of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Assembly of First Nations, and the Métis National Council, establishing a process to advance shared priorities for Inuit, First Nations, and the Métis Nation.

“In February, I welcomed the European Parliament’s approval of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union. CETA is a gold-standard agreement that will give consumers more choice, make it easier and less costly for businesses to compete, and create good, middle class jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

“In March, Minister Morneau tabled one of the most forward-looking budgets in Canada’s history. With its strong focus on innovation and skills, Budget 2017 prepares Canadians for the changing economy and secures Canada’s place as a hub of innovation.

“Budget 2017 makes significant investments in public transit systems, which will result in shorter commute times, less air pollution, and more efficient, better integrated transit. It also invests $11.2 billion in affordable housing to make sure all families have access to a safe and affordable place to live. Budget 2017 is the first federal budget ever to include a gender-based statement, which looks at the ways our policies and investments affect women and men differently.

“In April, we introduced a bill to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis no later than July 2018. Our legislation will, for the first time, make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.

“In May, we unveiled tax relief measures for deployed Canadian Armed Forces personnel and police officers. We also introduced Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, and kept our promise to put a moratorium on crude oil tanker shipping on British Columbia’s north coast. At the end of the month, we announced that Canada will host the 2018 G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec.

“On June 6, Minister Freeland outlined a new foreign policy for Canada, and underscored our commitment to a rules-based international order, progressive trade policies, gender equality, and fighting climate change. The next day, Minister Sajjan unveiled Canada’s new defence policy, which establishes a credible, realistic, and funded strategy for our military and, most importantly, will deliver the standard of service and care our women and men in uniform deserve.

“A few days later, Minister Bibeau launched Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy. This vision focuses Canada’s international assistance on the empowerment of women and girls, and positions Canada as a leader on gender equality in aid programming. Minister Duclos also announced the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework, which will ensure more Canadian families have access to affordable, high-quality, and inclusive child care.

“This month, we announced that we will introduce legislation to make it possible to erase the convictions for Canadians who were found guilty of consensual sexual activity with a same sex partner under historical, unjust laws. Three important pieces of government legislation passed Parliament: Bill C-4, which restores a fair and balanced approach to labour relations; Bill C-6, which ends second-class citizenship and makes it easier for hardworking immigrants to become citizens; and Bill C-16, which ensures the full protection of transgender people across Canada.

“Earlier this week, Minister Goodale tabled legislation to create a new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and introduce changes to Bill C-51, which will strengthen security and better protect Canadians’ rights.

“We have made real progress in helping the middle class and those working hard to join it. Since December 2015, Canada’s unemployment rate has dropped from 7.1 per cent to 6.6 per cent. In the last year, the Canadian economy has created over 300,000 new jobs. We still have plenty of work to do, but as we get ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I am confident that Canada’s best days lie ahead.”

This document is also available at http://pm.gc.ca

©2017 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

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Director for Culture responds to Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar’s comments in the Parliament…

STATEMENT BY IAN POITIER IN RESPONSE TO STATEMENT IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY BY THE MINISTER OF TOURISM HON. DIONISIO D’AGUILAR


June 18th, 2017 FINAL Early on Friday morning, I was made aware of statements made in the House of Assembly last Thursday night (June 15th) by the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar. Although he did not mention me by name, taking together all the details mentioned, I surmised that he was referring to me. Others have clearly concluded the same.

In his remarks relating to me, the Minister made the following allegations:

1) That there was something ‘fishy’ about my consultancy with the Government

2) That Executives at the Ministry of Tourism think that whatever work I’ve done doesn’t represent value for money

3) That the Minister couldn’t find any evidence of what I’ve done

4) That I have been paid outrageous sums of money

5) That the Minister could find no evidence of a signed contract, implying that no contract exists Because of the damage that the Minister’s remarks have had on my reputation, in this statement I wish urgently to refute each of these allegations in turn.

Taken together, the Minister’s statements paint a picture, which is inaccurate, incomplete and misleading. My statement is extraordinarily long, but these are for me, the most extraordinary times.

I wish to be as fully transparent as possible. I remain mystified as to what motivated the Minister to make such statements to parliament, without first having had a single conversation with me. In fact, we were due to meet at 4pm last Thursday, when the meeting was abruptly cancelled.

I had a full presentation prepared to show him all the work I have been doing. I was especially excited to discuss work in progress, which has laid the groundwork for what I understand to be his agenda.

