Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Canada: government & governance January-November 2023
What a federal ethics report reveals about how Justin Trudeau sees his job as PM
25 December 2017
Trudeau doesn’t have business meetings. He has relationship sessions. And he sees his role ‘as ceremonial in nature’
That’s the view Justin Trudeau outlined to the ethics commissioner during her probe of Trudeau’s family vacations to the Aga Khan’s private island, which ended with Mary Dawson finding the prime minister violated four parts of the conflict of interest act.
9 December 2022
The Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy
From Exploration to Recycling: Powering the Green and Digital Economy for Canada and the World
The mother of all paper trails
Public Accounts of Canada
Almost every federal dollar spent in the 2022-23 fiscal year is allocated to a line item somewhere in the 1,273-page tome tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Ottawa spends billions of dollars a year on “professional and special services,” a classification that includes accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers, scientific analysts, translators, teachers, doctors, nurses and — we saved the punching bags of the outsourcing world for last — management consultants.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland committed in her March budget to slash consulting, professional services and travel by C$7.1 billion over five years.
The grand total for the sprawling category in 2022-23 was C$18.5 billion, a substantial jump from 2021-22’s tally of C$17.5 billion. Management consultants raked in a combined C$838.2 million, up from C$811.3 million.
Greg Fergus starts his term as Speaker with high expectations
Advocates say representation matters in politics but Fergus is unlikely to tame raucous House of Commons
Wab Kinew officially sworn in as Manitoba’s 1st First Nations premier
New cabinet members sworn in Wednesday also include firsts
The premier-designate is the first First Nations premier of a Canadian province, and the Indigenous women in cabinet are also believed to be a first for Manitoba.
The colourful and tradition-filled swearing-in ceremony honoured the seven Indigenous nations in Manitoba, featuring performances from the Norman Chief Memorial Dancers and Dakota Hotain Singers and the lighting of the Quilliq, a traditional Inuit oil lamp.
‘Lack of direction’: delayed release of mandate letters raises questions over government’s plans
The more than two-month wait so far in publicly releasing mandate letters is the longest delay following a major cabinet shuffle since the Trudeau Liberals took power in 2015.
(The Hill Times) With updated cabinet instructions still missing in action more than two months after the July 26 shuffle, questions loom over the Liberal government’s future plans.
It’s been 70 days since the cabinet shuffle, and updated mandate letters have yet to be released—amounting to the longest the federal cabinet has gone without being given new directions from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) following a major changeup. After the last shuffle following the 2021 election, mandate letters were issued after 51 days. In 2018, cabinet instructions were released 41 days after a major shuffle. In 2017, it took 22 days. When Trudeau’s cabinet was first formed in 2015, it only took eight days for ministers to receive their mandate letters.
Liberal MP Greg Fergus elected Speaker of the House of Commons
New Speaker’s first task will be to help Parliament turn the page on Yaroslav Hunka affair
MPs are worried about Parliament’s reputation — and a new Speaker won’t fix things
Greg Fergus, like every Speaker before him, has his work cut out
“The level of respect for Parliament and the office of the Speaker has taken an incredible beating in this session of Parliament,” Liberal MP Sean Casey said. “Especially in question period, and it does not need to.”
Before they came right out and declared that Anthony Rota was no longer fit to serve as Speaker of the House of Commons, Rota’s fellow Liberals publicly encouraged him to “reflect.” That reflection eventually led him to the inevitable conclusion that he had to step aside — and to a foundational reason for doing so.
“The work of the House is above any of us,” Rota said.
If nothing else, Rota at least left Parliament with that principle to consider. It’s only unfortunate that an international embarrassment was his reason for mentioning it.
… Rota’s resignation appears to have been almost unique in one aspect — it was the first time since 1878 that a Speaker had felt compelled to step aside because of a personal controversy. But Tuesday’s election of a new Speaker was only the latest occasion for MPs to interrogate the way they speak and behave on the floor of the House of Commons.
“The level of respect for Parliament and the office of the Speaker has taken an incredible beating in this session of Parliament,” Liberal MP Sean Casey said. “Especially in question period, and it does not need to.”
Justin Trudeau hammered by devastating polls just before Parliament set to reconvene
The prime minister hasn’t been this unpopular since early 2020, as Canadians grow frustrated with unaffordable housing and the rising cost of living
With only a week to go before Parliament reconvenes, a pair of devastating polls are showing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with near-unprecedented rates of disapproval.
New interim ethics commissioner appointed after months-long vacancy
A new interim conflict of interest and ethics commissioner has been named, filling a role that’s been largely vacant for months.
Konrad Winrich von Finckenstein has been appointed for a six-month term.
The former conflict-of-interest and ethics watchdog, Mario Dion, retired in February.
Paul Wells: The shuffle and the cabinet retreat didn’t work. Now what?
…as their manoeuvring room and novelty wear off, incumbent leaders can usually offer compensating virtues: their experience and wisdom. Sure, he’s less exciting than before, but now he’s a surer hand.
Unfortunately, for that to work you need to be a surer hand.
(Dire straits) Tax credits to fuel a green transition were easier said than done. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will cost someone $30.9 billion. On the promise to plant 2 billion trees, Jonathan Wilkinson has gone full Baghdad Bob: the government now insists it never promised 2 billion trees. That’s the tweet. The premier of the Northwest Territories would like some infrastructure. To know whether such a thing would be useful, it would be handy to have a national infrastructure assessment, promised in the 2021 budget. There has been no news of progress on the assessment in nearly two years. Maybe one day Canada will have a new ambassador to Germany. Maybe one day the RCMP will account for its response to the worst mass murder in Canadian history. Maybe the first ministers should sit down to discuss housing, crime, social precarity and other big messes in Canada’s cities, but somehow that doesn’t seem likely because the last time Justin Trudeau “met” with the premiers he broke federalism.
