Friday, May 31, 2013

A Canadian Hurricane Centre Special Taxpayer Alert: Batten down the hatches Hurricane Pam is headed your way!

Senate spending scandal: In midst of Mike Duffy storm, Conservatives brace for Hurricane Wallin: Tim Harper

Their colleagues are eagerly taking down Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin before they are completely dragged down with them, writes Star columnist Tim Harper

By Tim Harper, National Affairs
Friday, May 31, 2013
Brad Wall, the premier of Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin's home province of Saskatchewan, once defended the senator's time spent in the province. Now he calls for the abolition of the Senate. (February 28, 2013) [Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press File Photo]

OTTAWA—For those bending in the headwinds of the Senate spending scandal — from the prime minister on down — there is every reason to brace for another ferocious gust about to blow.
That is an ill wind coming in from Wadena.
There is every reason to believe that a pending audit of Saskatchewan Senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses promises to be an epic chapter in an unfolding scandal which has already destabilized Stephen Harper and his government, cost the job of the prime minister’s chief of staff Nigel Wright, led to a likely RCMP probe and pushed Wallin and one-time colleague Mike Duffy out of the Conservative caucus.

INTERACTIVE View Senators' expenses

In anticipation of more grim news, Wallin’s former colleagues in both the House of Commons and the Senate are hardening their position on the former broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient, promoting a narrative they want in the public discourse. At the same time, they have come together to blunt any move by Duffy to try to take others down with him on his way out the door.
Those who once lauded the duo have pivoted in a bid to salvage their own reputations and putting as much distance between them and the toxic pair as possible.
Harper, once a staunch defender of Wallin and her travel expenses, struck a much different tone this week about the woman he appointed in 2008 and who now sits as an independent, bereft of allies.

“She obviously will not be readmitted (to Conservative caucus) unless those matters are resolved,” he said. “If she has in any way acted improperly, she will be subject to the appropriate authorities and the consequences for those actions.”
Brad Wall, the premier of Wallin’s home province of Saskatchewan, once defended the senator’s time spent in the province. Now he calls for the abolition of the Senate.
Colleagues in the Senate, of either political stripe, are eager to tell tales of Wallin’s imperious style as a committee chair, her refusal to hear witnesses, her decision to quash biparty motions for hearings, her ruthlessness with the gavel.
They will tell you about her treatment of her staff, her over weaning ambition, they will whisper that there is a pattern of wanton spending in her previous posts.
Senate expense reports show that from Sept. 1, 2010, to the end of February this year, Wallin claimed $30,238 for “regular” travel from Ottawa to her Saskatchewan home, but $321,842 for “other” travel, leading to charges she has been billing the Senate for corporate travel.

But they won’t explain how Wallin has been allowed to pay back more than $40,000 in expenses in two separate payments while she is the subject of an audit.
Wallin did not return a call seeking comment.
A repayment of expenses while under investigation does nothing to absolve one of wrongdoing, just as the Duffy repayment of $90,000 — even if it had been his own money — does not scrub clean his stain.
The Senate is setting itself up for the same type of questions that gave the Duffy spending scandal such oxygen — who has tipped her to the audit findings, who is allowing her to have these kicks at replenishing the public coffer, and why, after giving Duffy a break because the money was repaid, would they be giving the same opportunity to Wallin?
As for Duffy and any fear that he may know where the bodies are buried, his one-time allies are clearly prepared to target his credibility. It’s an easy target.

Should he make any allegations as the plank shortens, they will paint him as a serial prevaricator with a curious cash flow problem always looking to line his pockets.
Senator David Tkachuk, one of the whitewashers of the original Duffy audit report, now tells reporters, “Of course (Duffy) was lying.”
E-mails obtained by the CBC Thursday in which Duffy is seen to be seeking guidance on obtaining a cabinet post and an expanded role funded by the Conservative party played into the growing portrait of a man gaming the system for personal gain.
“He’s delusional,” said Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate, who said she was never approached by Duffy with such a scheme.
Others have mocked Duffy for having a part-time staffer fall on her sword for him. Diane Scharf went public in the Ottawa Citizen this week in a bid to corroborate Duffy’s earlier contention that he claimed $85 per diems for Ottawa work while in Florida because of her clerical error.
The takedown of Duffy and Wallin has just begun. It is either take down, or be dragged down with them.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Twitter:@nutgraf1

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Help eliminate stupid patents and trolls!

