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Canada Evening Update: Ethics commissioner launches probe into alleged PMO interference

Good evening, hope your Monday was a good one.

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED TODAY

Ethics Commissioner to investigate alleged PMO interference in SNC-Lavalin case

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Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has launched an inquiry into allegations the Prime Minister’s Office interfered in a criminal case involving one of Canada’s largest companies, SNC-Lavalin. The Globe’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reports that Mr. Dion said there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation under the section of the Conflict of Interest Act that prohibits a public office holder from seeking to influence a decision that would further their private interest or the private interests of a friend or relative.

I have reason to believe that a possible contravention of Section 9 may have occurred. Section 9 prohibits a public office holder from seeking to influence a decision of another person so as to improperly further another person’s private interest. As a result, I have initiated an examination … and have so informed Mr. Trudeau.

— Mario Dion in a letter to NDP MPs Nathan Cullen and Charlie Angus

Last week, The Globe reported the PMO pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was the attorney-general then, to intervene in the Quebec construction giant’s legal case.

Since then, there have been several developments:

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his office never “directed” Ms. Wilson-Raybould to get involved, but the denial fell flat because it seemed the PM was relying on semantics to avoid answering the question.
  • Senior government officials confirmed there were indeed discussions on SNC-Lavalin with Ms. Wilson-Raybould, but just because there was a “vigorous debate” that doesn’t mean the office exerted pressure on the then attorney-general.  
  • Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wrote Mr. Trudeau an open letter yesterday asking him to waive Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s solicitor-client privilege. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also made a statement on Sunday calling on transparency. Also on Sunday, Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s successor, David Lametti, said it was still possible he could direct the prosecution service to settle those charges out of court.

We have published several opinion and analysis pieces on the subject, including today’s editorial, which argues Justin Trudeau has a lot of questions to answer. Sandy White, a Montreal-based entrepreneur and former adviser to the Conservative government, wonders what sort of signals politicians and the courts are sending, and The Globe’s Bill Curry has an analytical piece on how the SNC affair might affect Liberal fortunes in Quebec. And late last week, Adam Radwanski weighed in on the Liberals’ ethics ghosts.

And let’s not forget you. Globe readers have also been vocal on the issue.

This story continues to develop. For all of the background and context you’ll need to understand the myriad angles of this story, read our explainer: SNC-Lavalin, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau’s PMO: The story so far. It explains why SNC-Lavalin is facing prosecution, what happened to Jody Wilson-Raybould and what the reaction has been so far.

This is the daily Evening Update newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for Evening Update and more than 20 more Globe newsletters on our newsletter signup page.

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Michael Wilson, a former politician, diplomat and long-time mental-health advocate, has died at 81. The University of Toronto, where Mr. Wilson served as chancellor from 2012 to 2018, confirmed his death in a post on its website Sunday evening.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Former finance minister, ambassador and businessman Michael Wilson dies at 81

Michael Wilson, who was finance minister under Brian Mulroney when Canada negotiated the North American free-trade agreement, died yesterday. Tim Kiladze and Eric Andrew-Gee report that while during his career in business and politics he was known for his wisdom, dignity and integrity, he was perhaps best known of late for his dedication to raising awareness of mental-health issues. In 1995, his son Cameron died by suicide at the age of 29. In the final chapter of Mr. Wilson’s life, raising awareness about depression and mental health became another calling.

Doug Ford fundraising letter accuses student unions of ‘crazy Marxist nonsense’

In a letter to supporters today that trumpeted the government’s changes to the financing of the postsecondary education system, including a plan to make many student fees optional, Mr. Ford accused student unions of getting up to “crazy Marxist nonsense.” As Joe Friesen reports, student groups have protested the proposed changes, saying that giving students the right to opt-out of some fees could hobble student unions. Mr. Ford wrote that under the previous system, students were “forced into unions” and were also “forced to pay for those unions.”

“I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to,” Mr. Ford said. “So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”

— Premier Doug Ford

Striking workers at Vancouver Art Gallery reach tentative agreement

After six days on the picket line, striking workers at the Vancouver Art Gallery have reached a tentative agreement with their employer. As Marsha Lederman reports, the agreement was reached late Sunday, following mediation that began that morning. The main issues revolved around wages and work schedules. Full details won’t be known until after the ratification vote takes place later today.

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The curious case on Toronto’s Bay Street: $500,000 Super Bowl pot goes missing

The mystery of a missing $500,000 Super Bowl betting pot is captivating Bay Street stock traders. Every year, 100 people put in $5,000 apiece in cash to participate in an exclusive football pool run by a trader on the Toronto Stock Exchange. But days before the big game, the trader shared the news that he’d been robbed.

