Armie Hammer’s ex is speaking out. After acknowledging her estranged husband’s ongoing “cannibal” scandal last week, Elizabeth Chambers struck a very different tone on Monday.
Armie Hammer’s ex is speaking out. After acknowledging her estranged husband’s ongoing “cannibal” scandal last week, Elizabeth Chambers struck a very different tone on Monday.
(Leah Mills/Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters - image credit) Donald Trump's actions will take centre stage in a Vancouver courtroom this week as Meng Wanzhou's lawyers try to prove the former U.S. president poisoned extradition proceedings against the Huawei executive. The case should be tossed out because of alleged political interference, Meng's lawyers are expected to argue at the first of three sets of B.C. Supreme Court hearings scheduled to stretch into mid-May. A decision on the extradition request isn't expected until much later this year. The 49-year-old, who is Huawei's chief financial officer, is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker in Hong Kong in 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The arguments related to the former president concern a statement he made to a Reuters reporter in the weeks after Meng's arrest at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018. At the time, Trump said he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary to help the U.S. reach a trade deal with China. Charter rights argument could be 'decider' The Crown — which represents the U.S. in the proceeding — contends there's no evidence Trump made good on his words and that any possible influence he could have had on the case ended along with his term in office. University of B.C. professor Michael Byers, an expert on international law, says he doubts the defence team will have much success convincing Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes the U.S. Department of Justice has been swayed by political considerations. Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the telecommunications giant. She is accused of fraud and conspiracy. But he does think they'll have a better shot in the coming weeks with claims Meng's rights were breached on her arrival when Canada Border Services Agency officers questioned her for three hours before RCMP executed a warrant calling for her "immediate arrest." "That three-hour period could well have constituted a violation of her Section 7 rights to security of the person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "And so if the extradition judge is to rule that Ms. Meng should be set free, my expectation is that it's that particular element of the case that will be the decider." Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, the man who became a billionaire by turning his global communications giant into a flagship business prized by the Chinese state. Meng's legal team includes lawyers from firms across Canada. And her case is being spearheaded by Vancouver's Richard Peck, of Peck and Company. Strategy to have case thrown out Along with arguments about Trump's role, the allegations related to Meng's treatment by the CBSA are part of a multi-pronged defence strategy to have the proceedings stayed. Meng's lawyers also claim the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of its case and that American prosecutors are reaching far beyond their jurisdiction by trying a Chinese citizen for a conversation that took place in Hong Kong with an executive for an English bank. Meng Wanzhou's lawyers are expected to claim her charter rights were violated during her first few hours in CBSA custody. Holmes will hear submissions about the events surrounding Meng's arrest during the second stretch of hearings, scheduled to begin in mid-March. The defence claims the CBSA conspired with the RCMP and CBSA to have border agents question Meng without a lawyer. They also seized her cellphones and later gave the passcodes to police, in contravention of policy. The defence has accused the RCMP of sending technical information from Meng's electronic devices to the Americans. A senior officer who was in touch with a legal attache for the FBI has refused to testify — and last month, Meng's lawyers announced their intention to try to force the Crown to disclose their communication with him about that decision. 'An irritant' in U.S.-China relationship In court documents filed in advance of this week's hearing, Meng's lawyers cited comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about a need to tie a trade deal between the U.S and China to the resolution of Meng's situation and the fate of two Canadians imprisoned in China. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor have been accused of spying by the Chinese government in what most observers believe is retaliation for Meng's arrest. Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor, right, were arrested by China in the wake of charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. U.S. President Joe Biden has called for their release. The Crown doesn't make any mention of the so-called "two Michaels" in its submissions, but the defence claims the constellation of factors riding on the case has made it extremely difficult for Meng to defend herself without worrying about the impact on others. U.S. President Joe Biden called on China to release Kovrig and Spavor last week following a bilateral meeting with Trudeau, saying "human beings are not bartering chips." Byers believes Biden may decide to bring an end to efforts to extradite Meng in the coming months as he looks to improve the U.S. relationship with China. "It is in the hands of the Biden administration to end this case. And the Biden administration will be in the process now of resetting the relationship between the United States and China. That is a hugely important relationship, for economic reasons, for security reasons. "Those two superpowers need to get along. They need to get things done. And Ms. Meng's presence in Vancouver is an irritant in that relationship." To that end, reports by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters last December claimed Meng was in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice to bring an end to the case through a deal that would see her admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for a deferred prosecution agreement. In an exclusive interview with CBC's chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any deal would have to be made free of geopolitical considerations. "We follow the law. We follow the facts. "And one of the things that we don't do is have politics or foreign policy interfere in the workings of the Justice Department."
