Fraud suit against bankrupt energy firm for which Pamela Wallin was a

CALGARY — A U.S. court has approved a multimillion-dollar settlement in a securities fraud class-action lawsuit against a bankrupt energy exploration company for which embattled Sen. Pamela Wallin was a director.Between June 2007 and December 2011, Wallin was a paid member of the board of Oilsands Quest Inc., a Calgary-based exploration company. As a director, the Saskatchewan senator was named in the lawsuit along with fellow board members, TD Securities and Calgary consulting firm McDaniel and Associates.The lawsuit, filed by investors in United States District Court in New York in 2011, alleged that Oilsands Quest and its directors overstated the value of the company’s assets by US$136 million.Defendants pumped up Oilsands Quest’s stock price by portraying the firm as the largest owner of valuable rights to bitumen in Saskatchewan’s oilsands“Through a series of false and misleading press releases, investor presentations and accounting manipulations, defendants fraudulently pumped up Oilsands Quest’s stock price by portraying Oilsands Quest as the largest owner of valuable rights to bitumen in Saskatchewan’s oilsands, creating a modern-day gold rush for what defendants knew to be largely worthless mining rights,” reads the original court document.It goes on to say company officials knew that the vast majority of the land contained no bitumen and “defendants engaged in contrived exploration and testing activities to justify the retention of worthless mining rights in order to mislead investors about the value of the company’s properties.”Handout/Oilsands Quest While most oil sands development is focused in the area around Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Saskatchewan has significant oil sands deposits. But the oil is considerably more difficult to extract because the deposits are capped by a glacial till rather than the shale typically found in Alberta. Still, Oilsands Quest led a charge to develop on the eastern side of the boundary.The firm filed for bankruptcy protection in an Alberta court in November 2011 and for Chapter 15 protection in a U.S. bankruptcy court in February 2012. Its assets have been sold to Cenovus Energy.Earlier this month, United States District Judge Jed Rakoff signed off on a US$10.2-million settlement which gave claimants about 36 cents on the dollar.Rakoff is the judge who presided over a US$163-million settlement last year in the case of disgraced New York financier Bernard Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme defrauded investors of billions of dollars.Oilsands Quest has not admitted any wrong-doing and has denied all allegations. The firm decided it would be “desirable and beneficial” to settle because litigation could have dragged on.The settlement, by Canadian standards, is quite large, says a Calgary lawyer whose firm handled proceedings in Canada at the request of the U.S. lawyers representing the plaintiffs.It’s double digits. You don’t see a lot of those here“It’s double digits. You don’t see a lot of those here,” said Clint Docken of the firm Docken and Klym. “It’s more common in the U.S., but the fact they’re paying over $10 million I think is representative of something.“If you’re not liable, it’s not a nuisance lawsuit, so why would you settle?”It doesn’t appear that Wallin or the other directors will be out of pocket, Docken said.“It’s the directors’ and officers’ insurer who is paying this.”During her time as a director, Wallin earned nearly US$648,000 in cash and offered option awards, the court documents said. She resigned shortly after Oilsands Quest went into receivership.She did not answer a request for comment submitted last week by The Canadian Press.Wallin, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009, has also been on the board of Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc., a wealth management firm with offices in Calgary and Toronto. She’s also served on the board for Porter Airlines. From 2007 to 2011 she was chancellor at the University of Guelph.Her finances have been under a microscope for weeks.The one-time journalist and former Conservative caucus member has been ordered to reimburse the Senate almost US$140,000 for ineligible travel expense claims. The order followed an independent audit of her travel expenses.A Senate committee alerted the RCMP to the results of the audit. The Mounties are already investigating living allowances claimed by senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb. read more

Manitoba offers money but no details to help town hurt by rail

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he is willing to put up provincial money to help the northern port town of Churchill.But Pallister is offering few details of his plan, and says some of the $500 million over 10 years would be to continue existing programs.Churchill lost its only land link to the outside world this spring when flooding caused severe damage to the rail line that was used to transport goods and people.Since then, prices have jumped sharply for food and other items that must now be flown in.The rail line is owned by Denver-based Omnitrax, which has said it cannot afford the $20 million to $60 million in repair costs.Pallister says the province won’t fund repairs because rail service is a federal responsibility, but the province is willing to spend money on economic development, social services and other infrastructure work.“I’m not talking about infringing on areas of federal responsibility,” Pallister said Friday.“We’re talking about investing in other areas that are our responsibility. Areas such as health services, social services, economic development, protection, infrastructure.”He refused to provide further details.Omnitrax had been in negotiations to sell the rail line to a First Nations consortium, but there have been no developments on that front in recent months.Pallister said he had hoped the federal government would have found a solution by now in terms of getting the rail line fixed and under stable ownership.“There has not been satisfactory progress to date,” Pallister said.The federal government said Omnitrax has legal obligations to repair, operate and maintain the rail line and it has formally demanded the company live up to those terms in an agreement signed in 2008 that saw the federal government give the railway $18.8 million.“The government is willing to look at all options, including exploring the possibility of working with a new owner toward the repair of the rail line,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in a statement late Friday.“To this end, senior government officials are engaging to find a solution on rail track repairs, ensuring a continuation of rail service for Churchill and surrounding communities.” read more

