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Jagmeet Singh’s politics are about convincing folks he can force Trudeau to do things he doesn’t want to do

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New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during an availability on Parliament Hill, on Jan. 19 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Nearly every question NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gets these days is about what it would take to make him defeat Justin Trudeau’s government.

His party has roughly the same power to defeat the Liberals in this Parliament as it did in the last one. But since March, when the NDP struck a deal to support the Liberals in confidence votes till 2025 in return for some policy concessions, the ever-present NDP question is when Mr. Singh will trigger an election. Or why he won’t.

How can he complain about Trade Minister Mary Ng arranging a contract for a friend, critics ask, while he props up Mr. Trudeau’s government? On Thursday, after a caucus meeting, reporters wanted to know whether he will trigger an election if Mr. Trudeau doesn’t stop provinces from expanding the private delivery of health care.

In truth, Mr. Singh never actually delivers an ultimatum but often leaves a veiled threat in the air.

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His politics now centre on convincing people he is forcing Mr. Trudeau to do things he doesn’t want to do.

“My goal isn’t to find an excuse to have an election. My goal is to actually get the thing done,” Mr. Singh said in an interview in his Parliament Hill office. “I was careful with my words because I’m not trying to find a loophole where I can say, “Oh – this is broken. I’m going to an election.’”

The deal suits the NDP’s desire to avoid an election right now. But none of the parties in Parliament are itching for one just yet. And in a sense, the agreement fits the traditional modus operandi of the federal NDP: trying to extract concessions from the party in power.

But the agreement to support the Liberals till 2025, leaves Mr. Singh constantly having to make the case that he is getting something out of it. And that he can criticize the Liberals while propping them up.

“I think you can do both. You can listen to the will of Canadians that have sent us here in a minority government, two in a row. If I interpret the will of Canadians, it’s ‘Work for us.’”

“We have an agreement where we force the government to do a number of things,” he said. “And we can critique them when they are doing things that don’t make sense or we don’t agree with.”

He argued that triggering an early election means giving up things like a national dental care program. “There might come a time that we have to do that. But in the meantime we’re going to fight to get people the help that they need,” he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Liberal government issued cheques to low-income renters last year, and made a start of sorts on a dental-care program by issuing cheques to parents of kids under 12 below an income threshold. “They’re doing things they fought against. They fought against dental care,” Mr. Singh said.

In 2023, the deal calls for the passage of a legal framework for a future pharmacare program, in addition to actually implementing a real dental care program for lower-income minors and seniors. “This is going to be the big year,” Mr. Singh said.

Now he is adding new demands, notably a call for the Liberals to “stop the privatization of health care” – and a complaint that Mr. Trudeau hasn’t objected to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s move to pay private clinics to perform a larger number of cataract surgeries.

He is calling for Mr. Trudeau to set conditions on new health care funding that would require provinces to only use federal money for publicly delivered health care.

At a time when most premiers are insisting there should be no strings attached to federal funding, Mr. Singh is demanding more. “Absolutely,” he said, arguing that federal health funds should not be used to make profits for private companies. “I think it’s reasonable for Canadians to expect that the money that we are spending on health care goes to health care.”

But as time goes on, Mr. Singh will keep having to make the case that the NDP is forcing the Liberals to adopt its policies – while the Liberals try to take credit with left-leaning voters. And what voters might remember most is how the deal ends.

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Petr Pavel: Polyglot, war hero, and the new Czech president – Euronews

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Ex-general Petr Pavel has won another gritty campaign — this time at the ballot box.

The bearded 61-year-old, a decorated veteran who took part in a high-stakes peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and represented his country as a top-tier NATO general, was voted Czech president on Saturday, beating billionaire ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš.

With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babiš.

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Though Czech presidents wield little day-to-day power, Pavel will have influence over foreign policy and government opinion, as well as the power to appoint prime ministers, constitutional judges and central bankers.

