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New Ukraine president, and former actor, to meet Trudeau in Toronto




Ukraine’s new president will visit Toronto next week for a major international conference on his country’s future that Canada is hosting, and where he will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau’s office said he and Volodymyr Zelenskiy will discuss Ukraine’s reform efforts and its path toward integration with Europe.

Zelenskiy, a popular actor and comedian, but a political neophyte, ran away with this spring’s presidential election, unseating Petro Poroshenko.

He is now tasked with guiding his country through its ongoing conflict with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and fomented a pro-Kremlin insurgency in the country’s east that has left more than 13,000 dead.

The Ukraine Reform Conference is a three-day gathering that begins Tuesday, which the government said will include key international friends and partners to support Ukraine.

Trudeau said in a statement that he wants to use the meeting with Zelenskiy to reaffirm Canada’s deep commitment to the Ukrainian people.

“Canada and Ukraine share a deep and historic friendship built on shared values and strong people-to-people bonds,” said Trudeau.

Ben Rowswell, the president of the Canadian International Council, said the conference will underscore the West’s and Canada’s commitment to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

“Canada has been a real stalwart defender of democracy in Ukraine, part of a broader approach we have to the international order to ensure that countries, even if they’re very close to Russia are able maintain their sovereignty and to operate as democracies free from the interference of hostile foreign powers like Russia,” said Rowswell, who most recently served as Canada’s last ambassador to Venezuela.

Canada became the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Canada has supplied it with $785 million worth of military, legal, financial, development and political assistance since 2014 when President Vladimir Putin tried to bring the country back into Russia’s sphere of influence as Ukraine was poised to deepen its integration with the European Union.

With the federal election set for October, Ukraine’s turmoil has implications for Canada’s domestic politics: the 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent comprise one of the country’s most influential diaspora communities.

That reality was not lost of on the Conservatives under former prime minister Stephen Harper, who visited Kyiv repeatedly and sent special teams of Canadian election monitors to support Ukraine’s various ballots over the years.

The Trudeau government has followed suit. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s own Ukrainian heritage has helped keep the country near the top of her agenda.

Freeland was one of the first Western politicians to visit Zelenskiy in Kyiv after he was declared the victor last month.

A senior Canadian official who was in the room for their meeting, but was not authorized to speak for attribution, said that while the new president and his entourage have little political experience, Canada isn’t worried he will shift Ukraine back towards the Kremlin and away from Canada and its western allies.

Zelenskiy is frequently compared with former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who went from being a Hollywood actor to the California governorship before winning the Oval Office.

Though Zelenskiy lacks political experience, the long-running political satire in which he portrayed a fictional Ukraine president demonstrated a well-researched and sophisticated understanding of politics and corruption, the Canadian official said, comparing him to Canada’s Rick Mercer.

Canada has offered Zelenskiy’s officials training on how to actually run a government because they lack experience and are running a country whose institutions are not as strong as those in the West.

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A tale of 2 subways: Comparing Ottawa’s LRT to Montreal’s Metro





Ottawa’s 13-stop, 12.5-kilometre Confederation Line has been under construction for more than six years and missed four deadlines.

More than 50 years ago, the City of Montreal managed to build a complex, 26-stop subway system — including a connection below the St. Lawrence River — in less than five years, on time and on budget.

So how was Montreal able to pull off a project twice the size, and do it in less time?

1. Keeping deadlines

The City of Montreal designed and built its $213-million Metro with an eye on Expo 67, and in a 1963 interview then mayor Jean Drapeau promised the rubber-tired subway would be ready in time and on budget.

Drapeau delivered, and the Metro opened in 1966.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson made no such promises. However, he had originally hoped to have the above-ground portion of the Confederation Line completed by Canada Day 2017, and for the trains to be up and running by the following spring.

The Rideau Street sinkhole put a wrench in those plans.

This archived February 2016 screenshot from the City of Ottawa’s Confederation Line website shows that the plan was initially to have full LRT service launched by the spring of 2018. (

2. Different safety standards

According to Benoît Clairoux, the Montreal Transit Corporation’s unofficial historian, 70 per cent of the Metro’s tunnels were blasted through the rock using explosives. The rest involved ripping up streets or vacant lots.

Ottawa’s $2.1-billion system is less disruptive, at least on the surface: its 2.5-kilometre tunnel was dug entirely with three subterranean boring machines.

The Montreal project was also marred by a series of serious construction accidents, claiming the lives of 12 workers before the first trains ran.