Markets update at midmorning

On the markets at midmorning (ET):The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 123.53 points to 15,068.07, after 90 minutes of trading.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 167.43 points to 21,820.13. The S&P 500 index was down 12.26 points to 2,464.29 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 33.32 points to 6,402.02.The Canadian dollar was trading at 81.04 cents US, up from Friday’s average price of 80.71 cents US.The October crude contract was up $1.52 to US$48.81 per barrel and the October natural gas contract was down nine cents to US$2.98 per mmBTU.The December gold contract was up $11.90 to US$1,342.30 an ounce and the December copper contract was up three cents to US$3.15 a pound. read more

Vancouver limits shortterm Airbnb rentals in laneway houses basement suites

Vancouver has banned owners of basement suites and laneway houses from listing them on Airbnb after a heated debate in which some city councillors warned that homeowners would not be able to pay their mortgages without the extra income.City council approved new regulations in a 7-4 vote Tuesday for vacation websites such as Airbnb and Expedia. The rules prohibit hosts from listing homes that are not their principal residence, including any secondary suites on their property.Mayor Gregor Robertson and members of his Vision Vancouver party defended the rules as necessary because the vacancy rate is just above zero and housing is needed for long-term renters.Airbnb rentals in central Paris capped at 120 days a yearSeattle approves tax on Airbnb, short-term rental operators“I’m stunned to hear that some councillors don’t believe there’s a problem here. We have 6,000 illegal short-term rentals in the city,” he said.“I can’t imagine doing nothing.”The new regulations will come into effect on April 1, 2018. Hosts must buy a business licence that costs $49 annually, plus spend $54 on a one-time application fee, and display their licence number in online listing. Those who fail to comply will face a $1,000 ticket per violation.Homeowners will still be allowed to list an individual room inside their principal residence. Tenants who are renting a basement apartment or laneway house will be allowed to list it on Airbnb, as long as it’s their principal residence and they have permission from the owner.Some short-term rental hosts criticized the proposed rules at a public hearing last month, saying the changes will deprive them of much-needed income.Councillors from the opposing Non-Partisan Association echoed those concerns on Tuesday, with Coun. George Affleck warning that homeowners who depend on the extra income will be forced to leave Vancouver or lead “very challenging lives.”Affleck said the city should instead focus on ensuring more rental housing gets built.“We’re just creating more bureaucracy, more taxation, more sticks and we’re not solving the problem. We’re making Vancouver more unaffordable and a harder place to live, whether you’re a renter or an owner,” he said.But Coun. Andrea Reimer of Vision Vancouver said secondary suites and laneway houses were approved to provide accommodation for local residents, not tourists.She said she just received an eviction notice at her rental home on Monday night — her second eviction in 16 months due to “speculation and flipping.”If the vacancy rate rises to four per cent or higher, city staff will report back to council on whether to allow owners to list their secondary suites on short-term rental websites.Council also passed a voluntary transaction fee of three per cent on bookings, which would be remitted to the city.Alex Dagg, public policy manager for Airbnb Canada, said the company is unable to impose a voluntary fee and instead would like to see the province amend the hotel tax so that it applies to short-term rentals.Dagg applauded Vancouver for making short-term rentals legal, but she criticized the ban on listing secondary suites. Many people list them on Airbnb because they’re in use by family or friends for most of the year and can’t be rented to long-term tenants, she said.“What short-term renting does is allow a homeowner or someone in a primary residence to use their space in a flexible way,” she said in an interview.The city estimates 80 per cent of short-term rentals will become legal under the new rules. Dagg said the estimate lines up with Airbnb’s numbers on people who are renting their principal residences.Vancouver is the latest jurisdiction to crack down on vacation websites. Seattle council voted Monday to impose a levy of $14 per night for short-term rentals of entire homes, and $8 per night for rooms, with the taxes to kick in by 2019. read more

