Canada’s election campaign is shaping up to be less a clash of ideologies than what Freud called a narcissism of small differences.
Sure, the leaders clashed on vaccination mandates. They sparred on child care, subsidies to businesses and workers, and climate change. But having seen the same polls, which show Canadians in a risk-averse mood, candidates are unified on the most significant issue: spending. Across the spectrum, each party will raid the federal treasury and promise the bill will be paid by someone other than you.
As a result, no one is proposing a sharp break from the status quo — just more or less of the same. So whatever happens on Sept. 20, Canada will travel the same road, in the same direction – but different drivers might take us into separate lanes, or move at different speeds.
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While the campaign will surely bring surprises, it promises to be mainly about leadership: whom do you want driving the bus? Here’s how the leaders of the five major national parties are looking in the early days.
Justin Trudeau, Liberal leader
In launching his campaign, Trudeau touched on a few policy areas where he is seen to perform well, including climate change and child care. However, he saved his energy for the matter of the moment: the Liberal policy of mandatory vaccination for public servants and travellers. It’s one of the few issues on which there’s a real difference between the major parties, and the majority is on Trudeau’s side. Watch for him to keep driving the wedge on this one.
While Canadians see Trudeau as the best PM, the sunny ways of his early days in office are long past, betraying his vulnerabilities: a penchant for virtue-signalling and theatrics, and actions that often fall short of his lofty words – most notably on Indigenous services.
Best path: Run a tightly controlled, disciplined campaign where he has minimal opportunity to go off-script – while the leader’s surrogates and advertising mercilessly cast his principal opponents as risks to Canada’s recovery. Keep talking about our responsibilities to one another – including vaccine mandates.
Biggest risk: While poor handling of the Delta variant of COVID-19 would be the most severe risk, the most likely one is that with no compelling reason for an election, the ballot question becomes about Trudeau’s credibility. A modest surge to either the NDP or the Conservatives would deprive him of a majority; a large surge could cost him his government.
Best hope: The ballot question is about which party is seen as best able to manage the pandemic and post-pandemic period – the Liberals’ preferred territory – and the Conservatives are just strong enough to scare soft NDP and Green voters into voting Liberal.
Erin O’Toole, Conservative leader
In introducing himself to Canadians, O’Toole exuded positive energy, coming across as more affable and less brittle than Stephen Harper or Andrew Scheer. He also showed genuine, authentic emotion when speaking about women and girls in Afghanistan and about the threats facing military families. He needs to show this human side more often.
O’Toole released his platform on Monday, reinforcing a key campaign theme: he has a “recovery plan” that will “secure the future” with massive investments in wage and investment subsidies. His verb choice is no accident: He doesn’t need to be exciting; he needs to be a safe, secure choice.
Unfortunately, he lacks a decisive advantage on any major issue except perhaps spending control – a territory surrendered to avoid giving the Liberals an opening to attack him. While the party’s fiscal hawks are unlikely to dissent publicly right now, this could change if the party struggles in the polls.
Best path: Let the leader be a positive, optimistic voice with a credible plan while the party pounds away at perceived Liberal arrogance, waste and entitlement. (Imagine Bill Morneau and the Kielburger brothers guest-starring in Conservative ads). Choose issues carefully: for example, since he can’t talk about the risks of spending, focus on the dangers of debt.
Biggest risk: Continuing to fall into Liberal traps. Opposing vaccination mandates for public servants and travellers put the Conservatives badly out of step with mainstream voters.
Best hope: A restless, anxious nation decides it’s time for a change. The NDP siphons off Liberal votes, and the Conservatives emerge as a safe, mainstream choice.
Jagmeet Singh, NDP leader
Engaging and charismatic, the NDP leader has an opportunity to be the voice of Generation Z, following Trudeau’s 2015 playbook.
To do this, Singh must convey a distinctive, positive vision, untainted by the cynicism of government, building on a line from his launch speech: “I believe better is possible.” He can focus on outcomes where Liberal performance has been weak, such as the failure to follow through on promises to improve services to Indigenous communities – particularly in Western Canada, where Singh polls particularly well.
Yet Singh’s early campaign performance has focused less on these outcomes and more on the means to get there: the NDP mantra to “make the ultra-rich pay.” The threat suggests an early focus on energizing (and keeping) his base, not expanding it to grow his appeal with the mainstream suburban voters who decide elections.
Best path: Be visionary, be positive. Focus less on class warfare and more on the tangible outcomes he aims to achieve – particularly on issues where the Liberals lack credibility. For example, pharmacare – a perennial Liberal broken promise – could provide another opportunity, particularly after the current public health crisis.
Biggest risk: Nothing sticks. His policies on child care, climate change and other issues are seen as less realistic, more expensive versions of Liberal plans. Meanwhile, the Conservatives surge, stopping any “Singh swing” from Liberal/NDP switchers.
Best hope: Singh’s best day in 2019 came during Trudeau’s “Blackface” scandal, allowing him to show humanity and generosity. Any moment where he can be a voice for reconciliation will be a good one.
