Canada: government & governance 2017-18

Written by  //  December 15, 2018  //  Canada, Government & Governance  //  Comments Off on Canada: government & governance 2017-18



15 December
Joan Bryden: Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms
The prime minister says his government will amend the Parliament of Canada Act — the law that spells out the powers and privileges of MPs and senators — to better reflect the new reality in the upper house, where most senators now sit as independents unaffiliated with any political party.
Doing it before next fall’s election is critically important for independent senators, who fear Trudeau’s reforms could be easily reversed should the Liberals fail to win re-election.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said that if becomes prime minister, he would revert to the previous practice of making overtly partisan appointments, naming only Conservatives to the upper house.
Trudeau kicked senators out of the Liberal caucus in 2014. Since taking office in 2015, he’s named only senators recommended by an arm’s-length advisory body in a bid to return the Senate to its intended role as an independent chamber of sober second thought.
Of the 105 senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together for greater clout in the Independent Senators’ Group. Another 31 are Conservatives, 10 are Liberal-independents and 10 are unaffiliated. The Conservatives are the only remaining overtly partisan group in the chamber.
Yet the Parliament of Canada Act recognizes only two partisan caucuses in the Senate: the governing party caucus and the Opposition caucus, both of which are entitled to research funds, dedicated time to debate bills, memberships on committees and a role in the day-to-day decisions about Senate business, such as when to adjourn debate.
Senators have agreed on the fly to some accommodation of the growing ranks of independents, giving them some research funds and committee roles. But the leadership of the ISG has argued that their role must be explicitly spelled out and guaranteed in the Parliament of Canada Act. And, since the change would involve allocating financial resources, they say it can’t be initiated by the Senate, only by the government in the House of Commons.

3 December
Statistics Canada hits pause on plan to obtain banking records, halts TransUnion credit requests
(Global News ) The decision comes amid an ongoing controversy around the national statistical agency’s plan to launch a pilot project that would gather the sensitive personal financial information of Canadians and is now under investigation by the federal privacy commissioner.
Global News first reported in early November on Statistics Canada’s plan to collect data from nine banks and financial institutions, which included everything from credit card payments to account balances, and that 15 years of personal credit information from TransUnion had already been scooped up by the agency.
Statistics Canada kept Trudeau cabinet, privacy commissioner in the dark about controversial bank data harvest plan

20 November
Highlights from the auditor general’s 2018 fall reports
New planes, no pilots. Auditor general trashes Liberal plan to keep CF-18s flying until 2032 Canada’s $500-million purchase of used CF-18 fighter jets from Australia will be hamstrung by the ongoing problem that the air force does not have enough pilots to fly them or technicians to keep them in the air. The military has warned the government about this for years.
Canada’s embassies and diplomats poorly protected despite warnings, auditor says
How CRA treats you depends on where you live, auditor reports
With no budget for rural internet, nobody’s made a plan, auditor general says
And there is lots more!

10 September
Liberal MPs congregating in Saskatoon to plot strategy for the fall sitting of Parliament, 2019 federal election
(The Hill Times) With the federal Liberals entering the last year of their mandate, the 183-member federal Liberal caucus is hunkering down for three days in Saskatoon this week to plot strategy for the fall sitting of Parliament and for the 2019 election.
The fall parliamentary sitting, the last before the 2019 election, will start on Sept. 17. When Parliament adjourns in June of next year, it will resume sitting only after the scheduled Oct. 21, 2019, election.
From Tuesday, Sept. 11, to Thursday, Sept. 13, caucus members will be congregating at the Delta Hotel Bessborough in downtown Saskatoon
Some of the issues that will likely be discussed include NAFTA negotiations, Trans Mountain pipeline, immigration, and national pharmacare, according to Mr. Lamoureux. He said that the caucus will receive briefings from the party headquarters about different aspects of the party’s election readiness on issues such as fundraising, polling, nominations in held and un-held ridings.
According to the most recent Nanos poll, the Conservatives are leading the pack with a wide margin in the Prairies. The poll released last week suggested that the Conservatives had the support of 57.5 per cent of the Canadians living in the Prairies, while the Liberals had the support of 20.4 per cent and the NDP 18.6 per cent.
The same poll also suggested the Liberals had the support of 39.8 per cent nationally, followed by the Conservatives with 32.4 per cent support, the NDP 15.8 per cent, and the Green Party 6.6 per cent.

