Canada: government & governance 2017

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Strength of teamwork, power of dreams: Gov. Gen. Julie Payette urges fight for common good
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls former astronaut a trailblazer, pioneer and ‘exceptional Canadian’
(CBC) Julie Payette urged Canadians and global citizens to reach for their dreams and join forces to tackle the pressing problems of climate change, migration and poverty as she was installed as Canada’s 29th Governor General today.
Surrounded by family, dignitaries, fellow astronauts and past and present politicians in a ceremony inside the packed Senate chamber, the former astronaut said we’re all on the “same planetary spaceship” and stressed a collective duty to close the gap in inequities around the world.
“I’m a true believer in the strength of teamwork, in the power of dreams and in the absolute necessity of a support structure,” she said, speaking without notes.
“Anyone can accomplish anything and rise to the challenge as long as they are willing to work with others, to let go of the personal agenda, to reach a higher goal and to do what is right for the common good. This is exactly what I hope my mandate as the governor general will reflect.”
Julie Payette is unscripted and at ease on first day as GG
References to scholars and poets replaced with space metaphors in aspirational speech
Our acting head of state is an astronaut. With or without notes, she now has an immense platform from which to try to say something without saying too much. In part, she will say something simply by standing there.

28 August
(Globe & Mail) The Prime Minister shuffled his cabinet and split the Indigenous Affairs department in twain. Jane Philpott, the former health minister, is now responsible for service delivery while Carolyn Bennett continues to oversee Crown-indigenous relations. Ms. Philpott said her job is addressing the historic injustices First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities have faced.
Other changes to the cabinet: rookies Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Seamus O’Regan are now Ministers of Health and Veterans Affairs, respectively; Kent Hehr, formerly of Veterans, is now Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities, while Carla Qualtrough moves from the latter portfolio to Public Services and Procurement.

Allison Hanes: Census reveals the new normal of Canadian life
Not only are we getting older, we are maturing in other ways too. We are a profoundly open and tolerant society. We are as diverse in background as we are in lifestyle. We are more alone, but still reliant on each other. We are free to live how we want and love whom we want.
(Montreal Gazette) The nuclear family — a married mom and dad with kids — is no longer the norm in Canada today.
For the first time in our history, more of us live alone than in traditional families. And an equal proportion of households are made up of couples with no kids as couples with children.
The latest release of data from the 2016 Census traces the evolution of the modern Canadian family. It holds a mirror to who we are and how we live. And this particular snapshot shows that the new normal is that there is no “normal” anymore.
There are more single dads than ever before, more Millennials living with their parents, and more same-sex couples — married and common law, with children and without. We are not only more diverse culturally and linguistically, according to Statistics Canada we are also more diverse in our living arrangements. (2 August 2017)

Canada 150: The National Mood and the New Populism
Gauging the national mood at Canada 150 in a carefully constructed sample of nearly 6,000 Canadians, this piece assesses how Canada is looking at its political options and how this connects to its economic outlook and a variety of other new forces.
(Ekos Politics) The voter landscape doesn’t mean much as we are still two years away from an election; but it does reveal some interesting new features. Most notably, we see a tightened race with the Conservatives enjoying a post-leadership bounce from the election of Andrew Scheer. The Liberals maintain a slight – but statistically significant – lead of 2.3 points, but this is greatly diminished from the large lead that they enjoyed a year ago. The NDP and Green Party remain stuck at around 15 points and nine points, respectively, with neither party showing any indication of moving one way or the other.
What is perhaps most notable about the demographic patterns underlying these numbers is the sharp re-occurrence of the education division that defined the Harper era. At the outset of his mandate, Justin Trudeau enjoyed near uniform support across the educational spectrum. Two years later, however, his support is becoming increasingly confined to those with a University degree. Those with a high school or college education seem to be returning to the ranks of the Conservative Party. These shifts can be connected to a uniquely Canadian expression of populism which is reshaping our political landscape. (24 June 2017)

28 July
Christy Clark resigns as leader of B.C. Liberal Party
(Vancouver Sun) Former Premier Christy Clark is stepping down as leader of the B.C. Liberal party. Clark, who served as B.C. premier for six and a half years, has informed her caucus that she will resign as party leader on Aug. 4.
(CBC) The announcement comes just 10 days after B.C. NDP leader John Horgan was sworn in as B.C.premier … Clark’s Liberals governed B.C. for 5,869 days — one of the longest political dynasties in the province’s history.

