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Edmonton Councillor Caterina pays son 90K a year as staffer

Caterina has had his son on the payroll for the last 12 years

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Edmonton Ward 7 Councillor Tony Caterina is paying more than $90,000 a year to his only office assistant – his son Rocco Caterina.

Figures released by the City of Edmonton show Caterina billed taxpayers $45,363.21 for personnel between January and June this year.

Extrapolated over a full year, the salary would come to $90,726.42.

Most Edmonton councillors use their budget to employ several support staff. Caterina is one of a small number to have only one paid assistant.

Tony Caterina has had his son on the payroll for the last 12 years. Rocco also ran for Edmonton City Council in Ward 4 in the last election but was defeated.

Rocco Caterina

For the first six months of the year, Caterina has billed office expenses of $50,883.21 – including $4,000 for community expenses, $920 for communications and $600 for travel and transportation.

The Edmonton City Integrity Commissioner, Jamie Pytel, has looked into the issue in 2019 after a formal complaint was filed but has said there is no rules against nepotism in this case.

Pytel said hiring family members was a longstanding, accepted practice within council.

“I’m extremely happy that the findings were what they were,” Caterina told CBC in 2019 after the ruling.

But a week after Pytel completed her report, all councillors agreed to a new policy that will prevent elected officials from hiring relatives.

“To eliminate actual or perceived conflicts of interest or favouritism: Councillors cannot hire relatives to work in their offices,” the human resources management policy reads.

Caterina said he agreed with the change.

“We want to make sure perceptions are correct – I’m in complete agreement with it,” he said. 

But the policy also includes a grandfather clause allowing current staff to keep their jobs. 

“He has performed his duties extremely well and in my view there’s never been a conflict,” Caterina told CBC.

“Why would someone expect someone that’s doing their job extremely well be fired for a change that’s come in 12 years after initial employment.”

Similar arrangements have landed a couple of federal politicians in hot water recently.

Former Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer fired his sister-in-law earlier this month after it was revealed he employed her in his constituency office.

“I understand that in this case, following the rules may not have been enough. Even the perception of a conflict concerns me. As such, I have met with Erica and I have ended her employment in my office,” Scheer said in a statement.

“As an elected official, I understand expectations on me are high. Whenever there has ever been a question of following the letter and the spirit of the rules, I checked with the Ethics Commissioner first,” Scheer said.

Ontario MP Yasmin Ratansi left the Liberal caucus on November 16 after admitting she hired her sister to work in her Don Valley East constituency office.

“I made an error in judgement by employing my sister in my constituency office, and I have remedied the situation, but this does not excuse the error I made,” she said in a Facebook post at the time.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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O’Toole moves to expel Sloan from Tory caucus over $131 donation from Paul Fromm

The $131 donation constitutes approximately 0.01 per cent of the $1.3 million Sloan raising during the Conservative leadership race. Sloan says that he did not know who Paul Fromm was.

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Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is asking his MPs to expel Ontario MP Derek Sloan out of the Tory caucus after he accepted a $131 leadership donation from what he says is a “well-known” Canadian neo-Nazi.

“Derek Sloan’s acceptance of a donation from a well-known white supremacist is far worse than a gross error of judgment or failure of due diligence,” O’Toole said in a statement issued Monday evening.

“In accordance with the Reform Act, I have initiated the process to remove Mr. Sloan from the Conservative Party of Canada caucus. I expect this to be done as quickly as possible. Moreover, as leader of Canada’s Conservatives, I will not allow Mr. Sloan to run as a candidate for our party.”

O’Toole statement

The caucus will vote on whether or not to keep Sloan a member. That could come as early as Thursday as the Tories are set to hold a virtual retreat.

But late Monday, Sloan revealed the party itself has taken their cut of the donation.

In August of last year, while running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Sloan accepted a $131 donation from Paul Fromm.

However, most candidates do not know who most of their smaller donors are.