Save Podcasting!

This is a friendly message from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. View it in a web browser.

Dear Clare,

You can help save podcasting. A troll has been using an outrageously over broad patent on distributing media files to sue podcasters and threaten others into settlements. EFF hopes to mount a campaign to bust stupid, dangerously broad patents that Personal Audit has been using to shakedown podcasters.

There's a steep fee prescribed by the US Patent and Trademark Office for the kind of challenge EFF plans to make, an inter partes review. But with your help and the help of podcasters everywhere, we'll be able to bring a robust case directly to the Patent Office to stop Personal Audio from doing any more damage to online broadcasters.

Patent trolls don't make anything - they just suse the threat of lawsuits to extort settlements from their targets. Their actions chill innovation and stymie creators, and EFF would be proud to have your help in saving podcasting from this assault.  Please consider supporting us today.

Thank you,
Julie Samuels
EFF Staff Attorney and Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents

What about Minister Responsible for Senate Expenses?

Duffy sought cabinet perks for 'expanded role, email says
An email exchange with Conservative in 2009 advises caution with travel claims

Thursday, May 30 2013
An email obtained by CBC News shows that six months after being named a Conservative senator, Mike Duffy was discussing his 'expanded role'with the party and how he could 'get a staff, car and more resources.' (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Six months after he was appointed to the Senate, Mike Duffy was in consultations with Conservatives about an expanded role in the party and expectations of increased compensation, including his own suggestion he be named a minister without portfolio to get a car and staff, according to an email exchange obtained by CBC News.
The email, with the subject line "Duff" and dated July 2009, appears to be sent from Duffy's private email account to an unidentified Conservative Party insider.
In a reply, the party insider advises Duffy to keep any expenses for additional staff or resources with the party, and out of his office budget, "or it will hurt you down the road."
The email asks for advice about how Duffy should be compensated for what the email calls "my expanded role in the party." In the message, Duffy says he'll be speaking with Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein at a Senate golf banquet, but seems to indicate he'd already spoken with Gerstein.
The email goes on, "I suggested they make me a min without portfolio, so I get a staff, car and more resources to deal with the pr fallout etc. he laughed and said he didn't think THAT was within the realm of the Cons fund."
Conservative Fund Canada is the party's war chest, funded by supporters' donations, and is chaired by Gerstein. Gerstein, a former president of Peoples Jewellers and chair of the Senate banking committee, was appointed to the Senate on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the same time as Duffy, in January 2009.
So, continues the email, "What do I demand?" Then, in a bracketed sentence, he seems to answer his own question: "(That the Cons fund hire my private company, and I use the cash to hire additional staff to assist with these gigs?)"
Finally, the email asks whether he should have a separate meeting with "Marjory," in apparent reference to the government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton. He adds, "Should I request a one on one with Stephen? To what end?" He signs off, "Mike, at home."

Advised to be cautious with travel

Five hours later, he receives a reply, advising him to "keep the discussion with Irving." Any money, staff or resources should come from the "fund," the adviser says, seemingly nixing the idea of asking for a cabinet position.
The reply continues that it's important for Duffy to have the fund pay for his travel. "So you don't get into trouble or run out of points."
"Points" likely refers to the 64-point system used by the Senate to fund senators' travel. Each point is usually worth a return flight.
The reply concludes, "Don't take a credit card, just expense to them," meaning Duffy shouldn't use his own credit card, or his Senate-issued American Express corporate credit card. His Senate credit card was used to track his whereabouts by the accounting firm Deloitte when it conducted its audit this year on his expense claims.
Duffy, using his celebrity as a former popular TV host, carried out extensive fundraising and election campaign events for the Conservative Party, appearing with candidates across the country. During the last general election, he acted as master of ceremonies at an event featuring the prime minister.
On Tuesday, a Senate committee voted to refer the matter of Duffy's expense claims to the RCMP. Reports indicate that Duffy at times claimed Senate expenses while he was appearing at election campaign events.
Contacted by CBC News Thursday, Duffy responded to a series of specific questions about the email, with this:
"I don't golf and don't have a record of any banquet."
CBC News attempted to contact Gerstein Thursday afternoon and was told he was not in his Senate office. A request was made for an interview.

