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Maverick leader describes his perfect successor

“I am aware of three or four people who are seriously considering running for leadership,” interim leader Jay Hill told the Western Standard.

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Jay Hill, interim leader of the federal Maverick Party, says he hopes for a candidate for his replacement is someone that can “move the provinces and premiers towards greater autonomy for the West.”

On Wednesday, the Maverick Party released the rules for its leadership race that will see a new leader elected May 14, 2022.

The party will officially be accepting leadership applications as early as January 3 with a deadline of April 30.

Hill says he hopes to see two to six candidates apply.

“I am aware of three or four people who are seriously considering running for leadership,” Hill told the Western Standard.

“We’re more so focused on the quality side of things rather than quantity.”

The Maverick Party, formerly known as Wexit Canada, advocates for greater autonomy for Western Canadian provinces including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the three territories.

“I’d like to see someone with the right vision and oratory skills to communicate with passion for Western Canadians,” said Hill.

Hill pointed to Quebec’s position within Canada and said the Maverick Party supports moving the western provinces in that direction.

Included in the list of rules for those interested in throwing their hat into the leadership race is a registration fee set at $10,000.

“Our governing council really struggled with that fee,” said Hill, who indicated the registration fee is still “substantially less” than any of the other federal parties.  

“We were really aiming for the right balance — that sweet spot — where you want to be realistic and make it doable and not a deterrent.

“It’s efficient to get serious contenders with serious commitment to register and not those with frivolous reasons.”

Hill, the former House leader for the Conservative Party of Canada, said he’s “too old” to run the party moving forward.

“My roll in elected office is done,” said Hill, adding he was done with the “high stress and high drama” when he quit federal politics in the fall of 2010.

When a new leader is elected in May, Hill plans to stay on and assist the party “depending on the needs of the new leader and how he or she feels I can contribute the most.”

Hill said he is excited and is looking forward to “a good, credible and lively leadership race.”

Melanie Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

Melanie Risdon is a Calgary-based Reporter for the Western Standard. She has over 20 years experience in media at Global News, Rogers and Corus. mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Ottawa press gallery discusses letting Chinese propaganda agency in

Xinhua has been accused of misusing press privileges at the direction of Chinese diplomats.

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Officials with the Parliamentary Press Gallery held a behind closed doors meeting on Tuesday to talk about letting reporters from Xinhau, the Chinese Community Party’s propaganda agency, into the club, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The gallery is not bound by any outside political considerations,” said gallery president Catherine Levesque of the National Post. 

“We are doing our due diligence to ensure Xinhua meets certain criteria and we will be making a decision shortly.”

Xinhua has been accused of misusing press privileges at the direction of Chinese diplomats.

“Membership in the Parliamentary Press Gallery allows access to the secure physical buildings of the parliamentary precinct and the opportunity to directly question individuals who drive and shape public policy,” gallery directors wrote in a 2020 code Journalistic Principles And Practices.

“As a result, accreditation is a privilege, not a right.”

Xinhua had been a member until 2020 when its press pass lapsed.

The Department of National Defence in 2012 blacklisted the agency from attending its press briefings, and a Xinhua correspondent in 2012 disclosed he was asked to maintain surveillance on Chinese dissidents in Canada.

The gallery would not discuss the Xinhua application but the gallery code states members must “respect the rights of people involved in the news.”

The Commons by a unanimous 266-0 vote last February 22 condemned China for human rights atrocities including the genocide of its Uyghur Muslim community. MPs also voted to petition the International Olympic Committee to relocate the 2022 Winter Games from Beijing.

“We need to move forward, not just as a country but as a world, on recognizing the human rights violations that are going on in China,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier told reporters.

“This is an issue that matters deeply to me, to all Canadians, and we will continue to work with our partners and allies on taking it seriously.”

Xinhua was originally granted Press Gallery membership in 1964 at the request of then-Foreign Minister Paul Martin Sr.

“It is a step in the direction of mutual understanding between Canada and mainland China,” Martin said at the time. Membership was approved in a press credentials swap that saw the Communist Party permit the Globe & Mail to open a Beijing bureau.

