Patrick Brazeau on forced leave from Senate after charges

Patrick Brazeau has been put on a leave of absence from the Senate until the assault and sexual assault charges against him have been resolved.

Brazeau was charged Friday morning following his arrest the previous morning in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa.

He was kicked out of the Conservative caucus shortly after the arrest. He will now sit as an Independent.

The charges against him haven’t been tested in court.

Senators charged with a serious crime keep their seats, but are placed on a leave of absence until charges are withdrawn, the court proceedings are stayed, or the charges result in dismissal, conviction or acquittal. The board of internal economy can suspend that senator’s right to the use of some or all of the Senate resources, including office resources and travel funding.

“In essence, now that he has been charged, the Speaker will instruct the Senate that he will be placed on a forced leave of absence,” Marjory LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate, said in a statement.

Brazeau won’t be able to sit in the Senate, aside from an appearance each session — about every two years — to maintain his status. Any spending for him or his office has to be pre-approved by the Senate’s board of internal economy, a committee in charge of budgets and rules.

“Obviously, he cannot be removed immediately because of the presumption of innocence and will continue to be paid,” LeBreton said.

Harper ‘appalled’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he feels let down by the “extremely appalling and disappointing” situation with Brazeau, a senator he appointed.

Speaking in Burnaby, B.C., Harper said Friday the allegations against Brazeau shouldn’t obscure that most people in the Senate work hard and take their responsibilities seriously.

“Obviously, the situation with Senator Brazeau is terrible. It is extremely appalling and disappointing, and we all feel very let down,” Harper said, pointing out that the charges against Brazeau are “extremely different” from the allegations against Brazeau and two other senators that they claimed expenses they weren’t entitled to.

Harper reiterated his call for an elected Senate with limited terms. The Conservative government has referred legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada to see whether a constitutional amendment is needed to make those changes.

Harper also reminded reporters that Brazeau was appointed to the Senate out of a job as national chief to the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, “one of the country’s largest and most respected aboriginal organizations.”

“Obviously in, over a recent period, something has been going very wrong and that is the reason for the situation that has developed and that situation will obviously be dealt with by the courts,” he said.

Brazeau released with conditions

Brazeau, who appeared in court wearing a dark grey coat, did not have his lawyer present for his first appearance at about 9:15 a.m. ET. The senator told the court he hadn’t been able to reach his counsel, and his case was suspended briefly.

When he appeared again shortly before 10 a.m., he was released on $1,000 bail until his next court appearance on March 22.

His release carries additional conditions:

  • He cannot carry a firearm.
  • He cannot communicate with or be within 150 metres of the complainant.
  • He cannot change his address.

There is a publication ban on the complainant’s name.

In court, Brazeau gave an address in Maniwaki, Que., as his home. It caused some confusion in the court when it did not match the Gatineau address on the charge sheet.

Address confusion

Crown prosecutor Sylvain Petitclerc told reporters outside the court that Brazeau said he would live in Maniwaki for the remainder of the proceedings. Petitclerc called the charges “serious.”

Brazeau is under investigation for discrepancies in the living expenses he has claimed as a senator. On Friday, the Senate committee overseeing an audit into senators’ expenses announced it has retained the services of accounting firm Deloitte so external auditors can review the submissions of Brazeau and two other senators: Ontario’s Mac Harb and P.E.I.’s Mike Duffy.

The investigation stems from allegations that the senators live primarily in Ottawa but claim to live more than 100 kilometres outside the capital so they can collect a living allowance.

Brazeau was escorted by court security from a counter where he signed off on the conditions to a stairwell leading to the exit. Surrounded by journalists for the brief walk from the counter to the stairwell, he said nothing.

Police called to dispute

Brazeau was arrested on Thursday morning after a call to 911.

Gatineau police Const. Pierre Lanthier told CBC News that a 38-year-old man spent the night in custody following his arrest.

The two charges are summary conviction offences, which carry smaller penalties and shorter jail sentences than indictable offences.

Even if convicted, Brazeau may not be forced to give up his Senate seat if his sentence is less than two years.