To serve, protect and harass?

Up next .....

"The maggots are closing in Mayor Ford!"

Rob Ford video scandal: Mayor Ford said he knew where video was sources say

The mayor cited "our contacts" as the source of his information according to insiders familiar with an unusual May 17 session in his office.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks during a press conference at City Hall to talk about the rain storm on Wednesdsay, May 29, 2013. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told senior aides not to worry about a video appearing to show him smoking crack cocaine because he knew where it was, sources told the Star.
Ford then blurted out the address of two 17th-floor units — 1701 and 1703 — at a Dixon Rd. apartment complex, to the shock of staffers at a city hall meeting almost two weeks ago, the sources said.
The mayor cited “our contacts” as the source of his information, according to insiders familiar with the unusual May 17 session in his office.
Staffers were alarmed by the implication of hearing so precise a location, sources said.
This report is based on accounts given by those privy to what was discussed the day after the Star and the U.S. website Gawker published news of the crack-cocaine video shot on a cellphone.
Ford has called news of the video “false” and said: “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.”
Around the table at city hall on May 17 were operations and logistics director David Price, then deputy chief of staff Earl Provost, press secretary George Christopoulos and others. Missing from the meeting was Mark Towhey, then Ford’s chief of staff. Also not in attendance was communications special assistant Isaac Ransom.
Towhey was fired last Thursday after counselling Ford to seek help for his health. Christopoulos and Ransom resigned “on principle” Monday, and Provost is now chief of staff.
The Star sent emails outlining the allegations, complete with a series of questions, to all people named in this report. As of press time, none had responded to requests for interviews.
One of the key questions the Star asked of Ford was how he came to know, the day after the video news broke, of the Dixon Rd. apartment numbers.
The Star has visited the units and been told by neighbours that numerous young men are seen coming and going there at all hours of the night and day. Nobody said they had seen Ford.
In letters to those at Ford’s May 17 meeting, the Star provided the following scenario for comment:
“To all of you who are receiving this letter, please be aware that we are asking these questions in the public interest about a serious matter. We strongly advise you to reach out to us to discuss this story. We want to hear your side of it. Most importantly, if there is anything you believe is not factual, or anything you would like to add, please contact us by this Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Here is what we believe transpired on Friday, May 17, the day the story of the video was published on the front page of the Toronto Star:
During the meeting, when concern was raised about the existence of a video, Mayor Ford told staffers “not to worry” as he knows where the video is.
To the surprise of some present, Mayor Ford then blurts out the Dixon Rd. address, including the two apartment units on the 17th floor, 1701 and 1703.”
There were no replies from any of the Ford officials, including his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, who was not at the meeting.
The Star’s ongoing investigation of the crack video report shows that later in the day, Price — whose duties include making sure the mayor gets to and from home and work safely — approached Towhey with a question.
“Hypothetically,” Price asked Towhey, if someone had told him where the video was, “What would we do?”
The straitlaced former military man told Price that nobody should do anything other than contact police.
At one point, according to an account of the conversation, Towhey was heard to remark, “We’re not getting the f---ing thing!”
His concern was that, if a video existed, someone could be killed for it.
Price also told Towhey the video may have been the reason that Anthony Smith, a person pictured in a photo with Ford published in the Star on May 17, was killed.
Inquiring further that Friday, Towhey asked Price where he learned the address and apartment numbers. The Star’s research shows that Price replied only “sources” and would not say how he learned the information.
The next day, Towhey gave a statement revealing his concerns to Toronto Police. Price was also interviewed. The Star is trying to determine what, if anything, Price did with the information he received from his “sources.”
Police have assigned two detectives to interview Towhey and carry out an investigation into his allegations.
Several days after these events, early on Tuesday morning at 4:20 a.m., a young man was shot in the leg outside one of the 17th-floor apartments. The Star has looked into this and been told by people in the neighbourhood, and by Toronto Police, that it was an accidental shooting involving people who were drunk and that it is not related to the video.
An editor from Gawker and two Star reporters have viewed the video, which is being offered for sale by drug dealers. The Star journalists described a video showing a rambling and incoherent Ford smoking what appears to be a crack pipe and making homophobic and racially charged statements. The Star reporters were shown the video by a man who said it was shot on an iPhone.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wouldn't you love to see lawyer Tony Merchant and his wife Senator Pana Merchant's income tax returns for 2012?