Government to ‘prioritize’ generative-AI regulation, outlines plans for voluntary code of conduct
(National Post) Developers would have to prevent malicious or harmful use, such as: impersonating real people, tricking individuals to obtain private information, or giving legal or medical advice
Innovation Canada is consulting with experts, civil society, and industry this summer on a voluntary code of conduct for generative AI. It released a document outlining its plans for the code on Wednesday, after the consultation became public knowledge following an accidental early online posting.
The voluntary code would be in place before Bill C-27, privacy legislation with an AI component called the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), becomes law. Once that happens, the government “intends to prioritize the regulation of generative AI systems,” Innovation Canada said.
Experts have been calling for government regulation since the emergence of generative-AI systems like ChatGPT in the last nine months. The exponentially growing technology, which can be used to generate written text, photos, videos or code, has the potential to transform jobs and industries — and to be misused and cause harm.
Bill C-27 will move forward in the legislative process once the House of Commons reconvenes in the fall, but critics have pointed out the bill predates generative AI and that means it could already be outdated.
Recently shuffled federal cabinet to hold three-day retreat on P.E.I.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says retreat will focus on the economy and affordability issues
B.C. port workers vote in favour of accepting contract offer
Port workers in British Columbia have accepted a new tentative deal with their employers, bringing an end to a tumultuous, weeks-long contract dispute that has paralyzed industries and supply chains across Canada.
British Columbia’s port workers have voted almost 75 per cent in favour of accepting a contract offer, ending weeks of turbulent job action that stopped billions of dollars’ worth of goods from being shipped.
Justin Trudeau needs to make housing a primary federal responsibility
(G&M editorial board) For two decades, from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s, through Liberal and Conservative governments, Ottawa was largely absent from housing.
Andrew Caddell: Cabinet shuffle a meaningless ‘inside the Queensway’ event
In this new cabinet, we have neither experienced ministers nor judgment in the PMO. It does not bode well for the country. paywall
(The Hill Times) … I predict it will be with the new, recycled cabinet of Justin Trudeau. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, it takes years to master a portfolio, something these new ministers don’t have. …
This new cabinet has a total of seven new ministers, proclaimed as “new blood.” But what they really are is a bunch of neophytes. And to really understand how badly neophytes can screw up, we only have to look at the first Trudeau cabinet of 2015. Who could know that Judy Foote at public services and procurement would unleash the disastrous Phoenix pay system? Who could foresee Mélanie Joly would be a disaster at Heritage? And, as Marc Miller recently explained on The Herle Burly podcast, there was no real understanding back then about [how] to manage boil water advisories on Indigenous reserves.
The PMO’s objective last week was to put a fresh coat of paint on the 38-member focus group that is the federal cabinet. That number sums up the absurdity of managing in government. Forget the need for regional and gender balance: the sheer numbers are unworkable.
When I was studying United Nations reform as a foreign policy adviser, I came across several analyses of group dynamics suggesting the limit of a functional board was 20, with 15 being preferable. As the UN Security Council was 15 members, expanding it, some said, would make it unmanageable. A cabinet at double that number is by its nature dysfunctional, and means no one has a real say and everything is run from the centre. Which is how this PMO likes it.
My theory about David Lametti’s dumping was his refusal to toe the PMO line. Its insistence on appointing judges chosen for their backgrounds rather than their ability led to conflict between the Department of Justice and PMO, and to the paucity of appointments mentioned in the media. As for Marco Mendicino, despite his PMO-inspired prevarications about Paul Bernardo, he was collateral damage.
… Meanwhile, atop a cabinet of nobodies sits a prime minister who believes his capacity to campaign is more important than focusing on substance, or making decisions.
When Justin Trudeau became prime minister, I assured skeptical friends he would surround himself with smart people whose judgment was better than his own. In this new cabinet, we have neither experienced ministers nor judgment in the PMO. It does not bode well for the country.
Amanda Lang: Long-term thinking in government can easily fall victim to politics
The public sector is far from perfect, but by and large our civil service is well-functioning and an important factor in Canada’s success
(The Hub) …[Michael Wernick] a former Clerk of the Privy Council … cautions against speaking of government as though it’s one entity. The federal government is more like 300 different organizations, with seven or eight different occupational groups, all doing different things. Like the private sector, the functions are diverse enough that they represent totally different sectors. But unlike the private sector, the management and leadership of them is made more complex because it is done in the context of politics, and also of a larger budget mandate. To analyze how government is doing, Wernick says, has to involve a look at individual organizations.
“There are pockets of excellence and innovation, and there are organizations that run into trouble.” For all the attention the trouble gets, Wernick argues there are plenty of success stories that don’t get told.
Wernick notes that public-facing services get the most attention—so you can now renew your driver’s licence online in minutes, and file your taxes entirely electronically. But internal processes of government are often the ones that get neglected—the services like finance, human resources, information management, material management, buildings, tools—“these are the kinds of things that make everything else possible. Not only do they tend to get neglected until there’s a crisis, but when you have one of these waves of spending reviews and cuts, they tend to be the things that are cut, because any group of politicians will go out and say, ‘No, no, we’re protecting service to Canadians, we’re going to find efficiencies within government.’”
One place Wernick says should not be neglected is leadership and training development, which benefits every department, but falls victim to cutbacks. It’s something he has argued for over time, including before Parliamentary Committee.
Rigby and Juneau: Some advice for the prime minister upon the creation of his new National Security Council
It’s about time we caught up with our allies with this. Let’s make sure we do it right.
(The Line) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a new cabinet on July 26, reassigning a whopping 23 ministers and giving political watchers across the country much to dissect. But the prime minister also made another change shortly after the shuffle that attracted far less attention, which related to government machinery. In a separate press release, the government hinted at upcoming changes to cabinet committees, including the creation of a “National Security Council, a new forum for Ministers to deliberate on and address issues of pressing concern to Canada’s domestic and international security.” While many Canadians might view this as nothing more than mundane governance housekeeping, it could prove over time to be more important than the shuffling of individual chess pieces around the cabinet table. …
Above all, the new council must be chaired by the prime minister. National security is too complicated a symphony with far too many musicians playing different instruments not to have the conductor present. We have seen too many examples of poor coordination around national security recently.