NEW YORK — With homebound nominees appearing by remote video and hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on different sides of the country, a very socially distanced 78th Golden Globe Awards trudged on in the midst of the pandemic and amid a storm of criticism for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with top awards going to “Nomadland,” “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Crown” and “Schitt's Creek.” The night's top award, best picture drama, went to Chloé Zhao's elegiac road movie “Nomadland," a Western set across economic upheaval and personal grief. Zhao, the China-born filmmaker of, became the first woman of Asian descent to win best director. She’s only the second woman in the history of the Globes to win, and the first since Barbra Streisand won for “Yentl” in 1984. “'Nomadland at its core for me is a pilgrimage through grief and healing,” said Zhao, accepting the awards remotely. “For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, this is for you." With a cancelled red carpet and stars giving speeches from the couch, Sunday's Globes had little of their typically frothy flavour. But they went on, nevertheless, with winners in sweats and dogs in laps, in a pandemic that has sapped nearly all the glamour out of Hollywood. Facing scant traditional studio competition, streaming services dominated the Globes like never before — even if the top award went to a familiar if renamed source: Searchlight Pictures, formerly the Fox specialty label of “12 Years a Slave” and “The Shape of Water” now owned by the Walt Disney Co. Amazon's “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” — one of the few nominated films shot partly during the pandemic — won best film, comedy or musical. Its star guerilla comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen, also won best actor in a comedy. Referring to Rudy Giuliani's infamous cameo, Cohen thanked “a fresh new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius.” “I mean, who could get more laughs from one unzipping," said Cohen. Netflix, which came in with a commanding 42 nominations, won the top TV awards. “The Crown,” as expected, took best drama series, along with acting wins for Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher). “The Queen's Gambit” won best limited series, and best actress in the category for Anya Taylor-Joy. “Schitt's Creek,” the Pop TV series that found a wider audience on Netflix, won best comedy series for its final season. Catherine O'Hara also took best actress in a comedy series. Chadwick Boseman, as expected, posthumously won best actor in a drama film for his final performance, in the August Wilson adaptation “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — a Netflix release. Boseman’s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, tearfully, emotionally accepted the award. “He would thank God. He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices,” said Ledward. “He would say something beautiful, something inspiring.” Apple TV+ scored its first major award when a sweatshirt-clad Jason Sudeikis won best actor in a comedy series for the streamer's “Ted Lasso.” The NBC telecast began in split screen. Fey took the stage at New York's Rainbow Room while Poehler remained at the Globes' usual home at the Beverly Hilton. In their opening remarks, they managed their typically well-timed back-and-forth despite being almost 3,000 miles from each other. “I always knew my career would end with me wandering around the Rainbow Room pretending to talk to Amy," said Fey. “I just thought it would be later.” They appeared before masked attendees but no stars. Instead, the sparse tables — where Hollywood royalty are usually crammed together and plied with alcohol during the show — were occupied by “smoking-hot first responders and essential workers,” as Fey said. In a production nightmare but one that's become familiar during the pandemic, the night's first winner accepted his award while muted. Only after presenter Laura Dern apologized for the technical difficulties did Daniel Kaluuya, who won best supporting actor for his performance as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” get his speech in. When he finally came through, he waged his finger at the camera and said, “You're doing me dirty!" Pandemic improvising was only part of the damage control for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Globes. After The Los Angeles Times revealed that there are no Black members in the 87-person voting body of the HFPA, the press association came under mounting pressure to overhaul itself and better reflect the industry it holds sway in. This year, none of the most acclaimed Black-led films — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “One Night in Miami,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Da 5 Bloods” — were nominated for the Globes’ best picture award. With the HFPA potentially fighting for its Hollywood life, Sunday's Globes were part apology tour. Fey and Poehler started in quickly on the issue. “Look, a lot of flashy garbage got nominated but that happens,” said Poehler. “That’s like their thing. But a number of Black actors and Black-led projects were overlooked.” Within the first half hour of the NBC telecast, members of the press association appeared on stage to pledge change. "We recognize we have our own work to do," said vice-president Helen Hoehne. “We must have Black journalists in our organization.” Whether those statements — along with a diverse group of winners — did enough to remedy anything remained unclear. The moment the show ended, Time's Up sent letters to both the HFPA and NBCUniveral demanding more than lip service. “The Globes are no longer golden. It’s time to act,” wrote Tina Tchen, the group's president. COVID-19 circumstances led to some award-show anomalies. Mark Ruffalo, appearing remotely, won best actor in a limited series for “I Know This Much Is True” with his kids celebrating behind him and his wife, Sunrise Coigney, sitting alongside. Lee Isaac Chung, writer-director of the tender Korean-American family drama “Minari" (a movie the HFPA was criticized for ruling ineligible for its top award because of its non-English dialogue), accepted the award for best foreign language film while his young daughter embraced him. “She's the reason I made this film,” said Chung. “'Minari' is about a family. It's a family trying to learn a language of its own. It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language. It's a language of the heart," said Chung. “I'm trying to learn it myself and to pass it on." John Boyega, supporting actor winner for his performance in Steve McQueen's “Small Axe” anthology, raised his leg to show he was wearing track pants below his more elegant white jacket. Jodie Foster ("The Mauritanian") won one of the biggest surprise Globes, for best supporting actress in a film, while, sitting on the couch next her wife, Alexandra Hedison, and with her dog, Ziggy on her lap. Some speeches were pre-taped. The previously recorded speeches by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the wining “Soul" score went without hiccup even though presenter Tracy Morgan first announced “Sal" as the winner. Even if speeches sometimes lacked drama without Hollywood gathered in one place, representation was a common refrain. Pointedly referring to the diversity of the HFPA, presenter and previous winner Sterling K. Brown began, “Thank you. It is great to be Black at the Golden Globes,” he said. “Back.” Jane Fonda, the Cecil B. DeMille Award honoree, spoke passionately about expanding the big tent of entertainment for all. “Art has always been not just in step in history but has lead the way,” said Fonda. “So let’s be leaders.” Other awards included Pixar's “Soul” for best animated film; Rosumund Pike took best actress in a comedy or musical film for “I Care a Lot"; Aaron Sorkin ("Trial of the Chicago 7") for best screenplay; and, in the night's biggest surprise, Andra Day ("The United States vs. Billie Holiday") for best actress in a drama, besting Carey Mulligan ("Promising Young Woman") and Frances McDormand ("Nomadland"). As showtime neared, the backlash over the HFPA threatened to overwhelm the Globes. Yet the Globes have persisted because of their popularity (the show ranks as the third most-watched award show, after the Oscars and Grammys), their profitability (NBC paid $60 million for broadcast rights in 2018) and because they serve as important marketing material for contending films and Oscar hopefuls. The Academy Awards will be held April 25. Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