Probe urged into Senator Pana Merchant's role in offshore account

Senate ethics officer asked to investigate Pana Merchant following CBC revelations

Tuesday, May 28
Conservative Senator Vern White, left says he's asked the Senate ethics officer to look into Liberal Pana Merchant following a CBC Report.

The ruckus over senators and their finances grew louder Tuesday, with a Tory member of the upper chamber demanding answers from Liberal Pana Merchant about $1.7 million her husband moved into offshore account.

Conservative Senator Vern White said he has asked the Senate's ethics officer to look into Merchant's role in the matter, saying there are "serious questions" to be dealt with.

CBC News first revealed last month that Merchant's husband, Regina class-action lawyer Tony Merchant, had shifted the funds in 1998 to an offshore trust based in the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific. Pana Merchant and the couple's three sons were all named as beneficiaries of the trust.

Merchant never addressed questions from CBC News about her role in the offshore entity and whether she declared it confidentially, as required, to the Senate ethics officer.
White appointed to the senate last year after serving as Ottawa's police chief, said he would like to see Merchant open up.

News tips

If you have more information on this story, or other investigative tips to pass on, please email

"Having no response satisfies no one," he said in an interview. "I think we all have a responsibility to start asking questions right now if we're going to hold each other to the same level of account the public wants us to be held to account."

The Senate ethics office said in a statement that its next step is to give Merchant a chance to respond. After that, Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard will decide whether to launch a formal investigation.

Merchant's own caucus colleague, Liberal Percy Downe, has called for the Saskatchewan senator to provide answers about the offshore money.

"We're all innocent until proven guilty in this country, but I want to hear her explanation," Downe told CBC News in early April.
'Red flags'

Merchant did not immediately respond on Tuesday to phone and email requests for an interview.

It is not illegal to move funds offshore or be the beneficiary of an offshore trust, however Canadians must declare all of their global income to the Canada Revenue Agency.
A tax expert previously consulted by CBC News said Tony Merchant's offshore dealings raised "some serious red flags." Tax-court filings obtained by CBC News showed that on his income tax return for 1999, the year after he established the offshore trust and put $1.7 million into it, Merchant ticked off the box for "No" when asked whether he owned more than $100,000 in "foreign property."

Under Senate rules put in place in 2005, Pana Merchant would have been required to confidentially declare that she was a beneficiary of the trust to the Senate ethics officer. But unless the officer deemed the information relevant to Merchant's parliamentary work, the public has no access to it.
Expense audits

The Senate has been embroiled for weeks in a scandal over the expenses claimed by four of its members. Former Conservatives Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau as well as ex-Liberal Mac Harb have all seen their expense accounts audited amid claims they used taxpayer money improperly.

Duffy has had $90,000 of his expenses repaid on his behalf by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's then chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who resigned after the payment was revealed. Wallin has also repaid thousands of dollars, CBC News reported last week.

Harb and Brazeau are fighting orders to repay money.

Senator White maintained his decision to publicly call for an investigation into a Liberal senator was in no way an attempt to deflect from the scrutiny on his three former caucus mates, who now sit as Independents.

"I expect the public may say this is about partisanship. I can tell you it isn't, but at the end of the day the public will have to judge that."

If you have more information on this story, or other investigative tips to pass on, please email

Are you going to sue "the maggots" punk ..... well are you?

Why hasn't mayor sued the Star?
Newspaper has taken a calculated risk in rushing to publish details of allegedly damning video

By Alan Shanoff
Monday, May 28, 2013
Mayor Ford should launch legal action says columnist Alan Shanoff. (Dave Abel/Toronto Star)

The most puzzling thing about the video purporting to show Rob Ford smoking crack and the Toronto Star's coverage thereof is Ford's apparent reticence in suing the Star for defamation. The Star coverage has Ford covorting with criminals and smoking crack. It's hard to imagine a more serious defamation of our law and order mayor.

