Roundup: A pathogen’s tale

In a frankly fascinating tale, two former CFIA scientists have been charged with breach of trust after one of them was caught trying to transport 17 vials of the brucella pathogen to China. Now, it was likely to assist a researcher over there, where outbreaks are much more common, as opposed to, say, creating biological weapons. But it’s still a fascinating tale.

Glen McGregor compiles what publicly available evidence there is in the case against Michael Sona with regards to those Guelph robocalls. A veteran elections investigator, however, says there is likely more evidence that is not public, as they would not have proceeded with charges if they didn’t believe they could obtain a conviction.

A leak of offshore tax shelter information has revealed that a Liberal senator’s husband – a high-profile lawyer – has been socking money away there, while that Senator’s colleague, Percy Downe, has been on a crusade to get the government to put more attention into going after these kinds of havens. (And watch the documentary clip – it’s a fascinating look at offshore tax havens).

The NDP is debating changing their party’s constitution’s preamble once again, in order to tone down the references to socialism. Let’s see if they actually debate it at their convention this time, rather than kick it back to national council to study for another two years because it’s too contentious to not have a unanimous result.

Access to Information documents show that the government spent almost a quarter of a million dollars to purchase carbon offsets for the Vancouver Olympics, and put it into a reforestation project that the government also put money into.

Historian Allan Levine looks at the increased use of party whips as our democratic system evolved in Canada, to the point where caucus members are effectively muzzled. Aaron Wherry parses another defence of the muzzle, this time by William Watson, and again finds the curious use of “dissent” when the inflammatory comments in the past were genuinely offensive (racist, sexist, homophobic, and what have you).

Just as MPs are getting a raise, so are Senators. OH NOES! SENATORS ARE GETTING A RAISE! That is the correct response, right? We’re supposed to freak out right, because obviously they don’t do any work and other associated bits of received wisdom that have no bearing on reality? Thought so. Oh, and look – the story makes a bunch more specious comparisons to the House of Lords, which the Canadian Senate has actually almost zero in common with. Meanwhile, here’s a neat infographic about how much senators’ travel expenses have decreased in the past quarter. I do have to wonder about how much airfare “seasons” play into these calculations, as some times of the year it’s much more expensive to fly than others. And no, we can’t find this same information out about MPs, because they won’t open up their own books to scrutiny.

It appears that Conservative MP Parm Gill may have unpaid elections expenses, and the businesses he owes money to are not happy that he is ignoring their requests for payment.

It appears that our next US Ambassador will be another high-level Obama donor rather than a diplomat. Again.

One CBC interviewer finds Justin Trudeau still fairly inscrutable despite his loquaciousness, and going twice over their allowed interview time. Meanwhile, the final tally for registered voters in the leadership contest has been whittled down to 127,000 after duplicates and affirmed members of other parties were removed.

Here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including more about those CFIA scientists charged for trying to transport pathogens to China.

And Jen Gerson finds the town of Little Canada deep in Minnesota, which was founded twenty-three years before Confederation. Imagine that!