Canada: government & governance 43rd Parliament

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
House of Commons
Canada: government & governance 2019

Chris Selley: From the Aga Khan to WE, Trudeau still can’t seem to grasp reality
The WE Charity fiasco is a quintessential Trudeau-Liberal mess, involving the same mingling of personal relationships and government contracts as the Aga Khan’s Island fiasco. The only major difference is that, unlike the Trudeaus’ Bahamian vacation, WE Charity’s $19.5-million contract to administer more than $900 million in summer jobs programming has been withdrawn by mutual consent. Still, Craig and Marc Kielburger’s WE brand is so similar to that of the Liberal Party of Canada under Justin Trudeau, it seems almost inevitable in hindsight that they would have wound up embroiled in the same controversy.
WE Day events involve packing thousands of hyped-up adolescents into arenas on school days, where they shriek adulation at various celebrities in the name of inspiring themselves to change the world for the better. No doubt a few of them go on to do just that. A few more will go on work trips to impoverished countries — the cost of which could do (at a guess) 100 times more good in the form of a cash donation — and return “humbled” and with improved resumés. The rest will at least have avoided an afternoon’s education, and WE Day’s corporate sponsors — among them RBC, KPMG, Telus, Unilever, Ford and The Keg — will leave valuable brand impressions on a demographic soon to be in the market for cars, mortgages, mid-range steak dinners and management consultants.

1 May

Trudeau announces ban on 1,500 types of ‘assault-style’ firearms — effective immediately

The ban will be enacted through regulations approved by an order-in-council from cabinet — not through legislation. Trudeau said the government was ready to enact this campaign promise months ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the legislative agenda.
The term “assault-style” has no legal definition in Canada. The Firearms Act also does not currently classify firearms as “military-style” — that term would have to be defined in the new regulations.
Generally speaking, an assault-style weapon is a semi-automatic firearm with a large ammunition magazine, built to fire quickly.
All Canadians must be in compliance with the law by April 2022, Justice Minister David Lametti said, adding that gun owners who have not disposed of their banned firearms by that point could face sanctions under the Criminal Code.
While there is an amnesty period, the firearms cannot be used anywhere as of today. Lametti said firearms owners may return the firearms to the manufacturer or export them as part of a sale between now and 2022.
Radio-Canada obtained an early draft of a list of firearms that will be included in that 1,500 figure. Guns like the M16, M4, AR-10 and AR-15 rifles will be banned; those styles were used in the Sandy Hook, New Zealand, Las Vegas and Orlando mass shootings. There are an estimated 83,572 of them in Canada.
The Ruger Mini-14, the type of firearm used in the École Polytechnique shooting, is also on the list. There are an estimated 16,859 of them in Canada.
The M14 rifle, used in the Moncton shooting, is also expected to be banned. There are an estimated 5,229 of those in Canada

5 April
The pandemic is breaking down political barriers between provincial and federal governments
Unity of purpose brings former foes together in ways that Canada has not always seen in past crises
(CBC) On Thursday night, there was a tangible spirit of goodwill around the virtual table when the prime minister and Canada’s premiers took part in a teleconference on the novel coronavirus outbreak. Sources tell CBC News that gratitude and appreciation was expressed at both ends for the collaborative work the two levels of government have been doing.
Meetings of first ministers can be acrimonious but there was no troublemaker at the table this time. One source said that “everyone [was] very sympathetic to Quebec,” the province that has been hit the hardest by the outbreak. In the past, the province has butted heads with other premiers on everything from pipelines to face veil bans.
Speaking on background, a federal Liberal source told CBC News that some premiers were willing to divert deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) from their own province to provinces with greater needs.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, normally an inveterate foe of Trudeau, tweeted during the call how he was “impressed by how [Canada] is coming together to fight this invisible enemy” and “moved by strong solidarity for Alberta’s double whammy: the COVID recession [and] the energy price crash.”

16 March
Canada to bar entry to travellers who are not citizens, permanent residents or Americans
Exceptions will be in place for U.S. citizens, diplomats, crew and immediate family members of citizens
The prime minister also said no one who is displaying symptoms will be permitted to board a flight to Canada, and that air operators will be required to complete a basic health assessment of every passenger based on guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“I know this news will spark concern among Canadians travelling abroad. I want to assure you that our government will not leave you unsupported,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the decision to keep the border open to Americans was made to reflect the integration of the two economies and populations, and to maintain essential supply lines for things like food.
“That border is absolutely vital to the daily lives of the people who live on both sides of that border,” she said.
Exemptions for essential workers
Everyone arriving in Canada from another country is now going to be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Essential workers, including air crews and truck drivers, will be exempted from that rule, Freeland said.