Suing the Star should be an easy task. If sued, the Star would have the onus of establishing one of two defences: truth or responsible communication. Truth would be a tough defence to pursue without the video and a a thorough forensic analysis of it. While the Star might gets its hands on the video in the future, it currently doesn't have the video and can't establish its authenticity. It's doubtful anyone would be willing to testify under oath they supplied drugs to Ford or were present when Ford smoked crack.

For now that leaves the Star with the responsible communication defence. Responsible communication is a relatively new defamation defence made available in 2009 courtesy of 2 Supreme Court of Canada decisions, one of which coincidentally was a defamation lawsuit against the Star. The responsible communication defence is available when reporting on items of public interest, something about which the public has some substantial concern. Clearly any report on the mayor of Toronto engaging in criminal activity is a matter of very substantial public concern.

However, before applying the responsible communication defence the court will review a list of factors to determine if the defendant acted responsibly. Given the seriousness of the allegations made against Ford the required level of diligence necessary to verify the allegations and show responsible communication would be significant. Viewing a video without taking any steps to authenticate the video or its source would likely fail to achieve the required level of diligence.

The court will also examine the urgency of the matter and ask whether a delay in publication could have assisted a search for the truth or whether the public's need to know required the early publication. Clearly there was no urgency to publish. The fact that a foreign website had broken the story doesn't justify the Star's rush to publish.

Next the court will examine the status and reliability of the sources. Here again the Star would lose out as its sources could hardly be deemed trustworthy, in addition to their anonymous status.

One of the most important factors in the use of the responsible communication defence was whether comment was sought on a timely basis and adequately reported. Again the Star falls short as no effort was made to obtain comment until the evening prior to publication. On the other hand, the Star did report Ford's response quickly and prominently as soon as the response had been made.

Another significant factor is the language used and whether the Star reported the defamatory statements, not to establish their truth, but rather to report merely on the controversy of the existence of the video. Here again the Star falls short. True the reports are replete with cleverly worded disclaimers. For example the Star reports that the video "appears" to show Ford smoking crack and the Star "was not able to verify" claims made by its source concerning the supply of drugs to Ford. But not withstanding the clever use of disclaimers the overall tone of the coverage is clear: Ford was observed smoking crack.

Then there's the matter of malice. Responsible communication will fail as a defence if the defendant has acted with malice. Certainly there's enough bad blood on both sides for this to be a lively argument.

The Star has taken a calculated risk in rushing to publish and it seems the Star's defence would fail and Ford should win. So why hasn't he sued? The answer likely lies in the fact that as between Ford and the Star, only Ford knows if he has smoked crack and if there might be an authentic video. If he sues and the video surfaces and is authenticated, he'd lose and be stuck with a fortune in legal fees. But if the video is a fake Ford should win a large award.
Alan Shanoff is a lawyer called to the Bar in 1978. He has worked in a Bay Street firm and as a sole practitioner. From 1991-2007 he was the Sun Media's lawyer. Currently he teaches media law at Humber College.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Is your Conservative Member of Parliament 'horrifically depressed?' Bloody good it's about time!

PM's Conservative caucus 'horrifically depressed' about Senate expenses scandal, brand takes big hit say Tories

But Conservatives say they won't be down indefinitely

By Bea Vongdouangchanh
Monday, May 27, 2013
The majority-governing Conservative caucus is “horrifically depressed” and “disappointed” that three of their Senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper are embroiled in an explosive housing and travel expense scandal that is putting a major blow to their brand and party, say Conservatives and political insiders.

“Caucus is horrifically depressed. They are more depressed than angry,” said one Conservative insider, who did not want to be identified. “It’s hurting the government, it’s a distraction. It’s hurting the Conservative brand and the party more than the government because it’s a fundamental to who we are as Conservatives. It’s a blow to the brand because we actually care. We came to Ottawa to fix this.”