23 July
Alberta’s new United Conservative Party is a go. What happens next?
Wildrose and PC members approved unity deal with 95% voting Yes
(CBC) On Monday [24 July], members of the Wildrose and PC caucuses will meet to choose an interim leader.
PC Leader Jason Kenney expected they would then ask the Speaker of the legislative assembly to recognize them as members of the new united party.
Under the unity agreement reached on May 18, the new party will register with Alberta’s chief electoral officer as soon as possible.

19 July
B.C.’s NDP government is sworn in
(Globe & Mail) British Columbians have a new government for the first time in 16 years, after NDP Premier John Horgan and his cabinet were formally sworn in. Mr. Horgan and his 20 cabinet ministers must immediately begin work on several significant issues, including a state of emergency related to wildfires and the softwood lumber dispute. Read more about who’s in cabinet and what issues they’ll be tackling.

17 July
Why Canada Is Able to Do Things Better
Most of the country understands that when it comes to government, you pay for what you get.
By Jonathan Kay
(The Atlantic) My wife and I signed our 2016 tax returns about a month ago. In total, we gave up about 42 percent of our income to the federal government and to the province of Ontario. Add in property taxes, gas taxes, and sales taxes, and the figure goes up to about 46 percent. By my rough calculation, a similarly situated couple living in an equivalent part of the United States—I picked Chicago, which sometimes is described as a sort of sister city to Toronto, where I now live—that number would be about 10 points lower, at 36 percent.
What does that 10 percent premium buy for my family? Aside from universal health care, there’s world-class public schools, a social safety net that keeps income inequality at rates well below America’s, and an ambitious infrastructure program that will help Canada keep pace with its swelling ranks of educated, well-integrated immigrants. Oh, and I also get that new bridge. Naturally, it will have a bike lane, and be named after the hockey legend Gordie Howe.
Canadians tend not to talk about making their country great again. Canada never was particularly great—at least not in the sense that Trump uses the word. Unlike Americans, Canadians haven’t been conditioned to see history in epic, revolutionary terms. For them, it’s more transactional: You pay your taxes, you get your government. That might not be chanted at any political rallies or printed on any baseball hats. But it works for Canada. And it’d work for America too.

13 July

‘Unquestionably qualified’: Ex-astronaut Julie Payette formally introduced as Canada’s next GG
Trudeau says Montrealer embodies ‘truly Canadian traits’: love of discovery and dreaming big
(CBC) Trudeau said Payette has dedicated her life to discovery, dreaming big and staying focused on the things that matter most.
“These truly Canadian traits, along with her years of public service, make her unquestionably qualified for this high office,” he said.
The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will become Canada’s 29th governor general.
Payette, who is also an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, will succeed outgoing Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
While some people were hoping to see an Indigenous person named to the post, the Liberal Indigenous caucus issued a statement welcoming the appointment and calling her a “beacon of hard work and innovation in Canada.”
“Ms. Payette has been an excellent representative of our country in the past, and her experience will bring a unique perspective of Canada and the world to the position of governor general,” the statement reads.
Great story from Benoit Charlebois
Determination, generosity and spaghetti sauce: Meet Canada’s new GG
Generous, attentive, she invited prof to her choir concert, took crew of Space Shuttle Endeavour to Habs game
(CBC) Great story from Pearson College’s Director, Community & Stakeholder Engagement, Benoît Charlebois, who served with Payette on the Pearson board of directors. He recounts a story Payette shared with UWC alumni about her interview by the Quebec selection committee to attend Atlantic College.
“At some point in that interview, Charlebois said, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“He said Payette had been mesmerized by images of the Apollo mission when she was still in elementary school, and she said she wanted to be an astronaut.
“The interviewer said, ‘Well, you know, that that’s quite unlikely,’ and she said, ‘Well, it would be even more unlikely if I wasn’t trying,’

