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Canada expelling diplomat accused of targeting MP Michael Chong’s family

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The federal government is expelling a diplomat accused of targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong’s family.

The government has been under intense pressure to sanction Zhao Wei, who reportedly played a role in attempts to gather information on Chong’s family in Hong Kong in 2021 following the MP’s condemnation of Beijing’s conduct in the Xinjiang region as genocide.

“We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behaviour, they will be sent home.”

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A government source told CBC that Zhao has five days to leave Canada.

The Globe and Mail, citing a top secret document from 2021, reported last week that the Chinese government was targeting a Canadian MP. An unnamed security source reportedly told The Globe that Zhao was allegedly working on efforts to target Chong’s family in China.

The government briefed Chong last week — but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have maintained that the report in question was never shared at the ministerial level in 2021.

Trudeau’s national security adviser Jody Thomas said the information was shared with the Privy Council Office (PCO). Trudeau said last week that he’ll compel CSIS to share intelligence with the government about threats to MPs in light of the Chong case.

Chong said the government should have taken similar action “years ago.”

“The fact is, we’ve become somewhat of a playground for foreign interference threat activities,” he told reporters outside the House of Commons on Monday.

 

Expelling Chinese diplomat ‘shouldn’t have taken this long’: Conservative MP

 

Conservative MP Michael Chong says the government should have expelled Zhao Wei as soon as it knew he was involved in Beijing’s reported effort to target his family.

Chong pointed out that community representatives have been warning for years about Beijing targeting diaspora communities in Canada.

“My hope is that this sends a clear message to authoritarian states that these kinds of activities are completely incompatible with being a diplomat in this country,” he said.

Chong said he hasn’t been in touch with his family in Hong Kong “out of an abundance of caution.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said it was “appalling” that the government took so long to make a decision on Zhao.

“This is unacceptable,” McPherson told reporters Monday. “Taking care of Canadians’ safety, making sure that every member in this House can do the job that they need to do, is vital.”

During a House committee appearance last week, Joly said the government was weighing the blowback from Beijing that would result from expelling Zhao.

“This decision has been taken after careful consideration of all the factors at play,” Joly said in her statement on Monday.

Speaking to CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Liberal MP Rob Oliphant said the government took the time to act “appropriately and carefully.”

 

Canada should expect China to retaliate over diplomat expulsion, says ex-ambassador

 

Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, expects some form of response from Beijing, but not anything egregious. ‘I don’t think they will take anyone hostage,’ he added, in a reference to the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

“We know there will be ramifications, and so it’s the minister’s responsibility to act and to act carefully,” Oliphant told host David Cochrane.

National security expert Wesley Wark said it can take time to build up enough of a case to expel a diplomat. But given that the government appeared to have information on Zhao dating back to 2021, he said, the decision should have been made sooner.

“It’s all unfolded in an unfortunate and, I think, peculiar manner,” Wark told CBC.

Beijing promises retaliation

The Chinese embassy in Canada said in a media statement that it strongly condemns the decision to expel the diplomat and denies interfering in Canada’s affairs. It promised retaliatory action if the government goes any further.

“If the Canadian side acts recklessly, China will firmly fight back resolutely and forcefully,” the statement said.

Wark said he suspects that if Beijing retaliates, it will opt for a “tit-for-tat” response and expel one of Canada’s diplomats.

The Conservatives  put forward a motion in the House that called for, among other things, the expulsion of diplomats involved in foreign interference. The motion — which also calls for a public inquiry into foreign interference and the establishment of a foreign agents registry — passed Thursday with the support of NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green MPs.

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Mechanical podium, playfully dubbed 'explodium,' aims to even B.C.'s political field – Times Colonist

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VICTORIA — It was a sizable British Columbia political issue that called for a one-size-fits-all solution, says Premier David Eby, who at six-foot-seven is the province’s tallest leader.

The tall and the short needed evening out as matters of perception and fairness, he said.

Eby towers over most people at news conferences but is juxtaposed with Selina Robinson, minister of post-secondary education and future skills, who at four-foot-11 often needs to stand on boxes to reach the microphone.