Sri Lankan officials say ready for El Niño

Sri Lankan officials say the country is prepared to face the El Niño weather phenomenon in the last quarter of 2015 and take precautions based on the experience of the recent past.Temperatures have remained above average this year and a prolonged dry spell has left over 200,000 in the Northern Province thirsting for safe drinking water. But, officials at the Meteorological Department (MD) and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) say the impacts are manageablem SciDev.Net reported. But, Chandrapala says Sri Lanka is now better prepared to deal with fluctuating climate trends that have resulted in frequent extreme weather events. “It is about long-term planning — we are better prepared than we were five years back.”“So far, there is no sign that things will worsen, we have not received any warnings from the MD or the agriculture department of major crop losses,” Pradeep Koddiplili, DMC deputy director, tells SciDev.Net.Sri Lanka has seen five major floods and four major droughts since 2010, attributed by changing climate. (Colombo Gazette) “We have analysed past weather patterns when El Niño was active and what we have seen is that in the last quarter of the year rains, in fact, increase in this part of the globe,” says L. Chandrapala, director-general of the MD. “More rains in the last quarter of the year would be welcome following a weak South West Monsoon — the monsoon was below 75 per cent this year.”The failure of the rains and high temperatures have caused ground water resources to dwindle in the Northern Province. Over the last two months, the DMC has been supporting local authorities to deliver water to the worst-hit communities. However, some assessments also predict that South Asia was likely to receive above average rains in late 2015. “Countries on the equator can expect more rain, flooding and higher sea levels as El Niño takes hold,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says. According to global weather forecasts the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean called El Niño has now set in with most predicting it to be similar in strength to an occurrence in 1997. “The strong El Niño is expected to last until at least the end of the year before declining in the first quarter of 2016,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said in an update on 13 October. read more

Private bus strike scheduled for tomorrow called off

However, President of the Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) Gemunu Wijeratne said the strike was called off following talks held with President Maithripala Sirisena. (Colombo Gazette) A strike which was scheduled to be staged by private bus operators tomorrow has been called off.The strike was to be staged over the failure by the authorities to agree to a bus fare hike.

Mosquito breeding grounds found in Colombo schools

The Health Ministry said that mosquito breeding grounds have also been found in 48 state institutions and 53 premises under construction.The Ministry of Health has taken steps to issue a notice of warning to some property owners while legal action has been filed on 32 property owners for having mosquito breeding grounds. (Colombo Gazette) Dengue mosquito breeding grounds have been found in several schools in Colombo, the Ministry of Health said today.According to the Health Ministry, 48 schools in Colombo have been found to have dengue mosquito breeding grounds. read more

India and Sri Lanka Navy chiefs discuss boosting ties

Naval cooperation between India and Sri Lanka has been traditionally strong, encompassing a wide span which includes operational interactions through bilateral exercises, training, port calls, hydrographic co-operation, special forces interactions, capability building and capacity augmentation initiatives. Two Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessels (AOPVs) are also being constructed for the Sri Lankan Navy at M/s Goa Shipyard Limited, read an official statement.In addition to New Delhi, the Admiral is also scheduled to proceed to Goa where he will be visiting the Naval War College and Goa Shipyard Limited besides interacting with Flag Officer Commanding Goa Area. Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy had talks with Naval chief of staff of India, Admiral Sunil Lanba in India today.The Sri Lanka Navy chief is on an official visit to India aimed at consolidating bilateral naval relations between India and Sri Lanka and to explore new avenues for naval cooperation. The Admiral would further visit the Training Command of the Indian Navy based at Kochi, where he would be briefed on training aspects and would also visit various training facilities/ professional schools.During his visit to Kochi, the Admiral would also interact with Sri Lankan Naval personnel undergoing training in India.The Commander, Sri Lankan Navy’s visit follows closely on the visit of the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba’s visit to Sri Lanka wherein he also participated in the 7th International Maritime Conference, Galle Dialogue 2016. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna makes deposits for LG polls

SLPP District organisers were at hand when the deposits were made.Deposits are to be made by the SLPP for Colombo, Puttalam and Anuradhapura tomorrow. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which is promoting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, today made deposits for the Local Government (LG) elections.The deposits were made for Kalutara, Galle and Gampaha, SLPP sources said. Report by Ashanthi Warunasuriya The gazette notice to hold the LG elections for 93 LG bodies was issued today.Nominations will be accepted from December 11 to the 14th while deposits will be accepted from today. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Government says it has not asked IGP to step down

“He was appointed by the Constitutional Council so it is the Constitutional Council which has the authority to remove him,” he said.The Constitutional Council is not operational as the term of its members has ended. The Government says it has not asked Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara to step down.Cabinet spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told reporters today that concerns had been raised by President Maithripala Sirisena about the Police at the cabinet meeting yesterday. However he said there was no move by the Government to force the IGP to step down. He said that the IGP can be removed only by the Constitutional Council and not the Government. Senaratne said that new members will be appointed to the Constitutional Council soon. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Sirisena and Ranil telephone reelected Bangladesh PM