Not enough places to live, Trudeau says of the housing market, as he pledges support to scale supply
Political insiders expect Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals to spend the rest of the summer focused on affordability issues, and housing in particular, as Canadians struggle with high inflation, especially the rising cost of groceries, and global uncertainty.
Tyler Meredith, a founding partner of the public affairs firm Meredith Boessenkool who previously served as the head of fiscal and economic policy in the Prime Minister’s Office, said while Ottawa has done a lot of work in the area of housing, it can still explore other tools across the whole of government that help to meet the scale that is required.
“This is the underlying fact … the government acknowledges that there’s a problem,” he said. “It acknowledges the seriousness of the problem. But it hasn’t yet taken the whole-of-government approach.”
As housing becomes more expensive, the country is eroding an advantage that it has to attract, retain and grow talent, he added.
Trudeau overhauls his cabinet, drops 7 ministers and shuffles most portfolios
Cabinet shakeup introduces new faces to Trudeau’s front bench
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today dropped seven ministers and changed nearly three-quarters of his cabinet, overhauling his team at a time of heightened tensions overseas and scandals at home.
Trudeau unveiled a new cabinet team meant to have a renewed focus on economic priorities, such as housing.
Trudeau’s shuffle puts new faces in charge of housing crisis and future of Canadian media
by Karl Nerenberg
While pundits focus on polls, Trudeau’s new cabinet has some serious policy challenges it must face.
Political geography aside, there are two ministers with new portfolios we should all watch carefully.
They are: Nova Scotian Sean Fraser, who moves from Immigration to Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, and Pascale St-Onge, who leaves Sport and Physical Activity to take over the vast and complex Canadian Heritage department.
What is citizens’ services, and what should be expected from the new minister?
PMO says new role will involve ‘anything that touches Canadians directly’
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reorganized his front bench Wednesday in a massive federal cabinet shuffle, he also created a single new job: minister of citizens’ services. … While the parameters of the new role aren’t exactly clear, it could have a major impact on the Liberals’ political prospects, said Jennifer Robson, program director and political management professor at Carleton University.
“I actually think that getting stuff done and delivering goods and services to Canadians in ways that actually makes a difference in their lives is really good politics,” she said.
Does Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle really change anything?
It was a sweeping cabinet shuffle, but not the kind that signals a change of course
A little over an hour before members of the new cabinet began strolling up the tree-lined driveway to Rideau Hall, Abacus Data released new survey results that suggest 81 per cent of Canadians feel it’s time for a change in government.
Though the poll’s results are suboptimal for the Liberals, they don’t necessarily portend doom for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. Of those who want change, more than half say they see a good alternative to the Liberals. But 31 per cent say they don’t see a better option.
Justin Trudeau is preparing a summer cabinet shuffle
The Prime Minister’s Office is building the team that will be with him when the next federal election is called, sources said.
Mitch Heimpel: The Liberals are planning to lose a housing election
… For the foreseeable future, housing is the government’s largest intergovernmental affairs issue.
(The Line) You need one minister. One minister responsible for housing, infrastructure and intergovernmental affairs. One person whose job it is to deal with the provinces and municipalities on their infrastructure and housing needs. One person whose job it is to coordinate the government’s overall policy response.
What to know about Bill C-18, the new law that will affect how you get news in Canada
The federal government’s online news act Bill C-18 became law on June 22. The law will require tech companies like Google and Meta to compensate Canadian news organizations for the content that appears on their platforms. The Liberals argued that Bill C-18 would help the Canadian news industry, which has seen massive drops in advertising revenue over the past decade.
Those byelection results suggest the next federal election is up for grabs
On the surface the outcome was status quo — but the Liberals may be breathing easier today
Brian Mulroney praises Trudeau’s leadership, omits any mention of Poilievre
(CTV) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is basking in the praise of Brian Mulroney after the former prime minister said “trash” talk against the Liberal leader will be forgotten in light of historic achievements.
The former Progressive Conservative prime minister made the comments on Monday night to delegates attending the Atlantic Economic Forum, at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, N.S. Mulroney said history will not be concerned with “the trivia and trash” or with the “rumours and gossip” that are heard in Parliament.
Trudeau will instead be remembered for handling the pandemic as well as any other world leader, and for negotiating The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement with former U.S. president Donald Trump, Mulroney, who was prime minister from 1984 to 1993, told delegates.
Carson Jerema: RCMP obfuscations come to Justin Trudeau’s rescue in SNC Lavalin scandal
Conflicting claims from the Mounties about when the government was under investigation are at best bureaucratic incompetence
(National Post) The end result of this latest SNC Lavalin story, whether intended by the RCMP or not, was for the police to run interference for the Trudeau Liberals. The story should have been about the revelation that the government was under investigation, at least at one point, or if the RCMP had not redacted its files, a story about why it concluded an investigation without criminal charges.
RCMP says there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to lay charges in SNC-Lavalin affair
The RCMP says it found “insufficient evidence” to lay criminal charges related to the SNC-Lavalin affair and confirms it has since concluded its file.
(CBC) It’s the first time the national police force has officially confirmed that it’s no longer probing the political scandal that rocked Parliament four years ago.
The force was responding to reports promoted by an access to information request by the advocacy group Democracy Watch.
Democracy Watch founder Duff Conacher issued a press release Monday, citing a letter he received from the RCMP’s access-to-information officer, that said the national police force only partially responded to a May 25 request as the requested records concerned a matter “currently under investigation.”
Not one word about C-13
CBC Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay, Sunday Politics Panel
Communication woes continue to dog the Trudeau government with questions surrounding convicted killer Paul Bernardo’s prison transfer and the continued fallout from David Johnston’s resignation as special rapporteur on foreign interference. After a dramatic week on Parliament Hill, guest host David Common convenes our Sunday Politics Panel to parse out the Liberal’s damage control and how the opposition parties are seizing this moment before the House rises for the summer. On the panel this week are Susan Delacourt, a national columnist for The Toronto Star, and Matt Gurney, journalist and co-founder of The Line on Substack.
