Premier Jason Kenney’s backers sincerely hope their Battle of Alberta ends the very night the monumental Flames-Oilers version begins.
OTTAWA — The New Democrats are confident there will be “no surprises” in the federal budget and that the Liberals will honour spending pledges made in their confidence and supply pact.
Daniel Blaikie, the NDP finance critic, is “confident” that a string of his party’s policy priorities requiring government funds will be in the budget and that the party will not be startled by unexpected omissions.
The budget is “the first test” of the agreement, he said, and the NDP will be watching closely to see if the Liberals deliver on their promises.
The NDP agreed to prop up the minority Liberal government until 2025, including voting for its budget so it passes through the Commons.
In return for support on the budget and confidence motions, it secured a string of policy pledges from the Liberals. Many need funding this year.
They include a $500 one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit, funding for dental care for low-income families, and a big injection of cash in Indigenous housing.
The NDP also secured Liberal support for “moving forward” on taxing the profits that big banks and insurance companies made during the pandemic. The Liberals had promised a temporary corporate tax surcharge on the sector during the 2021 election.
The two parties also agreed to scale back subsidies for oil and gas companies.
While Blaikie has not been told of the contents of the budget in advance, including on whether pledges will be honoured, he said he felt “confident they will be in there.”
A principle behind the agreement is that there would be “no surprises” between the political allies, which could include reneging on a promise.
“I would expect that if there was going to be a surprise, there would have been a heads-up,” Blaikie said.
The NDP is also watching for “signals” in the budget that policies in the deal will move ahead swiftly.
These include more funding to improve home energy efficiency to cut Canadians’ bills and help the environment.
Another pledge is extending the rapid housing initiative to create new affordable homes, including rentals.
The NDP will also be expecting government backing for the creation of a “clean jobs” training centre.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Blaikie said that “while some of the normal doubts continue to be there,” the party is “confident going into this budget that some of our priorities will be seriously reflected in the budget.”
One priority is moving quickly to implement 10 days of paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers, including people working on cross-Canada trains and planes.
The Tories have warned the pledges in the NDP-Liberal agreement could lead to a big increase in spending.
“At some point in time, Canada’s finances have to be reined in, spending has to be reined in,” said Conservative MP and finance critic Ed Fast.
In 2020, the parliamentary budget officer estimated the NDP dental-care plan would cost about $1.7 billion per year.
NDP health critic Don Davies said after receiving a briefing that he is optimistic the government will keep its commitments on dental care and pharmacare in the budget.
The Liberals will need to include funding for dental care in the budget in order to implement it for children under 12 with low or middle family incomes by the end of the year — a key promise laid out in the confidence and supply agreement.
“Things look on track to me,” Davies said in an interview on Wednesday.
Since the Liberal plan would be phased in, Davies said he hoped to see the appropriate amount of funds allocated over several years.
“I would be looking for a commitment that would be consistent with what the parliamentary budget officer estimated we would need,” he said.
Davies also hopes to see some money set aside in the budget for the establishment of the Canadian Drug Agency as the government moves toward pharmacare.
Under the terms of the confidence and supply deal, the NDP will have to vote for the Liberal budget even if they do not agree with all of it, and if it includes millions in military spending.
On Wednesday, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Conservative defence critic, and Pierre Paul-Hus, public services and procurement critic, issued a joint statement saying the decision of the NDP to vote against a Conservative motion calling for a boost in defence spending to meet NATO commitments is “sad and troubling.”
“Today’s vote is proof that this NDP-Liberal government cannot be relied upon to make the necessary investments in our national defence to provide the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces with the equipment they need,” the statement said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2022.
— With files from Laura Osman and Stephanie Taylor
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press
Prague, Czech Republic- As the war between Ukraine and Russia rages on, the Czech Republic has now become the latest country to offer military support to Ukraine.
According to the Czech Republic Presidency, President Milos Zeman has granted 103 citizens a special exemption, allowing them to join the Ukrainian military.
Some 400 volunteers had applied for a waiver with the goal of fighting for Ukraine against Russia.
The country requires special permission signed by the President and the Prime Minister to serve in a foreign military force. Otherwise, they face prosecution at home and potentially a five-year prison term.
In addition, the Defense Ministry then reviews each case individually in cooperation with the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry before forwarding the paperwork to the President’s Office for approval.