24 July
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued its wide-ranging biennial report on Canada, stating that its economy would benefit from increased labour-force participation among women, youth and seniors, and by better integrating new immigrants into the workforce. The report also said Canada is among the OECD’s leaders in “delivering the best outcomes for its citizens,” but also recommended that Canada invest further in affordable child care, raise the retirement age and improve the way it matches potential immigrants with specific skills needs. The OECD also projects real GDP to grow by 2.1 per cent in 2018 and 2.2 per cent in 2019.

19 July
Taking on the culture file, Rodriguez is left to clean up Joly’s mess
(Globe & Mail) … former Conservative minister James Moore pointed to the difficulty of balancing public expectations of ever-more consumer choice with cultural industry demands for subsidies and regulations. He didn’t add that cynical political calculation was the reason Stephen Harper’s government had simply allowed the file to languish, but today, as Ms. Joly finds herself demoted to a trio of minor portfolios – tourism, official languages and la francophonie – Mr. Moore’s observation looks prescient. (fyimusicnews) Canada’s Cultural File, One Big Joly Mess?

18 July
Trudeau grows cabinet, with new focus on trade, borders, and seniors
(CTV) The shuffle positions the governing Liberals to put new emphasis on internal and international trade, provincial relations, border security, seniors, as well as more broadly the changing political landscape domestically and evolving international circumstances.
Trudeau cabinet shuffle brings new faces, several changes for run-up to 2019 campaign
Toronto-area MPs Mary Ng and Bill Blair and B.C.’s Jonathan Wilkinson among those added in shakeup
(CBC) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made significant changes to his cabinet, bringing five new ministers to the table and creating new portfolios for seniors, intergovernmental affairs and border security.
The retooled cabinet signals the government’s intent to ease trade dependence on the U.S., address concerns about border control, and bolster political forces in key regions in the run-up to next year’s federal election.
In one surprise move, Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who has been the government’s point man on the marijuana legalization file, was appointed minister of border security and organized crime reduction. He will also be in charge of managing the hot-button issue of irregular migration with asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the U.S.
Here is a complete list of who is doing what ahead of the 2019 election.
New additions to the cabinet table have been bolded, ministers who have changed portfolios are marked with an asterisk* and ministers who are staying in their role but whose titles or responsibilities have changed are italicized.

  • Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister
  • *Dominic LeBlanc – Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade. LeBlanc will also become President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
  • *James Carr – Minister of International Trade Diversification.
  • *Mélanie Joly- Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie.
  • *Amarjeet Sohi – Minister of Natural Resources.
  • *Carla Qualtrough – Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (adds Accessibility).
  • *François-Philippe Champagne – Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
  • Pablo Rodriguez – Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.
  • Bill Blair – ​Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.
  • Mary Ng – Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion.
  • Filomena Tassi – Minister of Seniors.
  • Jonathan Wilkinson – Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • Carolyn Bennett – Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
  • Scott Brison – President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government.
  • Marie-Claude Bibeau – Minister of International Development.
  • Kirsty Duncan – Minister of Science and Sport.
  • Bardish Chagger – Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
  • Navdeep Bains –  Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Developmet.
  • Jean-Yves Duclos – Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
  • Chrystia Freeland – Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Marc Garneau – Minister of Transport.
  • Ralph Goodale – Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
  • Karina Gould – Minister of Democratic Institutions.
  • Patty Hajdu – Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
  • Ahmed Hussen- Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
  • Diane Lebouthillier – Minister of National Revenue.
  • Lawrence MacAulay – Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
  • Catherine McKenna – Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
  • Maryam Monsef – Minister of Status of Women.
  • Bill Morneau – Minister of Finance.
  • Seamus O’Regan- Minister of Veterans Affairs.
  • Ginette Petitpas-Taylor – Minister of Health.
  • Jane Philpott – Minister of Indigenous Services.
  • Harjit Sajjan – Minister of National Defence.
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould – Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

