Canada in Brief, Mar. 10-16

March 16, 2016 Updated: March 16, 2016
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Senate investigations highlighted need for transparency, says Trudeau

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it has not been a waste of money for the RCMP to investigate senators flagged with problematic expense claims by the auditor general and then decide not to lay charges.

Speaking at a news conference at the United Nations in New York, Trudeau said the travails of the Senate and senators under the watchful eye of the Mounties pointed to a need for more transparency in the upper chamber even if none will be criminally charged.

News emerged this week that the RCMP has decided against pursuing criminal investigations of 24 of 30 current and former senators who were flagged with questionable expenses in last year’s critical report by the federal auditor general.

Budget should earmark funding to improve palliative care, say advocates

OTTAWA—Health advocates say the federal government needs to earmark money for palliative care in the budget next week as part of a down payment on a much larger repair project.

The Canadian Cancer Society says the Liberal government needs to urgently address the glaring holes in end-of-life care.

It says the debate following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on assisted death has shown that people often fall through the cracks of the health-care system and improvements are needed to address the patchwork of care available.

Northern Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus also wants to see palliative care prioritized as the government looks to craft legislation on assisted death.

Contractors overbilled Ottawa by tens of millions for decades

OTTAWA—An internal audit by Public Services and Procurement Canada says Ottawa is routinely overcharged by its contractors—to the tune of tens of millions of dollars—in a practice that has been going on for decades.

A team of 30 government auditors has been working for the last few years to get a handle on the contracts process, as well as examining a number of agreements and payment terms, particularly in the defence industry.

The team spent a year looking at $7.3 billion of contracts—75 percent of which were not military-related—and found $72 million in potential “over claims and excess profits.” In 2013-2014, overbilling amounted to $65 million, while in 2012 it was $19 million.

Study raises concerns over effects of pesticide effects on bumblebees

OTTAWA—A new study co-authored by a Canadian scientist has found that even low exposure to pesticides can hinder the ability of bumblebees to learn the skills they need to collect nectar and pollen.

While several studies have been conducted on the effects of pesticides on the honeybee population, these findings are the first to explore how the chemicals may affect the ability of bumblebees to forage from common wildflowers.

If exposure to low levels of pesticide affects their learning function, bees may struggle to collect food. This could impair their ability to pollinate both crops and wild plants, which can ultimately harm the food supply, said University of Guelph professor and senior author Nigel Raine.

Thousands of refurbished computers provided to Syrian refugees

TORONTO—Resettlement organizations are providing 7,500 refurbished computers to Syrian refugees in Canada with funding help from the federal government.

Under the Computers for Schools program, the equipment is made available at little or no cost, along with digital skills training.
Ottawa is giving the Computers for Schools program a one-time boost of $1.25 million to help provide the computers and technical support.

In addition, CN is providing shipment of the donated computers and Microsoft is donating Windows and Office licences for the computers for Syrian refugees.

New species of dinosaur uncovered in northwestern Alberta

A new species of dinosaur about the size of a dog and possessing a lethal claw has been discovered in northwestern Alberta by Australian paleontologist Phil Bell.

The remains of the Boreonykus was discovered at the Pipestone Creek bonebed—a huge gravesite of the plant-eating dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus that dates back 73 million years.

Bell said the Boreonykus was a relative of Velociraptor, which was made famous in the “Jurassic Park” films. It would have only been about two metres long and as tall as a dog, but it had large claws.

“These would have been pretty savage predators,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press