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.”

‘We need to be more transparent’: NSA Deputy Director – National

TORONTO – Months after revelations about the National Security Agency’s cyber-surveillance practices were leaked, Deputy Director Rich Ledgett admitted the agency could do a better job of being more transparent about some of its programs.

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“There are things that we need to be transparent about; our authorities, our processes, our oversight, who we are,” Ledgett said Thursday during a last-minute interview at the TED Talks conference in Vancouver, B.C..

“We, the NSA, have not done a good job of that and I think that is part of the reason that this has been so revelatory and sensational in the media. We need to be more transparent about those things.”

Ledgett appeared on the TED Talks stage via video just two days after whistleblower Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance in front of the same audience to discuss the cyber-surveillance programs he leaked to the media in June 2013.

WATCH: Ledgett appears via video at TED Talks

On Tuesday Snowden – who appeared via telepresence robot from an undisclosed location in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum – discussed why citizens should continue to be concerned about their privacy online.

He added his biggest revelations are yet to come.

“In democratic societies around the world, people should be able to pick up the phone, call family, send text messages to loved one, travel by train, buy an airline ticket — without wondering how those events will look to an agent of government, possibly not even your government but one years in the future,” Snowden said at Tuesday’s talk.

“Trusting any government authority with the entirety of human communications without any oversight is too great a temptation to be ignored.”

Snowden was behind the leaks that revealed once top secret NSA programs including the cyber-surveillance program PRISM, which allows the NSA to run surveillance on foreign citizens using services from top tech companies including Apple and Google.

WATCH: Snowden appears on the TED Talks stage

When asked about Snowden’s decision to leak confidential documents to the press, Ledgett said Snowden should have taken other avenues in raising concerns about NSA programs – adding Snowden’s actions could have put lives at risk by jeopardizing national security.

READ MORE: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘The mission’s already accomplished’

“Like a lot of things that have come out since Mr. Snowden started disclosing classified information, there were some kernels of truth in there, but a lot of extrapolations and half truths in there,” said Ledgett.

“I actually think that characterizing him as a whistleblower actually hurts legitimate whistle blowing activities.”

TED Talks host Chris Anderson said NSA officials did not accept the invitation to speak at TED until late Wednesday.

On 桑拿会所, Anderson described the 30-minute interview as “intense.”

The TED host also asked Ledgett about foreign citizens’ right to privacy when using a U.S.-based company’s services.

Ledgett responded “of course” foreigners – including Canadians – are entitled to privacy online, adding the NSA can only compel Internet companies to hand over information if the NSA can identify that the user is associated with counter terrorists or other foreign intelligence targets.

©2014Shaw Media

What the critics are saying: ‘Divergent’

TORONTO — The much-hyped action-adventure flick Divergent is expected to have a big opening weekend at the box office.

Based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, the movie stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Theo James (Underworld: Awakening) in a story about a dystopian society where people are divided into personality-based factions.

Will Divergent be a Hunger Games-style blockbuster or a Mortal Instruments-type flop? Here’s what some critics think of the movie:

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Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post raved about Divergent, declaring: “It’s rare that a movie is as good as the book on which it’s based. It’s even more unusual when it’s better.”

READ MORE: What the critics are saying about other recent movies

He said director Neil Burger “has crafted a popcorn flick that’s leaner, more propulsive and more satisfying than the bestseller that inspired it.”

This isn’t exactly the opinion of Matt Patches of IGN, who described Divergent as “a rip-off.”

He explained: “Cobbled together by director Neil Burger and writers Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, Divergent is the eighth Xerox of a shuffled stack of random pages ripped from Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games screenplays. There isn’t an inspired design, dash of creative world-building or original emotional beat in the 139 minutes of this tedious trilogy-opener.”

Patches had praise, though, for Woodley and James.

“Their chemistry sizzles as the background been-there-done-that action blabbers with explanation and pretend threats,” he wrote.

At the New York Post, Lou Lumenick singled out Woodley for doing “reasonably well with her underwritten part” and noted she has “palpable chemistry with James.”

But, added Lumenick, “Divergent is a clumsy, humuorless and shamelessly derivative sci-fi thriller.”