Summa Strategies vice-president Tim Powers, a former Conservative ministerial staffer, said that morale in the Conservative caucus “is not great,” since the government has been hammered with the revelation that PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright gave PEI Conservative Senator Mike Duffy $90,172 to repay housing expenses he inappropriately claimed over the last four years. Mr. Wright has since resigned as chief of staff, and Senator Duffy has resigned from caucus. Two other Conservatives, Saskatchewan Senator Pamela Wallin and Quebec Senator Patrick Brazeau are also embattled in the expense scandal with Liberal Senator Mac Harb whose housing allowance claims were being audited. All three have resigned from their caucuses.

The Toronto Star reported on Friday that the Senate asked external auditors looking at Senator Wallin’s travel expenses to widen their investigation over concerns Senator Wallin was claiming refunds for activities unrelated to Senate business. The RCMP, meanwhile, is also looking into the Senate expenses scandal, along with Canada’s ethics commissioner and Senate ethics officer. The Senate’s Internal Economy Committee is also looking at it again. 

“It’s not great. I mean, people are angry, they’re frustrated, they’re disappointed, and, as the Prime Minister said in his news conference, it’s a whole range of emotion. I think many people, many Conservatives, feel let down, as do Canadians, by the actions of Mike Duffy and some of the alleged actions of the other Senators,” Mr. Powers told The Hill Times. “It’s this self-indulgent behaviour that can sink a government and people are aware of that. I mean, the Conservatives got elected to change the way things are done, not to become entitled-to-my-entitlement Liberals. So, when people see what Mike Duffy allegedly did, that makes them angry.”

Mr. Powers said from his conversations with MPs, Senators, and staffers, Conservatives are upset with the whole issue and have been unified in condemning what happened, even though the communications strategy kept changing almost daily when the news of Mr. Wright’s involvement first broke on May 14.

“This behaviour is just not acceptable. It’s below the standards that the Conservative Party has set for themselves and Canadians, and it’s got to be dealt with and eradicated,” Mr. Powers said.

The Conservative source, meanwhile, said that “people are down, but they won’t be indefinitely,” and that a “bifurcation between the elected members and the unelected Senators” is expected.

The source said that some Conservative MPs will introduce a motion to have split caucus meetings, allowing for the elected House to have their own meetings and the appointed Senators their own with neither side welcome to either meeting. There would then only be one national caucus meting per year if the motion passes, the source said.

When asked what that would do to the party and caucus, the source said, “Who cares? Who cares what Senators think anymore? Canadians are saying, ‘We don’t care about the Senate anymore.’ One side is elected, and the others are employees of the party appointed by the Prime Minister. If you hooked up a monitor to the Red Chamber, the line would be flat. It’s dead.”

Conservative MPs were not as dire when speaking about the party’s future last week.
Conservative MP David Tilson (Dufferin-Caledon, Ontario) told The Hill Times that while “people are disappointed with Mr. Duffy,” Conservatives will get past this.
“They’re disappointed that this has gone on. I think it’s going to get resolved in time, but it’s going to take some time,” he said. “The opposition is having great fun and delight, which is their job, and their right to do that, but on the whole, I think we’re down a bit, but we’ll rise up again.”

Page 2 of 2

Mr. Tilson said as bad as this scandal is, it’s nowhere near the Liberal sponsorship scandal and it will not paint all Conservatives with a bad brush. He said constituents have been calling and emailing him about the Senate expense issue, but others have also noted that there are other important issues that need to be addressed, such as unemployment, Syria, and the Canada-EU trade agreement.

“Surely to goodness all of those issues have priority over this,” Mr. Tilson said. “We have to look at it [the Senate expense scandal]. I think the Senate’s going to have to clean up their act. They’re going to have to become more accountable. And when I say that, the honour system has to go. It’s going to have to go. They’re going to have to start doing what MPs do.

“We have to have receipts for everything we do. If we don’t have receipts, we don’t get paid and then sometimes it’s challenged. Members of Parliament couldn’t possibly get away with what some of the Senators have gotten away with in the past. That has to stop and I think it’s going to stop,” said Mr. Tilson.

Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Saskatchewan) said that “morale is excellent” in the caucus and that the government is working to reform the Senate which will help Canadians see the government is working on fixing the problem.