13 – 14 March
Canadians abroad urged to come home while they still can amid tightening travel restrictions due to coronavirus
The federal government urged Canadians abroad to return home while they still have a chance as countries around the world impose ever-tighter travel restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Word from Global Affairs Canada came on Saturday as Canadians travelling in Europe scrambled to book flights ahead of looming border closures in many European Union countries.
Pay attention, Trump: Trudeau’s coronavirus response is a lesson in leadership
By John Ibbitson
(Globe & Mail) Constitutionally and by convention, provincial governments deliver health care, while Ottawa helps fund it. The federal government also plays a co-ordinating role and sets certain basic standards.
The system can be piecemeal and inefficient. But when a public health emergency strikes, things typically work pretty well. During this coronavirus emergency, British Columbia and Ontario have led the response, because they have had the bulk of the cases. Other provinces have been watching and acting accordingly, depending on their own circumstances.
… The federal system has also responded to the economic crisis resulting from the public health crisis. Finance Minister Bill Morneau released a tranche of stimulus measures Friday, while promising more is to come, even as the Bank of Canada reduced interest rates by another 50 basis points.
Ottawa shuts down
After a quick series of unprecedented steps — including the swift passage of the USMCA — Canada’s political leaders suspended Parliament as the country readies for Covid-19.
(Politico) Over five extraordinary hours on Friday, Canada’s federal government suspended Parliament, delayed its federal budget, imposed new restrictions on international travel and promised a major fiscal stimulus package, while the Bank of Canada slashed interest rates as the country collectively braces for the impact of coronavirus.
The announcements rolled out, one after another, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained in isolation at his home in Ottawa, dealing with the fallout of a global pandemic that has turned personal — his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Thursday, though her symptoms are mild. Trudeau has no symptoms of the virus, which has so far infected 157 people in Canada and caused one death.
Parliament suspends for five weeks over coronavirus concerns
…on Friday morning at 10 a.m., all five of Canada’s major political parties agreed to a motion to adjourn the House of Commons until April 20, in response to the spread of Covid-19. The suspension could be extended if necessary. Parliament has also passed spending-related bills that will allow the government to keep cash flowing while the House of Commons and Senate aren’t sitting. “We will face this together, and we will get through this together,” Government House Leader Pablo Rodríguez told reporters.
The parties have agreed to a process to allow Parliament to be recalled over the coming weeks, if needed, with a skeleton crew of members present — likely those who live within driving distance.
Even with Trudeau in isolation, Canada is responding well to the coronavirus
It’s an extraordinary moment, but Canada’s immediate response to managing the pandemic has been, on balance, sound and effective.
(WaPo) At a news conference in front of his home on Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for covid-19, announced new measures and recommendations to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus. The fact that the prime minister is working from home has not caused general concern — in fact, the country’s institutions seem to be responding effectively, aided perhaps by the relative lack of partisan shenanigans.
Trudeau recommended that Canadians forgo unnecessary travel and said a fiscal stimulus package was forthcoming. The finance minister, Bill Morneau, announced a CAD $10 billion credit fund for businesses and a possible delay of tax filing. And there’s more to come next week. The Bank of Canada announced a rate cut of half a percentage point.
The government limited inbound flights. Members of Parliament suspended the legislative session until at least mid-April and delayed the budget that was due this month. Trudeau is taking calls and holding meetings remotely.
In Canada, one of the central concerns surrounding the coronavirus and its fallout is the United States. The Canadian response has been measured, mostly well-communicated, and timely. The debate over when officials ought to endorse social distancing stands out as a point of friction, a key one, but otherwise most of the country looks to be rowing in the same direction.

27 February
Trudeau invites Indigenous leaders to first ministers meeting in March
Leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council will be invited to meet with first ministers in Ottawa on Thursday, March 12. Mr. Trudeau and the provincial and territorial premiers will then hold a first ministers meeting the next day.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the agenda will include ways to mitigate climate change, “while at the same time developing our natural resources sustainably and creating good, middle class jobs.”
Health care, infrastructure and transfer programs are also listed as agenda items.
“There is no relationship more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples. This meeting will focus on how we can work together to make a real difference for Indigenous families and communities across the country,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement.