29 June
Andrew Coyne: Liberals, keep your moralizing mitts off our Canada Pension Plan
… when the federal environment minister, Catherine McKenna, posted her approval of a recent Canada Pension Plan Investment Board decision, it caused a little flutter of alarm among those who follow these things.
“Now, this is something that Canadians can be proud of,” she cheered, linking to a story about the CPPIB’s plans to invest more than $3 billion in green energy projects, “as it prepares for the global transition to a lower-carbon economy.”
Ministers of the Crown do not normally comment on CPP investment decisions, approvingly or otherwise, and with good reason. Though the federal and provincial governments set the broad terms of the plan’s operations — how much it collects in “contributions” from employers and employees, etc — the CPPIB, which is responsible for investing the $356 billion accumulated in the CPP Fund, is supposed to operate at arm’s length from all of them. … the government can’t tell the CPPIB how it should invest. Its independence is enshrined in law.
OK. But then there’s this story, from a couple of weeks back. “The head of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says the federal government’s financial adviser has raised the possibility of getting involved in the Trans Mountain pipeline project.”

7 June
Trump North
‘We have taken back Ontario’: Doug Ford leads PCs to majority government
Wynne resigns as Liberal leader, Greens elect first MPP in Guelph
(CBC) Led by Doug Ford, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have secured a majority government, CBC News projects, ending nearly 15 years of Liberal power in the province.
Buoyed by Ford — a one-term Toronto city councillor and businessman — the PCs ran a populist campaign long on commitments but short on fiscal details, promising a tax cut for the middle class and corporations and a drastic reduction in the price of hydro and gasoline.
As was expected, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held onto her seat in Hamilton Centre, where she has served as an MPP since 2004. Heading into election day, polls suggested that the NDP had a slim chance of eking out a win, but now it appears they will form the Official Opposition.
While the surge in NDP support suggested by polls before election day didn’t quite materialize, the results represented a marked turnaround for a party that has consistently found itself in third place since Bob Rae’s government was defeated in 1995.
Ford, unaccustomed to the scrutiny that a provincial campaign draws, faced down multiple controversies and alleged scandals.
Three days before the election, the widow of his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, sued the Tory leader. The suit claims Ford withheld money from her and her two children, and that Ford’s Toronto- and Chicago-based businesses are bleeding money.
He was also the only party leader not to release a fully costed platform during the campaign
Andrew Cohen: Against the tides of history, the Liberals had no chance
Voters become angry, impatient and frustrated over time. When they swing, they swing hard; they vote first and ask questions later.
In electing the Conservatives, Ontarians have anointed an ignoramus, a buffoon and a blackguard, with no experience in provincial politics, trailing a personal family scandal.
When Ford starts slashing services and making outrageous statements, they’ll regret it, but that doesn’t matter now. Ontarians have done what we do.
The tide has gone out in Ontario and it has carried away the Liberals. Against the tsunami of history, they never had a chance in 2018.

29 May
Phoenix pay system an ‘incomprehensible failure,’ Auditor-General says
The Auditor-General of Canada says the Phoenix public service pay system was an “incomprehensible failure” caused by public servants afraid to tell their political masters when they see a problem.
In a report tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday, Michael Ferguson said the implementation of the Phoenix pay system is a “defining moment” and “a wake-up call” for the federal government’s “pervasive cultural problems.” The Phoenix fiasco has failed to properly pay tens of thousands of public servants on time since its launch in 2016, costing Canadian taxpayers more than $1-billion to date. …
The Auditor-General said the federal government’s creation of an obedient public service fearful of making mistakes, taking risks and conveying “hard truths” has caused failures, such as the Phoenix debacle. He said a lack of oversight and management meant the Phoenix pay system was not ready when it was launched.
The report also found that three Phoenix “executives” – senior public servants at the department – prioritized some aspects of the pay system rollout, such as schedule and budget, over functionality and security. For instance, the Phoenix executives removed or delayed more than 100 important pay-processing functions, such as the ability to process retroactive pay. Rather, they planned to add these functions only after all 101 government departments and agencies had transferred their pay systems to Phoenix.