(Deline Land Corporation - image credit) People in Délınę, N.W.T., will have greater control over how a group of abandoned mines will be cleaned up near their community. The Délınę Got'ınę Government signed an agreement with the federal government last Wednesday to form a pair of committees that will allow community members a say in decisions about the clean-up. The abandoned mines near Great Bear Lake are one of eight high-risk mining sites the federal government plans to remediate in the Northwest Territories and Yukon. The plan is expected to cost $2.2 billion over 15 years. "For many generations, we've avoided these areas because of the contamination," said Ɂek'wahtı̨dǝ́ Leeroy Andre, Délınę's elected leader, in an interview with CBC Trail's End host Lawrence Nayally. "We're still scared to go on the land because we don't know what exposures we have, and we don't trust the government. So I want to make sure that the work that we do is by our people and for our people, and that they can see for themselves the work that they've done," he said. "We don't want to repeat those same mistakes that that has caused many problems." Andre points to the legacy of Port Radium, a former uranium mine near the community along Great Bear Lake. He says many ore workers and their family members developed cancer later in life, leading to a lot of mistrust. Andre said one of the biggest sites to tackle is the former Terra Mine, home to a mill, tailings pond and a number of large fuel tanks, which according to the federal government, led to significant fuel contamination in the soil. In this file photo, a number of barrels gather rust at the Norex Mine site near Great Bear Lake. The governance agreement announced Thursday establishes the Délı̨nę-Canada Remediation Management Committee and Operations Committee. The management committee will direct the remediation project while the operations committee will look to carry it out. "This agreement allows us to move forward together, as partners, on this important project to restore the land while protecting and maintaining the ecological integrity of Great Bear Lake and its watershed," said Dan Vandal, federal minister of Northern Affairs, in a statement accompanying the announcement. It will also allow for economic benefits to the community, including training opportunities for local hires. Economic opportunity The agreement stands in contrast to work at the Giant Mine site near Yellowknife, one of the eight abandoned mine sites included in Ottawa's remediation project. The Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the federal government recently agreed to set up a formal process to discuss an apology and compensation for the First Nation and to ensure the YKDFN play a formal role in the remediation after the mine operated on its land without its consent for several decades. The cleanup of Giant Mine is expected to cost nearly $1 billion and take 18 years. MLA for Yellowknife North Rylund Johnson brought it up during a sitting of the territory's legislative assembly last week. Johnson said there is decades of work to be done but the territory is failing to capture one of the largest economic development opportunities in its history. "Remediating the North's contaminated sites is an act of reconciliation, a massive economic driver, and leaves a better future for next generations," Johnson said. He said the territory needs to track the socioeconomic outcomes of the projects, something the N.W.T. minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment committed to look into. 'We want to use this land' Back in Délıne, Andre said the remediation work is a daunting project, but necessary work. "At the end of it, we want to make sure that the environment is going to be healthy and safe for people to go back," he said. "We want to use this land. It's such a beautiful area."
(Helen Pike/CBC - image credit) The union representing Calgary's transit workers says despite an overall drop in ridership, a steady number of operational issues indicate a need to bring back some of the transit workers laid off last spring. Mike Mahar, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, says staff are complaining about too much overtime, too many overloaded buses and sporadic bus breakdowns that lead to "no shows" because there's no one to backfill. Mahar said within the last week, a charter transit bus ran into problems and left students at a high school scrambling to find another way home. "Normally Calgary Transit will have, you know, five or six or seven people on what they call standby, and as soon as the bus breaks down, they dispatch another bus with another driver," he said. "They can't do that when they've maxed themselves out, there's just no resources left." Approximately 450 workers were laid off last spring and routes were scaled back or temporarily suspended after revenues and ridership plunged due to COVID-19. Mahar said some of the laid off workers have already been brought back, but he believes more need to return — especially considering concerns around health and safety with respect to the pandemic. Stephen Tauro, a spokesperson with the city, said Calgary Transit is monitoring the situation and called the "no show" incident involving a high school charter bus a one-off. Tauro said ridership is only 25 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic, yet service levels are at 82 per cent. He said if they see a significant increase in ridership, they'll boost service levels. Approximately 450 workers were laid off last spring and routes were scaled back or temporarily suspended after revenues and ridership plunged due to COVID-19. Tauro added that according to the city's ongoing citizen satisfaction surveys, 85 per cent of riders say the service is meeting their needs. "So it's really a balancing act and being responsible with the tax dollars and ensuring that we can use those dollars to the best of our ability to meet the customer needs," he said. Transit overloads Mahar said the city sends him copies of the daily overload reports and lately he said he's been noticing reports of 50 or more overloads every day. Mahar shared a week's worth of the overload reports with CBC News which support that assessment. Pre-pandemic, a bus was considered overloaded if it reached 100 per cent capacity. During the pandemic, it has been lowered to 75 per cent capacity. When a bus is considered overloaded, the driver feels it's too full to pick up additional riders, so the length of time can vary depending on when people exit the bus. Mahar said there were reports of bus overloads pre-pandemic but he alleged the numbers are consistently up right now on some routes, especially during peak periods. He said drivers have a plastic shield and passengers must wear a mask, but said not everyone feels safe behind those barriers, nor always wears a mask. One rider who spoke to CBC News through social media said the bus she takes is usually packed, which she said doesn't make sense. "Calgary Transit still thinks it's okay to allow 70 people on the bus when there's only 36 seats [on a regular bus] and most people are not wearing masks," said Megan Mary, who is a regular transit rider. "If my place of work did that, or if I gather in my home or outside with 70 [or more] people, we'd be fined and closed down for not following public health regulations." Stephen Tauro, a spokesperson with the city, said Calgary Transit ridership is only 25 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic, yet service levels are at 82 per cent. Tauro said the reports shared with CBC News are raw data that require further investigation to see if they represent consistent issues that require a service change. He said if overloads happen on a consistent basis, then they will respond by adding another bus, increasing the frequency of the service or adjusting the size of the bus. In that case, he urged drivers and passengers to notify Calgary Transit every time a bus is too full so the city can see if any patterns emerge. Increased overtime Mahar said he's been tracking the overtime and double time logged by his members after drivers started complaining about their workload over the last three or four months. He said overtime is an acceptable solution when it's used correctly, but said drivers are asked to do overtime too often to cover staffing shortages, which he said leads to burnout. "There's a lot of them that don't want to work overtime and they certainly don't want to work 10- and 12-hour days," Mahar said. But despite the complaints, Tauro said his records show overtime hasn't gone up in recent months. CBC News tried to compare the total number of overtime and double time hours sent by Tauro, which compared January 2020 to January 2021, with several overtime sheets sent by Mahar. However at the time of publication, CBC News couldn't confirm whether drivers are being asked to do more overtime at this time. Tauro said there are a number of factors that go into the decision to use overtime — like budget, operator availability, the "sick" list and the schedules. "It's really hard to just pinpoint one consistent issue and I think we are using some operators in overtime. Is it excessive?" Tauro said. "No, but we're just trying to ensure we're meeting the service that customers expect." But Tauro said the bottom line is Calgary Transit is about customer service, and so far, he said, it seems customers are satisfied. Mahar said he realizes there are budget constraints and that ridership is down, but he said those who are still using it and providing it should be better supported. "During a pandemic I think they need to promise a safe ride that is as safe as it can possibly be while still providing service," he said. He said the buses should be better spaced out, as they were when the pandemic first hit. Calgary Transit initially blocked off every second seat due to COVID-19. Last August, it removed the seating restrictions because it said the mandatory face covering bylaw would keep riders safe when they couldn't distance.