That said, even though the Minister has not extended the courtesy to me of speaking with me or meeting me once since his appointment, I feel constrained from entering into too much detail in public at the moment, as I still have an effective consultancy agreement with the Government.

And I will continue to offer the Minister all the respect and courtesies and discretion due to him, as I did to members of the previous administration. At the outset, I should emphasize that I am an independent person, a private citizen.

As such, I will continue jealously to guard and defend my reputation, by whatever means necessary. Also, I did not hire me. If the Minister’s quarrel is with the previous administration, then it is regrettable that he did not make that clear. I hope that members of the previous government will issue appropriate statements setting out the facts for the Minister.

1. Something Fishy

I left The Bahamas in 1980, aged 15 yrs-old, after I graduated High School. Since then, I have been living and working abroad, mostly in London, for 34 years. At the invitation of The Government, I returned home in October 2014 to undertake a three-year consultancy. Throughout my entire career, never once, not once, has my integrity ever been called into question.

I have worked on projects for the British Government, Buckingham Palace, the European Commission and some of the largest corporations in the world eg. the BBC, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Sky Television, American Express, GlaxoSmithKline etc.

I have also worked for some of the smallest start-ups, and have my own established entrepreneurial ventures. I have sat on the Boards of charities, and been engaged in a number of non-governmental organizations. Never once has my character been called into question. I don’t tell lies. I have never defrauded anybody. I treat people with courtesy and respect. I work hard, and always above and beyond the call of duty. I produce work that is world-class and of the highest quality. I deliver.

The suggestion that I would be involved in anything crooked, or under-handed, or not above-board, or in any way dishonest, is profoundly upsetting and offensive. I reject it in the strongest possible terms. My reputation is spotless, and having been drawn into this kind of scandal, deeply saddens me.

2. Value For Money

I will summarise below my achievements during the past 2 ½ years, but first allow me to demonstrate that by my Education, Experience and Expertise, I am well-suited to the role for which I was contracted.

I have been fortunate to be educated at some of the finest institutions in the world. I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, and graduated as Head Boy from St. Anne’s High School in 1980. I was awarded a prize for having achieved the highest marks in the GCE Exams.

I won a scholarship to attend the Lester B. Pearson United World College, Canada, where I completed my International Baccalaureate. Afterwards, I was the first black Bahamian undergraduate to attend the University of Oxford, graduating from The Queen’s College with an Honours Degree in Law.

With the encouragement of my mentor Winston Saunders under whom I had been a law student at the McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes Law Firm, I went on to train in Musical Theatre at The Arts Educational Schools, London.

Afterwards I spent seven years in the UK, performing, choreographing or directing almost fifty productions ranging from classical theatre to musicals and dramas.

After deciding to take a break from the theatre, I joined the National AIDS Trust to co-ordinate the World AIDS Day Programme for two years. I led the UK Launch of the Red Ribbon as a national symbol of Aids Awareness, and co-ordinated the royal programme of HRH Diana, Princess of Wales.

I then moved into advertising, starting as an Account Manager at Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), London, which twice won the award for international ‘Agency of the Year’ at Cannes during my time there. One of my award- winning campaigns for Levi Strauss, (photographed by Nick Knight) was selected by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, as one of the ‘100 Best Campaigns of the Twentieth Century’.

During my 10- year agency career in advertising and PR, my clients included: Coca-Cola, Sky Television, GlaxoSmithKline and the United Bank of Switzerland.

I later spent three years setting up and managing the Creative Industries Investment portfolio at the National Endowment for Science, Technology & The Arts (NESTA) on behalf of the UK Government. Among some of the early stage investments we reviewed was Last FM, which went on to become the largest UK IPO of its time. We reported directly to the Prime Minister’s Office at Downing Street as the development of the creative industries was of prime importance to the UK government. The sector now generates approximately £80,000 of revenue per hour.

Since then, my portfolio has ranged across directing, writing, choreographing & producing theatre, film, radio, and live events, as well as providing strategic advice in number of policy campaign areas, notably for the European Commission on ending anti-Roma discrimination in Europe. I have written & directed a feature film (Oh Happy Day), commercials (eg. Amex), dance videos, theatre in New York and London, and written and presented for the BBC and so on.

I am proud to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (nominated for my achievements in advertising) and a member for ten years of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (and also a juror for the BAFTA Awards). It should be clear, then, that my education and career has spanned an almost unique blend of the creative industries, law and public policy.

