Canada briefs – October 13

The Liberals are blaming Tory “incompetence” for an embarrassing landing-rights dispute between Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

Tory ‘incompetence’ to blame for dispute: Liberals

OTTAWA — The Liberals are blaming Tory “incompetence” for an embarrassing landing-rights dispute between Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

The two countries were in talks to allow UAE airlines more flights to Canadian airports, but the deal was called off.

As a result, Canada has lost access to a major staging ground for troops headed in and out of Afghanistan.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said that resulted in the “absurd spectacle” of Canada’s top soldier and two cabinet ministers barred from landing in the UAE on their way out of Kandahar.

He called it a “simple story of incompetence” and said it’s another sign the Harper government is out of touch on the world stage.

Feds spent more than $1M testing scrapped census

OTTAWA — A million-dollar test run, privacy checks and extensive consultations on the 2011 census were all in place only a month before the Conservative government decided to scrap the long questionnaire this spring.

Internal Statistics Canada documents shed light on just how abrupt the decision was for the agency, which prepares for the census and analyses the data over a period of seven years.

A key part of the preparation was a test of the census project in May 2009, which cost the government more than $1 million. Long and short questionnaires were sent to 110,000 homes in suburban Montreal, Quebec City and Red Deer on a voluntary basis, to test the mechanics of the census process.

A privacy impact assessment was conducted and cleared with the privacy commissioner a month later.

Consultations with federal departments on the questionnaire, and with other interested parties, had been going on since 2007.

All this planning was discussed by senior StatsCan bureaucrats during a high-level meeting with then-chief statistician Munir Sheikh in March 2010.

Sheikh offered no indication at the time, only two months before the axe would fall on the mandatory long-form census, that it would be replaced with a voluntary national household survey. Details of the meeting were among records obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Man accused of beating daughter to stay in jail

LONGUEUIL, Que. — The father of a teenage girl who died under mysterious circumstances will remain behind bars for now as authorities attempt to confirm just how she died.

The Crown said Tuesday that no new charges would be brought against the Montreal-area man, Moussa Sidime, until an autopsy was completed on his daughter.

The 71-year-old man, already accused of aggravated assault, had a scheduled bail hearing put off until Friday.

The man has been jailed since his daughter Noutene Sidime, 13, was hospitalized last week.

Police accused the man of striking the girl last Wednesday. On Saturday, three days after the alleged assault, the teenager died.

“Police are still working on the case and we don’t have everything yet so we’re waiting for an autopsy report to reveal whether or not there will be other accusations,” said prosecutor Julie Laborde.

“Right now, we only know for sure that a death occurred, but we have to know what was the cause of death. As of right now, there’s nothing more that we can do other than wait for the medical evidence.”

Info watchdog widens probe into Tory interference

OTTAWA — Canada’s information watchdog has ordered a fresh probe into alleged political interference by a close aide to Conservative cabinet minister Christian Paradis.

The decision by Suzanne Legault means her office is now investigating four complaints about potentially illegal meddling by ministers’ offices in the release of documents requested under the Access to Information Act.

Legault initiated the latest investigation after reviewing 1,200 pages of internal emails involving Sebastien Togneri.

Togneri has been under scrutiny since February for blocking the release of a document to The Canadian Press.

The latest batch of emails was turned over to Legault on Oct. 1 by officials at Public Works after the news agency reported that Togneri had meddled in at least three other information requests while he worked for Paradis at the department.

Togneri quit his post within hours of The Canadian Press report, sparking opposition calls for Paradis to do the same.

“Based on the documents that I received . . . I felt I had reasonable grounds to start an investigation,” Legault said Tuesday. “There are a lot of allegations.”

Legault’s office has been stretched thin coping with two formal probes into Togneri, and two other complaints.

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