An Indian trade group representing 150,000 mobile phone stores on Monday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to investigate Amazon's business practices in the country and impose a daily cap on a single seller's online smartphone sales. In a letter sent to Modi, the group cited a Reuters special report published last month that revealed Amazon has for years given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its Indian platform, using them to circumvent the country's strict foreign investment regulations. The report was based on internal Amazon documents dated between 2012 and 2019.
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Mar. 1 ... What we are watching in Canada ... OTTAWA - The federal government is hoping to start receiving vaccine doses from AstraZeneca this week as the flood of injections that flowed into Canada from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna last week partially subsides. Health Canada announced on Friday that it had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 shot to get the green light from the regulator since the start of the pandemic. A senior government official told The Canadian Press on background yesterday that the first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada on Wednesday, though the shipment has not been confirmed. The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently only expecting delivery of about 445-thousand doses this week, which is about 200-thousand less than last week’s record high of 640-thousand doses in a seven-day period. The scheduled doses are all coming from Pfizer-BioNTech, as the two companies settle into a rhythm and work toward their promise to deliver 4 million doses by the end of March. Canada received 168-thousand doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, but the company only delivers every three weeks. --- Also this ... VANCOUVER - The chief financial officer of telecom giant Huawei is set to return to the British Columbia Supreme Court today for arguments over the admission of evidence in her extradition case. Meng Wanzhou's defence team alleges the evidence will prove that international bank HSBC was aware of the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, a subsidiary of the technology company. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 at the request of United States authorities over claims she misrepresented that relationship, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. She is wanted on fraud charges in the United States that both she and Huawei deny. Later this week, the court is expected to hear her team argue that former U.S. president Donald Trump used Meng as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China and that she should be released. Her team alleges she was subjected to an abuse of process but Canada's attorney general says that argument is irrelevant now that Trump is out of office. --- What we are watching in the U.S. ... WASHINGTON — Congress is beginning debate on the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections law in a generation. Legislation from Democrats would touch virtually every aspect of the electoral process — striking down hurdles to voting, curbing partisan gerrymandering and curtailing big money in politics. Republicans see those very measures as a threat that would limit the power of states to conduct elections and ultimately benefit Democrats. The stakes are enormous with both control of Congress and President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda in the balance. But at its core, a more foundational principle of American democracy is at play: access to the ballot. --- Also this ... ORLANDO, Fla. — Former U.S. president Donald Trump called for Republican Party unity when he returned to the political stage for the first time since losing the White House to Joe Biden. Trump closed out a conservative political conference in Florida on Sunday, and told cheering attendees that he is sticking with the GOP and not forming a third party. He said Republicans would stand united, yet he also criticized those who supported his impeachment and denounced his incitement of rioters at the U.S. Capitol. Trump also repeated familiar falsehoods about the November election being rigged against him. --- What we are watching in the rest of the world ... JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of attacking an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week. Iran promptly dismissed the charges. Netanyahu spoke today to Israeli public broadcaster Kan and saying “it was indeed an act by Iran, that’s clear.” He offered no evidence but said that “Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel." The ship suffered a mysterious explosion in the Gulf of Oman on Friday and came to Dubai’s port for repairs on Sunday, days after the blast that revived security concerns in Mideast waterways amid heightened tensions with Iran. Iran denies it was behind the incident. --- And this ... YANGON, Myanmar — Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests Sunday as they sought to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power. A U.N. human rights official said it had “credible information” at least 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded. That would be the highest single-day death toll among protesters who are demanding the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power after being ousted by a Feb. 1 coup. About 1,000 people are believed to have been detained Sunday, adding to the others detained earlier, including Suu Kyi. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the violence. --- ICYMI ... TORONTO - Schitt's Creek nabbed two Golden Globes at last night's awards. The Canadian sitcom won best television series in a musical or comedy, and Catherine O'Hara took home best television actress in a musical or comedy. The series was nominated for three other awards, but ultimately lost out. Eugene and Dan Levy, the show's father-son creator duo, were nominated for best television actor in a musical or comedy and best supporting actor in a series, miniseries or motion picture for TV, respectively. Annie Murphy had been nominated for best supporting actress in a series, miniseries or motion picture for TV. Schitt's Creek wrapped up its six-season run last year, when it swept the Emmy's, winning all seven major comedy awards. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2021 The Canadian Press