I have a lot of valuable experience, which I was happy to offer for the benefit of the Bahamian people. I will move quickly to complete my personal website so that my work and achievements are available for all to see.

I say all this not to boast, but to show that these are the achievements of an ordinary Bahamian, someone from humble beginnings, who grew up in a loving home, where the emphasis was on education, and a clear distinction made between right and wrong.

3. “No evidence of what I’ve done”

Firstly, I wish to correct the false impression left by the Minister that I was merely a ‘cultural consultant’ to the Ministry of Tourism. This ignores the substantial body of work that I have delivered over the past 2 ½ years which does not relate to culture or to tourism, work considered by many to have been of high quality.

It is extremely disingenuous of the Minister to claim that he could find no evidence of what I’ve done. He could have asked his Permanent Secretary, who I recently updated several weeks ago with a full list of my accomplishments and achievements.

He could even have asked me! I am a proud Bahamian. I have always kept close ties with family and friends at home. Since 2007, I was grateful to be occasionally invited back to direct the Cacique Awards, initially under three FNM Ministers of Tourism: Neko Grant, Bran McCartney and Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.

I was grateful that they sufficiently appreciated my work to keep inviting me back. When I met former Prime Minister Christie for the first time in London in 2013, I was impressed with his call for Bahamians to come home and help. When he spoke of his vision for culture and the creative industries, and said that my name had been among those suggested, I was delighted.

It then took a full year before I could make the move. During that time certain opportunities were left behind, others let go of. Thirty-four years of friendships, established networks, a way of life, and a standard of living – these were all left behind.

After living abroad for thirty-four years, I was pleased and excited and grateful to have been invited to move back home to help with national development. Initially I was based at the Ministry of Tourism, but from the outset also worked for the Office of The Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture. The broad focus of my work was to research and lay plans to develop the cultural infrastructure.

In order to have a sustainable cultural sector, we need to ensure that the necessary structures and processes are in place, so that our talent, our creative content, our cultural and creative spaces, our creative economy, our cultural diplomacy AND our cultural tourism, are placed on a sustainable footing.

Such a structure will facilitate ALL Bahamians in making their cultural contribution, whether as professionals or amateurs. My work has the potential to add real value to the Bahamian economy.

In the short term, with a focused strategic effort, the creative industries can add another $100 million to the economy, by bridging the gap in tourist spend from cruise ship passengers alone from $67 per head to approx. $120 per head. Longer term, we can grow the revenue to $1 billion by increasing that spend to $200 per head from all tourists.

Because of my experience in mounting productions, I was also asked to lead on national events, and to support Ministry of Tourism events. This hadn’t been a part of the contract discussions, but I was happy to oblige.

In early 2016, after I presented a comprehensive strategy to develop the cultural infrastructure, members of the Executive Team at the Ministry of Tourism suggested that, as the work covered everything from Education and Training, to using the arts to help rehabilitate prisoners as well as reduce the amount of violence in society, they suggested it be placed at the Office of The Prime Minister. Out of the blue, a few weeks later, I received a phone call, the result of which was that the Prime Minister asked me to serve as his general policy advisor.

As well as continuing with the cultural development work, I was asked to provide policy advice on whichever areas were required, or which I thought necessary. During the past 2 ½ years, this what I have done:

A. Cultural Development

Written National Cultural Development Strategy (incorporated into National Development Plan); Leading Development of new National Centre for Performing Arts; Authored Creative Industries Strategic Framework (in progress); Lead Bahamas participation in Caricom Creative Industries Development; Authored Downtown & Cruise Ship Development Strategy; Supported Development of ‘Nassau Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative’; Authored Strategy for National Events; Supporting Business Planning development for Fort Fincastle Development (in progress); Creative & Business Planning support for Fort Charlotte Development; Advisor re Bahamian Music Song Competition; Lead on ‘Commonwealth Walkways Initiative’.

B. Strategy & Policy Advisor

General Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister; Review and Comment on Third-party Proposals for Minister of Tourism.

