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Conservatives may support part of the Liberal government’s affordability plan on GST

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OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives openedthe door on Wednesday to supporting part of the Liberal government’s affordability plan in one of their first moves with Pierre Poilievre as the new party leader.

Tory MPs used their first caucus meeting since Parliament resumed sitting this week to discuss the proposal, which includes the first phase of a dental-care plan and the temporary doubling of GST credits.

The Liberal government tabled two bills on Tuesday that would put about $4.5 billion towards measures to help Canadians deal with the rising costs associated with inflation.

At first blush last week, Poilievre slammed the affordability package as nothing more than reckless government spending, which could risk worsening inflation — a criticism the Liberals rejected as false, saying the measures are targeted to help those who are most in need and don’t have savings to dip into to guard against cost increases.

But emerging from Wednesday’s caucus meeting, Conservative MP Michael Barrett said the party may support the bill promising to double GST credits, though it won’t support the legislation to create a new dental benefit for children in low-income households.

Barrett says that while Tories don’t believe the GST policy is the best way to help families struggling with the cost of living, they recognize it is still one way to do so.

“We have been calling for the government to offer Canadians real tax relief and if this is what it looks like when the prime minister is starting to pay attention to the affordability crisis, we’ll take it up in the (House of Commons) and may support it.”

The government has said doubling GST rebates temporarily could mean a family of four would receive close to an extra $500 this fall and that 11 million households would benefit.

No matter which way the Conservatives decide to vote, the affordability bills are destined to pass, thanks to the federal New Democrats.

The Trudeau government struck a deal withJagmeet Singh’s NDP earlier this year that would see the party support the minority Liberals in exchange for advancing certain priorities of theirs, including dental care.

The NDP has also pushed the Liberals to double GST rebates.

Under the proposed dental-care bill, households with an annual income of less than $90,000 would qualify to receive $650 per child under 12 to cover dental-care costs.

The Canada Revenue Agency has said parents will be expected to keep the receipts from their kids’ dental-care expenses. The government, however, has signalled it won’t go after families who don’t spend every single cent on their children’s teeth.

Barrett said sending $650 to families is not a dental-care plan and the measure would infringe on the jurisdiction of provinces, which deliver health care.

Conservatives believe cutting taxes would be the best way to respond to the financial crunch Canadians find themselves under thanks to the country’s inflation rate and high food costs.

Poilievre has charged that Trudeau’s government should not only scrap the national carbon price that consumers pay on goods like gas, but also cancel planned increases to mandatory payroll deductions for the Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance premiums.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that plan wouldn’t save Canadians much.

“We’ve done some calculations,” she said. “The Conservative proposal on freezing EI premiums would mean that you and I don’t have to pay $31 a year. That’s it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2022.

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Joly to raise abortion, sexual violence in closing UN speech

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OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is urging countries to uphold women’s rights and abortion access while rooting out sexual violence, as the United Nations General Assembly comes to a close.

In a speech today in New York, Joly will summarize Canada’s priorities and concerns in foreign relations.

That includes being part of “a global coalition in support of equality” that will “defend against the growing attacks on women’s rights and freedoms,” according to drafted remarks in French.

“Sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls are being rolled back or denied in too many countries,” Joly’s drafted remarks say.

“Canada will always stand up for your right to choose.”

Though the drafted section on women’s rights does not mention the United States, Joly’s comments come after months of backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court allowing states to ban abortions, with some seeking to prosecute those who help women end their pregnancies in other jurisdictions.

Joly’s remarks instead mention women targeted by autocratic governments, such as the Taliban preventing Afghan girls from attending school. She calls out Myanmar’s military junta imprisoning female democracy activists and sexually assaulting Rohingya women.

The speech cites Iran’s crackdown on protesters seeking accountability after the death of Mahsa Amini, when morality police arrested her for “unsuitable attire” in allegedly wearing a hijab improperly. Joly also notes Ukrainian women have been subjected to sexual violence by occupying Russian forces.

Joly argues deliberate policy choices are resulting in rising violence against women, who are excluded from “the negotiating table, the boardroom, the classroom.”

The speech is likely to take place around noon local time, and will include some of the themes raised last week in New York by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His remarks surrounded climate change and international development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Military en route to assist with recovery efforts

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Residents of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec are coming to terms with the full scope of the damage left behind after post-tropical storm Fiona tore through the region over the weekend as one of the strongest storms Canada’s East Coast has ever faced.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are being deployed to help with recovery efforts, with federal Defence Minister Anita Anand saying Sunday that about 100 troops a piece were either in place or en route to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to provide assistance with the cleanup effort.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the immediate need is to provide food and shelter for those displaced by the storm, which is why the federal government is matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross.

However, he added that Ottawa will work with provinces to determine what is needed for recovery from a financial perspective, especially for Canadians who have lost everything. He said the first priority is the restoration of power and utilities, as well as clearing roadways to get essential supplies to those who need them.

At Fiona’s peak on Saturday, more than 500,000 customers across Atlantic Canada were without power, but by early Monday morning that number had been lowered to less than 300,000, with the vast majority in Nova Scotia. But even as crews workaround the clock to repair downed lines, some utility companies warned it could be days before the power is back on for everyone.

Authorities in western Newfoundland confirmed Fiona’s first Canadian fatality on Sunday. RCMP said a 73-year-old woman’s body was recovered from the water more than 24 hours after a massive wave struck her home, tearing away part of the basement. Her name was not immediately released.

The cause of death of a second person on P.E.I. has yet to be determined, but the Island’s acting director of public safety told a news conference that preliminary findings pointed towards “generator use.” No further details were provided.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Industry minister to represent Canada at former Japanese PM’s funeral

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OTTAWA — Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will represent Canada at former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral this week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to visit Japan and attend Tuesday’s funeral, but cancelled those plans to oversee recovery efforts after post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged much of eastern Canada and parts of Quebec.

Describing Abe as a friend and ally of Canada, Champagne says the former Japanese prime minister played an important role bringing the two countries closer together.

Trudeau was slated to meet current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as Japan prepares to take over as president of the G7 and the Liberal government finalizes its new Indo-Pacific strategy.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Champagne says he doesn’t know if he will meet Kishida on behalf of Trudeau.

But he says in addition to paying respects to Abe, he expects to meet Japanese officials to discuss the bilateral relationship and areas of mutual co-operation.

“Certainly, I think Prime Minister Kishida knows how deeply engaged we have been, certainly on the industrial, commercial and economic front,” he said.

“And we’ll be meeting with a number of people. I just don’t know if the meeting with the prime minister will still be happening.”

Champagne was in Japan delivering a speech to business representatives in Tokyo when Abe was assassinated by a gunman in July.

The industry minister says it was a surreal moment when he learned the former Japanese prime minister had been killed.

“I was literally giving a speech,” Champagne said. “I was like three-quarters into it and suddenly I started to see people looking at their phones. And someone came to the podium and advised me that something very tragic had happened.”

Abe’s state funeral is a sensitive topic in Japan, where such memorials are uncommon and the late leader’s legacy remains disputed.

Abe, a conservative nationalist in a country that embraced pacifism after the Second World War, was assassinated with a homemade firearm nearly three months ago.

In a reflection of deep divisions, an elderly man reportedly set himself on fire to protest the funeral, and more demonstrations are expected in the coming days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

⁠— With files from The Associated Press.

 

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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