True to his military past, he has vowed to bring “order” to the Czech Republic, a 10 million-strong EU and NATO member, hammered by record inflation and economic turmoil due to the Ukraine war.

“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.

“We need to change this,” he added. “We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep.”

From Communist to war hero

Following in his father’s footsteps, Pavel underwent a military education in former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.

He joined the Communist Party, like his billionaire rival Babiš, and soon rose through the army ranks, studying to become an intelligence agent for the oppressive regime.

Critics fault him for his communist past, though Pavel has defended himself by saying party membership was “normal” in his family and called it a “mistake”.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989, Pavel chucked out his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.

Amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Pavel — trained as an elite paratrooper and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time — helped evacuate French troops stuck in the midst of combat between Croats and ethnic Serb paramilitaries in Croatia, earning him the French Military Cross for bravery.

“We got into several tense situations and he always managed them with deliberation and calm,” said retired Czech general Aleš Opata, who served with Pavel.

He later studied at military training schools in Britain, gaining a master’s from King’s College London.

After his country joined NATO in 1999, Pavel soon climbed through the alliance’s ranks, becoming its top military official in 2015. 

With a chest full of decorations, he retired in 2018.

What are his political views?

Pavel ran as an independent and was the strongest of the three candidates backed by the liberal-conservative coalition SPOLU of now-former President Miloš Zeman.

He has argued for better redistribution of wealth and greater taxation of the rich while also supporting progressive policies on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Positioning himself as a counterweight to populism, Pavel anchors the Czech Republic in NATO and wants to align his country with the European Union.

“The main issue at stake is whether chaos and populism will continue to rein or we return to observing rules… and we will be a reliable country for our allies,” he said after narrowly winning the first election round.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine, Pavel’s political rivals have alleged he would drag the country into a war with Russia.

“I know what war is about and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” said Pavel. “The first thing I would do is try to keep the country as far away from war as possible.”

Often sporting jeans and a leather jacket, Pavel is a polyglot, speaking Czech, English, French and Russian, and loves motorcycling.

He holds a concealed weapon licence, allowing him to carry a firearm, and he is married to a fellow soldier, Eva Pavlová.

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Canadian and American Politics

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THIS SURVEY EXPLORES CANADIANS’ AND AMERICANS’ PERSPECTIVES ON CANADIAN AND AMERICAN POLITICS.

Our latest North American Tracker explores Canadians’ and Americans’ perspectives on Canadian and American politics.

It examines Canadians’ federal voting intentions and Americans’ approval of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Download the report for the full results.

This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and published in the Canadian Press. This series of surveys is available on Leger’s website.

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CANADIAN POLITICS

  • The Conservatives and Liberals are tied: if a federal election were held today, 34% of Canadian decided voters would vote for Pierre Poilievre’s CPC and the same proportion would vote for Justin Trudeau’s LPC.

AMERICAN POLITICS

  • 42% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president.
  • 40% of Americans approve of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice-president.

METHODOLOGY

This web survey was conducted from January 20 to 22, 2023, with 1,554 Canadians and 1,005 Americans, 18 years of age or older, randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison, a probability sample of 1,554 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.49%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,005 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.09%, 19 times out of 20.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS THE RESULTS FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND MORE!

  • If federal elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?  Would it be for…?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice president?​
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Legault won’t celebrate 25 years in politics

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Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year.

He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.

In a news conference on Friday at the end of a caucus meeting of his party’s elected officials in a Laval hotel, the CAQ leader said that neither he nor his party had any intention of celebrating this anniversary.

“I don’t like these things,” he said.

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He pointed out that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he alluded to the U.S. President.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, apart from that!” he said.

Legault is 65 years old, while the President is 80.

However, Legault is now the dean of the House. According to recent data, he has served as an elected official for 20 years, 6 months, and 27 days so far.

The premier was quick to add, however, that he has taken a break from politics.

He resigned on June 24, 2009 as a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), then in opposition. But he was elected as an MNA and leader of the then-new Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on Sept. 4, 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 27, 2023.

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