Death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, but death taxes are only a remote possibility for most people. The vast majority of Americans won’t ever have or give away enough to owe estate or gift taxes. Far more people could be affected if a tax break that benefits heirs is eliminated. While campaigning for president, Joe Biden proposed doing away with something called the “step-up in basis” that allows people to minimize or avoid capital gains taxes on inherited assets. But no legislation has been proposed yet, and such a change could have a tough time getting approved by a divided Congress. “Right now, we’re telling folks to start thinking about this stuff, but we’re not rushing out to take action,” says certified financial planner Colleen Carcone, a director of wealth planning strategies at TIAA. HOW STEP-UP IN BASIS LOWERS TAXES Although most estates don’t owe estate taxes, anyone who’s inherited a house, stock or other property has likely benefited from the step-up tax break that gives such assets a new value at the owner’s death. Say your savvy aunt paid $7,000 for a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock in 1990. That’s her tax basis. If she sold the stock for its closing price of $362,000 on Feb. 10, she would owe tax on the $355,000 gain. If she generously gave you the stock and you sold it on Feb. 10, you’d owe the same amount of tax because you’d also get her tax basis. Now, let’s say that instead of giving you the stock, she left it to you in her will and she died Feb. 10. The stock would get a new basis for tax purposes of $362,000. All the gain that occured during her lifetime would never be taxed. If you sold the stock later, you would owe tax only on the gain since her death. Some kinds of inheritances, such as annuities or retirement accounts, don’t get the step-up. But it’s no exaggeration to say that far more people benefit from our estate tax system — by inheriting homes and other assets with a stepped-up tax basis — than have to pay any estate taxes. WHO PAYS GIFT AND ESTATE TAXES NOW This year, an estate has to be worth more than $11.7 million to trigger federal estate taxes. Less than 0.1 per cent of the people who died in the U.S. last year were expected to leave estates large enough to owe any tax, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. People who have to pay gift taxes are pretty rare as well. There’s an annual exclusion, or an amount you can give away to as many people as you want each year without having to file a gift tax return. The exclusion limit is $15,000 for 2021 — you can give up to $15,000 each to an unlimited number of people without having to report the gifts. Even if you do have to file a gift tax return, you wouldn’t actually owe gift taxes until the amount you gave away in your lifetime — over and above the annual exclusion amounts — totalled more than $11.7 million. These historically high limits are scheduled to end in 2025, which means in 2026 the estate and gift tax exemption limits would revert to $5 million per person, adjusted for inflation. Biden wants the exemption to drop to $3.5 million per person. People in some states already face lower limits. The 12 states that impose their own estate taxes — Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia have lower exemption limits than the feds. Massachusetts and Oregon have the lowest exemption amounts, $1 million. Six states — Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — also levy taxes on people inheriting. Different tax rates and exemption limits apply, depending on the relationship between the inheritor and the person who died. Immediate family members usually pay the least, if anything, while distant relations and nonrelatives pay more. WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW: KEEP GOOD RECORDS The idea of eliminating the step-up in basis has been proposed in the past, but it faced headwinds in part because the practice benefits a wide range of voters. Since there’s no concrete proposal to change the step-up, there’s not much people can do to prepare for change other than what they should be doing anyway, which is keeping careful records. That means “tracking the basis” of what they paid for any assets as part of routine estate planning. If you buy shares of a stock in a taxable account, for example, hang onto records showing those purchases. The cost of any improvements you make to a home or other real estate also can increase its tax basis and potentially reduce taxes later. “The one thing that we do think folks should start doing today is really starting to think about the record-keeping,” Carcone says. _________________________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @lizweston. RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: Estate Planning https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-estate-planning Liz Weston Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
Despite the U.S. economy's near miss with a depression last year and an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has brought travel to a virtual halt, Jeff Hurst, the chief executive of vacation rental firm VRBO, sees a boom on the horizon. "Every house is going to be taken this summer," Hurst said, as the expected protection from vaccines arrives in step with warmer weather, unleashing a cooped-up population with record savings stashed away.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and sentenced to three years in prison, a stunning fall from grace for a man who for five years bestrode the national and global stage. A Paris court found that Sarkozy, 66, had tried to bribe a judge after leaving office, and to peddle influence in exchange for confidential information about an investigation into his 2007 campaign finances. "He took advantage of his status and the relationships he had formed," presiding judge Christine Mee said.
Unable to find work, Ahmed Farea has sold everything including his wife's gold to feed and house two young daughters in one small room. Elsewhere in Yemen's capital Sanaa, widow Mona Muhammad has work but struggles to buy anything more nutritious than rice for her four children amid high prices. And in a nearby hospital, severely malnourished children receive lifesaving nutritional drinks.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary's right-wing prime minister has threatened to pull his party out of its group in the European Union's legislature as the conservative group edges closer to excluding its largest Hungarian delegation. In a letter on Sunday to chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament Manfred Weber, Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemned a group proposal agreed to on Friday that would allow for entire parties to be excluded from the centre-right EPP, rather than just individual MEPs as currently allowed. Orban wrote that the proposed rules, which are expected to pass with a two-thirds vote at an EPP group meeting on Wednesday, were “tailor-made" to sanction his Fidesz party, and that “if Fidesz is not welcome, we do not feel compelled to stay in the Group.” It is the latest in a series of ongoing clashes between the right-wing Fidesz and the EPP, the largest political family in Europe, and marks the closest Orban's party has come to losing its place in the group's ranks. The EPP suspended Fidesz’s membership in 2019 over concerns that it was eroding the rule of law in Hungary, engaging in anti-Brussels rhetoric and attacking the EPP leadership. The EPP's new rules would allow for suspended member parties to be expelled with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds vote, opening the way for Fidesz's 11 delegates to lose their place in the group. Some of the EPP's more moderate national delegations have pushed for Fidesz's expulsion, arguing it no longer represents the group's values. In a statement in December, the EPP Group wrote that “the frequent attacks by Fidesz’ representatives towards the European Union and its values are not in line with the core beliefs of the EPP.” Also in December, the EPP voted to suspend Tamas Deutsch, the head of Fidesz’s delegation, stripping him of his rights to speaking time in plenary