With more stringent safety standards, the Confederation Line project has seen a few injuries, but no fatalities.

“We want to ensure that during construction and after, we always have something safe and reliable,” said OC Transpo spokesperson André Brisebois.

This machine is one of three used to bore the 2.5-kilometre tunnel under downtown Ottawa. (City of Ottawa)

3. Different technology

You might assume that as technology advances, the length of time it takes to complete such major infrastructure projects shrinks. But you’d be wrong.

According to Brisebois, the Confederation Line is a much more sophisticated system than the Montreal Metro when it was first introduced.

In 1966, human operators controlled the Metro trains. When Ottawa’s LRT system finally opens its doors to passengers,  human operators will still be in the driver’s seat, but machines will be running the system.

Everything is computerized, but that takes more time to develop, install and to test. OC Transpo said it doesn’t want to compromise the safety and efficiency of its LRT network.

Ottawa’s LRT system, including these turnstiles at Parliament station, will be far more technologically advanced than Montreal’s Metro when it was introduced in 1966. (City of Ottawa)

4. Public vs. private

From beginning to end, the City of Montreal was the prime contractor on its Metro project. Ottawa hired a private consortium, Rideau Transit Group (RTG).

University of Ottawa law professor Gilles LeVasseur said there’s an assumption the private sector is more effective at managing projects and reducing costs, but that’s not always the case.

Just ask the City of Ottawa.

“We trust the private sector because the private sector makes promises, with delivery and deadlines that seem very attractive. The problem is that they’re often not able to meet the requirements, and are always asking for delays,” LeVasseur said in French.

The latest deadline for Ottawa’s light rail project is now August.

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Recycling plant’s closure leaves Ottawa Valley towns scrambling





A swath of the Ottawa Valley has nowhere to send its recycling following the abrupt closure of a sorting plant in Renfrew, Ont.

Beaumen Waste Management Systems shut down Sunday after more than two decades in business, leaving 32 workers jobless. 

“People are upset,” said mechanic John Greer, who was at the plant Wednesday to pick up his personal belongings.

Greer, who worked at the plant for four years, said employees received no warning about the closure. He fears the plant is likely closed for good.

Workers were expecting their final paycheques Wednesday, but have been told they’ll have to wait until Friday. 

The company’s president and CEO, Andrew Shouldice, did not return calls from CBC.

Beaumen Waste Management Systems Ltd. closed its plant in Renfrew, Ont., on Sunday. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Challenge for municipalities

The closure poses a major challenge for municipalities from Renfrew to Arnprior that relied on the company to pick up and sort their recycling.

Beaumen had contracts with Renfrew, Arnprior, Horton, Admaston/Bromley, McNab/Braeside and Whitewater Region.

The City of Brockville also sent some of its blue box material to the plant for sorting.

Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said he was shocked by the sudden closure. Emon said he was part of a delegation of municipal officials who toured the plant just three weeks ago, and there was no hint it was about to close.

Reeve of Renfrew shocked to find out recycling plant has closed 00:00 00:43 Reeve of Renfrew shocked to find out recycling plant has closed 0:43

However, there had been signs in the past that the company was struggling, Emon said. Last year the company urged the Town of Renfrew to up its per household pickup fee in order to generate an extra $60,000, he said.

“[Beaumen’s president] said, ‘Look, I’m having difficulties,'” Emon said. According to Emon, Shouldice cited China’s strict new rules restricting the import of foreign waste.

“We agreed at that point to increase our payment to him, so we were a bit surprised that this happened,” Emon said.

Scramble for new facility

For the time being, Renfrew residents are being asked to hang onto their recyclable waste, but town officials are worried their patience will wear thin and all that plastic, glass and paper will end up in the local landfill.

Renfrew resident Ray Yolkowskie said he’s uncomfortable with the idea of throwing recylcables in the trash, but he’s not going to let it pile up forever.

“It’s going to be a lot more garbage in the dump, but what can you do?” he said. 

Longtime Renfrew resident Ray Yolkowskie isn’t happy with the idea of letting his recycling pile up, but doesn’t want it to end up in the dump, either. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Beaumen is not the only recycling company in financial peril, and Emon fears it could be a canary in the coalmine, with recyclers across Canada struggling to remain sustainable as the rules of the game change.

Earlier this month, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario applauded the Ontario government’s initiative to examine how manufacturers can be made more responsible for the cost of municipal blue box programs. 