C. Writer, Producer, Choreographer and/or Director

National Events & Productions
Bahamas Independence Celebrations; Exuma Heritage Festival; Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival Opening Ceremonies; Prime Minister’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Dinner

International Events & Productions
Festival di Santiago di Cuba (Artistic Director for Delegation of 300 people, 10-day festival); Caribbean Tourism Week, New York; UNWTO Meeting, Siem Reap, Cambodia 7 (Developing policy to combine Ministries of Tourism & Culture); Kennedy Centre Programme Development, Washington DC (Developing international tours of Bahamian talent)

Ministry of Tourism Events
Cacique Awards (2015 & 2017); Nassau Accord Commemorations; Clement Maynard Building Opening (Postponed); Junkanoo Summer Festival; Goombay Summer; Sports Heroes Events

D. Communications Consultant

Communications Strategy & Plan for expanded NEMA Department; Recommendations to Reform Government Communications Operations Major Speeches for the PM (eg. State of The Nation, House of Assembly Communications, Hurricane Matthew, Successful outcome of BahaMar negotiations, University of The Bahamas Lecture, Business Development Seminars etc); Coaching of University of The Bahamas students for Tourism competitions & events

E. Providing General Counsel & Support to Ministers

The Prime Minister; Minister of Tourism; Minister of Labour & Disaster Recovery; Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture.

F. Chairman, Clifton Heritage National Park

Until the end of June 2017, I also serve as Chairman of the Board of the ‘Clifton Heritage National Park’, New Providence, where, under my chairmanship, we have been able to increase the commercial revenue coming into the organization by 500%. I have also written the Strategic Plan to take the organization forward for the next three years. Clifton is now being held up as a model of good practice in the public sector.

All this I have done.

It has been an exhausting time, and as colleagues have observed, it has taken a toll on my health. On any assessment, even if only half the output were of reasonable quality, this would be a demonstration of good value. Again, this is not to swagger, merely to demonstrate that I am confident that I have delivered exceptional value.

And I do not claim the credit solely for myself. I have had the privilege of working with some of the brightest and best and most capable people in the public service, people who have a strong sense of both mission and duty. Colleagues who work tirelessly, with dignity and discretion, even as the political landscape shifts around them, and ill-informed critics assail their work from all sides.

The Bahamas has much to be grateful for from their service.

I will make available for download on my website, some of the key documents I have produced (which are not confidential), so that the public is able to see directly for themselves, what work I have done. I especially encourage people to read the ‘Strategy to Develop The Cultural Infrastructure of The Bahamas’, as it provides a comprehensive framework for my work.

4. Being paid outrageous sums of money

One of the most egregious allegations is that I have been paid outrageous sums of money to do this work. Before I go further, I must emphasize that I have been providing consultancy services to The Government of The Bahamas, not working as an employee.

As such I am responsible for all the costs arising out of that consultancy. These include payments to other people, third parties, for all the work they do to support me, as well as all other business expenses.

The negotiations regarding the work I was to deliver, was predicated on me setting up a separate company to carry out the work. I set up a company for this purpose (at some cost). I was told in the meantime to invoice the Ministry of Tourism in my own name, and that once the contract was fully executed, the paperwork should be transferred to the company.

This I did, and I named the consultancy in memory of my sister, who had recently passed away. As the contract was not executed, I have allowed the company to go dormant. I will not engage in a discussion regarding my personal finances. That said, the Minister (or his Permanent Secretary) will have the original Deal Memo, showing that the consultancy would bill for $400,000 per year, and that the consultancy would be responsible for paying for the necessary fees to ensure that the work was done.

Thus far I have therefore been paid for 2 ¼ years. I have not been paid since March, notwithstanding that since then I wrote, choreographed and directed the Cacique Awards for the Ministry in April at BahaMar.

It will air shortly, but the feedback from the attendees and the Ministry of Tourism Staff, is that it was the best ever. On any analysis, on any comparison with other consultancy contracts entered into by the Government of The Bahamas or any other Government, this fee was cheap. I know that for the average person, this represents a lot of money, but once you take away the monies I had to pay out to support the work, it made my fee extremely cheap.

By way of comparison, I should point out that Caricom recently commissioned a Strategic Plan for the Creative Industries for the Caribbean. This is the equivalent of a small component of the work I have done. Without wishing to betray a confidence, I can say that had my consultancy earned the equivalent in The Bahamas, it would have run into several millions. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say that my work was not charged at a premium. But because The Bahamas is my home, I did not charge anywhere near the sums that could be charged. It is especially heartbreaking, as I know that other consultants have charged full market rates for their work, and yet I am singled out with the suggestion that I have done something wrong. As a Bahamian, am I worth less than others?