Yves-Francois Blanchet, Bloc Québécois leader
Blanchet was one of the big beneficiaries of the 2019 election, achieving a surprising reinvigoration of a party that had seemingly lost its raison d’etre. He opened this campaign positioning a Liberal majority as a threat to Quebec – one that he alleges would make it more difficult to protect the French language, supply management and the province’s controversial secularism law.
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Best path: Tear down Trudeau, build up Legault. Show Quebecers why more Bloc MPs can give the Quebec premier a stronger hand to extract more fiscal or policy victories from Ottawa.
Biggest risk: Amidst public health and economic uncertainty, Quebecers decide they want to be on the inside of government. (Second biggest threat: Bloc supporters who wish to talk about sovereignty).
Best hope: Linguistic politics or federal-provincial conflicts take centre stage in the campaign, giving Blanchet an opportunity to stand up for his province’s interests and values.
Annamie Paul, Green Party leader
For the embattled Green Party leader, this campaign is personal – meaning that her singular political objective must be to win her own seat. It will be a tall order, given the stubborn choice to run in a historically safe Liberal riding held by a high-profile incumbent. Nonetheless, Paul will benefit from campaign coverage, putting her on a similar level to the other national leaders. She took full advantage of this dynamic on the first day, highlighting the human devastation of extreme weather, wildfires and other manifestations of the climate crisis. She also highlighted her credentials and struck an optimistic note: “I’m someone who loves big, doable ideas.”
This optimism will be essential in the hard days to come, with an uphill climb, limited resources and a badly divided party.
Best path: Drive an ‘underdog’ narrative. Focus on a simple, sustained message and a small set of signature issues. Seize every opportunity to earn media coverage in Toronto. Hold onto its Vancouver Island beachhead.
Biggest risk: Her scare resources – money, media attention and time — are squandered by continued internal party strife.
Best hope: She earns respect as a voice the people of Toronto Centre want to see in Parliament.
Daniel Tisch is the CEO of Argyle, one of Canada’s largest public engagement and communications consulting firms. He has advised a long list of private and public sector leaders, including cabinet ministers and heads of government representing all major parties.
The 2 Michaels are home. But what about the 115 Canadians still detained in China? – Global News
Heartwarming images and video surfaced of the two reuniting with their families. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday called their homecoming “good news for all of us,” noting that they had both gone through an “unbelievably difficult ordeal.”
But as of Sunday at least 115 Canadians remain in custody in Chinese prisons, Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News. Not all Canadians imprisoned in China are in arbitrary detainment, but the agency said at least four of those jailed are on death row.
“Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases, everywhere,” Global Affairs Canada said.
“We have raised our firm opposition to the death penalty with China and continue to call on China to grant clemency for all Canadians sentenced to death.”
“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home
The agency said it reviews each detention on a case-by-case basis, as consular officials often require a “tailored approach” that can adapt to different local contexts and circumstances.
Here’s a look at the four Canadians currently on death row.
Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison
Of those sentenced to death, the most recent is Canadian Robert Schellenberg of Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Liaoning High Court upheld his death sentence on Aug. 10 following an appeal made over the summer.
Schellenberg was detained on drug charges in China in 2014 and was formally charged with drug smuggling in January 2015. Initially, a Chinese court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. But four years later, his verdict was overturned following a retrial and he was sentenced to death.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in August that Canada “strongly” condemned the court’s decision to uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.
“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” he said, shortly after the ruling was delivered.
“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”
In an emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada reiterated that the federal government remains “strongly opposed” to the decision to arbitrarily impose and uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.
The agency added it “will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to seek clemency for Mr. Schellenberg.”
Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man
Canadian Xu Weihong was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court over drug manufacturing charges on Aug. 6, 2020. They also handed down a life sentence to Wen Guanxiong, whom they claim helped Xu make ketamine.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin justified Xu’s death sentence during a briefing last year, saying that death penalties would help “deter and prevent” similar crimes in the future.
“I would like to stress that China’s judicial authorities handle the relevant case independently in strict accordance with Chinese law and legal procedures,” Wang had said.
He added that “this case should not inflict any impact on China-Canada relations.”
China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs
Ye Jianhui is the fourth Canadian to receive the death penalty in China.
His sentence was handed down in August of last year over charges to manufacture and transport drugs by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court, just one day after Xu’s.
Ye and co-defendant Lu Hanchang conspired with others to manufacture and transport drugs between May 2015 and January 2016, the Associated Press reported last year.
Asked last year if the sentencing of the Canadian drug offenders was linked to Meng’s case, Wang said China’s judicial organs “handle cases independently,” while also adding that “the Canadian side knows the root cause” of difficulties in China-Canadian relations.
Fan Wei was given the death penalty on April 30, 2019 along with 11 others over his involvement in an international methamphetamine operation.