Brad Keefe  of Columbus Alive said comparisons between Divergent and The Hunger Games are inevitable.

“If you haven’t read the books, you’ll see Divergent as a convoluted Hunger Games knock-off. If you have, you’ll find the production values and performances are solid. But the movie is still convoluted,” he opined.

“If the Hunger Games films do a fairly tidy job of explaining their premise, Divergent has to over and over for nearly 2 1/2 hours.”

This is echoed by John Serba of Michigan’s M Live.

“The movie has trouble finding its footing,” he wrote. “Signs of struggle are prevalent in the filmmakers’ attempt to adapt Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel – the reams of exposition and multisyllabic lingo which works just fine on the printed page can be silly and burdensome when spoken.”

Serba credited Woodley with cutting through “the nonsense.”

Overall, the movie is “compelling enough to not be a complete waste of time, and fosters bigger ideas which, one hopes, will come to fruition in future films.”

BELOW: Watch Theo James and Shailene Woodley on Global’s The Morning Show.

Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman called Divergent “a lean, exciting basic-training thriller” but complained the second half “goes on a bit, with too many rote combat scenes.”

At the A.V. Club, Kevin McFarland opined: “Anything the film has to say about dystopian regimes or the harm in squelching individual expression gets lost in the rote romantic entanglements and inter-governmental conspiracies, all of which have been borrowed from other sources.

“The ultimate irony is that a series predicated on diverse individuals rising up against totalitarian regiment falls so completely in lock step with all other post-apocalyptic young-adult franchises.”

Mara Reinstein of US Weekly was one of the few critics who took issue with Woodley’s performance.

“At times, the actress can’t get a firm grip on the role. Though Tris is admittedly just a few years removed from adolescence, Woodley has the doe-eyed look and earnest tone of a 2014-era high school student who’s peeved because she’s not getting a straight A in Geometry,” wrote Reinstein.

“She’s just not menacing enough to wield a machine gun with authority. (At least, not menacing enough yet).”

But, Reinstein added, Woodley puts “the right amount of soul into her budding romance with the strapping James.”

At Forbes, Scott Mendelson complained that “for too much of its 143-minute running time, Divergent tells a story mostly independent of its exhaustive world-building.”

He wrote: “The picture takes pains to explicitly set up the rules of its universe with the notion that said rules will play a large role in the narrative. But much of the core story takes place outside the rules and expectations of its mythology, with much of the details and deviations becoming merely distractions for the relatively generic story.”

He said Divergent is “a sporadically entertaining coming-of-age action film that nonetheless works best as metaphor” and “a somewhat disappointing film with a few interesting ideas.”

Denver Post reviewer Lisa Kennedy summed up the movie as “a solidly engaging outing” — with a catch.

“One wishes for more. Or maybe it’s less. Serial movies face storytelling challenges more familiar and usually better managed in TV than feature films,” she wrote. “The narrative rhythms that have us tuning in next week, or binge viewing all weekend, don’t necessarily hold for films that won’t pick up the thread again for a year or so.”

(Insurgent and Allegiant are in production and due for release in 2015 and 2016 respectively.)

“This first salvo has done the introductions and teased us,” said Kennedy. “We’ll have to wait to see if it can really distinguish itself from the faction, er, pack.”

BELOW: Watch the trailer for Divergent.

©2014Shaw Media

Vancouver resident willing to pay someone to help him find a job – BC

Robbie Cook has not been having much luck landing a job in Vancouver recently.

The 31-year-old Saskatoon native just recently moved back to B.C. after attending university in Langley, and had been working in the insurance industry in the Prairies for the last six years.

However, he had always loved Vancouver and the Lower Mainland so he decided to move back. But he knew he had to do something different to get noticed.

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That is when he created the website, Help Robbie Find a Job 

“I always had the idea of making a website in the back of my mind,”said Cook via email. “I wasn’t sure what it was going to involve but I knew it would at least allow me to market myself and reach people I wouldn’t be able to reach any other way. With some fine tuning, I created the concept and decided to go ahead with it.”

But there is a twist to what Cook is offering with his website. He will pay someone 10 per cent of the initial salary.

