Democracy North: Special coverage of Portland Hotel Society audit scandal

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Democracy North is an independent Canadian and global news hour, featuring the week’s top grassroots news and interviews.

Every weekend, we compile the top guests and headlines from our daily Media Mornings show, bringing you a grassroots view on the week’s top global and national affairs.



  • 03:00 — This week’s top grassroots Canadian & global news headlines (see below).


  • 13:30 — Interview with Mark Townsend (co-founder & director, Portland Hotel Society) on the scathing government audit that forced his and the entire executive’s resignation, questions around fiscal mismanagement, and the importance of PHS programs like social enterprises, Insite safe injection site and more. Interviewed by David P. Ball on March 27.


  • 26:00 — Radio Roundtable on Portland Hotel Society audit: Blogger Melissa Fong and host Irwin Oostindie talk about the BC Housing and VCH takeover, how to shake the past, and how to protect services for DTES residents. Interviews with journalist Bob Mackin, former city planner Nathan Edelson, and DTES organizer Wendy Pederson.



  • TOP STORY: EGYPT: EXECUTIONS & ELECTIONS — In our top story this week, the army general who ousted Egypt's first freely elected leader last July has declared his candidacy for a presidential election he is expected to easily win. As Al Jazeera reports, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, decision came amid reports that one person had been killed during protests against Monday's court verdict that sentenced 529 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death. Those planned mass executions, argued Amnesty International, are a grotesque example of the shortcomings and the selective nature of Egypt's justice system (AJEGUARDIAN).


  • CANADA: LABOUR SHORTAGE — A labour group that took a mining firm to court over its use of Temporary Foreign Workers says it feels vindicated after a Parliamentary Budget Officer review concluded there is not a labour shortage in Canada despite assertions from the Conservative party and industry. Meanwhile, however, the Globe and Mail reports that the Conservative government defended its use of Kijiji to support its claims of a growing skills shortage in Canada, even though the Parliamentary Budget Officer says the website’s wonky job data are throwing off the government’s math (G&M24H).


  • CANADA: RUSSIAN SANCTIONS — Stephen Harper and Barack Obama are each urging European allies to support sanctions targeting Russia’s energy sector, with both leaders saying North America could help Western Europe end its dependence on Russian natural gas. But as the Globe and Mail writes, Harper is at the same time sharpening his public criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, characterizing him as a throwback to the Cold War who is out of touch with his younger citizens over how he’s handled the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula (G&M).


  • ONTARIO: GAS PLANT SCANDAL — Dalton McGuinty’s last chief of staff got a deputy’s IT-savvy boyfriend “unrestricted” access to 24 employees’ computers in the premier’s office before and after Kathleen Wynne took power, the Toronto Star reports, as alleged in a search warrant request from an OPP officer probing deleted emails in the $1.1 billion scandal over cancelled power plants (STAR).


  • QUEBEC: ELECTION — Pierre Karl Péladeau said in a Radio X interview Wednesday he favours the Parti Québécois charter of Quebec values to “protect our French language” and Quebec’s heritage. the charter is about forbidding Islamic veils and other conspicuous religious signs throughout Quebec’s public sector. Meanwhile, Windspeaker reports that First Nations in Quebec may hold their own independence votes in the event the Parti Québecois wins the April 7 elections and holds another referendum (GAZETTEWINDSPEAKER).


  • VANCOUVER: PHS AUDIT — WITH THE DUST beginning to settle on the bombshell financial audit of the Portland Hotel Society, community leaders are beginning to speculate on the nonprofit’s future. As the Georgia Straight reports, PHS’s outgoing team of executive managers, headed by Mark Townsend and Liz Evans, had a reputation for pushing up against the government’s comfort zone on harm reduction and affordable housing programs (STRAIGHT).


  • VANCOUVER: PORT STRIKE ENDS — Truck drivers on strike at Port Metro Vancouver reached an agreement to end job action Wednesday evening. According to 24 Hours, The deal means an end to any attempts by the government to pass back-to-work legislation, which the drivers said they would have refused to obey. More than 350 unionized workers, represented by Unifor, and 1,200 non-union workers began walking off the job in late February over complaints about long wait times and low rates (24H).


  • WASHINGTON: MUDSLIDE — South of the border, in Washington, searches continue for nearly 100 missing people as the rural area continues to grapple with the mudslide disaster. The death toll was confirmed to be 25 Wednesday night -- one more body was found during the day -- with 90 people missing. The status of another 35 people is unknown (SEATTLE P-I).


  • USA: AID GROUP HOMOPHOBIA — Facing a storm of protest, the prominent Christian relief agency World Vision on Wednesday dropped a two-day-old policy that would have allowed the charity to hire Christians in same-sex marriages (GUARDIAN).


  • VENEZUELA: COUP ATTEMPT — The Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, has added three generals to the growing list of people and entities he accuses of plotting against him. According to the Guardian, Maduro announced on Tuesday that his socialist administration had brought three air force generals before a military tribunal on charges of plotting a coup as anti-government protests continue across the country (GUARDIAN).


  • ISRAEL/PALESTINE: PEACE PROCESS — Amid fears the stalled Middle East peace talks are heading towards collapse, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, travelled to Amman on Wednesdayfor urgent consultations with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. The Guardian reports that Kerry arrived in the Jordanian capital hours after an Arab League summit in Kuwait released a statement emphatically declaring that Arab leaders would never recognise Israel as a "Jewish state", a key demand Netanyahu has made of Palestinians (GUARDIAN).


  • INDIA: RIGHTWING ELECTIONS — India's main opposition party, the ultra conservative Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), will win a landslide victory in the coming election, its leader has said. According to the Guardian In an interview the BJP president said polls suggest the party and its allies could win 300 seats of the 543 being contested when the final tally is completed in May. The BJP's prime ministerial candidate is the controversial Narendra Modi. Critics see him as a divisive extremist who, when chief minister in Gujarat in 2002, allegedly allowed or encouraged mobs to attack Muslims in towns across the state after a lethal fire on a train full of Hindu pilgrims (GUARDIAN).



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