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The solution: a mechanical podium, which debuted shortly after Eby took office late last year. It can be moved up or down with the flick of a switch to suit the size of the person delivering remarks at a political event.

“You might describe me as an unusually tall person, or disturbingly tall person to some people,” Eby told reporters last week. “My colleague Selina Robinson is a much tinier person and we have a whole range of people in between, so the podium moves up and down to accommodate everybody’s ability to speak.” 

The premier said people have expressed surprise — and thanks — as the podium lifts or lowers to accommodate their height.

One such person was Tracy Redies, chief executive officer at Vancouver’s Science World, who joined Eby for a news conference last month where the province announced $20 million to repair the iconic domed building’s leaky roof. 

“This pulpit’s amazing,” she said. “The science, the technology.”

Eby said the podium, which has gained the nickname “explodium” at the legislature, is a functional success.

“It’s an important innovation in B.C. where we are never short of innovations or remarkable ways to solve problems,” he said with a chuckle. “When we go to events around the community, it does draw attention from speakers who aren’t used to it, especially when it moves unexpectedly. I think everybody enjoys it. It’s fun and it works.”

But, some concerns about the podium have been raised by the Opposition BC United and a communications expert who suggests the structure reinforces old-school political traditions.

BC United finance critic Peter Milobar said the Opposition has questions about the cost of the podium, but the government hasn’t provided answers.

“We all understand the premier is tall, but the fact we need these extra-wide, telescopic-type podiums just seems to be a potentially expensive thing for the taxpayer,” he said.

Milobar said it appears the podium is more of a political prop used to enhance Eby’s image.

“It’s fair to say I’m not an average-sized person, but I’m not too worried about which podium I’m standing behind to make important political announcements,” he said.

While Eby’s podium is not the biggest news story at the legislature, it symbolizes the stereotyped visual culture of politics, said David Black, a political communications expert at Victoria’s Royal Roads University.

“I think the podium, where you want to adjust for a tall person like David Eby or a shorter person like Selina Robinson, is all about just creating this necessary visual conformity so that no one is stepping on the message,” he said.

B.C.’s development of a podium that fits all sizes is a metaphor for a political culture that is resistant to change, Black said.

“When you break the visual code or political style or tamper with conservative visual culture when it comes to politics, you step on the message,” he said. “It becomes, fairly or not, read as a gaffe, sometimes a career-ending gaffe.”

Former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day was widely criticized more than two decades ago for arriving at a B.C. lakeside news conference riding a Jet Ski, Black said.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama faced fierce criticism for wearing a tan-coloured suit, he said.

“He wore a tan-coloured suit and it was the end of American democracy,” Black said.

But federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s backyard neighbourhood video statements are signs of a politician looking to break visual codes, as was former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s “everyman” appearance, said Black.

“My question is, in some sense, do we need to rethink the language of politics, the visual style of politics, because is it exhausted?” he said. “Is it obsolete? Has it exhausted its reassuring quality?”

Robinson said she’s pleased with the fairness of the podium, especially after years of standing on crates to raise her profile.

“Having a podium that actually fits me is great, and one that fits the premier is great,” she said.

“This is an accessibility piece of furniture and I think it works the way it’s supposed to. It’s recognizing we all come in different shapes and sizes and having furniture that fits us regardless of how tall or small we are is a good thing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Trump, DeSantis battle for Republican nomination turns race into political trench warfare – The Globe and Mail

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Then-U.S. President Donald Trump introduces Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s bombs away in the American presidential race.

There was no pause for mobilization, no early ceasefire, no “phony war,” in the struggle for the Republican campaign for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination. In only a few days’ time, the battle between former president Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis has developed into total warfare.

For months, the two shadow-boxed with each other – Mr. Trump lobbing talking-point grenades into the DeSantis camp; the Florida chief executive ignoring them, as if the attacks lacked the potential to detonate.

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That phase is over now, with – if you permit the expression – a bang.