“We’re all very, very, very disappointed—some would use stronger language than disappointed—with the actions of some of our Senatorial colleagues but in terms of our House caucus, it’s very good morale. We understand, look there are some problems that need to be addressed without question. No one’s down in the dumps,” he said. “We’re all very unified, we’re very upbeat, and I think that’s an excellent sign. It shows the maturity I think of our caucus.”

While a Forum Research poll last week showed the Liberal Party with 44 per cent support which would give them a majority government if an election were held now, the Conservative source said there is plenty of “time to recover” for the 2015 election.

“There’s always time for the prodigal son to repent but they have to show that they’ve learned a lesson. It’s why any solution to the problem won’t include saving the Senate,” the source said. “They gave Duffy the benefit of the doubt, but it’s clear now he didn’t deserve it. He abused it, so the government stopped defending him. Mike Duffy has been revealed to be a morally weak, indiscreet individual not deserving of the office he held. It’s why he will be hounded out of the Senate.”

Mr. Powers agreed. “The past two-week period has been the worst two-week period for the government but the writing’s not on the wall yet, and may never be in terms of defeat, though the opponents of the Conservatives are seizing it as the Conservatives themselves would seize it,” he said. “I think it’s in how you react, how you respond, and reality check, we’re two years out from an election but it’s judgment time for a lot of people. I think it’s important to remember as well, that the B.C. Liberals who just won re-election in British Columbia were subject to a number of difficult moments not unlike these and they rebounded too, so I wouldn’t write any obituaries yet.”

Mr. Lukiwski said it’s too early to tell what the long-term impacts for the Conservative Party will be, but acknowledged the Conservative brand is taking a hit because of the Senate expense scandal.

“That doesn’t help our brand, but I think most reasonable Canadians, most objective thinking Canadians will understand, look, this is not a systemic problem of the Conservative Party but it’s a few individuals in the Senate have brought upon themselves,” he said. “If we continue to focus on the economy, continue to improve the economy, continue to prove to Canadians that we are providing them with good government and that includes both the House and the Senate, I think things will be fine by the time the next election rolls around.”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Someone who's been there!

Dennis Laurion

Dennis has left a new comment on your post, "SLAPP's are lawsuits of attrition!" 

Dear Mr. Pieuk:

Thanks for your coverage of David McKee versus Dennis Laurion, even though it transpired in Minnesota.

Although the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion, the entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened. My parents would be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they don’t know how to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents.

While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had the means and motivation to pursue me. The financial impact of being sued three years to date has been burdensome, a game of financial attrition that I haven’t wanted to play. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year’s net income - the same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage.

I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations. I’ve read that online complaints are safe "if you stick to the facts." That’s exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read generalities like “I’m upset. He did not treat my father well. He was insensitive. He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.”

However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. If one purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can go broke while waiting through the effort.

I feel that defamation lawsuits are much too easy for wealthy plaintiffs. If I were to attempt suing a doctor for malpractice, my case would not proceed until I'd obtained an affidavit from another doctor, declaring that the defendant’s actions did not conform to established procedures. In a defamation suit, there's generally no exit short of a judge's dismissal order - which can be appealed by the plaintiff. Being called "defendant" is terribly personal, but the civil suit path is totally impersonal. During the three years that I went through depositions, interrogatories, a dismissal hearing, an appellate hearing, and a state Supreme Court hearing; I never once spoke to a judge.

Anti-SLAPP legislation?

Court Watch has left a new comment on your post, "SLAPP's are lawsuits of attrition!" 

This is from:


If a (plaintiff) sues, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps defamation, its goal isn’t necessarily to win, said Marshall Tanick . . . The strategy is to force the other person to incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others . . . very few cases go all the way to trial. A (plaintiff’s) strategy typically includes filing in a state that might be inconvenient and costly for defendants. Lawyers will seek ways to avoid First Amendment issues because they are hard to prove.

Dear Court Watch:

Thank you for contacting CyberSmokeBlog with the very interesting article. Lawyer Marshall Tanick represented Dr. David McKee in a high profile defamation lawsuit against Dennis Laurion in what some would suggest was a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).
Marshall Tanick
David McKee

Dennis Laurion

Like many American states Minnesota has anti-SLAPP legislation on the books, however, CyberSmokeBlog is not sufficiently aware of the case's intricacies, nor is it a lawyer, to know if there was some sort of preliminary hearing and if so why this litigation was not tossed out from the get go. CSB recently received an e-mail from Mr. Laurion which it will post next. Perhaps he will be able to enlighten our readers on this question.