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Trudeau urged to review status of Liberal MP after law firm tied to alleged ‘drug boss’





NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus and fellow Vancouver-area NDP MPs sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a letter on Thursday following a Global News investigation that revealed the law firm of Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido brokered a secretive and controversial real estate deal with an alleged organized crime kingpin.

On Tuesday, Global News reported a lawyer at Peschisolido’s former Richmond law firm facilitated a “bare trust” joint venture that involved Kwok Chung Tam — a man who, between 1991 and 2014, was accused by law enforcement officials of being a “brazen” loan shark, heroin importer and alleged “heavyweight” of the Big Circle Boys.

The deal was struck in October 2011 while Tam was still serving a conditional sentence for a 2010 marijuana drug trafficking conviction, court records show. The deal allowed Tam to conceal his ownership stake in a $7.8-million land purchase in Coquitlam, B.C., and, according to financial crime experts, should have raised “huge red flags” about potential money laundering.

Now opposition MPs are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate and to review Peschisolido’s membership in the Liberal caucus.

WATCH: NDP Leader grills Trudeau over ‘bare trust’ real estate deal facilitated by Richmond MP’s law firm

“Real or suspected corruption has real human costs, and your government needs to immediately show Canadians in British Columbia and across the country that you have the courage to fight for them and to deal with this crisis,” wrote Angus and three other Vancouver-area MPs in their letter to Trudeau.

“Mr. Peschisolido clearly owes his constituents a full explanation as soon as possible,” they wrote.

The letter also raised the broader issue of money laundering in B.C. and concerns over links between organized crime and the province’s growing opioid crisis.

“On your part, you should review Mr. Peschisolido’s continued membership in the Liberal caucus,” the letter said.

Peschisolido has denied any knowledge of the 2011 Tam deal and says he has never dealt with Tam in any capacity. He also says he voluntarily chose to wind down his law firm in December 2017.

Tam, meanwhile, has denied any allegations of gang membership.

In a written statement, his lawyer said claims of organized crime and gang involvement have never been proven in court or any immigration hearings.

Despite the many allegations levelled against Tam, he has only been convicted three times. He was convicted for theft under $1,000 in 1992 — for which he received a pardon in 1997 — and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and possession of narcotics in 2010.

Questions about potential money laundering

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pressured Trudeau in the House of Commons on Tuesday about money laundering in B.C. and asked whether he had spoken with Peschisolido about the secretive financial transaction.

Trudeau avoided answering the question directly but insisted his government is fighting money laundering by increasing funding to the RCMP, Fintrac and the Canada Revenue Agency by more than $160 million.

“We are committed to a robust regime to combat money laundering and terrorist financing,” Trudeau said.

WATCH: Conservatives press government on Liberal MP’s law firm being taken over by B.C. Law Society

Peter Kent, the Conservative MP for Thornhill, Ont., asked during Tuesday’s question period whether Peschisolido had ever lobbied members of cabinet on money laundering, bare trust deals, mortgage rules or Fintrac reporting requirements.

Organized Crime Reduction and Border Security Minister Bill Blair responded, saying the government has reversed cuts to the RCMP’s anti-money laundering efforts made by the previous Conservative government and is working with lawyers to “further explore how the legal community can address the issue of legal professionals being used to facilitate money laundering and terrorism.”

Peschisolido denies knowledge of bare trust deal

For his part, Peschisolido maintains he had no knowledge of the 2011 bare trust deal and that all lawyers at his former firm operated “completely independently.”

“I’ve never been involved in a bare trust agreement,” Peschisolido said. “If you were to ask me how it works, I wouldn’t know.”

WATCH: Liberal MP says he has no knowledge of ‘bare trust’ real estate deal facilitated for alleged ‘drug boss’

“During my time with Peschisolido and Associates, I was not involved in any ‘bare trust’ real estate deals and did not deal with Mr. Kwok Chung Tam in any capacity,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “The lawyers who were at Peschisolido and Associates were there as independent contractors and oversaw and managed their own files independently.”

Peschisolido also said he voluntarily chose to “wind down” his law firm to dedicate his time and efforts to serving his constituents.

“While practicing [sic], I conducted myself at all times with professionalism and integrity and always followed all Law Society rules and guidelines. I fully support our Government’s significant efforts to combat money laundering in all its forms, including in the real estate sector, and the steps taken to strengthen beneficial ownership transparency by ensuring that corporations maintain this information in their records,” he said.

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