22 May
Don Martin: Trudeau’s rush to unilaterally impose political correctness will generate backlash
(CTV) It was a week the Liberals’ fixation with political correctness became politically incorrect.
Amid a clear meltdown in Liberal government poll support, new moves on gender and tolerance issues were met by a head-shaking, eye-rolling, derision-snorting reaction from a public fed up with the excess of it all.
… The message seems to be finally getting through: Justin Trudeau has become so identified with kumbaya peoplekind priorities that he’s lost the appearance of leading a serious government.
After all, the budget bellyflopped into a mosh pit of multi-billion-dollar gender measures that will do nothing to help a working mother if she can’t find or afford child care. That followed Trudeau’s heavily-costumed India tour with a cast of Indo-Canadian MPs in tow (minus his white foreign affairs minister) which was visual confirmation of a prime minister who valued symbols over deliverables. And this all plays out to the ongoing soundtrack of appointments guided exclusively by gender, ethnic or indigenous criteria; where anti-abortion positions are deemed anti-Liberal; and where the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping assignment is sold as a gender-boosting exercise.
Suddenly defining acceptable conduct within increasingly narrow political tolerances is what will make less-progressive candidates like Ontario’s Doug Ford or Alberta’s Jason Kenney more electable to fed-up voters.
Nik Nanos on current party standings

9 March
Andrew Coyne: Live by the socks, die by the socks — Liberals slump as Trudeau’s popularity fades
The little things that seemed so charming at first, all those dashing gestures and glam photo ops, might well come to seem, at first frivolous, then irritating
The Tories’ pre-election attempts to discredit Trudeau as “just not ready” failed in the light of a long campaign in which he persuaded increasing numbers of Canadians that he was. I don’t imagine many would have said he was much of a deep thinker — his worst moments are almost always when he tries to pretend he is — but people gave him credit for sincerity, personal decency, idealism, and a native political ability that seemed to grow throughout the campaign.
It may not be a coincidence, after all, that his support begins to erode in every poll in early 2017 — just after the decision to abandon electoral reform. Add to that the long list of other broken promises; the ethical lapses, from pay-for-play dinners with Chinese billionaires to vacations with the Aga Khan; and the bullying of Parliament, so reminiscent of the prime minister he replaced, and you have a recipe for disillusionment.

2 March
Justin Trudeau would lose if an election were held tomorrow, India trip a symptom of shift in mood: Ipsos poll
(Global News) Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, said the declining fortunes for Trudeau and the Liberals are likely due to self-inflicted wounds.
“It’s the first time we’ve shown, since before the election, any time the Liberals have been behind. They’ve been consistently four or five points ahead of their nearest competitor; sometimes more than that for the last two years and a bit,” Bricker said.
“The remarkable thing about it is very little of it has to do with any of the qualities of the opposition parties. This is really people evaluating the government on its own terms and the Liberal Party on its own terms.”
“Once the mood starts to sour towards the things that used to make you strong, it starts to stick to everything,” Bricker said. “The thing that’s really held them up is the prime minister and people’s views of him so when that takes a hit, everything starts to go and that’s what’s happened here.”

1 March
Michael Harris:: Kinder Morgan testing Trudeau, and he’s failing
(iPolitics) Here’s hoping Justin Trudeau is about to break a depressing trend; governing by fiat, and if necessary, force.
By the numbers, it is getting hard to believe this is Canada.
More than 900 protesters arrested over a single weekend at the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto, thousands more illegally “kettled” by police; 463 protesters arrested at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, hundreds more doused by water canon and tear gas; 856 arrested, 300 of them in a single day in the Clayoquot Sound anti-logging protests in British Columbia in 1993, aptly christened the “War of the Woods.”
A society that indulges in the mass arrests of its own citizens may not yet be a dictatorship, but nor is it any longer staunchly democratic. And things are decidedly slipping in the wrong direction — even with Prince Charming wearing the engineer’s hat on our debt-driven gravy train.

27 February
Key takeaways from Justin Trudeau’s “gender equality” budget
The budget included new measures to try to get more women working (but sorry, no more money for childcare).
Trudeau government to cancel ‘flawed’ and ‘unacceptable’ $1 billion Phoenix pay system
(National Observer) The federal government is going to scrap a “flawed” and “unacceptable” pay system that struggled to deliver pay to public servants, despite a price tag that will likely exceed $1 billion, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced in his new budget tabled Tuesday in Parliament.
Taxpayers have already spent more than $460 million on the troubled Phoenix pay system, introduced in 2016, according to the new budget. The pay system for public servants was part of a plan first launched by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government in 2009.