5) No evidence of a signed contract

Before I came home, I negotiated in good faith and extensively with the government to secure the best deal. In the end, I was made to understand that, what could be agreed was far less than what I could expect to be paid in London for exactly the same work – that is what the country could afford.

I make no complaint about that, simply to say that, in terms, when benchmarked against the cost of either hiring a number of other individuals to complete the work, or to hire another consultancy, what we agreed was substantially less.

Coming back home and effectively taking on about six roles, has proved to be extremely demanding. Nevertheless I have brought to the work the same passion and commitment as always. And it has been gratifying to have had such an overwhelmingly positive reaction to that work. I do not know why my contract was never signed. It certainly is not my fault. And even before this unfortunate situation arose, it has created difficulties.

Every month I asked for it. After being here for six months with still no contract, I was given a letter by the Permanent Secretary, confirming that my contract would be signed in line with the terms negotiated. I took independent advice at the time, and was told that, even without a signed contract, the fact that the letter was in place, and that everyone was behaving as though the contract was real, legally I had an effective contract.

Conclusion

Everything that I have achieved in life has been because of the opportunities that started for me in The Bahamas. And coming back home has presented a fantastic opportunity to help. There are so many talented and skilled Bahamians who also need an opportunity – that is what I came home to help to provide. And in the personal scholarships I have been able to offer, and in my support for a particular charity, I have been happy to play a more direct role.

It has been especially heart-breaking therefore, in the last two days, to read some of the comments on social media. There has been real anger and rage from members of the public, mainly from people that I don’t know. People seem to think that I am some sort of crook, who has de-frauded the Bahamas Government. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People have called for me to be arrested. Someone who I once considered a friend, who used to be a respected journalist, has pilloried me and my mother and my sister and my uncle on a Facebook Live broadcast. My family and friends are devastated. All this has been the effect of the Minister’s comments.

That said, we have been comforted by the many messages of support from friends and colleagues. It has been heartening to know that there are many who respect what I have achieved and all that I have to offer. This situation is truly bizarre to me.

As I said at the beginning, never before has my integrity been called into question. I have never been asked to publicly explain my earnings. Voters may choose to criticise a government for its decisions and actions. That’s fine. But to attack a private citizen for his lawful, ethical commercial activities is baffling.

As said earlier I will make no further comment on my personal finances. My singular fault has been in not absolutely insisting that I was provided with a signed contract before starting the work. After many undertakings and a promissory letter from the Permanent Secretary, perhaps I accepted too easily that sometimes things just moved that slowly here. It is a mistake I will never repeat. I don’t regret coming home. It has not always been easy, but it is still home.

It will probably be more difficult now to persuade others to follow me, once they hear of my experience. To be attacked by a Minister in Parliament, and then by members of the public, when you have just always tried to do your best…it’s upsetting, an aspect of life in The Bahamas that is NOT better.

Thankfully my work is still highly-valued in the UK and the United States.
If the Minister specifically, and the new government generally, wishes me to continue to help, then I remain ready to work on behalf of the country. Otherwise, as Clement Bethel advises, I shall “…look beyond the present day, this time will pass, tomorrow’s another day”.

END

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Canada may lead regional effort to address Venezuelan crisis: sources

Canada could lead a regional effort to address the crisis in Venezuela, according to sources with knowledge of the diplomatic efforts in the South American country.

Earlier this week, Peru’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna publicly floated the idea of Justin Trudeau acting as a mediator for the Venezuelan crisis, citing the Prime Minister’s “global power role,” according to reports out of the country. The proposal comes after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski recommended an international arbitration process to preserve democracy and avoid a “bloodbath” and refugee crisis in Venezuela.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail on the basis of anonymity, a veteran conflict mediator with knowledge of the diplomatic talks in Caracas confirmed that Canada is being considered to chair a contact group of governments to facilitate a negotiated settlement in Venezuela.

“There are a few potential advantages: Canada’s constructive influence and relationship with the U.S.; Trudeau’s and Canada’s good relationship with the left in the region, including Cuba; and Canada’s more neutral image generally in Latin America,” said the source.

More than 70 people have died in 12 weeks of street protests across the country, which began after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attempted to strip the opposition-dominated Congress of its powers.

“There is some discussion about Canada playing a role in a group of countries,” said a Western diplomat in Caracas, also speaking on the basis of anonymity. “Canada is not a shoe-in, but one of a group of countries bandied about.”

A Canadian government source said a contact group is one possible option but added that Canada hasn’t been formally asked to lead one.