21 January
Report finds MPs vote with own party 99.6 per cent of the time, warns of unhealthy partisanship
An independent analysis of the last Parliament found MPs voted with their own party 99.6 per cent of the time and displayed unhealthy levels of partisanship, polarization and hostility.
In its latest report on parliamentary trends, the Samara Centre for Democracy spoke with MPs who sat in the House the Commons between 2015 and 2019. The centre also conducted a detailed analysis of voting trends, government tactics and the length of time MPs spent debating legislation.
It said the level of party loyalty in Canada is “extreme” when compared with the British Parliament, where MPs are “notably more rebellious.”
Looking at government tactics in the House of Commons, the report noted that the Liberal government continued a controversial practice of the previous, Conservative government: introducing large “omnibus” bills that can be hard for MPs to review properly.

13 January
Harry and Meghan, and why members of the Royal Family can’t live in Canada
(Globe & Mail editorial) Britain is the inventor of one of the world’s great innovations in government: a monarchy that reigns but does not rule. Canada took that system and improved it, by pushing it one step further. The Canadian monarchy is virtual; it neither rules nor resides. Our royals don’t live here. They reign from a distance. Close to our hearts, far from our hearths.
On Monday, the British paper the Evening Standard reported that sources had told it that Ottawa had agreed to pay for security costs for the soon-to-arrive royal couple. When asked, Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters that was untrue, and that his government had not even discussed the matter. The dollars and cents of supporting a royal resident might be significant, but that’s not what’s really at issue. It goes deeper than the possibility of the feds having to find a few million extra bucks.
Canadians like their monarchy, and visits by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family tend to produce outpourings of public enthusiasm. But while the people who embody the Crown pay visits from time to time, they don’t set up a home on the premises. A royal living in this country does not accord with the long-standing nature of the relationship between Canada and Britain, and Canada and the Crown.

9 January
Is Justin Trudeau eyeing the exits?
By Konrad Yakabuski
Even with a majority, Mr. Trudeau was the most risk-averse prime minister in memory. Apart from the Canada Child Benefit and a tentative move toward carbon pricing, nothing Mr. Trudeau did during his first term was very ambitious. There were lots of earnest declarations but precious little in the way of transformative policy.
Granted, Mr. Trudeau was never a policy wonk. Now, however, he appears to have grown tired of politics, too. The country is dangerously divided; perhaps he has concluded that he cannot do much about that. He has shown none of the passion of a Prime Minister determined to reconquer the hearts of Canadians, one selfie at a time, during a second term.
Meanwhile, there are a slew of tough files on his desk that he must be dreading. For starters, he must decide whether to approve Teck Resource’s Frontier oil-sands project and whether to ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from Canadian 5G networks. There will be no easy way to spin either of those decisions. But that’s what governing is all about.
Prescient Liberals are already talking about Mr. Trudeau’s replacement, with one name above all others on their lips – and no, it’s not Ms. Freeland’s. Departing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is returning to Ottawa within weeks. For many Liberals, it won’t be a moment too soon.

23 December
Trudeau keeps the jets, Freeland does the work (video)
Freeland will be doing all the hard stuff for this government, while Trudeau poses for pictures.

16 December
Campbell Clark: Trudeau takes steps to insulate himself from political risk
Justin Trudeau has set up his second-term government like a leader who realizes he just had a narrow escape. He has created rows and rows of defensive barriers between the Prime Minister and political risk.
During his first term, Mr. Trudeau made himself the face of virtually everything his government did. Everything, seemingly, came from the PMO: Mr. Trudeau in front, and behind the scenes, his two senior advisers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, orchestrated it all. But that meant every problem, and every mistake, was at the top.
Now, a new operating procedure is taking shape. Ministers will be seen handling files and speaking to issues more, and Mr. Trudeau less. There will be layers of insulation between the Prime Minister and any misstep.

