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Conservatives accused of 'playing politics' in the House, raising questions about pandemic election – CBC.ca

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All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one.

Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government’s legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions of dollars in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election.

The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons agenda to prioritize the right bills, while other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame.

“They’re playing politics all the time in the House. It’s delay, delay, delay — and eventually that delay becomes obstruction,” Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview, referring to the Conservatives.

“It’s absurd. I think it’s insulting to Canadians, and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force … because of the games played by the Conservatives.”

Conservatives blocking legislative agenda, Liberals say

Rodriguez pointed to the three hours last week that the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president.

That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government’s plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill. It contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it.

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, shown last September, says the Conservatives have delayed the government’s agenda to the point of obstruction. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with “in a second.”

That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall’s economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries.

That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed on Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny.

‘Modest debate’ warranted: O’Toole

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has argued that “modest debate” is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation.

Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling.

O’Toole says ‘modest debate’ is necessary to review C-14, a federal COVID-19 relief bill that he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government’s response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26.

Conservatives say they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate, but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments.

Liberals can’t cut debates short alone

For Rodriguez, it all adds up to “a pattern” of obstruction aimed at blocking the government’s legislative agenda.

Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it’s inappropriate in a pandemic, when “people are dying by the dozens every day.”

If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it’s not likely to get.

In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote.

Opposition parties point fingers

But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez.

“The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda,” he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that “my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.”

Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees that the Liberals have “mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities.” But he doesn’t exempt the Conservatives.

He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is “deplorable.”

“These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters,” Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O’Toole is having trouble controlling the “religious right” in his caucus.

NDP House leader Peter Julian says he feels the Liberals are angling for an election, while the Conservatives focus on blocking bills. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election.

“We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering,” he said in an interview.

Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, such as the election bill, while “vitally important” bills, including one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish.

The intention of the Liberals, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of “all these important things we couldn’t get done.” And the Conservatives “seem to want to play into this narrative” by blocking the bills the government does put forward.

Rodriguez must be at ‘wits end’: May

Veteran Green Party MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be “at his wits’ end.”

“What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple,” she said in an interview.

She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural “tomfoolery” but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being “in cahoots,” putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports.

“It’s mostly the Conservatives, but they’re in league,” May said.

“They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we’ve accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy.”

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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