At the same time, the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a US$39.8 billion package of military and other assistance to Ukraine.
“Ukrainian people are fighting the fight for their democracy, and in doing so, for ours as well. With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won,” said House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
The package is expected to provide US$6 billion for weaponry, intelligence support, training and other defence assistance to Ukrainian forces, as well as US$8.7 billion to replenish American equipment sent to the country. It will also allocate US$3.9 billion for European Command operations, including intelligence support and hardship pay for troops in the region.
In addition, Legislation also set aside US$13.9 billion for the State Department, with the bulk going toward the Economic Support Fund to help Ukraine’s government continue to function, another US$4.4 billion for emergency food assistance in Ukraine and around the world as well as US$900 million to assist Ukrainian refugees, including housing, English language, trauma and support services.
Kenney will hold an event at Spruce Meadows for supporters, with media also attending, starting late afternoon Wednesday. The results from a vote on his leadership are expected by about 6 p.m.
“We’re anticipating a very exciting and intense evening with the eyes of the entire province glued to a bitterly contested battle, the result of which will reverberate across Alberta maybe for years to come,” says key Kenney campaigner Brock Harrison.
“Oh, and we’re also going to finally see the result of our leadership review.”
The count will come from Cynthia Moore, the UCP president, and chief returning officer Rick Orman.
Shortly after that, the Flames and the Oilers face off at the Saddledome for Game 1 of the second round of Stanley Cup playoff action.
Harrison says, “Although our results won’t be known until the early evening, we will absolutely make sure we’re all wrapped up in good time for people to settle in and watch the game.”
The unforgivable political sin for the next two weeks would be to interfere with the real Battle of Alberta.
In hockey, unlike politics, conflict is right out there on the ice. There’s a serious chance of sportsmanship breaking out, and we know it will be over by May 30 at the latest, with one team clearly the winner.
There’s no certainty at all that the political fight ends Wednesday, even if Kenney wins a majority and can technically stay on as party leader and premier.
Many of his opponents are in no mood to fall into line. New UCP member Brian Jean may not accept the result.
Other caucus members like Peter Guthrie, Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer are unlikely to reconcile with Kenney, even if he has a substantial majority.
The premier is being advised to purge the whole group from caucus, sending them to sit as Independents with already expelled members Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes.
Kenney may not follow that advice right away. Some effort at conciliation is possible.
But after all that’s been said and done in recent months — the anti-Kenney letters and comments from his own MLAs — it’s hard to imagine a sudden burst of goodwill popping up with the spring tulips.
And there’s a chance that the premier doesn’t get a majority and must resign; or that his majority is so small he would still be under extreme pressure to quit.
One curiosity is that the political result, unlike the hockey series, is already decided and has been since May 11.
That was the cutoff date for returned mail-in ballots to reach the auditor, Deloitte Canada in Edmonton. No ballots received later were allowed.
This return mail has been examined for voter verification but the actual ballots remain in their sealed envelopes. They will be opened and counted starting the morning of May 18 — this Wednesday.
Suspicion that envelopes were improperly handled may actually have been amplified by the party’s running livestream of voter ID verification. The sight of people repeatedly opening envelopes and discarding some paper seemed mysterious.
But even Kenney opponents who did some of the work (they were allowed by the party) say there’s no way the verification could have been gamed.
Once voter ID was established, the ballot envelopes were packed into clear plastic boxes, each sealed with a unique code.
When the votes are counted Wednesday, dozens of people will be present including scrutineers from hostile UCP riding associations.
That doesn’t answer questions about membership sales, some of which are now being investigated by Elections Alberta. In today’s political climate, there’s always doubt.
That’s one reason the hockey series is so welcome. At least we’ll be absolutely sure who won.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon are holding primary elections on Tuesday. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the the most anticipated contests — the Keystone State’s Republican Senate and gubernatorial races — and previews other races we’re watching, including the Republican gubernatorial primary in Idaho, where the lieutenant governor is challenging the sitting governor for the GOP nomination, and the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, where Rep. Madison Cawthorn is facing seven challengers from his own party after revelations of numerous scandals.
The team also looks at FiveThirtyEight’s latest collaboration with Ipsos, in which Americans are asked about the issues they care about the most in the run-up to the midterms. The first poll is all about inflation.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
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