MARKET WATCH

Canada’s main stock index started the week lower as it absorbed weakness in the key industrials and materials sectors driven by SNC-Lavalin woes and lower gold prices. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 64.48 points at 15,568.85. The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 75.22 cents US compared with an average of 75.36 cents US on Friday.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 53.22 points at 25,053.11. The S&P 500 index was up 1.92 points at 2,709.80, while the Nasdaq composite was up 9.71 points at 7,307.90.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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WHAT ELSE IS ON OUR RADAR

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned U.S. allies against deploying equipment from Chinese telecoms gear manufacturer Huawei on their soil, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them.” (Reuters)
  • Private investigators working for Jeff Bezos have determined the brother of the Amazon CEO’s mistress leaked the couple’s intimate text messages to the National Enquirer. (The Associated Press)
  • A 16-year-old boy was arrested after he grabbed the aircraft controls shortly after takeoff and briefly took control of a six-seat Piper Cherokee passenger plane during a short commercial flight over western Alaska. (The Associated Press)
  • Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s legal team is pointing to several discussions between the Crown and top government lawyers about “trial strategy” as proof of political interference in his case. (The Canadian Press)
  • Dozens of Mexican “modern day slaves” who were allegedly forced to work as cleaners at vacation properties in Ontario for as little as $50 per month have been freed and offered legitimate employment, police announced Monday. (The Canadian Press)
  • Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar “unequivocally” apologized today for tweets about the influence in Congress of an American organization that supports Israel, which drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (The Associated Press)

WHAT’S POPULAR WITH READERS

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Majority of Canadians don’t trust Facebook with their personal data

What’s on your mind? Well, Facebook, let Canadians tell you. According to a new Nanos Research survey for The Globe, a large majority of Canadians have strongly negative views of Facebook’s approach to protecting personal data and are concerned Facebook will have a negative effect on the 2019 federal election. Here are some highlights of the survey:

  • More than 60 per cent of Canadians say Facebook will have a negative or somewhat negative effect on the next federal election.
  • More than 70 per cent of Canadians think Facebook does a poor or very poor job at monitoring how it is used to influence politics.
  • More than 80 per cent of Canadians think Facebook is untrustworthy or somewhat untrustworthy with people’s personal data.

Does this mean Canadians might support stronger laws and regulations if their concerns about the social network’s approach to privacy and democracy are not addressed? Like and share this newsletter if you … just kidding.

TALKING POINTS

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The Democrats will self-destruct by embracing socialism

“There are a great many reasons why Mr. Trump ought to be a one-term president. Yet the further the Democratic Party lurches to the left under the influence of [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and her fellow social-justice warriors, the higher the probability of his re-election. In U.S. politics, unlike in Europe, those who live by the s-word, die by the s-word.” ― Niall Ferguson

The Bissonnette sentencing doesn’t bring closure on Islamophobia

“While life imprisonment for Mr. Bissonnette with no chance of parole for 40 years seems inadequate for the six lives that he brutally ended and those he maimed, what strikes even deeper into the heart of the Muslim community is the fear that we, as a country, have not learned much from that deadly episode.” ― Ihsaan Gardee

At the Grammys: An empowering feminist tone, hip hop makes history and Drake tosses a stink bomb

“Struggling to stay relevant and attempting to please everyone, the Grammys on Sunday rebounded from last year’s public-relations debacle with a corrective, earnest and often awkward televised ceremony. Female artists dominated, hip hop made history, platitudes ruled and Drake surprised everyone – first by showing up in person to accept an award and then by tossing a stink bomb into the proceeding at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Throw in a pop-in from Michelle Obama, an array of outrageously emotive performances and a few notable no-shows, and viewers were left with one of music’s most unpredictable nights in memory.” ― Brad Wheeler

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LIVING BETTER

Sensory-deprivation chambers are tanks filled with 750 litres of water and 500 kilograms of Epsom salts, allowing you to float in the dark in a state of suspended animation for an hour at a time.

THEO STROOMER

Ice baths, cryosaunas, sleep trackers: If it feels good, should you do it?

Alex Hutchinson, who writes the Jockology column, today tackles the many different theories, facts and pseudoscience of recovery – you know, that period between workouts that used to be called … ahhh, between workouts. Today, recovery has become an activity of its own – that might include but by no means is restricted to protein shakes, stim pads and ice baths – and can take significant amounts of time, energy and money. So is everything out there legit?

Rosa Salazar stars as Alita

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox/Twentieth Century Fox.

Movie review: Alita: Battle Angel is better than a punch in the head

“Watching Alita: Battle Angel is undoubtedly preferable to suffering through an Avengers movie, or being punched in the back of the head. But taken on its own terms, the commingling of writer-producer James Cameron’s monster-budget technowizardry and director Robert Rodriguez’s B-movie sensibilities doesn’t amount to a heck of a lot.” ― John Semley

LONG READS FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Mark Charlton, Paul Rutherford, Sammy Sampson and Stéphane Durette, four veterans of Canada's peacekeeping mission to Rwanda in the 1990s, stand outside the peacekeeping monument in Ottawa.

Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

The forgotten Rwanda mission: How Canada remembered genocide and failure, but ignored the successes that came after

By the time the Canadian troops began reinforcing UN forces in Rwanda in the summer of 1994, the Rwanda genocide was dissipating. What became known as the unofficial second phase of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) has never really been recognized in Canada. While much has been written about the heroic efforts of then Major-General Roméo Dallaire, who led the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force in 1993, there is scant record of the second Canadian mission, known as UNAMIR II. The troops were there to bring stability to the country and help its people recover, but the scars of genocide and civil war were everywhere and what the troops witnessed had dramatic and permanent effects. Now, they want their efforts recognized.

Evening Update is written by Michael Snider. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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