Public Safety Minister Mendicino unable to explain why he wasn’t told of Paul Bernardo transfer
(Globe & Mail) Ministers have come under fire in the House of Commons for a pattern of ignorance over the past few months that has led to questions of competence. Several ministers said they were unaware of key facts when contentious files landed on their plate.
In addition to the Prime Minster and Public Safety Minister saying they were left in the dark on the prison transfer, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan has said he wasn’t reading his e-mails during the fall of Afghanistan, and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said he never read a spy agency memo issued directly to him about China targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong.
Talk of a widely expected summer cabinet shuffle grew louder Thursday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stayed away from the House and will be out of Ottawa on Friday.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Wednesday that it knew Mr. Bernardo’s transfer was on the table in March. But it said Mr. Trudeau was briefed May 29 – the same day Mr. Bernardo was moved.
Postmedia is in a crash dive – Ottawa should let it decline
Marc Edge, Canadian journalist, author, and academic.
Postmedia is in a crash dive, having posted operating income of only $13-million last year while receiving $9.9-million in government aid. That was nowhere near enough to cover its more than $30-million a year in debt payments, which required moves such as closing a dozen Alberta community newspapers in January and selling its Calgary Herald building to U-Haul for $17.25-million. The company then announced chain-wide staff cuts of 11 per cent, which have yet to be finalized.
Postmedia’s best hope now is for Google and Facebook to subsidize it under Bill C-18, the Online News Act, for which it and its peers have been lobbying. But even if that legislation passes, Postmedia will remain under water if Google and Facebook stop carrying links to Canadian news stories, as they have threatened to do.
Ottawa will then have to choose between bailing Postmedia out again or letting it founder further. The latter could be the only way to help wean the country off the influence of U.S. hedge funds over the company. These funds have owned Postmedia since 2010 and have been bleeding it dry ever since with the hundreds of millions in high-interest debt they also hold.
Bill C-18: An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada
Trudeau jammed in EV trade war
International automaker Stellantis recently ordered workers to down tools at a CA$5-billion EV battery plant it is building in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit – an unwelcome surprise for PM Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
To resume construction, Stellantis has made it clear it wants bigger subsidies than the CA$1 billion the politicians previously promised. In turn, Trudeau and Ford have been blaming one another and showing signs of distress as they scramble to come up with the cash.
MPs expected to extend sittings to midnight until House rises for the summer
The Liberal legislative agenda
The government House leader said the Liberals want to see nine bills move through Parliament and one sent to committee before the summer break. The nine bills are:
The Budget Implementation Act, or C-47, which was tabled on March 28
Bill S-5, which updates the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
Bill C-42, which amends the Canada Business Corporations Act to make it easier to identify the beneficial owners of a company
Bill C-34, which amends the Investment Canada Act to allow ministers more time and authority to decide if foreign investments compromise national security
Bill S-8, which amends the Refugee Protection Act to ensure foreigners sanctioned under Canadian law are inadmissible to Canada
Bill C-18, which controversially seeks to make tech giants like Google compensate Canadian news organizations for content that appears on their platforms
Bill C-41, which amends anti-terrorist financing legislation to allow for the delivery of aid and immigration assistance in places controlled by terrorist groups, such as Afghanistan
Bill C-22, which establishes the Canada disability benefit for working-age Canadians
Bill C-35, which enshrines access to affordable child care in federal law and ensures the federal government provides long-term child care funding to provinces and Indigenous Peoples.
What Danielle Smith’s Alberta election win means for the rest of Canada
(Global) …all eyes will be on Alberta as Smith begins her second term, which political watchers say will have implications not just for the province but for the rest of Canada as well.
Alberta has always had a testy relationship with the federal government and even other provinces as it defends its profitable energy industry and other interests.
But the past four years under the United Conservative Party and during the COVID-19 pandemic have seen Edmonton’s relations with Ottawa grow particularly tempestuous.
It remains to be seen whether Smith continues to pursue the often-tense approach with Ottawa she demonstrated during her short premiership. Her government passed the controversial Alberta sovereignty act and openly mulled opting out of the Canada Pension Plan and replacing it with a provincial version.
Alberta’s election results are about the worst-case scenario for Edmonton
Can the UCP forge a far more respectful relationship with the two big cities that elected them in just 12 out of 46 ridings?
The fact the UCP lost at least 10 seats in Calgary — along with some of its cabinet ministers — also does not help Edmonton’s cause, because it means there are fewer voices who can properly advocate for big city problems. This is going to be a UCP cabinet and caucus largely dominated by rural MLAs.
Congruently worrying are the serious questions about how much influence the “lunatic” Take Back Alberta movement has over the new government. (Jason Kenney’s word, not mine.)
If the group was only interested in ever more ridiculous fights with Ottawa, that would be one thing. But it’s clear at least some of the members have ridiculous views on social issues as well.
Looming recounts in Calgary area leave final seat tallies in question
NDP grabs slim advantage of popular vote in Calgary
Polls before the vote consistently showed Calgary was a tightly contested battleground.
Unofficially, Calgary has once again become an NDP city after the party last dominated it in the 2015 election.
On Monday night, the NDP grabbed a majority of seats and a slim advantage in the popular vote with a 6,210-ballot margin, or a 1.1 percentage point edge.
Just outside Calgary in Banff-Kananaskis, the NDP gained another seat by a slim margin of 199 votes, with wildlife ecologist Sarah Elmeligi unseating UCP incumbent Miranda Rosin.
(The Line) One of Justice Rouleau’s most staggering conclusions in the [Public Order Emergency Commission] POEC report is that what gave the convoyers the advantage — they held the capital for three weeks, recall — was that many of them had a professional background that involved at least some real-world experience in logistics and event planning and management. The federal government, in contrast, had none of that. As I wrote in my column then, “If your job requires you to manage a bunch of projects at the same time and coordinate different teams, especially if you mix in a bit of expertise in event planning and fleet operations, you are apparently probably capable of overthrowing the Canadian state.”