The senator has weathered several controversies since his appointment in 2009.

‘Never should have been nominated’

New Democrat MP Alexandre Boulerice said Friday after question period that Brazeau never should have been nominated in the first place, and that the nominations of Brazeau and Duffy show Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a problem with political judgment.

“We’re calling into question the political judgment of the prime minister in these nominations. How was it that someone like Patrick Brazeau was named to the Senate, with a job for life? For taxpayers it will cost, until 2049, $7 million,” Boulerice said.

“He has some personal problems. The justice [system] will follow its course, of course. But the problem is the Senate and the political nominations of this government and the Liberals before.”

Government House leader Peter Van Loan told MPs in the House that serious charges had been laid.

“Mr. Speaker, because of the seriousness of these events, the senator was expelled from caucus. The legal system will see to this affair,” Van Loan said.

Conservative MP Eve Adams, parliamentary secretary to the veterans affairs minister, says violence against women is criminal.

“[Violence against women] is offensive to women. It’s offensive to men who respect women. And if the allegations are true, I’d call on Senator Brazeau to resign,” Adams said.

Marjory LeBreton, the government Senate leader, sent a letter to Brazeau’s office and caucus members on Thursday morning informing them of his removal.

“In light of the serious nature of the events reported today [Thursday], Senator Brazeau has been removed from the Conservative caucus. As this is a legal matter, I cannot comment further,” LeBreton said in a statement.

With files from CBC News

Storm hitting southern Ontario causes closures and accidents

A major snowstorm pummelling southern Ontario and parts of the U.S. is forcing school and other closures as well as flight delays and cancellations, and has caused traffic woes that include at least 200 traffic accidents in the province alone.

Between 15 and 25 centimetres of snow are expected to fall across southern Ontario, with the possibility of winds of up to 60 km/h.

More than 15 centimetres had already fallen on Toronto by noon with more on the way, making this the biggest storm the city has seen since 2008.

The same weather system is also poised to dump up to 90 centimetres of snow across the northeastern United States.

Environment Canada is warning commuters of hazardous travelling conditions due to near-zero visibility, and heavy and blowing snow.

The snow in Ontario will end in areas west of the Greater Toronto Area late in the afternoon, in the Toronto area in the evening, and overnight in easternmost sections of the province, the weather agency said.

In Toronto, city crews have dispatched about 600 plows.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Dave Woodford said that by 8:30 a.m. ET, there had been more than 200 accidents in southern Ontario, including the GTA, by late morning.

Traffic was light on the region’s highways and only moving at about 20 km/h, Woodford said early Friday.

“Conditions are treacherous right now,” Woodford said. “People think because they have snow tires or four-wheel drive, nothing can happen to them. If you have to be out, slow down. If you don’t have to be out anywhere, don’t go on the roads.”

The Canadian Automobile Association said it had received about 1500 calls for service by early Friday morning.

Parts of southern Quebec can also expect to see snow as the system moves east toward the Maritimes. Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and southern New Brunswick are all under blizzard or blowing snow warnings. The worst weather is expected to hit the region overnight and into Saturday.

CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said as much as 40 centimetres of snow is possible in Nova Scotia, and wind gusts could reach a maximum of 100 km/h.

Newfoundland is under a winter storm watch for Saturday afternoon.

How the weather is affecting you locally:

Thousands of flights cancelled

Thousands of flights have been cancelled not only due to the storm hitting Ontario, but because of poor weather conditions from Chicago to Quebec City.

About 700 flights, or nearly half, have been cancelled at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Travellers at airports across Canada are being advised to call airlines ahead of time to check if flights have been cancelled or delayed.

In the U.S., New York’s LaGuardia, Newark’s Liberty, Boston’s Logan and Chicago’s O’Hare are among the most affected airports, with more than 3,700 flights cancelled in the U.S.

Ontario commuters face delays

Ontario’s GO Transit is advising its customers to leave extra time for travelling and to check its website for service updates. It is warning that customers may experience delays on its bus and train systems.