13 December
Speedier airport screening, universal pharmacare: Trudeau hands cabinet ministers their to-do lists
Mandate letters guide policy objectives, governing style for minority government
Trudeau issued mandate letters to each of his ministers Friday, outlining the key policy objectives each minister is tasked with as well as the overarching goals of the government. The ministers’ to-do lists mirror the promises in the Liberal election campaign platform, with its goals of making life more affordable, strengthening the health care system, fighting climate change and promoting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
“It is more important than ever for Canadians to unite and build a stronger, more inclusive and more resilient country,” reads the opening of the letters.
“The government of Canada is the central institution to promote that unity of purpose and, as a Minister in that Government, you have a personal duty and responsibility to fulfill that objective.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been handed the most critical and wide-ranging job; she’s tasked with working across cabinet to advance the government’s agenda and working with provinces and territories on health care, climate change action and gun control measures.
In each letter, Trudeau directed ministers to turn to him as well as Freeland “early and often” for support in their roles.
Chrystia Freeland is now the minister for almost everything
When Freeland was announced as the new deputy prime minister and intergovernmental affairs minister, it wasn’t obvious what she would be doing, beyond perhaps shuttling between provincial capitals to broker peace with recalcitrant premiers.
With the release of her mandate letter on Friday, it’s now clear what files Freeland will be involved with: nearly all of them.

12 – 13 December
This could be ugly
New Speaker says he’ll evict Wilson-Raybould if she doesn’t leave willingly
While Wilson-Raybould said she would like to stay where she is, Rota said it’s not up to her.
“There’s a minister who wants to go in there and that minister has the right to go in because it’s been chosen as his office,” he said. “As an Independent, unfortunately, [Wilson-Raybould] is at the bottom of the list or near the bottom of the list.”
Jody Wilson-Raybould is refusing to move out of her entire ministerial office suite
Wilson-Raybould said she invited Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda to bless the offices after her swearing-in following the October election. … Commanda said the ceremony to cleanse and bless the office also included a prayer for Wilson-Raybould to keep her office space. … Commanda said Wilson-Raybould wanted to respect the fact Ottawa sits on unceded Algonquin land and she wanted an Algonquin elder to conduct the ceremony to help her prepare for the opening of Parliament.
Wilson-Raybould’s supporters made the office dispute an issue at last week’s meeting of the Assembly of First Nations.

12 December
The list of possibles is a long one.
Who’s next? Conservative speculation about Scheer’s replacement breaks into the open
Leadership talk has been simmering since the election. On Thursday, it boiled over.
Since the Conservative Party’s near-miss in the October election, most prospective candidates have held back on revealing their ambitions. Now that Scheer’s made the decision to quit, the rumour mill is grinding away louder than before.
An internal party review of the Conservatives’ election performance is underway. Many within the party have already pointed to Scheer’s leadership as the prime factor in the party’s defeat.
Conservative commentator Geoff Norquay said the next leader must have a national vision that resonates with voters in urban areas, women and Canadians concerned about climate change.
The next step in the leadership contest is for the Conservative Party’s National Council to form a leadership election organizing committee, which will decide on the rules, procedures, process and timelines for the contest, said party spokesman Cory Hann.
The Conservatives already have a policy convention scheduled for April in Toronto, but it’s not clear if that could also serve as the forum to pick a new leader. Conservative caucus backs Scheer as interim leader amid private school backlash
Prime Minister welcomes new parliamentary secretaries
The Prime Minister will soon release an updated version of Open and Accountable Government, which sets out his expectations for Cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries, as well as their roles and responsibilities. The updated guide will also clarify the role of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, incorporating recommendations made by the Honourable Anne McLellan in her recent report on the issue.
In March 2019, the Prime Minister sought advice from former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Anne McLellan on the relationship between the federal government and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Her review of the roles of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada was published in August 2019.

10 December
Trudeau’s minority Liberal government survives first confidence vote
Confidence vote passes 205-116, but opposition win vote to compel Liberals to study China at committee
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals survived Tuesday their first test of confidence in the House of Commons but got a pointed reminder of how opposition parties can still make life complicated for a minority government.
The motion authorizes the committee to order the prime minister, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, to appear as witnesses “from time to time as the committee sees fit.”
But while that could tie up Trudeau and his ministers and dwell on sensitive diplomatic and trade conflicts with China that the Liberals would prefer to deal with outside the public spotlight, they will at least get to continue governing.
The Liberals, with the support of all opposition MPs but the Conservatives and one Green MP, passed a series of votes on supplementary spending estimates. The estimates passed on a vote of 205-116, ensuring that previously planned government programs get the funding they need to operate.

