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Ottawa sues law firm, alleges overbilling

Ottawa sues law firm for alleged legal fee fraud in residential schools case
The Canadian Press

REGINA - The federal government is suing a Saskatchewan law firm, alleging lawyers fraudulently overbilled for their work with survivors of Indian residential schools.

In a statement of claim filed this week in Regina, the government says a 2014 audit report shows the Merchant Law Group claimed tens of millions of dollars in work time entries that were "intentionally inflated, duplicated or simply fabricated."

The suit alleges that some individual lawyers billed for more than 24 hours of work in a single day.

Entries were also backdated, some by years, it says.

Liberals, NDP fundraising up

Liberals, NDP had best fundraising year in a decade in 2014
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Both the federal Liberals and New Democrats posted their best fundraising results in a decade last year — significantly eroding the Conservatives' cash advantage just as an election is looming.

Still, the governing party raised $20.1 million last year, its third-best result in 10 years and considerably more than either of the opposition parties.

The Liberals raked in $15.8 million and the NDP $9.5 million, according to quarterly financial reports filed with Elections Canada.

Opposition treads carefully with new bill

Opposition parties treading carefully on new anti-terror legislation
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Anti-terrorism legislation introduced by the Conservative government Friday received a cautious reception by the opposition parties who said they want to study the bill before deciding on whether it will receive their support.

Among the questions it raises, said the NDP's Paul Dewar, is whether the new powers it proposes for security agencies are the best way to handle the threat of terrorism. And meanwhile, asked the Liberals' Wayne Easter, what about the tools that are already in the arsenals of Canada's security agencies, yet remain unused?

Canada blasts African Union over Mugabe

Baird blasts African Union for choosing brutal dictator Mugabe as new chair
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Canada is aiming sharp criticism at the African Union for appointing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as its new chairman.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says it's incredibly disappointing that the AU chose a brutal dictator to lead it.

The 90-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, was appointed to the top post of the 54-nation AU during its two-day summit in Ethiopia.

Mugabe has been accused of serious human rights violations, including using violence to win elections.

Spy service to get new anti-terror powers

Spy service to get stronger anti-terror powers under federal bill
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Canada's spy agency could soon have the power to derail terrorist plots — not just gather and analyze information about them — as the government moves to confront radical threats with an array of new legal tools.

Legislation tabled Friday would allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to thwart a suspected extremist's travel plans, disrupt bank transactions and covertly meddle with jihadist websites.

Former union boss sentenced to 12 months in jail

Former Quebec union boss sentenced to 12 months for faking, inflating bills
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - The former leader of one of Quebec's main construction unions was sentenced Friday to a year in jail after previously being convicted of faking and inflating bills worth more than $63,000.

A lawyer for Jocelyn Dupuis said he would ask for his client's release pending the appeal of last September's verdict.

Dupuis was head of the Quebec Federation of Labour's construction wing between 1997 and 2008.

Sentencing hearing for former soldier set over

Sentence delay for former soldier who planned attack on Veterans Affairs office
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

CALGARY - The lawyer for a former soldier who planned an attack on a Veterans Affairs office is concerned that a sentencing delay will further harm her client's failing health.

Glen Gieschen, a 45-year-old former intelligence officer, had a beef with the department over coverage for multiple sclerosis he believed was caused by a flu shot he received while in the military.

He pleaded guilty in November to possession of a firearm, possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of a weapon.

Saudi blogger spared flogging again

Saudi blogger spared flogging for at least another week
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - As a Saudi blogger with Canadian ties was spared a scheduled flogging for a third straight week Friday, a supporter expressed hope the pardon of a fellow activist may spur Raif Badawi's release.

News of the flogging postponement emerged as word circulated that Souad al-Shammari, who co-founded a liberal blog with Badawi, had been freed.

Elham Manea, a human rights activist and Badawi family spokeswoman, said there's reason to be optimistic about his case.

Ottawa reports $3.3B deficit so far in '14-15

Ottawa reports $3.3B deficit for first eight months of 2014-15 fiscal year
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The Canadian government says it posted a budgetary deficit of $3.3 billion over the first eight months of the 2014-15 fiscal year — a considerable change from the $13.4 billion shortfall over the same period in 2013-14.

The Finance Department released its latest fiscal monitor Friday, a document that shows the federal books received a boost from a $6.5-billion drop in the government's direct program spending between April and November 2014, compared to the same period the year before.

N.W.T. runs first oil exploration auction

N.W.T. opens land for first oil exploration auction since devolution
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The Northwest Territories is holding its first auction for energy exploration licences since that responsibility was delegated to Yellowknife from Ottawa.

The territory is putting rights to more than 160,000 hectares in the central Mackenzie Valley on the block.

The devolution agreement with the federal government took effect last April.

"It's a positive step forward for us, and a bit of a maturation for us as we move into our new responsibilities as a government," Dave Ramsay, industry, tourism and investment minister, said from Ottawa.

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