sessions and removing him from his positions in the Group. The decision, which allowed Deutsch to remain an EPP member, came after the lawmaker compared EPP Group leader Weber to the Gestapo and Hungary's communist-era secret police. In his letter, Orban wrote that he would pull his party out of the EPP Group if the new rules are adopted, signalling he will not wait to see whether the EPP votes his party out at a later time. A spokesman for the EPP Group in the European Parliament said that the changes to the rules “have nothing to do with the situation of Fidesz,” and that the vote will go forward as planned on Wednesday despite Orban's letter. “There is a broad majority support for the new rules,” Pedro Lopez de Pablo told The Associated Press in an email. “If once they are approved, some MEPs would like to initiate the procedure of suspending or expelling Fidesz, they will need to do it following the new rules. ... We are not changing the rules of procedure of the EPP Group because of Fidesz.” Othmar Karas, an Austrian EPP lawmaker and vice-president of the European Parliament, tweeted Monday that the vote on the procedural changes would go forward as planned. “I am not going to let Orban succeed with blackmail again,” Karas wrote. Justin Spike, The Associated Press
Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. Chris Scott, chief meteorologist with The Weather Network, said Canadians can count on some sunny days to put a bounce in their step after a long winter. "There's going to be some challenges. We're not out of the woods for winter, but we've certainly put the worst behind us and there's some really nice days ahead," said Scott, adding that people should get out and enjoy the sunshine when the daily forecast calls for it. The Weather Network predicts that March will bring extended tastes of early spring to Ontario and Quebec after a particularly wintry February. But Scott said the province should brace for a period of colder weather in mid-spring before more consistent warmth sets in. The Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia, with lower-than-average temperatures in the offing for the first half of the season. An above-normal snowpack will make for excellent skiing conditions but also a heightened risk for spring flooding when warm weather finally arrives, Scott said. The Weather Network's outlook suggests March will be dramatically warmer through the Prairies, but indicates western parts of the region will struggle to reach consistently mild temperatures. The network said it's concerned that drought conditions south of the border could become more widespread and affect southern parts of the region by the start of the growing season. Scott predicted temperatures exceeding seasonal norms in Atlantic Canada, but said the region is still at risk for high-impact, late-winter storms. In Northern Canada, colder than normal spring temperatures are expected for southern Yukon, while eastern Nunavut will be warmer than usual. "There's going to be good days (for outdoor activities) in every part of the country, you're just going to have to pick your battles," Scott said. The meteorologist did have good news for most of Canada's largest river valleys, predicting they would be spared disastrous floods in the months ahead. Scott said the Red River Valley in Manitoba, the Ottawa and St. Lawrence valleys in Ontario and Quebec, as well as the Saint John River valley in New Brunswick likely won't have to contend with dangerously high water levels in March and April. "That's because we don't have the tremendous snowpacks that are the antecedent condition that you need to get really severe spring flooding," said Scott. "That's really good news in places, especially in Eastern Canada, that have been hit with floods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
(Kirk Pennell/CBC - image credit) P.E.I. has been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the last week has been a reminder of how quickly conditions can change, says Premier Dennis King. "What we've learned in this last year of COVID is this snaps back and hits you pretty fast if you don't continue following the protocols," King told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier. "These reminders are painful and this one is probably the most painful of all." Last Wednesday, there were just three active cases of COVID-19 on the Island, all traceable to travel outside the province. As of Monday morning, there are 18 confirmed — the most active cases since early April 2020 — with clusters in both Charlottetown and Summerside, about 60 kilometres northwest of the capital. There is no clear link between the two clusters, and no link to travel for either one. "This had to come from somewhere. We need to try to determine where that is," said King. Testing ramped up The P.E.I. government has taken two measures to try to get the outbreak under control. It has moved to a red phase of pandemic restrictions, closing non-essential businesses to the public, and it has ramped up testing. The province has published a list of potential exposure sites, and is asking anyone who has been at those locations to get tested. The province is also asking all people aged 19 to 29 who work in the following industries — food service, meat and fish processing, call centres and transportation and delivery, as well as long-term care staff who are not vaccinated — to get tested. By mid-afternoon Monday, the province's Chief Public Health Office said no additional positive results had come back from the lab, after 6,632 tests on Saturday and Sunday, but 1,600 results were still pending. "All of us should take this very seriously and act accordingly," said King. "We've been very fortunate, and almost spoiled in a way … For the most part, our lives have not been impacted. I don't know if that has led people to, quote unquote, let their guard down a little bit or just not take this as seriously as it needs to be." Schools offline The red phase has been announced for 72 hours and is due to end at midnight on Wednesday. King is hopeful the province will be able to gather enough information through the expanded testing to have a better idea of the source of the infections in that time. The province is still waiting for analysis of the current cases to see if they are the more contagious coronavirus variants that have been spreading in other parts of the country. Schools have been closed during the red phase, and there is no online learning, either. While school is out, the province has set up a COVID-19 testing clinic at Three Oaks High School in Summerside. King said it would take about three days to get K-6 students online, and a day-and-a-half for other grades. Teachers have been asked to begin that process, but King is hopeful students will be able to return to the classroom. Outbreaks will remain a potential danger until the province achieves its goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of Islanders, King said. As of Feb. 24, about three per cent of all Islanders had been vaccinated, based on the province's published numbers. Children cannot be vaccinated at this time, so the numbers show about five per cent of Island adults have gotten at least one shot. King expects the rate of vaccination will increase dramatically in the second quarter of this year. More from CBC P.E.I.