The pins have been pulled, the two sides are engaged in explosive exchanges, and the political landscape of the Republican Party – as recently as two decades ago resembling nothing so much as the manicured green of the 13th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the fabled Masters Tournament – has been transformed into a battlefield.

It is well to recall that the Iowa caucuses, the first tests of the campaign, are seven months away.

And yet the campaign rapidly has assumed the character of trench warfare. Mr. Trump’s high command is accusing the DeSantis camp of political plagiarism, stealing the main themes of the 45th president. The DeSantis campaign is arguing that Mr. Trump’s time has passed and that, in any case, he failed to pass into law the principal elements of the new Republican agenda.

And like the fixed battle positions of the First World War, the two sides are settling into a situation where they may be engaged in an endless set of explosive exchanges. In terms of ideology, it resembles a race to the right. In terms of manners, it may be a race to the bottom.

Mr. DeSantis accused Mr. Trump – who, in three presidential campaigns and four years in the White House, has cultivated the Republican right – of abandoning his onetime political profile. “It seems like he’s running to the left, and I have always been somebody that’s just been moored in conservative principles,” he said.

A Trump spokesman, Steven Cheung, referred to Mr. DeSantis’s botched Twitter Space campaign debut, saying, “He can’t run away from his disastrous, embarrassing, and low-energy campaign announcement. Rookie mistakes and unforced errors – that’s who he is.”

And so it went in the first days of this new phase in the campaign.

Never in contemporary American politics has a nomination race devolved into so much bitterness so quickly.

Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas barked at Vice-President George H.W. Bush, demanding, “Stop lying about my record,” but that outburst occurred after the 1988 New Hampshire primary, not months before it.

Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a navy veteran of the Vietnam War, once warned that the Democrats should not nominate Bill Clinton in 1992 because the Arkansas governor had manoeuvred to avoid the draft in those years; Mr. Kerrey said the Republicans would “open him up like a soft peanut” – a tough riposte, but it didn’t occur until the last week of February, not, like the Trump-DeSantis fray, in May the year before voters get into the act.

“You can thank social media for this atmosphere,” said David Carney, a veteran Republican strategist not affiliated with either campaign and with deep roots in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary. “It’s easy to do, it gets coverage and it fast-forwards a back-and-forth that in other times would take a few weeks to conduct. Candidates today think they will be rewarded for this, but undecided voters are not watching Twitter.”

All this raises two vital questions: Can these two keep up the passion and decibel level of their confrontation for several more months? And will the hostilities between them create an opening for another contender, or maybe two?

If, for example, the bombardment between the two candidates leaves one of them mortally wounded, nature (and the nature of American presidential politics) abhors a vacuum. One of the other candidates – perhaps one of the South Carolinians, former governor Nikki Haley or Senator Tim Scott, or perhaps one of the sitting governors who has not declared a candidacy, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire or Glenn Youngkin of Virginia – might emerge.

And a contest that is marked by bombast and explosions might welcome the entry of former governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, famous for his debilitating attack on Senator Marco Rubio eight years ago, when he accused the Florida lawmaker of being the practitioner of a “memorized 25-second speech” that was “exactly what his advisers gave him.”

Mr. Sununu has a touch of the caustic in him, as he once said of Mr. Trump, “I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out.” No one wonders whom former governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas was speaking of when he said the GOP needs “somebody that brings out the best of our country and doesn’t appeal to our worst instincts.”

And in a contest where the charges of plagiarism are being tossed around – charges that forced Joe Biden out of his 1988 presidential race before the first contests of the political season – Mr. Youngkin has the moral high ground. It was his 2021 gubernatorial campaign that pioneered the notion of “parental rights” in public schools that now is part of every candidate’s portfolio.

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Analyst says pressure is on Kevin McCarthy to deliver. Hear why – CNN

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Analyst says pressure is on Kevin McCarthy to deliver. Hear why

CNN’s David Gergen and Manu Raju say that the pressure is on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to deliver a divided Republican conference to support an agreement on the debt ceiling.


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