Speaking to Global News the day of his sentencing, Global Affairs Canada said officials attended the sentencing and reading of the verdict. They called on China to grant clemency, adding the decision to apply the “cruel and inhumane” death penalty to Fan’s case was of “extreme concern” to their government.
“Obtaining clemency for Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei is also of primary importance given China’s decision to impose the death penalty in these cases,” Global Affairs Canada said, in an emailed statement to Global News on Sunday.
“Canada will continue to provide consular services to Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, as well as to their families.”
— With files from Global News’ Saba Aziz and Aaron D’Andrea, as well as the Canadian Press, Associated Press and Reuters.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have finally landed in Canada – CTV News
Two Canadians who’ve been imprisoned in China for more than 1,000 days have arrived safely in Canada.
Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, detained on espionage charges since Dec. 10, 2018, arrived at the Calgary International Airport early Saturday morning, following an overnight fuel stop in Alaska.
Footage from CTV News on the tarmac shows several passengers greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a hug, though everyone in the footage is wearing a mask.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told CTV News’ Bill Fortier at the airport that the passengers are indeed the two Michaels. The spokesperson added that it is very emotional moment for both of them and they would not be taking questions.
Later in the day, a smiling Kovrig landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where he was met by his sister and wife. Kovrig briefly spoke to media, where he issued his thanks for the support and said he would have more to say in due time.
“It’s wonderfully fantastic to be back home in Canada,” he told reporters. “I’m so grateful for everybody who worked so hard to bring both of us back home.”
Trudeau announced the two would be returning to Canada in a late-night press conference on Friday, only once the two had left Chinese airspace.
“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet on Saturday. “You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”
News of their release has garnered celebration from across Canada, including from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, as well as from people who knew the two Canadians.
“It’s hard to describe but I’m just so thrilled for him and his family more than anybody else,” Praveen Madhiraju, a colleague of Kovrig’s, told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “This has been a long time coming and we’re just thrilled for this next chapter.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the two Michaels showed “incredible strength” during their detention.
“Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are now home — they, as well as their families, have shown incredible strength, bravery and resilience,” she tweeted on Saturday. “The Canadian government has worked hard to secure their release. We thank everyone involved who helped make it possible.”
The Michaels arrived in Canada just one day after a British Columbia court dropped the extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.
Meng had earlier Friday pleaded not guilty to all charges in a virtual appearance in New York court, where the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.
The two Michaels were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts earlier this year. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in Chinese prison, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.
The detainment of the two Canadians has largely been seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, though China has repeatedly denied any connection between the Michaels and Meng.
Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the swift release of the two Michaels shows that their detainment was in fact retaliatory.
“Obviously this is the acknowledgment that this was really a retaliatory hostage taking for Meng Wanzhou,”
“I think (this is) a triumph for quiet diplomacy, because this was kept very much to wraps. Nobody knew what was going on. I was as surprised as the rest of Canada.”
With files from The Canadian Press
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
The U.S. Travel Association said the ongoing closure of the land borders with Canada and Mexico is costing U.S. businesses an estimated $1.5 billion a month in “travel exports,” which the association defines as spending by foreign residents while visiting the U.S.
Canada reopened its air, land and sea borders to Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Aug. 9. However, the ban on non-essential land travel from Canada and Mexico to the United States was extended last Monday for a 19th month, until Oct. 21.
“My constituents are deeply frustrated by this, particularly given the trade and the relationships that people have across the border,” Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said last week during national security hearings with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“We are very mindful of the economic consequences, and not only the economic consequences but the consequences on family members who haven’t seen one another for quite some time,” Mayorkas replied.
He said the progression of the delta variant of the coronavirus “is not yet where we need it to be” in the U.S., and that there are communities near the U.S.-Mexico border that are also suffering as a result of the closure.
“We are looking at the situation, not only at the ports of entry on our northern border, but also on our southern border,” Mayorkas said.
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“We have heard similar concerns with respect to border communities on the South and the impact, economic and family impact, of the restrictions. We are looking at what we can do operationally, and we are moving in a very sequential and controlled manner.”
Canada, meanwhile, remains the largest single U.S. export market, accounting for nearly 18 per cent of all American goods sent out of the country last year. The two countries trade $1.7 billion worth of goods and services each day, for a total of $614.9 billion in 2020.
What’s happening across Canada
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- N.L. reports 14 new case as 80 per cent of eligible residents now fully vaccinated.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 231.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in mid-September that he would have to spend a “few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19.
The results of his time away from official duties, after he cancelled his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit, could be seen in photos released on Sunday, showing him fishing in Siberia.
Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse bare-chested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.
In Asia, China has provided more than 1.25 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday. President Xi Jinping announced recently that China will provide a total of two billion doses of vaccines for the rest of the world by the end of this year.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales recorded 961 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, government data showed on Sunday.
The state’s first dose vaccination rate has climbed to 85.2 per cent of its population over 16 years of age, while 59.1 per cent of the population has had their second doses.
New South Wales is expected to relax harsh lockdown restrictions that have been in place since June, when its population reaches 80 per cent double vaccinated some time in November.
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