Though Johnston was fairly polite and understated in making his case, this is broadly the version of things he is sketching out for us. Trudeau isn’t compromised or corrupt, he’s just atop a government that’s so borked that the prime minister and his government couldn’t have done any better. The machine is just too broken.
Paul Wells: Leavetaking, stocktaking
What Poilievre is up to
We’re in an odd world where most of the journalistic coverage of Pierre Poilievre is critical, but he might yet become Prime Minister. The week’s big Abacus poll suggests this may simply be because more and more people are done with Justin Trudeau. But we’re still missing a theory of Pierre Poilievre.
Since Shannon Proudfoot’s profile of him last year, [Why is Pierre Poilievre so angry?] there’ve actually been fewer attempts to figure the guy out as he gets closer to an election.
Here’s one thing to chew on. In early 2022, two weeks after Poilievre announced his candidacy for the Conservative leadership, this essay appeared in The Hub, a good online journal of mostly conservative-leaning opinion. It was by Ben Woodfinden, “a doctoral candidate and political theorist at McGill University.” Woodfinden has since got hired as Poilievre’s communications director, which suggests that if there’s anyone who thought Woodfinden had Poilievre figured out, it’s Poilievre.
Tasha Kheiriddin: Woke CBC dividing Canadians on the public dime
Trudeau and Poilievre fuelling the extremes of the CBC debate, and most Canadians would be better off if they stopped
Is CBC government funded media? That’s the hottest question for the twitterverse this week — and for our politicians. According to a particularly juvenile post by Twitter CEO Elon Musk, it is — to the tune of 69 per cent. …
Labelling CBC “government-funded media” is technically correct, but contrary to the fantasies of conspiracy theorists, CBC does not get day-to-day orders from the PMO or have a hotline to Rideau cottage. How do we know this? Very simply, if the CBC had to toe the government line, it would have cheered on Stephen Harper’s when he was prime minister. But it most certainly did not.
What CBC does toe, however, is a small-l liberal line. And that line is rooted in two things: law and culture
Canada’s Global Affairs department is in crisis — right when Canadians need it most
Ottawa was told its foreign service was broken decades ago. A revolving door of foreign ministers later, the country is still waiting for the fix as the world order fractures
Mission critical: Is Canada lagging behind in the critical minerals race?
The House takes an in-depth look at Canada’s efforts to become a leader in the development of critical minerals. Hugues Jacquemin and Kirsty Liddicoat, executives of Northern Graphite, explain their efforts to expand. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson explains how the government is responding. Mark Podlasly talks about his efforts to help First Nations secure their interests, and experts Nate Wallace, Alisha Hiyate and Ian London weigh in on what Canada should be doing to respond to what some are calling the new gold rush.
Canada is sitting on a critical minerals mother lode. But is it ready for the new gold rush?
Proponents say Canada must do more to turn aspiration into action
A mining project might not be what comes to mind when you think of the transition to a lower emissions economy. But embedded in electric vehicles, solar panels and hydrogen fuel storage are metals and minerals that come from mines like the one in Lac-des-Îles, Que.
The graphite mine, owned by the company Northern Graphite, is just one of many projects aimed at extracting what are now officially dubbed “critical minerals” — substances of significant strategic and economic importance to the future of national economies.
Perhaps the most significant challenges to the mining industry come from concerns about environmental impacts and the role of Indigenous communities.
On the environmental front, advocacy groups like Environmental Defence worry that mining projects carry with them dangers of waste and environmental damage.
… “There’s also significant environmental concerns about that project because it’s covered by peatlands, and that’s basically equivalent to Canada’s Amazon rainforest, in terms of being a massive carbon sink,”
François-Philippe Champagne is building his case to replace Justin Trudeau
François-Philippe Champagne suddenly seems everywhere all at once.
When he is not cheerleading for Canada’s participation in NASA’s Artemis II mission to the moon, as he did in Houston on Monday, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry is ordering the country’s wireless providers to cut cellphone rates or face his wrath, as he did last week in approving Quebecor’s purchase of Freedom Mobile.
When he is not wooing auto and battery producers to invest in Canada’s electric-vehicle supply chain, securing promises for multibillion-dollar plants, the diminutive Quebec MP – nicknamed the Energizer Bunny – is cracking down on Chinese ownership of this country’s critical minerals amid efforts to “decouple” the North American economy from China.
Canada’s C$80B response to U.S. clean energy push: ‘We will not be left behind’
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland sells energy transition as an economic imperative.
Freeland presents details of 2023 federal budget (video)
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Canada’s ‘tradition of fiscal responsibility’ while outlining the plan for this year’s federal budget.
Paul Wells: Chrystia Freeland’s invisible hand
Unshackle the market! And other budget surprises
Look, the thing you don’t understand is that government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners.
“This approach is not about the government picking individual corporate winners in an effort to engineer a preferred vision of the economy in 2050,” it says right here on Page 19 of Chrystia Freeland’s 2023 federal budget.
Picking winners and engineering visions just did not work in the past. This is what you don’t understand. I’m sorry I even need to explain this to you. “That approach did not work in the past,” it says right here on Page 19, “and is even less likely to work in today’s environment of rapid technological change.”
This is all by way of explaining one of the biggest-ticket items in what is a very curious budget: $80 billion in tax credits over 11 years to encourage investments in low-carbon electricity, manufacturing, and other elements of a clean economy.
Ottawa hangover: After triumph of Biden visit, reality bites back at Trudeau
Come Monday, Canada’s prime minister must grapple again with a Chinese influence scandal, economic troubles and a resurgent opposition.
Data Dive with Nik Nanos: Canadians feel the country is on the wrong path
(Globe & Mail) Young people are dour about the future. Confidence in institutions is on the decline and a significant number believe Canada is on the wrong economic track.