However, experts say Venezuela is unlikely to accept Canada’s help – or any foreign government’s assistance for that matter – right now. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez tweeted on Tuesday that Venezuela rejects Peru’s promotion of an international intervention.

The Maduro government characterizes the country’s crisis as the result of an international right-wing-led economic war and as a fiction created by opposition-led media. And while the country is desperately short of food and essential medicines, with inflation running at more than 700 per cent, some hardliners in the Maduro government appear to believe they can continue to hold out. The government sold $2.8-billion (U.S.) in bonds to Goldman Sachs in late May, and is still exporting oil. But the problem is becoming increasingly regional in nature; 150 Venezuelans a day are seeking asylum in Brazil alone and an estimated 550,000 are living undocumented in Colombia.

International human-rights lawyer and former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, who represents jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, said an arbitration process is not possible without co-operation from the Venezuelan government.

“When you have a situation where Venezuela not only has not agreed to this but in fact rejects it … then I don’t know how helpful such an initiative would be able to be – however much, I agree with the notion of the Foreign Minister and President of Peru that Trudeau at this point is seen as someone who can have a global role and can be an effective mediator,” Mr. Cotler said.

Mr. Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori, who recently met with Mr. Trudeau in Ottawa to discuss the crisis in Venezuela, noted that the Vatican has already attempted to facilitate arbitration, without success.

“In an ideal situation I would think this is a great idea, but the truth is that you need two parties to make things happen, and the government of Maduro has shown very little will to proceed forward with any serious dialogue,” Ms. Tintori said in an e-mail.

But there might be a role for Canada in a mediation effort that does not include Venezuela.

The Caracas-based diplomat noted that there is a precedent for the creation of a regional process to address Venezuela’s crisis even without the Maduro government being involved. In the early 1980s, the foreign ministers of Venezuela, Mexico, Panama and Colombia set up what became known as the Contadora Group to address the civil wars in Central America, which threatened to destabilize the region. The Central American governments initially refused to participate, but the Contadora Group ultimately played a key role in ending those wars.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office said that Canada is prepared to play a role in solving the Venezuelan crisis, but did not get into specifics. Ms. Freeland participated in an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting on Venezuela in Washington in May and will attend the organization’s general assembly next week in Cancun, Mexico, where the Venezuela situation will be an urgent issue.

The diplomat said that when Mr. Trudeau was elected, the Maduro government thought it might find new sympathy in Ottawa because of the Prime Minister’s left-of-centre politics and his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s personal relationship with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Mr. Castro was a major influence on Hugo Chavez, the architect of Venezuela’s shift to socialism and, the opposition argues, of the current crisis (Havana continues to have leverage on events in Venezuela). But two years into Mr. Trudeau’s tenure as Prime Minister, Venezuela understands that Canada views the situation in the country through a human rights and democracy lens, he said.

Following Mr. Trudeau’s meeting with Ms. Tintori in Ottawa last month, the Prime Minister called on the Venezuelan government to “restore the constitutional ‎order, including the release of all political prisoners and to set an electoral calendar without delay.” He also stressed the need to respect democracy and human rights, including through a resolution co-sponsored by Canada at the OAS in April.



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Cuban Foreign Minister Visits Austria

escambray today, cuba-austria bilateral relations, bruno rodriguez parrilla

Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla upon arrival in Austria: (Photo taken from @CubaMINREX)

According to diplomatic sources, Bruno Rodríguez’s visit will seek to strengthen the positive relations between Cuba and Austria

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla arrived in Austria today for a working visit aimed at strengthening the positive relations between the two nations, diplomatic sources said.

According to a note, the visit will also seek to expand the links developed in the political-diplomatic and economic-commercial areas, as well as in areas of mutual interest such as education, science, and culture.

During the visit, the Cuban Foreign Minister will carry out a work program that includes meetings with the Federal Deputy Minister and Federal Minister of Justice of Austria, Wolfgang Brandstetter; with the President of Parliament, Doris Bures, and former Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer.

The Cuban delegation is also composed of the Cuban ambassador to Austria, Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios; the director of Europe and Canada of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Elio Rodríguez Perdomo, and the head of the Secretariat of the Minister, Barbara Elena Montalvo.

According to the communiqué, Cuba and Austria celebrated the 70th anniversary of uninterrupted diplomatic relations in 2016, in which the then federal president of the European country, Heinz Fischer, visited the Caribbean nation with a large delegation.


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