Redford’s resignation raises questions about severance for her staff

CALGARY – Now that Premier Alison Redford has resigned, some of her staff are either already out of a job or soon will be, which is raising questions about severance payouts.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) says in total, close to a million dollars will be paid out to staff members who worked for Redford.

“I think the total payout is definitely going to be in the neighbourhood of about a million dollars,” says Derek Fildebrandt.

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“These are huge, rich payouts that you don’t see in the private sector unless you’re a high level banker, and these guys are not high level bankers,” adds Fildebrant.

In question period on Thursday, NDP leader Brian Mason asked designated interim premier Dave Hancock about who’s in and who’s out when Redford leaves, and if the severance calculation by the CTF is accurate.

“There are obviously changes when there [are] transitions in leadership,” replied Hancock. “But it’s sort of interesting that for most of the year these people have been [complaining about] too many people on staff and too many salaries on staff and all of those things – and now when there’s a change, now they want to complain about the cost of people leaving.”

The Tories changed their salary disclosure policy after it was revealed that Redford’s former chief of staff was paid $130,000 for six months of work.

More than 3,000 government employees with base salaries above $100,000 – and their compensation details – are on the so-called ‘sunshine list.’

Read the full sunshine list here 

Several of Premier Redford’s senior staff were included on the list, such as her communications director and chief of staff.

It’s believed between the two of them, more than $400,000 of severance will be paid out.

There are reports Redford’s chief of staff and communications director have already been dismissed, but the fate of her remaining staff isn’t yet clear; some of them may be shuffled to other positions.

WATCH: Dave Hancock joins Global Calgary to discuss the challenges the PC party will face in the coming months.

Drivers nabbed without seatbelts allowed to raise due diligence defence – Toronto

TORONTO – Drivers charged with failing to buckle up should be allowed to argue they did everything they could to comply with the law mandating seatbelt use, Ontario’s top court ruled Friday.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal rejected the idea that the seatbelt law bars a motorist from raising due diligence as a defence.

“In the admittedly rare case where the driver has done his or her best to comply (with the law), the injustice of conviction without fault is avoided,” the court stated.

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The case arose in September 2011 when police in Burlington, Ont., ticketed Tyler Wilson under Section 106(2) of the Highway Traffic Act for not wearing his seatbelt.

At trial, Wilson testified a coffee he had put in a back-seat cup-holder was spilling on his laptop. He said he had just pulled up to a stop sign and removed his seatbelt so he could straighten the coffee cup when the officer spotted the infraction.

Wilson went on to say that there was no other traffic around and it was his intention to put the seatbelt back on as soon as he had fixed the cup.

However, the justice of the peace interrupted his testimony to say the offence was one of “absolute liability,” meaning that no excuses – even if reasonable – could get him off.

Wilson appealed to the Ontario court of justice and won on the basis that the offence was not one of “absolute liability” but rather one of “strict liability.”

The Crown appealed to the province’s top court, with the attorney general arguing in part that the requirement to buckle up is an uncomplicated, one-step action fully within the driver’s personal and physical control.

In rejecting that argument, the appellate court said it was not impossible to imagine a situation in which a driver became unbuckled despite having taken reasonable steps to secure the belt.

Instead, the Appeal Court found that deeming the seatbelt offence one of “strict liability” still enables “efficient and effective enforcement of important public safety legislation while avoiding the injustice of no-fault liability.”

In other words, the prosecution still only needs to show a driver was not buckled up to get a conviction, but the accused should be able to offer a due-diligence defence.

“Situations in which a defence of due diligence arise are bound to be rare,” the Appeal Court said.

“A defence of due diligence to this charge would only be made out where, although the driver was found not wearing his or her seat belt when driving, the driver had taken all reasonable care to wear the seat belt.”

The court did not weigh in on the merits of Wilson’s particular excuse.