22 December
New Phoenix pay issue could mean $0 paycheques for Christmas
Holiday pay debacle ‘quite terrible,’ union vice-president says of final 2017 payslips
(CBC) Managers in the public service informed their teams by email this week that the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system was experiencing new issues, and their final paycheques of 2017 could have glaring errors.
Phoenix payroll system doomed from the start: report
Liberal government commissioned a report to take a ‘deep dive’ into Phoenix (5 October)
PHOENIX FALLING | Full coverage of pay system problems

19 December
Andrew Cohen: Trudeau’s sentimentality triumphs over his reason
(Post media) Trudeau’s sentimentality triumphs over his reason
Trudeau needs someone of experience, memory, maturity and judgment among his young titans – so self-satisfied and self-confident.
… this government has made mistakes, and it has eroded its appeal. Most are small. None is fatal. Collectively, they reveal decisions made in haste and impulse, out of sentimentality and defensiveness. Things are not always thought through.

5 November
Trudeau’s chief fundraiser linked to Cayman Islands tax scheme
Massive offshore leak reveals secrets of Stephen Bronfman’s company
(CBC) an investigation by the CBC, Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star has found that Bronfman and his Montreal-based investment company, Claridge Inc., were key players linked to a $60-million US offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have cost Canadians millions in unpaid taxes.
“Our government has long known — indeed, we got elected — on a promise to make sure that people were paying their fair share of taxes,” Trudeau said shortly after his election victory. “Tax avoidance, tax evasion is something we take very seriously.”
CBC News and the Toronto Star asked Prime Minister Trudeau for a comment on what he thought about Stephen Bronfman’s involvement in an offshore trust, in light of his position as chief fundraiser for the Liberal Party.
“Given you are referring to Mr. Bronfman’s role in the Liberal Party, I would direct your questions to the party,” Trudeau’s spokesperson, Cameron Ahmad, said.

28 October
Jason Kenney wins Alberta United Conservative leadership race
(CTV) The longtime Calgary MP, who held high-ranking positions in the government of Stephen Harper, captured 61 per cent of more than 58,000 votes to become the head of the new party in voting Saturday night.
Kenney takes over a new 27-member caucus and the Official Opposition to Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government in the legislature.

20 October
Pierre Trudeau ally Michael Pitfield was Canada’s top bureaucrat
By John Gray
(Globe & Mail) In retrospect there has never been any doubt about Mr. Pitfield’s role as a source of comfort and support for the prime minister. What is more difficult to judge is his legacy as an innovative public servant.
From the time of Mr. Trudeau’s arrival in power in 1968, much of the focus of the prime minister and advisers like Mr. Pitfield was on the management of government. It seemed at times close to an obsession. This was partly Mr. Trudeau’s personal mindset, partly a rebellion against the casual and almost chaotic style of the Lester Pearson years, with uncontrolled spending commitments and uncontrolled ministers.
One of the bold innovations credited to Mr. Pitfield and others in the Privy Council office was the expenditure-management process, the so-called “envelope system.”
Under the system, total government spending was set for each of 10 broad policy areas known as envelopes. Ministers on the cabinet committee responsible for each of those envelopes could juggle spending for programs within their envelope but could not spend beyond the limit set for their envelope. It meant that ministers had to make hard choices that could not be appealed to the prime minister.
To the surprise of everyone, Joe Clark kept the envelope system during his 1979 minority government, although many of his ministers regarded it as a dastardly Liberal innovation.
Former senator and Pierre Trudeau confidant Michael Pitfield dead at 80
Former Privy Council clerk was youngest-ever Canadian to lead the public service.

17 October
Nenshi wins 3rd term as Calgary’s mayor in election marred by long voter lineups, ballot shortages
Naheed Nenshi has been re-elected for a third term as Calgary’s mayor and all of the incumbent councillors have secured their seats following an election day marred by long voter lineups, ballot shortages and slow results.
Nenshi’s main rival, Bill Smith, conceded at midnight when Nenshi had 112,503 votes to Smith’s 97,756.
Voter turnout was higher than it’s been in more than four decades … The once unassailable Nenshi was put on his heels during the campaign when two polls revealed he was well behind Smith, something contradicted by polls released from other organizations.
Jack Lucas, assistant professor of political science at the University of Calgary, said part of the reason for Nenshi’s victory could be his support among young voters, a cohort that’s less likely to vote, but can be a force when it does.

2 October
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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