12 July
Khadr has become the Liberal millstone: John Moore
(Toronto Star) The electors’ gut and opportunistic demagoguery are more potent political forces than any volume of carefully reasoned opinion pieces.
It doesn’t matter that a settlement was inevitable or that it saves federal dollars in the long run. It matters less that Khadr was a child soldier or even that he may be completely innocent. Arguments about the constitutional obligations of government are futile in the face of white hot anger many Canadians have at their impression that an unrepentant Islamic terrorist is now living the dream of a Lotto 6-49 winner.
It’s not just the settlement that many regard as odious. It’s the appearance that the Trudeau government expedited the payment so Khadr’s lawyers and accountants could firewall the money against the filing of paperwork to apply an American civil judgment in Canada. Yes, you can argue this may well have saved tax dollars in the long run but that argument is worthless in the face of accusations that Ottawa conspired with a convicted terrorist to do an end run around an American war widow.

2 July
Martyn Brown: How long will John Horgan’s new B.C. government last?
(The Georgia Straight) My guess is the Horgan administration will govern B.C. for at least the next three years, ably backed by Andrew Weaver’s Green team.
… there is every reason to believe that the NDP-Green alliance’s confidence and supply agreement will work out …  Far too much has been made of the alliance’s one-seat majority math problem. Whatever its challenges for passing legislation, it shouldn’t be too problematic …. Even if the government loses a confidence vote, it won’t necessarily force an election.
In our system of responsible government, what matters is the legislature’s true intent—not the gotcha numbers game that would subvert that intent if, by some chance, the NDP and Greens accidentally lose a confidence vote.
The lieutenant-governor would not dissolve the parliament unless it was clear that a majority of its members actually meant to bring the government down, as it did last week. As long as the NDP-Green alliance holds and its one-seat majority has confidence in the government, premier Horgan would only need to reestablish that fact through a new vote in the legislature

1 July
Canada 150: Huge crowds celebrate nation’s anniversary
(BBC) The celebrations included a concert by Canadian artists, a display from Canada’s aerobatics squadron the Snowbirds, a citizenship ceremony for new Canadians, and a massive fireworks display.
Canadian theatre giants Cirque du Soleil performed, and Bono and The Edge from rock band U2 serenaded the crowd with an acoustic set.
Canada Day, held on 1 July each year, marks the merging of three former British colonies into a single new country. It is a national holiday.
The country grew in size and autonomy in the years that followed, but achieved full independence from the UK in only 1982, when the British parliament handed the power to amend the Canadian constitution to Canada.
Downton Abbey’s real-life alter-ego’s role in founding Canada (video)
(BBC) Highclere Castle, has revealed a secret it has held since the 19th century.
The BBC’s Ben Moore reports on the discoveries about the role the Hampshire castle played in the formation of Canada.

29 June
Timeline: the B.C. Election that took 52 days
(CBC) The last 7 weeks have had more political twists and turns than some entire years
It took 1,224 hours between the polls closing in British Columbia’s 41st general election on May 9, and the moment it was finally resolved by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, with the announcement NDP Leader John Horgan would become premier with the opportunity to test the confidence of the legislature.

30 June
With NDP set to form government, the fight for B.C. has only just begun
As British Columbia’s New Democrats prepare to assume power, premier-designate John Horgan must navigate a dangerous path as he seeks to reshape the province.
After 16 years of Liberal rule, the NDP has ambitious plans to reposition B.C. in ways that will reverberate across the country.
The future of resource extraction, with a new government that opposes billions of dollars worth of development projects, including oil pipelines, will test British Columbia’s relationships with Alberta and Ottawa.