LOS ANGELES — From Jason Sudeikis’ hoodie to Jodie Foster’s bare feet, the stars embraced a virtual Golden Globes, and still found ways to cut loose. There was no red carpet and logjam of celebrities outside the show’s usual location at the Beverly Hilton. No boozy camaraderie at the jammed-in tables inside the ballroom, either. The coronavirus pandemic made certain of that. Instead, most of Sunday night’s winners accepted from their own homes or hotel rooms in laidback settings unheard of for Hollywood's biggest awards shows. Many were surrounded by spouses, parents, kids, pets or support staff. Several winners welcomed the change. “This is the best Globes ever, to be able to be home, but also it just felt really real,” a giddy Foster said in virtual comments after her win. “It didn’t feel like it was filled with so much artifice. I think people were kind of thrilled by the newness and the sort of live theatre.” Foster cozied up on a sofa, cuddling her white dog while sharing a kiss with her wife. Friends watching on television downstairs raised a delayed shout when she was announced as the winner for supporting actress in a motion picture drama. Foster stuck her bare foot in the air, showing media that she wasn’t wearing any shoes. She was headed downstairs to eat dinner after her win. “It was really fun,” said Aaron Sorkin, winner for motion picture screenplay. “There was an intimacy to it.” Sacha Baron Cohen won two trophies for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” with wife Isla Fisher smiling next to him. He donned a traditional tuxedo and she wore a gown and red lips. “The virtual experience was different, but a lot more relaxing,” Baron Cohen said. “You didn’t have to do the red carpet, which I’m not sure a lot of people enjoy.” In London, Sudeikis won best actor in a television series, musical or comedy for “Ted Lasso.” He wore a white hoodie promoting his sister's dance and workout studio in New York City. “When people you care about do cool, interesting things you should support them, so this is no different than that,” Sudeikis later told reporters. Clearly surprised by his win, the actor hesitated and rambled during his acceptance remarks. Fellow nominee Don Cheadle was shown whirling his finger in the air, a joking signal that Sudeikis should wrap up. “The guy's got chops,” Sudeikis said. “He's an ex-stage manager.” Nominee Kate Hudson hosted a family get-together. Wearing a strapless gown, she sat with her kids, her partner Danny Fujikawa, her mother Goldie Hawn, as well as Kurt Russell and brother Oliver Hudson. Her 2-year-old daughter, Rani, blurted out, “Hi, everybody!” as the telecast went to a commercial break. Nicole Kidman and musician-husband Keith Urban got glammed up to sit on their couch. Their daughters, Sunday and Faith, both wore white dresses while making a rare appearance. A shocked Andra Day had a crowd that included two co-stars from “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” her manager, her publicist, her parents and some of her cousin's family. Known for her singing career, Day became the second Black woman to win for actress in a motion picture drama in her acting debut. “There's cake outside, so I'm going to eat with that, and with my family and my team,” she said after her win. “We're just going to eat so much food.” Beth Harris, The Associated Press
The S&P 500 surged on Monday in its strongest one-day gain since June as bond markets calmed after a month-long selloff, while another COVID-19 vaccine getting U.S. approval and fiscal stimulus bolstered expectations of a swift economic recovery. Johnson & Johnson ended up 0.5%, but off earlier highs, after it began shipping its single-dose vaccine after it became the third authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the United States over the weekend. U.S. bond yields eased after a swift rise last month on expectations of accelerated inflation due to bets on an economic rebound.
(Submitted by Chip Taylor - image credit) A new report says monarch butterfly populations in Mexico have decreased, but according to one expert, the number of butterflies Canada will see this year depends on what happens this month as they embark on their migrations north. The presence of the monarch butterfly in the Mexican hibernation forests declined by 26 per cent due to a reduction of its habitat, according to the recent report by WWF-Telmex Telcel Foundation. According to the report, the species occupied 2.1 hectares in December 2020 compared to the 2.83 hectares in December 2019. These numbers are unsurprising to Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. "They were about as I expected," he said. "But that tells us that we are dealing with a population that fluctuates with the weather conditions, but it's also dependent on the amount of habitat available. Had there been a lot more habitat available last year in the form of nectar plants, then it's likely we would have seen a higher population," he said. Taylor said that monarchs need nectar plants and milkweed, which he said Canada provides a lot of. The presence of the monarch butterfly declined by 26% in the Mexican hibernation forests due to a reduction of its habitat, according to a recent report by WWF-Telmex Telcel Foundation. "As we get into Canada ... we get a lot more common milkweed. And one of the things that happens in Canada is that the monarchs who have reached Canada in May and June develop a population of common milkweed and that population tends to move along the lakes and eventually move through Point Pelee in fairly large numbers," he explains. Every fall, Point Pelee plays host to thousands of monarch butterflies on their migrations. The insects make their way across Lake Erie to the mountains of Mexico, roughly 3,000 kilometres south, for the winter. In late spring, their offspring return to Canada, and the cycle continues. According to Parks Canada, monarchs have a life span of about a month but the ones who emerge late in the summer are born to migrate and stay alive for over six months to make the journey. Taylor said it's hard to predict what the population of the monarch butterfly will be like this spring until he sees how conditions are like in Texas. "The Canadian situation is highly dependent on what happens in March in Texas. So if the returning butterflies are abundant and they have good conditions in Texas, there are good conditions as they move north in May and June and they encounter good conditions in Canada, the population does well," he said. "If they get off to a bad start in Texas. It's going to be a bad year in Canada." - Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch Taylor said the butterflies have already left the overwintering sites in Mexico and should reach Texas in about two weeks. "The question is, what are they going to find when they get there?" He asks, pointing to the massive winter freeze that took place just weeks ago. "The question I'm asking all my colleagues in Texas is that vegetation going to come back in time, so they're going to be milkweeds above ground and nectar plants for the butterflies to feed on," he said. Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch, says how conditions will look in Canada is highly dependent on how conditions will be like in Texas in two weeks. Taylor said he's watching the weather and monitoring plant development carefully and can better predict how things will look in two weeks. "What we've learned in the past is that what happens in March in Texas has a big influence that that determines everything that happens, including what happens in Canada, on the rest of the year," he said. "So it's very important for the population to get off to a good start. If they don't, if the population doesn't get off to a good start, then it's very likely that it's never going to be able to recover. There just aren't enough generations," he said. What you can do Taylor says people can help preserve the monarch butterfly by creating a lot of habitat for the species. Point Pelee National Park also encourages local residents to plant a butterfly garden with native plants, milkweed for monarch butterflies and caterpillars. "Create a habitat and they will come, they will use it," Taylor said.