CyberSmokeBlog is based in Winnipeg Manitoba where anti-SLAPP legislation is non existent which describes the rest of the country save perhaps for British Columbia where even there it's lame/feeble.

Manitoba's Defamation Act hasn't had a major upgrade for about 30-years so nowhere will you find terms such as the internet, imported defamation, blog and its derivatives, etc., etc., etc. Perhaps a Crown Prosecutor here said it best. "The only way The Act will change is if someone successfully challenges certain provision(s) under The Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Supreme Court of Canada orders it be revised.

Realistically, who has the deep pockets required? In the meantime, don't expect legislators to get off their collective asses to effect change.

Clare L. Pieuk
Company sues over info put on Yahoo message board
By Minneapolis-St. Paul Tribune/Scripps Howard News Services

Treading into an important new area of Internet law, Nash Finch Co. has filed a lawsuit alleging that some people - possibly employees - have posted confidential information about the company on a Yahoo message board.
Courts, companies and often their current and former employees are working out what legally can be said about businesses on the Internet. The lawsuit by Nash Finch, a food wholesaler and retailer based in Edina, Minn., is an example of how companies are changing their legal strategies to go after people they believe have said harmful things about them on the Internet.
Normally, companies had slapped people with lawsuits that alleged libel, and individuals had defended themselves by saying their speech was protected by the First Amendment. But the companies that go after them have begun trying to get around that by alleging that such individuals did other things wrong, too.
The Nash Finch lawsuit, for example, claims breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. If the defendants turn out to be Nash Finch employees, they have violated the company's Code of Ethics and Business Conduct and Associate Handbook, the suit alleges.
Filed late last month in Santa Clara County, Calif., the suit did not name defendants specifically, but called them (John) "Does" 1 through 50. The company said it will amend its lawsuit once it learns the identities of those involved. To do that, Nash Finch lawyers are seeking to subpoena from Yahoo the real identities of the people who wrote the postings under made-up screen names.
A Nash Finch spokeswoman confirmed the company has filed the lawsuit, but declined further comment. The company has hired Allison Chock of the California-based law firm of Latham & Watkins, who also declined to comment.
Details and dates of the specific Yahoo postings are unknown, but recent postings by someone alleging to be a former board member are highly critical of Nash Finch CEO Ron Marshall, who joined the firm in 1998. One of the postings questioned Marshall's integrity while another casts doubt on the validity of the company's financial reports. Neither specified any particular wrongdoing.
The information placed on the Nash Finch message board has caused "irreparable injury" to its business, the suit alleges.
So what can you say about a company on the Internet?
Message-board participants have the right under the First Amendment to voice their opinions. That freedom is troublesome for companies and their legal and public-relations staffs, which wince about the complaints and scramble to correct inaccurate information that could be posted by consumers, investors, employees or competitors.
If a company sues, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps defamation, its goal isn't necessarily to win, said Marshall Tanick, a First Amendment expert at Mansfield & Tanick in Minneapolis. The strategy is "to force the other person to incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others" from making such statements, he said.
Companies typically shy from suing customers because it creates bad publicity. Thus, much of the legal activity involves employees or former workers. "I'm seeing it happen with increasing frequency ... yet very few (cases) go all the way" to trial and verdict, Tanick said.
A company's strategy typically includes filing in a state that might be inconvenient and costly for defendants. Lawyers will seek ways to avoid First Amendment issues because they are difficult to win. One option is to allege breach of contract or violation of trade secrets rather than defamation, he said.
Yet that's not foolproof.
For example, Ford Motor Co. unsuccessfully sought to stop a man from putting Ford's internal documents on his Internet site. Ford said the postings included blueprints for new engines and schedules for new vehicles, violating trade secret laws. A federal judge ruled against Ford, citing the First Amendment.
Many critical Web sites have been started by those with an ax to grind against a company, but some have been established by those hoping to make a buck selling the domain name back to the company.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,