The $131 donation constitutes approximately 0.01 per cent of the $1.3 million Sloan raising during the Conservative leadership race.

In a post to Twitter, Sloan said he had no idea where the donation came from.

“Today, at approximately 4 p.m. eastern time, I became aware of a Press Progress article that brought to light that Paul Fromm, a person with known connections to racist groups, donated $131 to my campaign,” tweeted Sloan.

“My campaign raised well over $1,300,000 and had over 13,000 separate donations. On any given day we had upwards of hundreds of different donations, and my team, which was run in many cases by volunteers, processed cheques and other things. At no time was I ever aware of this donation.

“Paul Fromm is a notorious name to some, but not to everyone, and clearly this name, mixed as it was in the midst of thousands of other donations, did not ring any bells to my team. Upon learning about what happened, I immediately contacted the Executive Director of the Conservative Party, Janet Dorey, and requested this donation be returned.”

Sloan tweet

Fromm is a founder of the Canadian Association for Free Expression and Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform, has appeared at far-right protests and has been the subject of police investigations.

In a later Monday tweet, Sloan lashed back at the Tory HQ, saying they took their cut of the Fromm donation.

“Guess who else took a donation from “Frederick P Fromm”? After conducting my own investigation, I realized @CPC_HQ took a 10% cut ($13.10) from the same donation I am now possibly being expelled from caucus over. It looks like they didn’t know who this individual was either?” tweeted Sloan.

Sloan, the MP for Hastings—Lennox and Addington, came in fourth place in the Tory leadership campaign.

He was eliminated after the first round of voting in the four-person race getting 27,278 votes, almost 16 per cent of the total.

There have been calls in the past to remove him from caucus over his comments on gay rights.

On Sunday, O’Toole had taken to Twitter to say there is no room for ‘far-right’ ideology in his party.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Ousted UCP MLA Rehn blames clerical error for expenses confusion

A deep-dive into the expense claims of the Lesser Slave Lake MLA raised questions about where the MLA spent most of his time when the legislature was not in session, and their appropriateness.

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MLA Pat Rehn says it was all a clerical error.

A deep-dive into the expense claims of the Lesser Slave Lake MLA raised questions about where the MLA spent most of his time when the legislature was not in session, and their appropriateness.

The MLA billed for three meals a day in Edmonton for two full months – even when the legislature was not in session – despite representing a constituency in northern Alberta.

“It has come to my attention that an assistant of mine has made some errors in recording meal allowances, that I was not aware of. I apologize for this, and in the future I will make sure that I personally review all expense claims before they are submitted to the province to make sure that they are correct,” said Rehn in a Monday Facebook page entry.

” I WILL NOT be claiming any expense claims for meals in Edmonton for the entire year of 2021 as a sign of my sincere regret for this.

“I can assure my constituents and all Albertans that I try to keep public expenditures that are under my control as low as possible. In the fiscal year of 2019-2020, I had a budget of $153,222.05. At the end of the year in March 2020, I still had $41,686.22 remaining which I didn’t spend. This $41,686.22 went back to the Province to be used in other needed areas.”

On January 15, Premier Jason Kenney unilaterally expelled Rehn from the UCP Caucus saying he “has made no meaningful effort to be more present in his constituency or to properly represent his hard-working constituents” and “ignored” calls to be more present in Slave Lake.

The curious reason given made no mention of the expense issue, which had come into the hands of the Western Standard and other Alberta media outlets.

Rehn has said he maintains a home in the Lesser Slave Lake constituency.

Despite this, he claimed $1,245.50 in Edmonton per diems for every day – including weekends – for every day in April, despite the the legislature sitting for just 10 days that month.

Most rural MLAs return their homes on weekends, and per diems are only to be claimed when on business.

The Western Standard has repeatedly attempted to contact Rehn for comment or explanation. As of press time, no response has been received.