On important economic metrics, Canada is getting Ds and Fs – we can do better
The sooner we recognize that we have entered an era of supply-constrained economics, the better, Carolyn Wilkins writes.
Carolyn Wilkins is a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Griswold Centre for Economic Policy. She was senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada from May, 2014, to December, 2020.
(Globe & Mail) I sit on the advisory council of the Coalition for a Better Future, which is building a community from many walks of life across Canada. It includes youth, business leaders, Indigenous groups, social policy advocates, environmental groups and some plain-old concerned citizens.
One of the projects the coalition has done is develop a scorecard to track how Canada stacks up on a set of long-term objectives that are ultimately tied to our quality of life. The scorecard reflects what coalition members care about: growing sustainably, living better and winning globally.
The share of Canadians living in poverty has fallen to the lowest level in decades thanks to the support from the federal government during the pandemic. Indigenous people are playing a growing role in the labour market, with their participation rate last year surpassing the non-Indigenous rate. Carbon dioxide emissions are down as a share of GDP.
We’ll need to raise our GPA by building on our country’s strengths given the challenges that Canada, and all other countries, will face.
One core reason for some of the Ds and Fs is slow productivity growth. To see why, you just need to look at our lacklustre business investment in research and development, intellectual property and even machinery and equipment, which has been disappointing for years.
House of Commons votes down Bloc Québécois motion on notwithstanding clause
Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says the Liberals want to “restrain the sovereignty of the Quebec legislature.”
Conservatives sided with the Bloc Québécois on Monday in voting for the right to provinces to pre-emptively use the notwithstanding clause.
The motion, put forward by the Bloc in an attempt to “remind the (federal) government that it is solely up to Quebec and the provinces to decide on the use of the notwithstanding clause”, was ultimately defeated by a vote of 142 yays and 174 nays.
Motions are meant to initiate a discussion on a given subject and to give a signal on the will of the House of Commons, as they are non binding even if they are adopted. They can also force different parties to take a stance on the issue at hand, as it was the case on Monday.
Aaron Wherry: The Liberals backed themselves into a corner on firearms — leaving no option but surrender
They had a bill, it had support. Then they got creative.
C-21 was designed and presented originally as legislation to implement a national freeze on handgun sales. Had it remained that, it might have passed the House of Commons by now. The bill was approved at second reading last June, with all Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs voting in favour.
Aaron Wherry: There are questions to ask about government contracting — but MPs don’t seem interested in asking them
On Monday, as its second witness, the committee called on Amanda Clarke, an associate professor at Carleton University’s school of public policy and administration.
She has studied the issue of government contracting extensively — and she had some smart and interesting things to say on Monday.
“This issue of spending a lot of money on management consultants and seeing a lot of core public service work done by management consultants is not an accident,” she said.
It is the “inevitable dynamic,” she said, of a public service that has suffered from “a lack of investment in talent and recruitment and reforming HR practices to make it easier to bring people in,” coupled with “unhelpful oversight and reporting burdens” that follow from “a kind of error-free ‘gotcha’ mentality and a lot of scrutiny.”
“The demands for error-free government make it very difficult to be creative and innovative in the public service.”
Not just McKinsey: How governments learned to stop worrying and love consultants
Cal Bricker, PhD, has worked in senior positions in the Ontario public sector as well as with private-sector companies in the waste and alcoholic beverage industries
(Globe & Mail) …senior public servants no longer do the work. Their job is to manage consultants. The rationale is that you can flex costs based on demand. Don’t need the consultants any more? Send them on their way without severance, pensions and the like. Don’t worry about training, as the consultants are pitched as fully proficient. While this can sound attractive in terms of cost, the unintended consequence is that it can result in skill fade to the extent that the department or agency can no longer function operationally and must rely on consultants to perform core tasks. No need to check too far beyond the use of business consultants in government IT services to see evidence for this proposition. Absurdly enough, it is not uncommon in that space to see former department employees hired back as consultants to do their previous work at greater cost.
Parliament returns with Liberals facing pointed questions about ethics, health care
Parliament is back after a six-week break and the Liberal government is facing aggressive questions from the opposition bench about a number of ethical missteps and the sorry state of Canada’s health-care system — two issues that are poised to dominate this spring sitting.
On the ethics front, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called on the Liberal government to report the amount of money it has funnelled to McKinsey, a consulting firm that has received tens of millions of dollars in government contracts over the past seven years.
McKinsey has provided advice to the federal bureaucracy on immigration issues, among other matters. Poilievre said it’s not clear the government got good value for its money.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is grappling with a backlog of some 2.2 million cases as it works to review applications.
Amanda Clarke, an associate professor of public administration at Carleton University, said the focus on McKinsey is a distraction. … the study should focus on the public service’s reliance on consulting firms overall.
International Trade Minister Mary Ng was also in the hot seat Monday. The ethics commissioner concluded she breached Canada’s conflict of interest rules when her office signed a contract with Ng’s friend, Liberal lobbyist and CBC’s Power & Politics pundit Amanda Alvaro.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was focused on health-care issues on his first day back on Parliament Hill. He accused the Liberal government of allowing conservative premiers to undermine Canada’s public health-care system.
Peter McKnight: Trudeau has good reason to limit use of the notwithstanding clause
Governments are too willing to invoke the notwithstanding clause pre-emptively when our rights are an inconvenience
Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now expressed concerns about the clause, telling La Presse that he’s investigating the possibility of regulating its use: “[W]e are experiencing a certain trivialization of this suspension of rights,” said Trudeau, “And when you combine that with the rise of populism around the world, you can see that there are concerns about what might be done.”
Indeed, the whole point of entrenching rights is to insulate them from government — specifically, the tyranny of the majority. On that point, former senator and constitutional scholar Eugene Forsey remarked that with the notwithstanding clause intact, “the Charter would not have protected Japanese-Canadians who were forcibly interned during World War II. Nor will it protect anyone advocating an unpopular cause today.”