Wishing the prime minister-elect future successes, the Sri Lankan president and PM hoped that the bilateral relations between the countries will strengthen further in coming days. (Colombo Gazette) Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have congratulated Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on her party’s emphatic victory in the 11th parliamentary polls, Bangla Tribune reported.Sirisena called the ruling Awami League chief Hasina around 12:45pm Tuesday (Jan 1) while Wickremesinghe called around 01:00pm to congratulate the premier on retaining office with a landslide win in the polls. read more

Body of Indian fisherman recovered by Sri Lanka Navy

The body of an Indian fisherman has been recovered by the Sri Lanka Navy off the Delft Island.The Navy said that the body was recovered by the Navy, during a search operation conducted in the sea area off the Delft Island today. The Navy said that it also rescued 08 more Indian fishers and handed them over to the Kankesanthurei Police. The body was identified to be that of Karuppaiah Munnasami (55) from Ramanathapuram, India. Meanwhile, the Navy said it spotted over 500 Indian trawlers poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters, close to the Delft Island, last night (12th January) and seized 02 trawlers and arrested 09 Indian fishers who trespassed into Sri Lanka’s territorial waters. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Call for nominations – Presidents Distinguished Service Awards for Staff

Nominations are being accepted for the annual President’s Distinguished Service Awards for Staff.The awards recognize individual permanent staff members who consistently provide outstanding contributions to the working environment at Brock at a level significantly above normal expectations.The award will be awarded to a maximum of four recipients (two to support/technical/maintenance employees and two to administrative/professional employees) and will include a certificate of recognition and $500. The awards will be presented at the President’s Annual Holiday Celebration in December.Eligibility: Staff members should be active ongoing employees with at least 10 years of service at the University. All permanent employees with benefits entitlement are eligible, excluding staff reporting directly to the president or a vice-president.Employee should have excelled in one or more of the following: Demonstrated exemplary service and/or have made a significant contribution in his/her unit Did something exceptional to advance Brock’s reputation Made a significant contribution to the University and/or community Provided a valuable service to the broader community at Brock outside his/her own unitAdministration: Application forms and endorsement forms are available from the Office of Human Resources and Environment, Health and Safety or at Nominations must include a completed application form from the nominating person along with three additional endorsement forms of support. Any member of the Brock Community may submit or support a nomination. (Nominators/referees should nominate or support only one person in a year).Selection committee: A committee comprising of six members made up of at least: one OSSTF member, one CUPE 1295 member, one BUFA member, one SAC member and one member of the administrative/professional staff group will review the applications and make recommendations to the president. The manager of Human Resources or his/her designate shall chair the committee. The committee will meet in November to review applications for the awards and make recommendations to the president based on the criteria established and referred to in the nomination form. The committee will also solicit feedback from the staff member’s immediate supervisor and division head.Please forward nomination and endorsement forms to Human Resources by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, 2011 in a sealed envelope marked “Confidential — Distinguished Service Award Nominations.” Direct any questions to 905-688-5550 x3808 or read more

Brock ServiceLearning Brown Bag Lunch set for Feb 13

Department of Teacher Education Prof. Debra McLauchlan will share her experiences at the Brock Service-Learning Brown Bag Lunch Thursday, Feb. 13 at 12 noon.The next Brock Service-Learning Brown Bag Lunch is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13 at 12 noon in TH 253.Department of Teacher Education Prof. Debra McLauchlan will share her experiences with EDUC 8P73 Intermediate/Senior Drama, where students actively engage with the professional theatre education staff of theatre companies in Niagara, Hamilton and Toronto to build partnerships. read more

Burlington man injured in rollover

A man in his mid 20s was injured Sunday after crashing his car into a median in Burlington.It happened on Lakeshore Road at around 5:00 p.m. The car flipped in the crash, and the driver was taken to Hamilton General with head injuries.Police say the man has since been released and is exected to recover.The road was closed for several hours this morning as the traffic reconstruction unit investigated.

Niagara man causes 50K in damage to hospital

A Niagara man has been charged after a St. Catharines hospital sustained more than $50,000 in damage during an incident.Officers were called to the Niagara Health System at 1200 Fourth Ave. around 11:55 a.m. Tuesday.Police say a man barricaded himself in an area of the hospital and was causing excessive property damage.Arthur Bialas, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, was arrested and charged with mischief. He is scheduled for a bail hearing on Dec. 20. No injuries were reported but the incident caused a short disruption to the regular operation of the hospital. read more

WATCH NASA astronauts on spacewalk outside ISS

Two NASA astronauts stepped outside the International Space Station Thursday to install a pair of high-definition cameras.The cameras are designed to provide sharp views of commercial crew capsules coming in to dock.Boeing and SpaceX are slated to do their first test flights to the ISS in August.Video was captured of ISS commander Drew Feustel and astronaut Ricky Arnold on their spacewalk.They were also tasked with changing camera equipment and addressing additional maintenance items.