9 December
After years of mixed messages, Trudeau signals he’s treating the Crown more seriously
(National Post) After nearly three years of leaving the post vacant, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed a new Canadian secretary to the Queen, amid rumours of the Crown beginning preparations for its inevitable transition and the possibility of a Canadian royal tour next year.
Shortly after his government was first elected in 2015, Trudeau had removed the previous secretary, Kevin MacLeod who had been appointed by Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper. Last month, Trudeau quietly appointed Donald Booth a long-time federal civil servant.
The secretary serves as the primary link between the federal cabinet and the Crown, providing information and advice, and is central to the organization of royal tours.

6 December
Andrew Coyne: The Liberals care about national unity, but they care more about winning a majority
(Globe & Mail) …the oddest part of the speech, in the wake of an election that revealed profound fears across much of the oil-producing West that the rest of Canada wants to put it out of business, notably by blocking the construction of pipelines to markets east and west, is that the government could not bring itself, in the whole of the vice-regal address, to mention the West, or pipelines, or oil. Not even once.
… it talked about all of these things, only without naming them. Instead of Alberta or Saskatchewan or the West, it referred to certain “regions”; the grievances feeding the worst outburst of western rage in decades it called “local needs.” For oil, there was “Canada’s natural resources,” and for pipelines, “getting Canadian resources to new markets.”

5 December

Throne speech promises tax cut, climate action and ban on military-style firearms
In 28-minute address, Liberal government calls on MPs to work across party lines in minority Parliament
(CBC) In a throne speech promising new efforts to tackle climate change, make life more affordable and impose a ban on “military-style” firearms, the Liberal government today called on members of Parliament to work across party lines to solve some of the country’s most pressing issues.
The first throne speech since the election — which saw voters return Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to power in a minority government — struck a conciliatory tone.
The government signalled it will take up issues championed by the opposition parties — like tax-free parental benefits and a crackdown on money laundering — alongside its own ambitious agenda for progressive reform.
“While your approaches may differ, you share the common belief that government should try, whenever possible, to make life better for Canadians,” said Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, reading the prepared text of the throne speech.
“Some believe that minority governments are incapable of getting things done. But Canada’s history tells us otherwise.”
On the national unity front, the speech acknowledged the growing restlessness in Alberta and Saskatchewan at a time of depressed oil and gas prices and constrained pipeline capacity.
Thursday’s 28-minute address, titled “Moving Forward Together,” included a promise to “find solutions” to help those two western provinces, and oil-rich Newfoundland and Labrador, weather the oil price slump.
While the Governor General delivers the remarks, the text itself is written by the Prime Minister’s Office. However, Payette added some personal remarks to the speech. The PMO confirmed the first 11 paragraphs of the speech were the Governor General’s “preamble.” Payette, a former astronaut, said Canadians must work together in collaboration because “we are inextricably bound to the same space-time continuum and on board the same planetary spaceship.”
Tories, NDP won’t support throne speech but Bloc will back Liberals’ agenda if it comes to vote
The Throne Speech: More will be done
Paul Wells: If the Liberals’ goal was to be deliberately vague, well, the Trudeau team’s speechwriters absolutely nailed it
(Global) Climate change, healing regional divides key planks for Trudeau Liberals in Throne Speech

Liberal MP Anthony Rota elected Speaker of the House of Commons
(CBC) Liberal MP Anthony Rota will preside over the new minority Parliament as the new Speaker of the House of Commons.
Rota beat four other candidates in a vote this morning, including caucus colleague Geoff Regan, who was Speaker during the last session of Parliament and had wished to stay on.
Rota, who represents Nipissing-Timiskaming, choked up while talking about the honour of being the first Canadian of Italian descent to sit in the Speaker’s chair and gave a shout-out to his daughter, who was finishing her university exams today.

19 November
Aaron Wherry: For better or worse, Trudeau’s next 4 years are going to be about climate change
It was the sleeper issue of the election campaign – and it’s driving a wedge between East and West
He is unlikely to emerge from the result of the October 21 election as a wholly different person. He’s surely still the same complicated figure he was before this fall’s campaign. He is also still the prime minister.
But things have changed. His government’s situation, his public standing and the demands upon him are different now. And the aftermath of an election offers a natural pivot point, a chance to take stock of what’s been and adjust for what’s to come.
When last we heard from the prime minister at any length (nearly a month ago), he was talking about taking some time to “reflect.”
He has not yet reported back with the fruits of that reflection. In fact, his public appearances have been relatively limited since election night.
There was no rah-rah speech to supporters the day after the election, as there was in 2015. There was no Halloween photo-op appearance in costume with his kids. In 2015, he gave himself just 16 days to set up a new government. This time, he has taken nearly a month.

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