Nonetheless, supporters of the clause, including many who predicted it would be rarely used, argue that it acts as a “safety valve,” a constitutional way for Parliament to override court decisions.
Beryl Wajsman: Trudeau should heed Garneau warning on English rights
Prime Minister Trudeau’s proposed Bill C13 has changed deafening silence into dangerous threat that would further diminish those rights and encourage Quebec discrimination against minorities.
It was therefore heartening to hear the eloquent and courageous call by NDG-Westmount MP the Hon. Marc Garneau — a former Trudeau Minister — taking the government to task and warning that, “It would be an error to give Quebec free rein on language. It is discriminatory to the anglophone minority.” His attack on the Trudeau Bill should be a clarion call to all elected officials of character and conscience. …
The opportunism and cowardice of the Trudeau government is nothing less than a shameful abandonment of federal responsibility. If Pierre Trudeau led the fight to keep Canada together combatting the nationalist excesses of Quebec and giving no consideration to electoral profit, his son has reversed course and manifests total submission to whatever François Legault demands. It puts into question whether there is a new de facto legal status of the Canadian Confederation. Ottawa is giving Quebec sovereignty-association without the Quebec Premier even having to utter the phrase.
By incorporating recognition of Bill 96 which invokes the notwithstanding clause as a preemptive measure,Bill C13 sends the message that Ottawa will not entertain any argument or claim that calls into question the Quebec Charter of the French language. …
We can only hope that the opposition parties find their moral compasses and kill Bill C13. They should act before history writes that sad two-word epitaph — “Too late” — as this nation dissolves.
We would encourage them to act on these other words of Mr. Garneau’s as to what the responsibility of federally elected officials are.
“It would be a serious mistake for us, as federal members of Parliament on a federal committee examining a federal law, to leave the field open to Quebec to do whatever it wants in terms of language in Quebec.It is not appropriate to refer to Quebec’s Charter of the French language in Bill C‑13, which falls under federal jurisdiction and deals with official languages in Canada. By making this reference, we are de facto incorporating the Charter of the French language of Quebec in a federal statute.As federal MPs, we have a duty towards linguistic minorities in Canada, including Quebec’s anglophones.”
Former Bank of Canada senior deputy governor to brief Trudeau cabinet
Mr. Trudeau and his ministers gathered in Hamilton, Ont. on Monday for a three-day cabinet retreat ahead of Parliament’s return next week. On Tuesday, the cabinet’s first full day of meetings, experts will brief the group on inflation, recession threats and increases to Canadians’ costs of living, according to a source who was not permitted to discuss the private meetings publicly. The goal is to prepare the government’s responses to the biggest issues Canadians are facing, the source said.
Small Ottawa firm subcontracted ArriveCan app to multinationals, documents reveal
In addition to its study of ArriveCan spending, the government operations committee is also investigating the growth of federal spending on outsourcing and the increasing use of the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Trudeau says decision to contract out ArriveCAN app development was ‘illogical’
PM says he’s asked Clerk of the Privy Council to investigate procurement practices related to ArriveCAN app
Singh says Liberals must approve national pharmacare plan in 2023
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will withdraw its support for the Liberal government if it does not unveil a national pharmacare framework by the end of the year.
Under a confidence-and-supply agreement reached last year, Mr. Singh and his MPs agreed to keep the minority Liberal government in office until June, 2025, in exchange for policy action on a list of NDP priorities.
These priorities include a new dental care program for low-income Canadians, and specific measures on housing affordability and climate change. The Liberals also promised to make “progress towards” universal national pharmacare by passing a pharmacare act before the end of 2023 and then working on a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing plan by the end of the agreement.
“We want to see national framework for pharmacare presented in Parliament and passed in Parliament by the end of the year,” Mr. Singh told reporters Thursday during a three-day caucus retreat in Ottawa before the Jan. 30 return of Parliament
MPs launch study into federal McKinsey contracts, seeking documents and minister testimony
(CTV) A House of Commons committee has agreed to study the federal government’s contracts with the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, and will be seeking considerable documentation from both the firm and federal officials.
The House of Commons Government Operations and Estimates Committee met Wednesday and agreed to dig into the matter, after a surge in McKinsey’s federal contract earnings under the Liberals came to light.
The federal government confirmed this week that since 2015, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has awarded McKinsey 23 contracts for a total of $101.4 million, up from the $2.2 million spent under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Tom Mulcair: Signs another federal election is coming
Bill C-13, the ill-considered rewriting of the Official Languages Act, could move anglo votes away from the Liberals.
A lengthy visit to Quebec from Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently reaching an entente on health care with Premier François Legault; bits and pieces of bureaucratic and legislative debris being swept off the runway. As the year gets underway, it really does appear 2023 could bring us our third federal election in four years.
Trudeau’s polling numbers remain steady and he’s a superior campaigner. But messy situations like the $100 million in contracts to U.S. consulting firm McKinsey could quickly spin out of control as the Liberals’ tendency to hide information makes the saga drag on. Trudeau saying he’d look into it was laughable. He’d had occasion to look at it as the contracts crossed desks in his own department, the Privy Council Office.
… he’s going to have to do something to convince Canadians he actually knows how to run the government. Watch for a cabinet shuffle, starting with Transportation, with Citizenship and Immigration not far behind.
Bill 96 remains a sore spot for many Quebec anglo voters and Trudeau’s justice minister, David Lametti, could get his hide tanned for his failure to defend the constitutional rights of a good chunk of his voters.
But it’s Trudeau’s Bill C-13, the ill-considered rewriting of the Official Languages Act, that could move anglo votes away from the Liberals. It is also opposed, as drafted, by Legault. Liberal election planning likely includes making sure this clunker never leaves the garage.
If organized wisely, the English-speaking community could play a prominent role in the campaign we seem to be headed for.
Don Martin: How bad was the committee hearing over holiday travel woes? Let me count the ways
(CTV) The airlines and airports that threw so many Christmas plans into hard reverse thrust have a simple explanation for the memory-destroying misery they inflicted on so many family holidays: Terribly sorry, but it’s not our fault.