Several school boards across southern Ontario are closed today, including the Waterloo Catholic School Board, the Waterloo Public School Board and the Peel District School Board.

York University in Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton are also among the schools closed today. The University of Toronto said its Mississauga and Scarborough campuses would be closed but its main downtown campus would be open.

Buses were also cancelled for the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto District Catholic School Board, as well as the York Region and York Catholic boards.

Dangerous driving conditions

In Ottawa and eastern Ontario, where about 15 centimetres of snow was expected, school buses were cancelled.

The reduced visibility has made for dangerous driving conditions. Police have closed the eastbound lanes of an 88-kilometre stretch of Highway 401 near Ottawa because of a fatal collision.

The crash happened just before 10 a.m. ET near Prescott, Ont., according to Grenville Country OPP.

Police are advising people not to drive if possible.

On the streets of Toronto, many people were trudging along sidewalks covered in snow.

“It’s not easy going but we have an office we have to keep salted up,” said Eddie Sobo, a construction worker who was struggling to push a wheelbarrow full of road salt through the snow.

Sobo said he’s not averse to dealing with snow on the job and he needs to keep surfaces salted for office staff who “need to get out.”

With files from The Canadian Press

EU set to push for free-trade pact with US to ease crises

Britain and Germany have won support from the rest of the European Union at a summit in Brussels to reach a deal with Washington that leaders hope will help to pull Europe out of its banking and debt crises.

“All efforts should be devoted to pursuing agreements with key partners,” EU leaders said, putting the US at the top of a long list including Japan and Canada. The EU leaders’ statement raises expectations that President Barack Obama may endorse the initiative next Tuesday in his annual State of the Union speech.

Obama and EU leaders asked their trade chiefs in 2011 to look at whether it was feasible to agree a deal to further integrate the blocs.

Downbeat City mood casts a shadow over top rents

Rents were on the back foot last year and edged down a further 0.1% during January, its latest research on “prime” rentals — lettings averaging £2000 a week — showed. Kensington was the only area of London to show rising rental values over the month.

Head of residential research Liam Bailey said the City market was “struggling to gain traction”, adding: “Kensington is a bit more popular with European or US executives relocating into London, but the market is struggling at the moment. The top of the rental market is mainly corporate lettings and they are either in the City or related to it.”

The latest decline — albeit smaller than December’s 0.5% fall — marks the seventh successive month  of sliding rents at the top end of  the market.

St John’s Wood was the worst performer, with a 1.2% fall in average rents in January compounding a 9.7% slide during 2012 overall.

Bailey said: “It would appear  the outlook remains bleak, with  the number of job vacancies in  the financial sector down 24%  in December compared to the previous year.”

There were also signs that firms are pruning budgets with demand strongest for rentals below £1000 a week, the agent said.

Hugo Boss eyes fresh growth after profits measure up nicely

The 89-year-old firm, which is owned by
private equity firm Permira, said its strong performance last year had been
driven by “significant sales growth and strict management of operating

Following strong recent results from
Prada, Louis Vuitton and Hermès, Hugo Boss is the latest luxury brand to show
it is powering through the consumer downturn, driven by well-heeled customers
in emerging markets from China to  the Middle East.

In addition to increased margins, Hugo
Boss said that all its channels, including wholesale and retail, and regions
globally contributed to 8% leap in post-tax profits to €285 million (£245
million) last year. Chief executive Claus-Dietrich Lahrs  said: “Despite
the still-challenging market environment, I am confident that we will continue
to post stronger growth than the overall market  in 2013.”

sales at Hugo Boss, which is based in Metzingen, Germany, jumped by 10% to
€2.35 billion.

Catlin is leaping despite bigger hits from Sandy and Concordia

The Lloyd’s of London insurer said pre-tax
profits hit $339 million (£216 million), up from  $71 million in 2011 when
the industry suffered its second costliest year on record.

Catlin said it expects to pay out $225
million in claims relating to Sandy, which hit North America in October,
compared with an earlier estimate of $200 million.

The Costa Concordia disaster in January
2012 is also expected to cost the company $51 million, compared with a previous
$35 million.