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PHA head says cellphone snooping fears unwarranted

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar said managers at no time collected information that personally identified any of 33 million cellphone users.

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The president of the Public Health Agency (PHA) says Canadians need not fret over the fact his organization snooped on 33 million cellphone users, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar said managers at no time collected information that personally identified any of 33 million cellphone users.

“No personal information was asked or was received,” Kochhar told the Commons health committee.

“No individually identifiable data is contained in any part of the work.”

The Commons ethics committee last Friday voted 10-0 to examine the data collection program using cellphone tower tracking. The PHA said it sought the information to monitor compliance with lockdown orders.

“The actual reason why we collected this data is reliable, timely and relevant public health data comes out of it for other policy and decision making,” said Kochhar.

“This is population-level mobility data analysis. This is what we have collected.

“That would help us to understand the possible link between the movement of populations within Canada and the impact on COVID-19. We did that in terms of a very clear way of getting that open and transparent means of collection. We never, ever actually know when we use that information that it is individually identifiable. It is aggregated data.”

MPs on the ethics committee earlier noted cellphone users were never told the PHA was collecting the cellphone tracking data. Conservative MP John Brassard (Barrie-Innisfil, Ont.), noted the scope of the monitoring was only detailed when the Agency issued a December 17 notice to contractors to expand the program.

“It becomes increasingly concerning that government is seemingly using this pandemic as a means and a cause for massive overreach into the privacy rights of Canadians,” said Brassard.

“As parliamentarians, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we protect those rights, that there is proper scrutiny and oversight.”

“The Public Health Agency was collecting data without the knowledge of Canadians, effectively doing it in secret. We need to know what security measures were in place to protect the privacy rights of Canadians.

“It is vital we do not allow the COVID response to create a permanent backslide of the rights and freedoms of Canadians including their fundamental right to privacy.”

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Health Minister Duclos has no info on $150-million COVID contract to SNC-Lavalin

But testifying at the Commons health committee, Duclos had no answer when asked why the contract was issued.

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SNC-Lavalin was given a $150-million sole-source contract to provide “urgently” needed field hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic — but Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos doesn’t seem to know much about it, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

The field hospitals were never used.

“This is obviously in support of the needs at the request of provinces and territories,” said Duclos.

But testifying at the Commons health committee, Duclos had no answer when asked why the contract was issued.

“What is the status of the mobile field hospitals SNC-Lavalin was contracted to produce?” asked Conservative MP Shelby Kramp-Neuman (Hastings-Lennox, Ont.).

“It was an example of the significant level of preparation that we did throughout the crisis,” replied Duclos.

“Why have the field hospitals from SNC-Lavalin not been deployed?” asked Kramp-Neuman.

Duclos replied he had no information on “the exact nature of the state of that equipment.”

“Did the Prime Minister’s Office approve of this?” asked MP Kramp-Neuman.

“That’s a public works question,” replied Duclos.

“We’re not getting a lot of clarity here,” said MP Kramp-Neuman, adding: “The buck stops with you. Sadly, I recognize you don’t have all the answers to everything, but it doesn’t seem like we’re getting a lot of answers to anything.”

An unidentified Department of Public Works manager finalized the SNC-Lavalin contract on April 9, 2020 without notice to other bidders.

“A public call for tenders was not issued due to the urgency of the need as a result of the pandemic,” said an internal e-mail.

However, as late as Sep. 9, 2020, the Québec contractor had still not fixed a delivery date, according to staff emails.

Paul Thompson, deputy minister of public works, Tuesday said he knew little of the contract details.

“I personally don’t have all the details at my fingertips,” said Thompson.

SNC-Lavalin was paid to supply field hospitals equipped with 200 hospital beds, ventilators, masks, medical gowns and ten days’ worth of medication, back-up generators, water and oxygen tanks, X-ray machines, shower bays and latrines.

“The self-sufficiency of the unit makes it extremely flexible for deployment where the need is greatest in Canada,” said a memo.

Internal records dated Oct. 13, 2020 disclosed no one wanted the field hospitals.

The department said spending included $2 million for design work and millions more on warehousing medical supplies for presumed future use.

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