The Standing Committee on Transport gathered Thursday with MPs demanding an explanation for how that highly unusual Canadian winter combination of heavy snow and cold temperatures which delayed or cancelled thousands of post-pandemic reunions. What they got was a gold-medal finger-pointing performance.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who didn’t personally connect with airports or airlines until January 5, insisted the system has improved under his watch and that the mayhem was mostly due to the lousy flight plan by Sunwing, which stranded hundreds of Canadians in Mexico. …
When MPs at the committee finally stopped with their partisan questions and focused on why so many Canadians were stuck on planes waiting for a parking spot or trapped in airport departure lounges for days with little to no explanation from airline staff, the blame game began in earnest. …
But, of course, the overarching excuse was how a metre of snow, some high winds and chilly temperatures conspired to create a weather bomb that shut down on-time air travel by shredding connection schedules at major airports, this in a land where harsh winters are not exactly radical climate change.
Keep in mind this aviation holiday hell was unleashed after Toronto and Vancouver airports topped the charts as the worst airports on the planet last summer for delayed or cancelled flights, a feat which motivated the feds to host an industry summit last November to fix the problem ahead of the holidays.
Andrew Coyne: Canada’s F-35 jet procurement was a debacle – and it’s not even our most embarrassing one
More than 12 years have passed since the day in 2010 when the Conservative government announced it would buy 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, a replacement for the air force’s fleet of CF-18s that even then were universally described as “aging.” … Through two elections the Liberals promised they would cancel the deal – or as their 2015 platform put it, “we will not buy the F-35.” Even after the election, that remained the government’s position, even as it promised an “open competition” to replace it. So here we are, all these years later, and the Liberals have at last confirmed what has long been obvious: We will buy the F-35, after all. Eighty-eight of them, in fact, at a cost of $19-billion – $70-billion, including maintenance and operations. All those billions of extra dollars, all those years in delay – the last of the jets are now scheduled for delivery in 2032 – and for what? To buy the same jet we were always going to buy.
Launched in that same fateful year of 2010, the NSS [National Shipbuilding Strategy] had less to do with military procurement and more to do with the ambitions of the Harper government, those famous free marketers, to kickstart a domestic shipbuilding industry. It had two large components: combat and non-combat. The former was awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, and the latter to Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyard. Each was further divided into several projects, more than half a dozen in all. Virtually every one of them is now billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
Canadian airline execs apologize after being grilled for chaos
Canadian airline execs are being grilled by the government about the dismal customer service provided during the holidays, causing flight delays and cancellations, and leaving many travellers stranded in other countries.
On Thursday, top Sunwing, WestJet, and Air Canada executives were questioned by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN).
The airlines apologized to customers for the damper their service put on Canadians’ holiday plans but maintained that the weather was out of their control and that the government should have helped improve aviation infrastructure.
The panel included several members of parliament, who complained that the people in the constituencies were impacted severely by the mismanagement, and provided specific examples of travellers calling for help on social media to illustrate their point.
Conservatives, NDP call for urgent committee meeting on holiday travel mess
(CBC) The chair of the committee, Liberal member of Parliament Peter Schiefke, tweeted Tuesday that he planned to call a meeting to address travel woes with the CEOs of Sunwing Airlines and VIA Rail.
Ottawa Playbook: Hurry Up and Wait
“Given his role in overseeing Canada’s transportation system, it is important that these hearings include a two-hour appearance by Minister of Transport OMAR ALGHABRA.”
— A reminder: Alghabra hosted a November summit meant to prevent chaos in the holiday season (Transport Minister Omar Alghabra holding summit to address holiday travel). Oops?
The value of one consulting firm’s federal contracts has skyrocketed under the Trudeau government
The consulting firm McKinsey & Company has seen the amount of money it earns from federal contracts explode since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power — to the point where some suggest it may have a central role in shaping Canada’s immigration policies.
A Radio-Canada investigation also learned the private consulting firm’s influence is raising concerns within the federal public service.
Paul Wells: Shine a brighter light on contract government
Ottawa’s becoming addicted to consulting firms. Other countries have rung the alarm. It’s time for the same to happen here.
This is only the latest evidence of a massive trend in Canada’s federal government, in many provinces, and abroad: the contracting-out of complex problems to private firms that charge a premium; are never around when problems arise later; often produce work of questionable quality; and are too often exempt from even the minimal transparency and accountability that’s expected of work done in-house by the regular public service.
Canada is picking up the political radicalization bug from the U.S., new report warns
Political issues are being weaponized at the expense of national unity, says Eurasia Group’s ‘Top Risk’ report
A U.S.-based research group that specializes in gauging geopolitical risk says Canada is showing signs of the same political contagion and polarization that has afflicted American politics.
The warning is contained in Eurasia Group’s annual “Top Risk” report for the new year, released Tuesday.
While Canada does not make the consultancy’s “Top 10” in terms of geopolitical or instability risks, the group produced three standalone sub-reports on countries affected by worldwide political turbulence: Canada, Japan and Brazil.
In its analysis, the group sees most of the risk to Canada coming from the political convulsions in the United States.
He said the toxic political culture in Washington and throughout the U.S. is spilling across the border and it is likely to get worse in the coming year.
“The media environment in Canada, and the social media environment in Canada is increasingly resembling the media and social media environment in the United States,” Bremmer said Tuesday.
“It is dysfunctional. It is rife with disinformation. It is deeply polarized. [The online discourse] is a bunch of people that do not reflect the average Canadian, do not reflect the average American in both countries.”
Policy issues, especially energy and climate change, are being weaponized in Canada for political gain at the expense of national unity, he added.
Canada has long seemed impervious to the political divisions and dysfunction apparent across the border in the United States. But the trucker convoy that occupied the capital of Ottawa last year—ostensibly protesting Covid-19 vaccination mandates—was a big indication that something had changed. In 2023, deepening polarization and regional antagonism in Canada will add to growing political instability on the continent.