This kitty is captivated by the newborn chicks in the box. So sweet and gentle!
As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp-up in Canada, one of the country's largest stadiums is taking in a long line of elderly, while provinces enlist dentists, midwives and chiropractors to help meet the expected rush for jabs. A slow rollout of vaccines has recently dented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's popularity, with the lack of domestic production being blamed for Canada trailing many other developed nations in its vaccination drive. Montreal's cavernous Olympic Stadium, which once hosted young athletes during the 1976 summer games, on Monday saw thousands of octogenarians donning folding chairs and canes as they waited in a snaking line for jabs.
Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou's U.S. extradition hearing resumed in a Canadian court on Monday with defence countering prosecutors' claims that Meng misled HSBC about the Chinese telecom company's relationship with its affiliate while doing business in Iran. As five days of hearings in the British Columbia Supreme Court started, the defence drilled into the alleged sanction violations that led to Meng's arrest. The daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei is accused by the United States of misleading HSBC about her company's business arrangements in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
(Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada - image credit) New Brunswick Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson has support in some accounting and auditing circles for the merit of her request to gain access to the financial records of the pension investment and management body Vestcor, but her office is not saying if she is prepared yet to escalate the effort into a legal fight. "The Auditor General respectfully declines to comment at this time," wrote spokesperson Jolyne Roy about whether a court application is under consideration. Adair-MacPherson appeared before the legislature's Crown corporations committee last week and gave a lengthy presentation to MLAs about her effort to gain access to the internal financial documents of Vestcor. Vestcor is the Fredericton-based organization set up to manage what is now $18 billion in New Brunswick government pension and other funds. It used to be a Crown agency, but in 2016 was reorganized as an independent body to allow it to solicit outside accounts and contends it is no longer subject to Adair-MacPherson's authority. She disputes that on several grounds, but Premier Blaine Higgs has sided with Vestcor and said his government will not pass special legislation Adair-MacPherson has requested to require the body to submit to her oversight. Vestcor president John Sinclair earned $375,000 in salary in 2019 and performance bonuses of $882,721. Adair-MacPherson told MLAs last week that if government took that position she might be forced to mount a legal challenge to assert her right to audit Vestcor. "Depending on how this plays out and what the response is to our recommendations, eventually it might have to be a decision made in the courts," she said. "If they don't agree, then the option to the auditor general is to go the legal route, which I would find very unfortunate." On Thursday, Higgs told CBC News Vestcor no longer has ties to the provincial government and the province has no more responsibility to oversee its affairs than the affairs of any outside body like a big bank. "Vestcor was set up as an independent operation not unlike other financial institutions," said Higgs. "I don't have any responsibility for TD either or the Bank of Nova Scotia." But Adair-MacPherson told MLAs that in her view Vestcor maintains strong connections to the provincial government that make it essential she be allowed to oversee its operations. She said it was created by a special act of legislature and given unique non-profit status by lawmakers. In addition, she said it was handed billions of dollars in government employee pension dollars to manage without having to compete for the business. Premier Blaine Higgs said he views Vestcor as an independent financial institution and New Brunswick has no special role to oversee its operations. Vestcor is jointly owned by the province's two largest public pension funds serving civil servants and teachers. Those funds each have provincial government representation on their boards of trustees, which adds to the connections, she believes. "There are just so many components to it that when I sit back and look at it, to me, it should be held accountable to the public," said Adair-MacPherson. "My office, I feel, should be able to have access the same as we always did in the past to do both financial audit work and performance audits." Steven Salterio, the current Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Accounting and Auditing at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said Adair-MacPherson will have difficulty winning the right to look into Vestcor's operations, but there is merit in the argument she is making. "I think the auditor general is correct in that she should have the mandate to deal with this newly privatized corporation from the point of view this is strictly a government entity," said Salterio. "This is a lot of provincial money going into an organization that is not accountable to the auditor general." Steven Salterio is the Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Accounting and Auditing at Queen's University. He said Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson's interest in looking at Vestcor has merit but is not surprised the body is resisting. According to New Brunswick's public accounts, the province paid Vestcor $327.9 million last year as its share of employee pension contributions. Adair-MacPherson has said she is interested in testing Vestcor claims that it is meeting and beating its investment targets and looking into whether incentive and bonus programs for Vestcor executives are reasonable. In 2019, the last full year it published an annual report, Vestcor posted investment returns of 11.76 percent, which placed it in the bottom quarter of Canadian pension funds for the year, according to a ranking by the Royal Bank of Canada. Still, Vestcor reported those results were $107 million higher than its "benchmark" targets, helping to boost bonuses and incentives to its employees to $5.3 million, including $882,721 to its president, John Sinclair. Sinclair's base salary is $375,000. "We would do a performance audit to determine whether [bonuses] are reasonable given the business they are in," said Adair-MacPherson. "We would audit to determine whether in fact we agree with the claims that they're making in their annual report, but right now there's no way to do that." Salterio said in hindsight the time for the auditor general to win access to Vestcor was back in 2016 while legislation that created the body was being debated and adopted. The Royal Bank of Canada said 119 major Canadian pension funds it tracked in 2019 generated average returns of 14 per cent. Vestcor's investment return of 11.76 per cent placed it somewhere in the bottom 30, although it beat its own internal benchmarks. He said performance audits can be grueling and he's not surprised Vestcor is doing whatever it can to escape that level of scrutiny. "You certainly wouldn't volunteer to give the auditor general a mandate if you were a private-sector organization," said Salterio. "But at the same time you have to have it set up so that the legislative intent is clear and as far as I can see there is no legislative intent that the auditor general have a mandate." New Brunswick's Auditor General Act grants broad powers to look at any "auditable entity," which can include "a service provider" to government or "a funding recipient." Adair-MacPherson told MLAs her office believes that is enough legal authority for her to gain access to Vestcor without an amendment to legislation, although that would be the easier route. "It might have to be a decision made in the courts, but I surely hope it doesn't come to that because that's a costly, lengthy exercise," she said.