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SNC-Lavalin: Canada’s top bureaucrat resigns; a yacht purchase for Gadhafi’s son

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Gerald Butts, Jane Philpott and now Michael Wernick. The Privy Council Clerk’s exit is the fourth resignation to hit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin controversy. Wernick is retiring after 38 years in the public service, saying he lost the “trust and respect” of the opposition parties over his role in the SNC affair.

What Wernick did: In blunt and opinionated testimony before the justice committee, Wernick said he and other officials warned Wilson-Raybould that proceeding with charges against SNC could have economic consequences, but denied placing “inappropriate” pressure. Wilson-Raybould testified that Wernick made “veiled threats” toward her and put pressure on her to follow Trudeau’s preference for an out-of-court settlement.

Separately, two former top SNC-Lavalin executives have been accused of approving the $38-million purchase of a yacht for the son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. A star witness who orchestrated kickback and bribery schemes testified that former CEO Jacques Lamarre and former chief financial officer Gilles Laramée agreed to the purchase in order to guarantee a $450-million contract in Libya. (for subscribers)

Lamarre is an officer of the Order of Canada whose family members were Quebec corporate engineering pioneers. Both he and Laramée have denied the allegation.

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Gun laws and extremism: New Zealand’s plans and where Canada stands

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says new gun laws are coming within days and that she supports a ban on semi-automatic weapons. She hasn’t given exact details, though it’s possible New Zealand takes a similar approach to Australia, which implemented some of the world’s strictest laws after a shooter killed 35 in 1996 using the AR-15, the same gun as the one used in last week’s mosque shootings that left 50 dead and dozens more injured. Preparations are now under way to begin burying the dead in accordance with Muslim ritual.

A child adds a toy to tributes across the road from the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, where worshippers were gunned down last week.MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images

Ardern’s vow to change laws comes as Canada weighs a ban on handguns and assault weapons. The federal government will soon release recommendations; it launched a study last year after the Danforth shooting in Toronto. Initial calls for change in Canada first emerged after the Quebec City mosque massacre in 2017.

Trudeau, speaking in the House of Commons, condemned intolerance and said hate groups “are alive in Canada.” Recently, a pro-pipeline convoy was criticized for having “yellow vest” members in its ranks that expressed violent, racist and anti-immigrant sentiments.

In a column, Denise Balkissoon examines the push to turn off hatemongers’ mics: “One of the many tragedies of Christchurch is that the shooter’s radicalization seems to follow a familiar pattern. It’s clear from his manifesto and the scrawlings on his weapons that he spent time in the bowels of the white supremacist internet. There, he began to lionize the Quebec mosque shooter, and other Islamophobic killers. In response, there’s been a renewed call for ‘de-platforming’ people who stoke hate for fun and profit. That means kicking them off their channels and stages, whether online or in real life.” (for subscribers)

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The federal budget will be unveiled today, and there is expected to be spending for housing, pharmacare, seniors and skills training. Go here for a preview of five things to watch.

Jason Kenney says there was nothing improper or unusual about his staff helping a rival during the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership campaign in Alberta. He also refuted allegations that his team recruited Jeff Callaway as a stalking-horse candidate to attack main rival Brian Jean, saying: “The idea of Mr. Callaway running was Mr. Callaway’s idea.” In a column, Gary Mason writes: “If the plan is as it appears, and so far no one has given us reason to believe otherwise, it brings into question Kenney’s moral fitness for office.” (for subscribers)

Some Canadian health centres are going as far as banning unvaccinated children as a way to stop the spread of measles. An obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Calgary posted a sign in its waiting room telling parents not to enter with unvaccinated kids, while the BC Children’s Hospital stationed a triage nurse in the lobby to screen for potential cases so those patients could be isolated immediately.

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a further blow to her Brexit plans when the House Speaker blocked her from reintroducing her plans for a third vote unless substantial changes are made. With a March 29 deadline approaching, there are signs the European Union could issue an extension of months or even years.