25 June
Celine Cooper: Canada 150 is a time to reflect on our history
By all means, celebrate Canada. We have so much to be proud of. At the same time, I urge us all to use this anniversary to reflect on what Confederation as a historical moment has meant — and continues to mean — as we move forward into this turbulent century, and beyond.

22 June
Senate passes budget bill with no amendments as Parliament breaks for summer
(CBC) On Thursday, 50 Independents and Liberals voted to pass the budget bill without the amendment while all 33 Conservatives present in the chamber rejected it.
“It’s unfortunate that the Independent Liberal senators, who clearly were insulted by the behaviour of the government [in the House], unanimously caved today,” Conservative Senator Leo Housakos said after the vote.

21 June
MPs reject Senate amendments to budget bill leading to possible parliamentary showdown
House leader Bardish Chagger’s suggestion that Senate doesn’t have right to amend budget angers senators
Chagger said earlier Wednesday that MPs would not accept the Senate’s amendment, which removed the provision that allows for automatic yearly hikes to the duty, because “these amendments infringe upon the rights and privileges of this House.”
“Allow me to politely remind everyone that the Senate, as an independent chamber, also has parliamentary privilege and as such, can defeat this bill. Perhaps the House adjourned too soon,” Conservative Leo Housakos said.
Indeed, the only constitutional stipulation is that a money bill not be initiated in the Red Chamber. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said senators should keep their hands off the budget.
Some parliamentary stars shine as one loses glow: Hébert
Four MPs [Ralph Goodale, Chrystia Freeland, Rona Ambrose, Andrew Scheer] stood out in the first half of the parliamentary year, while one [Thomas Mulcair] has proven to be past his prime, Chantal Hébert writes.

14 June
Is this Stephen Harper or Justin Trudeau running things on Parliament Hill?: Hébert
Every prime minister in recent decades has promised to run a more transparent, more collegial government. All end up moving in the other direction, and Justin Trudeau is no exception.
A stalled appointment process, a botched attempt at installing a member of the Liberal family in a post that requires total independence from the government, a unilateral bid to change the rules of the House of Commons. If Stephen Harper, and not Justin Trudeau, were running things on Parliament Hill, he would stand accused of institutional malevolence.
Exhibit A: Almost halfway through his mandate, Trudeau has yet to fill a single parliamentary watchdog vacancy. Most of the positions of agents of Parliament are held by interim appointees or by commissioners whose terms have been extended. Some, such as the ethics and the information commissioners, are on their second or third extensions.
A full year after chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand gave his notice, the government has not yet come up with a permanent replacement. Under Harper, a prime minister whose relationship with Elections Canada was far from cordial, the transition took place over a matter of days. The job of running Canada’s ever-evolving election system had traditionally been considered a sensitive one that requires a steady hand at the helm.
Judicial appointments have been proceeding at a glacial pace. And with every passing week, more Crown corporations are operating under skeleton boards. As of next week, for instance, the CBC/Radio-Canada board will be down to half its 12-member roster, leaving it with the bare minimum required to meet a quorum. A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly told Le Devoir last week that a selection process would “soon” be in place.
Connect all these dots and the result is an across-the-board weakening of federal and parliamentary oversight functions. By necessity, day-to-day management is becoming a substitute for strategic planning.

12 June
B.C. Liberal cabinet sworn in as defeat looms for minority government
(CTV) Premier Christy Clark appointed a new 22-member cabinet Monday while acknowledging her Liberal minority government is likely destined to be short lived.
Clark said she told her new ministers to be prepared to govern despite a looming confidence vote in the legislature that could result in her government’s defeat by the end of this month.
“We are in caretaker mode,” she said at a news conference following a swearing-in ceremony at the official residence of the lieutenant-governor.