Rehn also claimed $1,930 every month for his housing allowance in Edmonton, something MLAs from outside the capital region are allowed in order to maintain a residence. Alternatively, MLAs may expense stays at a hotel.

While claiming a monthly housing allowance is usual for most MLAs, it is intended for the maintenance of a secondary Edmonton residence, and not a primary residence.

The frequency of per diem meal claims on days when the legislature is not sitting raises questions about where Rehn’s actual primary residence was.

The Slave Lake Town Council alleged in a public letter that Rehn did not reside in or near the constituency, and that he spent more of his time outside of the legislature in Texas.

The legislature does not release the location of MLA primary residencies for privacy reasons.

In his May, Rehn claimed every day for meals in Edmonton except on May 1, when he just claimed only breakfast, and May 3, claiming dinner.

Every other day that month, the MLA claimed breakfast, lunch and dinner in Edmonton, billing a total of $1,193.35. He also claimed the $1,930 non-resident housing benefit. The legislature only sat for 10 days in May.

In June, Rehn appeared to make three weekend trips outside Edmonton. The legislature sat for 16 days that month, with Rehn claiming full per diems for 23 full days in Edmonton.

The house rose for the summer break on July 23, after sitting for 12 days. But Rehn claimed full Edmonton meal allowed from July 24-31, even though business had wrapped up in the capital.

The only day in July Rehn didn’t claim full per diems Edmonton was on July 18, where he billed $29.95 for lunch in Wabasca.

In the wake of the Snowbird Scandal, the mayor and entire council of Slave Lake called on their MLA to resign in an open letter. The council alleges a litany of problems they have had with him.

The town, with a population of 6,500, 255 km northeast of Edmonton, made public a laundry list of complaints against Rehn, including missed meetings and failure to represent the area for economic development.

They claim Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, doesn’t even live in Alberta (or Canada), saying he resides in Texas.

“When Covid-19 began and the Canadian government said Canadians need to get home, you were in the United States. Since that time, you have made multiple trips abroad. In fact, right now, as our businesses suffer and many of our people aren’t working, you still aren’t here.,” said the letter signed by Mayor Tyler Warman and six other councilors.

In fact, the council claims the UCP government was aware of Rehn’s performance and have asked other MLAs to pick up his work.

“We have been told that your government has internally expressed its displeasure at your performance and have arranged for neighbouring MLA’s to check in to help make sure our Region is represented,” the letter reads.

“We seem to be making little to no progress in our Region in advocating for items that are a provincial responsibility. One of the factors that we believe is contributing heavily to this is the lack of engagement from you as our MLA.”

Pat Rehn’s public expense disclosure can be found on the Alberta Legislature’s website.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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CTF calls on governments to get their pipeline act together

A lack of pipelines is costing the federal government $13 billion in lost revenue, said Terrazzano.

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All levels of government must get on the same page to try and stop more taxpayers’ money from being flushed down the pipeline drain, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“This shows that politicians need to get their act together so we can build pipelines in Canada,” said Franco Terrazzano, the Alberta Director of the CTF, on Monday.

Terrazzano was reacting to reports from the U.S., that President-elect Joe Biden was planning on killing the Keystone XL pipeline expansion on the first day he enters the Oval Office, January 20.

Alberta has already invested $1.5 billion in the pipeline, even though Biden was already talking about killing the project as he campaigned in the Democratic primaries.

“That means the feds need to repeal damaging legislation such as the No More Pipelines Law and the discriminatory tanker ban, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to do everything in his power to make sure Keystone XL moves forward,” said Terrazzano.

“Taxpayers are being dragged further into debt because politicians have been roadblocking pipelines in Canada and that needs to stop.”

A lack of pipelines is costing the federal government $13 billion in lost revenue a year, said Terrazzano.

Kenney has said he is “concerned” over the reports and vowed legal action if Biden does cancel the US$8 billion project.

Trudeau has so far been mute.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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