Thun­der Bay mayor, wife and one other per­son charged with ex­tor­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY DANIELA GERMANO

It would not make any sense for the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment to di­vulge what they hope to get out of a new North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, said An­drew Les­lie, the par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary for Canada-U.S. re­la­tions.

“It’s il­log­i­cal to un­mask and to lay down de­tailed ob­jec­tives when we don’t have to,’’ Les­lie said Fri­day.

“What we’d rather do is an­a­lyze what they’ve laid down — no real sur­prises there — fig­ure out where we can ne­go­ti­ate, what we can prob­a­bly push ahead or hold the line on and take it from there,’’ he said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­leased an 18-page sum­mary of its ob­jec­tives for the new NAFTA on Mon­day, as re­quired by U.S. law.

There are no such rules forc­ing the Canadian gov­ern­ment to do the same, but Con­ser­va­tives and New Democrats teamed up to ask that sev­eral cabi­net min­is­ters ap­pear be­fore an emer­gency sum­mer meet­ing of the House of Com­mons trade com­mit­tee to do just that.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land has agreed to at­tend, along­side of­fi­cials, on Aug. 14 _ two days be­fore the first round of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the U.S., Canada and Mex­ico be­gin in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Les­lie said Free­land can be ex­pected to out­line ap­proaches, rather than share de­tailed ob­jec­tives, to avoid “giv­ing up a ne­go­ti­at­ing ad­van­tage.’’

When it comes to the over­all ap­proach Canada will take, Les­lie said it is akin to what U.S. Vi­cePres­i­dent Mike Pence said in a speech when Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau was in Rhode Is­land last week: a “win-win­win’’ for all three of the trad­ing part­ners.

The Amer­i­can NAFTA ob­jec­tives do not al­ways ap­pear to take that ap­proach.

They say the U.S. gov­ern­ment will in­sist on main­tain­ing “Buy Amer­i­can’’ rules that limit op­por­tu­ni­ties to for­eign­ers, while at the same time de­mand­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can sup­pli­ers to bid on gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment con­tracts in Canada and Mex­ico.

“That’s one rea­son why we should not start ne­go­ti­at­ing in pub­lic,’’ Les­lie said when asked about how this squares with the mes­sage from Pence.

“That will have to be part of the give-and-take of the ne­go­ti­at­ing teams,’’ Les­lie said.

If the pres­i­dent wants “Buy Amer­i­can,’’ then what about ac­cess to projects like the bil­lions the Lib­er­als in­tend to spend on in­fra­struc­ture?, Les­lie said.

“I think our friends and al­lies would do well to watch what we are about to build in Canada and they may want to take part in that,’’ he said.

The mayor of Thun­der Bay, Ont., was charged with ex­tor­tion and ob­struct­ing jus­tice Fri­day, al­most two months af­ter the north­ern On­tario city’s po­lice chief was ar­rested in the same case.

On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice said Keith Hobbs, 65, was charged in con­nec­tion with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing that in­clude a mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cial and a lo­cal res­i­dent.

Hobbs’ wife, Marisa Hobbs, 53, was also charged with ex­tor­tion and ob­struct­ing jus­tice. Po­lice ad­di­tion­ally charged Mary Voss, a 46-year-old Thun­der Bay res­i­dent, with ex­tor­tion, but of­fi­cials would not say how she was con­nected to the other ac­cused.

Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne ex­plained that the charges were linked to breach of trust and ob­struct­ing jus­tice charges laid against Thun­der Bay po­lice chief J.P. Levesque in May.

She said Levesque was charged shortly af­ter po­lice had launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mayor. She added that it was Levesque who called for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion started and as a re­sult of that, (J.P.) Levesque was charged and then th­ese three peo­ple were charged,’’ Dionne said.

Keith Hobbs was an of­fi­cer with the Thun­der Bay po­lice for 34 years be­fore he en­tered mu­nic­i­pal politics in 2010.

His lawyers, Brian Greenspan and Naomi Lutes, said Hobbs and his wife firmly de­nied the al­le­ga­tions against them.

“Th­ese charges are un­jus­ti­fied and will be vig­or­ously de­fended,’’ a state­ment from the lawyers said. “Mayor Hobbs and his wife are hope­ful that the com­mu­nity will not pre­judge th­ese un­proven charges and are grate­ful for the con­tin­ued sup­port of their many col­leagues, fam­ily, and friends.’’

City of­fi­cials said they would not be com­ment­ing about the case be­cause the mat­ter is be­fore the courts.

Coun. Trevor Gier­tuga told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence that Hobbs ad­vised coun­cil he would be tak­ing a three-month leave of ab­sence “as he deals with this per­sonal mat­ter.’’

“We are aware that we have is­sues within the City of Thun­der Bay, but we have a strong coun­cil and strong lead­er­ship work­ing to con­front those is­sues,’’ Gier­tuga said. ``But let’s not lose sight that we are deal­ing with an is­sue to­day that is un­re­lated to city busi­ness or city is­sues.’’

The de­vel­op­ment in the case comes as Thun­der Bay grap­ples with ten­sions be­tween its po­lice force and mem­bers of the Indigenous com­mu­nity.

In re­cent months, On­tario’s chief coro­ner asked an out­side po­lice force to help in­ves­ti­gate the deaths of two Indigenous teens in the city.

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