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Questions about Raj Grewal’s gambling activities deepen





Welcome to a sneak peek of the Maclean’s Politics Insider newsletter. Sign-up at the bottom of the page to get it delivered straight to your inbox.

A Conservative Senator says a retired RCMP officer told him and an assistant 18 months ago that former Liberal MP Raj Grewal’s gambling activities were under investigation. Quebec Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais raised the issue in the Senate Thursday, while his assistant Richard Desmarais told the National Post:

“(The former RCMP officer) told us, ‘Just check this guy at the casino. He is spending a lot, he’s under inquiry, and something will happen. He said, ‘You can go, you will see him, spending his money, he is under an inquiry’ … If the prime minister’s office didn’t know that, it’s unbelievable.” (National Post)

Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reports a source with knowledge of the events, told it some “particularly shady guys” were caught on a wiretap discussing Grewal’s gambling. “There are wiretaps up on an organized-crime (and) terrorism investigation. And they have people talking about his gambling debts on the wire.” (Canadian Press)

The new NAFTA deal (NAFTwo?) gets signed this morning and Justin Trudeau will attend the event after all. The details were being finalized right up until the last minute, and Trudeau had been coy as to whether he or a senior official would represent Canada. USMCA still has to be ratified by all three countries before it can take effect, which is by no means certain. But for now, Trudeau, Donald Trump and Pena Nieto will sign the deal on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at 7 a.m. ET. (Global News)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is sharing more details of her save-the-oil patch plan to plunge her government into the railways business. The government will buy 7,000 railcars within weeks, and based on the going price of a rail car, the plan will cost the province $1.05 billion. (Canadian Press)

By the way, if you missed Wednesday evening’s Maclean’s Live event featuring Notley in conversation with Paul Wells, check out the transcript of the interview here.

With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the G20 summit, Canada slapped sanctions on 17 individuals involved accused of participating in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. More actions could follow, says Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland:

“This case is not closed as far as Canada is concerned … in terms of our continued work to determine for ourselves the facts. In terms of our work with our allies to seek a coordinated response. In terms of our work to seek an investigation which is credible and transparent for the sake of the world. And in terms of our review of our own arms exports to Saudi Arabia.” (Globe and Mail)

Monday will bring Trudeau‘s ill-fated India trip back into the headlines when the findings of a security review into the trip are released. Both the Prime Minister’s Office and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have copies of the report, and a source familiar with the findings told CBC, “It’s not good.” (CBC News)

Government’s have been bailing out GM Canada for so long, it deserves a Heritage Minute:

Back in 1899, when Robert McLaughlin ran one of the British Empire’s largest carriage factories, a devastating fire ruined the McLaughlins’ plant in Oshawa, Ont. As workers were temporarily relocated to work out of the Thousand Island Carriage Company in Gananoque, Ont., disputes over the fire insurance left the family wondering whether or not they should rebuild the Oshawa plant at all.

Other municipalities began lobbying for McLaughlin’s business, until the City of Oshawa came forward with a generous proposal: an interest-free, $50,000 loan from the city, which could be paid back over the next 20 years.

When the McLaughlin’s accepted, they immediately got to rebuilding.

Well before that bill came due, their Oshawa plant had started to shift its focus away from horse-powered carriages and buggies and was instead pumping out cars with horsepower. In 1907, McLaughlin signed a 15-year agreement to manufacture Buicks and another agreement in 1915 to manufacture Chevrolets, both General Motors brands. (Maclean’s)


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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches





Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year





Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend





OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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