©2014The Canadian Press

Fire, collision at two separate Portage College Alberta campuses

EDMONTON – Two different Portage College campuses in Alberta were compromised Friday because of a fire at one campus and a collision at another.

At the Portage College’s Lac La Biche campus, a fire broke out in the carpentry shop’s dust collection system.

No one was injured in the fire.

The campus was closed Friday, and a restoration company has been called in to assess the air quality inside the campus. The company is testing for possible residual toxins from any smoke left behind on the walls and in the hallways after the cleaning.

Campus officials say it is a routine test “to make absolutely sure the campus is safe for staff and students.”

“While the testing could be considered unnecessary, we want to give our staff and students the highest level of assurance possible,” said Tracy Boyde, vice president of Infrastructure and Information Technology.

There was also a collision at the Portage College St. Paul campus Friday morning.

A vehicle struck the wall of that campus early in the morning, causing damage to the building.

Police were called and the driver was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons.

No serious injuries were reported.

The St. Paul campus was closed Friday and all classes were cancelled.

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©2014Shaw Media

Calgary woman accused of bribing juror takes the stand

CALGARY-Erica Levin sobbed through testimony in a Calgary courtroom Tuesday. She is accused of bribing a juror in her husband’s sexual assault trial.

Levin can be seen on CCTV video from January 2013 approaching a female juror at a CTrain platform near the Calgary Courts Centre.

The Crown alleges Levin was attempting to bribe the juror by offering her a thousand dollars in a white envelope to find her husband, Aubrey Levin, not guilty of sexual assault.

Levin told the court that she carried the envelope with her every day but that it did not contain a bribe rather a suicide note.

She testified that her husband’s trail was not fair and that “gross inconsistencies in the trial” added to her depression.

Levin said that she left her husband at court and went to the CTrain platform with intentions to end her life.

Erica Levin, right, leaves court in Calgary, on Oct. 15, 2012 with her husband Aubrey. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

She told jurors that she planned to jump in front of the CTrain and when she saw a juror she tried to pass her a suicide note.

Levin also testified repeatedly that it wasn’t a bribe.

During cross examination the Crown pointed out that Levin had other opportunities to kill herself if she wanted to and accused her of lying.

Levin maintained that she was “never going to bribe a juror”.

She added that she decided not to kill herself that day when she realized she needed to take care of her cat.

The trial will resume Wednesday.

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Manitoba analyzed sales tax hike before election – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government ran the numbers on a sales tax increase before the 2011 election — a campaign in which it promised not to raise the PST — but did not seriously consider it, Premier Greg Selinger said Friday.

“It’s standard practice for finance officials to look at a variety of scenarios every year,” Selinger said.

“Officials always put forward scenarios. Usually they are batted down, which they were in this case.”

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Selinger was responding to newly released Finance Department documents, obtained by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives under freedom-of-information legislation, that show there were analyses done on a possible sales tax hike in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The Tories say the documents prove Selinger was lying on the campaign trail in 2011, when he denied Tory accusations that he was planning a sales tax hike. Eighteen months later, in the 2013 budget, the government raised the sales tax to eight per cent from seven.

“They were discussing it. There is clear evidence that they were,” Tory Leader Brian Pallister said.

“They went ahead to the people of Manitoba and said it was nonsense to suggest that they would raise (the tax) and then they raised it.”

Selinger said finance officials weigh in on all sorts of taxes and levies, primarily to analyze how much money might be raised, and give the numbers to the finance minister of the day. But NDP finance ministers never brought the idea of a sales tax hike to cabinet until 2013, he added.

Even in 2013, it was weeks before the budget that the province decided a tax increase was needed to help pay for flood repairs, Selinger said.

“We saw a major priority needed for infrastructure investment in Manitoba, and that was part of the decision-making.”

The NDP’s popularity has plummeted since the tax went up, according to opinion polls. Selinger said there are no plans to raise the tax further.

“I think it’s pretty clear that people do not want to see any more increases in the sales tax.”