Three people were killed and five more injured in a tram shooting in the Netherlands. The city of Utrecht was under lockdown until police arrested the suspect, a 37-year-old man who was born in Turkey. The motive remains unclear, though authorities originally raised the possibility of a terror attack.


Stocks largely rise

World shares inched towards their longest winning streak of the year on Tuesday ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, while the pound kept calm after another dramatic twist in the Brexit plot bolstered bets on a lengthy delay to the process. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 0.1 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite 0.2 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.2 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.3 and 0.6 per cent by about 6:40 a.m. ET. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was at about 75 US cents.


On choices around death, Quebec offers a cautionary tale

André Picard: “To prepare an advance medical directive in Quebec, you simply go online and fill out a form that allows you to say if, in case of incapacitation, you will accept or refuse five specific medical interventions: cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilator-assisted respiration, dialysis, artificial feeding and hydration. The checklist is legally binding. And while the authors say that’s a good thing, it can also be problematic.” (for subscribers)

The right move to fix the border, but what took so long?

Globe editorial: “After two years of largely avoiding the issue, Ottawa says it is finally working with the U.S. government to close the loophole in an immigration treaty between the two countries that is at the heart of Canada’s long-running surge in irregular border crossings. That’s good news, but also troubling. It’s a mystery why the Trudeau government has been reluctant to try to fix the Safe Third Country Agreement.”

To prevent lost crypto assets, Canada should follow Japan’s approach

Nick Chong: “Millions of dollars of crypto funds lost. Thousands of traders with no idea where to turn. Disbelief across the sector. But this isn’t the story of Canadian exchange QuadrigaCX, whose chief executive died unexpectedly, reportedly taking to his grave the virtual keys to vaults holding cryptocurrencies worth $180-million. Rather, this is the remarkable story of two Japanese exchanges that lost a combined US$1-billion of cryptocurrencies belonging to their customers, and how Japan’s government interceded, making the country arguably the safest in the world for cryptocurrency investors today.” Nick Chong is the head of North America for, the world’s largest regulated fiat crypto platform.


(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)TGAM


Mark-less learning: These Ontario high school students can’t pass – or fail – their math quizzes

At Richmond Hill High School, Erin Marsella evaluates her Grade 9 students with a series of check marks, X’s and dots. A dot, for example, shows they used the correct approach but made errors in calculations. The trial is designed to reduce focus on grades and rethink the way students and teachers think about learning. (For the record, it’s not completely grade-less: A midterm mark and final grade are issued to comply with provincial requirements.) (for subscribers)


First televised Academy Awards

(J. R. Eyerman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)J. R. Eyerman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

March 19, 1953: Was last month’s 91st Academy Awards ceremony the most dispiriting in Oscars history? Certainly, there were many missteps and miscalculations: hiring Kevin Hart as host, then deciding that no host was necessary; curtailing the number of awards, then deciding that the status quo would remain; proposing a “most popular” movie award, then deciding that was a boneheaded idea, too. But to understand the original standard-bearer of an Academy Award upset, look back 66 years ago to the 25th ceremony, the first Oscars event to be televised. Simulcast from theatres in both Los Angeles and New York, the evening established a handful of traits that would define Hollywood’s biggest night, at least for most of its televised history: a star-powered host in Bob Hope (who would ring-lead the Oscars 19 times) and a propensity for dramatic twists. Just as Green Book surprised Best Picture prognosticators this year, so, too, was the 1953-era industry shocked when Cecil B. DeMille’s widely reviled The Greatest Show on Earth triumphed over Fred Zinnemann’s classic High Noon. The disappointment would go on to make Oscars history, with The Greatest Show on Earth ranking as the lowest-scoring best-picture winner on Rotten Tomatoes, and many film publications listing the film as the worst Oscar decision ever made. – Barry Hertz

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