“I felt like there had to be some sort of incentive for people to help and after a lot of thought, I decided this was the best way to go about it,” said Cook.

And it isn’t a joke. He said if someone connects him to the right person and he is hired, then the person connecting him will be paid after the probation period.

“I have had all sorts of offers,” he said of the experience so far. “Everything from jobs, to dates, (I have a girlfriend), to getting 10 per cent if I help someone else. I am currently trying to get through all the emails and get in contact with a few people.”

Cook said he would consider something in insurance, but is open to other offers as well.

It may seem like a radical idea, but Cook said he has received so many emails from people showing support for the idea.

“All in all I have had great feedback,” he said. “People think it is a great way to go about it.”

©2014Shaw Media

Chimp victim’s body rejecting face transplant – National

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut woman who underwent a face transplant five years ago after being attacked by a chimpanzee is back in a Boston hospital after doctors discovered her body is rejecting the transplant.

Charla Nash had been taking part in an experiment in which doctors at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital had tried to wean her off the anti-rejection drugs she had been taking since the 2011 operation.

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READ MORE: U.S. military studying chimp-attack victim who received face transplant

Her doctors now hope to reverse the rejection by ending the experiment, Nash’s publicist, Shelly Sindland, said.

Anti-rejection drugs can have serious side effects, and the military funded the experiment in the hopes the alternative treatment could help those needing transplants after returning from war.

“I gave it my all and know my participation in the study will still be beneficial,” Nash said in a statement to The Associated Press. “I’d do it all over again, if I could. The men and women serving our country are the true heroes.”

Nash recently discovered several unusual patches on her face, Sindland said. Doctors on Monday did a biopsy and determined her body was rejecting the transplant, she said.

Undated photos provided Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 by the Nash family and Brigham and Women’s Hospital show chimpanzee attack victim Charla Nash before she was attacked by a chimpanzee and a recent photo released by the hospital showing Nash after face transplant surgery, right. (AP Photo/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Lightchaser Photography)

AP Photo/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Lightchaser Photography

Sindland said Nash told her the doctors are hopeful they can reverse the rejection by ending the experiment and putting her back on her original medication. If that attempt is unsuccessful, it isn’t immediately clear what the next step would be, Sindland said.

Nash’s doctors and the hospital, where Nash is expected to remain at least through the weekend, did not immediately return calls and emails Wednesday seeking comment.

READ MORE: Chimp attack victim asks again for right to sue

The immunosuppression drugs that transplant patients are typically given for the rest of their lives carry such risks as cancer, viral infections and kidney damage. Because of those dangers, many transplants of non-vital body parts, such as thumbs, are not considered worth doing. But doctors say that could change if the drugs don’t have to be a lifelong commitment.

The Pentagon, which also paid for Nash’s transplant, has provided grants to 14 medical facilities across the U.S. through its hand and face transplantation program. The face and the extremities are the most frequently injured parts of the body in war.

“I’m just happy I had the chance to help,” Nash said. “I wish I could have done more. I believe in the power of prayer and appreciate everyone who is praying for me.”

Nash lost her nose, lips, eyelids and hands when she was mauled in 2009 by her employer’s 200-pound pet chimpanzee in Stamford, Connecticut. Doctors also had to remove her eyes because of a disease transmitted by the chimp.

FILE – In this Aug. 10, 2012 file photo, Charla Nash sits before a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., to determine whether she may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages.

AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

She later received new facial features taken from a dead woman. She also underwent a double hand transplant, but it failed when her body rejected the tissue.

When she began the experiment involving the suspension of anti-rejection drugs in March, 2015, doctors said it would eventually include other patients and its findings could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of people, military and civilian alike.

©2016The Associated Press

Investigation determines death of feral horse not suspicious – Calgary

CALGARY – An investigation into the suspicious death of a feral horse near Sundre last month has determined the horse died of natural causes.

Officers found the animal’s carcass north of Highway 584 in Clearwater County on February 28th.

Police say their preliminary investigation suggested it may have been shot, but a necropsy determined that was not the case.

Feral horses are protected under the Criminal Code, however, the Alberta government recently distributed three permits giving holders permission to capture the animals.

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