Investment returns fell to 2% from 3.1% a
year earlier although the group’s combined ratio strengthened from 102.6% to
90%, meaning that it made a 10p profit on every pound of premiums taken.

Finance director Paul Jardine waded into
the row over Solvency II, new capital rules that are set to govern insurers.
“They estimate red tape and compliance costs have already reached  £3
billion across the UK industry”, he said. “We didn’t create the financial
crisis so shouldn’t be punished.”

Workspace beats gloom as small firms fight for room

The company, which counts online greeting
cards firm Moonpig, model Caprice’s lingerie business and upmarket
childrenswear company AlexandAlexa among its tenants, has grown occupancy 0.8%
to 89.6% in the three months to January 31.

“Lots of small companies are now winning
market share from the bigger corporates and we are showing around a lot of
online retailers,” chief executive Jamie Hopkins said.

“These are the kinds of people who can
base themselves wherever they want. They don’t need a  shop window.”

Workspace grew like-for-like rents 1.4% to
£44.2 million over the quarter. The value of its London property portfolio is
up 3.6% since March last year to £799 million.

Santo analyst Michael Burt said: “Monthly enquiry  levels were 8% higher
than the prior year.

UAE oil major to receive $3bn loan from Japan

Japan will give a $3bn loan to Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC), state-run by OPEC-member UAE, to help boost the oil developer’s upstream business and strengthen bilateral relations, Japan’s trade ministry said on Friday.

The deal, which coincides with the visit this weekend to Saudi Arabia and the UAE by Japanese Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, is set to be signed on Sunday by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and ADNOC, the ministry added.

This marks the third loan for Japan after it granted $3bn each in 2007 and 2010 to boost ADNOC’s oil supply capacity that would ensure stable oil exports to Japan.

The loan is also expected to help Japan win new energy concessions or the renewal of existing concessions in the oil-rich nation, the trade ministry said.

UAE is the No.2 crude oil supplier to Japan after Saudi Arabia, and oil imports from UAE accounted for 21.7 percent of Japan’s total imports last year, averaging 793,000 barrels per day.

The loan is to be extended by JBIC and three private banks, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp and Mizuho Corporate Bank, the ministry added.

Indian ethnic fashion brand eyes MidEast growth

Manyavar, a leading Indian men’s ethnic fashion brand has announced plans for expansion across the Middle East region.

Launched in Dubai in 2011, it has opened a third showroom in Karama, taking the brand’s global presence to a total of 228 stores across India, Bangladesh and the Middle East.

Manyavar said in a statement that it plans to open six more stores in the Middle East during 2013.

The newest shop, which offers a range of Kurtas, Sherwanis and accessories such as traditional footwear and turbans, was inaugurated by actor Jayaram Subramaniam.

He said: “Manyavar houses some of the best designs in traditional wear for men. The comfort, style and colours add the much needed enthusiasm to any occasion… Manyavar is a must for all Men looking to wear something traditional yet trendy.”

Manyavar’s Lalit Kothari said: “Our growth is a testament to the loyal clientele that has been with us for years now. Manyavar products are a result of stringent research and customer feedback.

“As we plan to open six more outlets by the end of 2013, we are only positive that Indian ethnic menswear will transcend further through other nationalities owing to its style, fashion presences and vibrant offerings.”

UN says 5,000 Syrian refugees fleeing each day

About 5,000 refugees are fleeing Syria each day, seeking safe haven in neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

“This is a full-on crisis,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva. “There was a huge increase in January alone, we’re talking about a 25 percent increase in registered refugee numbers over a single month.”

Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing in the region, mainly Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, he said.

In Syria, water shortages are worsening and supplies are sometimes contaminated, putting children at an increased risk of diseases, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.

The agency’s first nationwide assessment revealed that water supplies in areas affected by the conflict are one-third of pre-crisis levels, UNICEF said in a statement.

“It points to a severe disruption of services, damage done to water and sanitation systems, and limited access to basic hygiene, all of which puts children at much greater risk of disease,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told the briefing.