9 June
Rookie ministers turned into cannon fodder: Hébert
Learning the ropes on the backbenches might have been a preferable alternative for several rookie ministers to serving as cannon fodder on missions programmed to fail.
Almost two years into her mandate heritage minister Mélanie Joly has clocked more time on her feet in the House of Commons defending the indefensible appointment of a close member of the Liberal family to the office of commissioner of official languages than advancing transformative policies.
For the past three weeks the heritage minister has been the public face of a fiasco of her government’s own making. On Wednesday former Ontario cabinet minister Madeleine Meilleur withdrew her name from contention for languages watchdog, probably just in time to avoid having her appointment quashed in the Senate. …
Joly, Chagger, Monsef and Gould are part of the younger female tier of Trudeau’s cabinet and of a new promising wave of Canadian politicians. Had they served under a prime minister less committed to gender parity, they might have been left to learn the ropes on the backbenches of the government. In hindsight, that might have been a preferable alternative to serving as cannon fodder on missions programmed to fail.

NDP, poised for power, preparing for snap election
NDP Leader John Horgan says his party has continued fundraising to ensure it’s ready for a potential snap election, as the New Democrats and Greens prepare to oust the minority Liberal government.
The NDP and Greens plan to defeat the B.C. government in a confidence vote after the House reconvenes on June. 22.
The two parties together command a bare majority in the legislature after the May 9 election.
“I am concerned that perhaps [Premier Christy Clark] has another agenda that’s not a transition from her administration to a new administration,” Mr. Horgan told reporters on Friday when asked about the NDP appealing to donors.

8 June
Trudeau reaffirms his opposition to constitutional negotiations with Quebec
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has once again dismissed Quebec’s call for constitutional negotiations, saying future talks on Canadian unity need not take that route.
After curtly rejecting the Quebec premier’s offer last week to reopen constitutional talks, Trudeau said Thursday his government works regularly to ensure the province is happy within Confederation.

7 June
Madeleine Meilleur takes herself out of the running for languages commissioner job
‘I think this is a very sad story,’ Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says of Meilleur’s decision
Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Madeleine Meilleur has faced a barrage of criticism from opposition MPs for her ties to the Liberal Party and for meeting with the prime minister’s top two staffers, Gerry Butts and Katie Telford, before submitting her application for the job paying $308,700 a year.
Joly, a Montreal-area MP, told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons that Meilleur informed her of her decision today.

1 June
‘Quebec has changed’: Time is right to reopen constitutional debate, Philippe Couillard says
Provincial government unveils new policy in time for Canada’s 150th birthday
(CBC) In time for Canada’s 150th birthday, Couillard announced Thursday a 200-page document outlining his government’s vision of Quebec’s role within Canada and laying out arguments in support of reopening negotiations. The document has been dubbed “Quebecers: Our Way of Being Canadians.”
“We are all Quebecers, and therefore we can all say in French and in English, being Quebecer is our way of being Canadians,” said Couillard, who is a staunch federalist and promised to renew the debate when he became leader of the Quebec Liberals in 2013.
NB commentary from Bernard St-Laurent

22 November 2016

Justin Trudeau’s giant corporate giveaway
A privatization spree in Canada could cost regular people billions, erode democracy and undermine the fight against climate change
Martin Lukacs
(The Guardian) … corporate figures are rubbing their hands because Trudeau is about to put one of our great crises in their hands: the need for historic investment in the country’s infrastructure, for so long the domain of the state.
No one will deny the urgency. Roads and bridges are crumbling and congested with traffic. Subways and buses overcrowded and underfunded. We need a roll-out of emissions-reducing initiatives to avert catastrophic climate change, and a build-up of defences to protect ourselves from floods and fires already locked in.
But many will question the Liberals plan to deal with it: selling off existing public assets to raise money, and having private investors fund, build and operate new infrastructure. If they get their way, expect a wave of privatizations—targeting public services and goods like roads, ports, airports, utilities, the post office, and more. According to Adam Vaughan, one of its Liberal architects, there simply isn’t an alternative: “to be afraid of the private sector when you’re trying to fix this country’s infrastructure is shortsighted…stupid, irresponsible.”

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