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NP View: Liberals playing politics with border closures – National Post

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The government’s approach seems to be: strenuously urge people to get their vaccines, promise relief when a certain level is achieved, then change the requirements when the goal has been reached

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It’s a bit of good fortune for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that he finally found someone able to take on the role of governor general full time.

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It’s been more than six months since Julie Payette was pressured into resigning from the job, and it would have been embarrassing for the Trudeau government to find itself barrelling towards an expected fall election without someone at Rideau Hall who would be able to perform the required formalities.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner has been filling in since Payette’s departure, but a government hoping to regain office on a presumed basis of competence really should be able to recruit someone to represent the Queen on more than a part-time basis.

Mary Simon may not yet be well known to Canadians, but her career and history suggest that she’s well suited to the position. Her status as the first Indigenous person to serve as governor general is also a plus for the prime minister, as it will enable him to boast of making a historic decision, rather than answering inconvenient questions about how he managed to bungle his previous choice so badly.

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With that item on the re-election agenda out of the way, Liberal strategists will be able move on to finding other ways of enhancing their campaign hopes.

High on the list should be the status of the border with the United States, and the curious — to put it politely — rules governing passage in and out of Canada’s southern neighbour. While Liberals like to claim they’ve done a superlative job of controlling the border throughout the pandemic, at the moment, as National Post columnist Sabrina Maddeaux noted this week, “the border isn’t closed and has never been, so long as one can afford a plane ticket.”

It’s easy enough to travel to and from U.S. destinations with little more than a quick COVID check on return, as long as it’s by air. Crossing the same border in a car or other vehicle for “nonessential” travel remains forbidden, other than for a confusing array of exceptions, exemptions, workarounds or special cases.

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To skip the barriers, it helps if you have the resources to exploit one of gaps in the government’s policy: the large number of people deemed “essential” is more a testament to the ability of large corporations and smart bosses to find loopholes for their employees, than the actual number of positions society requires for continued survival.

Yet, despite their skill at poking holes in the border ban, business leaders continue pleading for a clear plan to reopen the border that will allow them to make decisions over the longer term. “All anyone is asking for — whether you are an individual Canadian, a couple, a family or a business of any size — is some sense of a plan that’s predictable and clear,” said Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada. Instead, like so much else related to the pandemic, what Ottawa has delivered is a continually moving target.

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At one point, the Trudeau government indicated that restrictions could be relaxed when 75 per cent of Canadians had at least one dose of vaccine, and 20 per cent had both doses. But we met that target in June, and Ottawa extended the closure for another 30 days anyway. Last week, Trudeau upped the target again, suggesting that, “We have to get up over 75 per cent fully vaccinated, up into the 80 per cent range fully vaccinated perhaps … if we’re going to be safe.”

Anyone familiar with Joseph Heller’s classic war novel, “Catch-22,” recalls how its hero, Capt. John Yossarian, was regularly told he could go home after completing a set number of bombing missions, only to have the number raised again each time he met the target. The Trudeau government seems to have adopted a similar approach: strenuously urge people to get their vaccines, promise relief when a certain level is achieved, then change the requirements when the goal has been reached.

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Indeed, as the number of vaccinated Canadians rises, federal officials have started warning about new strains of the virus and the danger they might represent, as a means of justifying their refusal to stick to the schedule. Any time an outbreak occurs anywhere in the world, it’s another opportunity for Canadian officials to disavow the existing target and set a new one.

If there’s light at the end of this tunnel, it may be the same one that led the Trudeau government to finally fill the vacant position at Rideau Hall: it’s inconceivable that Liberals would want to seek re-election while the border remains closed, as the millions of inconvenienced Canadians may punish them for it at the polls.

It seems likely, therefore, that existing restrictions will be lifted just in time for Liberal candidates to celebrate the opening as they go knocking on doors, turning their dismal handling of the matter into an opportunity to congratulate themselves on their wisdom and prowess.

If that suggests the Trudeau government places its own well-being ahead of that of ordinary Canadians, and is willing to use its position to improve its electoral chances at the expense of hard-pressed businesses and individuals … well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  1. The Canada-U.S. border crossing is seen amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Lacolle, Que., on April 17, 2020.

    Sabrina Maddeaux: Trudeau’s border closure is a sham designed to only allow the rich to travel. Time to put an end to it

  2. Fatim Ali holds her baby at Toronto's Pearson International airport after arriving from Sudan earlier this year.

    Chris Selley: Welcome home, fully vaccinated Canadian adults! (But not your kids)

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Italy’s Mr. Fix-It Tries to Fix the Country’s Troubled Justice System — and Its Politics, Too – The New York Times

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The issue has become a test for whether Prime Minister Mario Draghi can really change Italy.

LODI — If there is one person who does not have to be persuaded of the need for Italy’s urgent push for judicial reform — which Prime Minister Mario Draghi has staked his leadership on — it is the former mayor of the northern town of Lodi, Simone Uggetti.

Early one morning, Lodi’s financial police knocked on his door, hauled him off to prison, strip searched him and put him in a small cell with a convicted murderer and a drug dealer. It was the start of a five-year ordeal — over the awarding of city contracts, worth 5,000 euros, to manage two public pools — that was used by his political opponents to destroy his career, his credibility, his reputation and his family.

“Who are you? You’re the mayor who got arrested, all your life,” Mr. Uggetti said this week, still visibly shaken by the experience, which ended only in May when an appeals court absolved him, saying no crime had ever taken place. He wept in court. “It was the end of a nightmare,” Mr. Uggetti said. “Five years is a long time.”

Such cases are all too common in Italy, where the far-reaching power of sometimes ideologically driven magistrates can be used to pursue political vendettas or where businesses can easily become ensnared in cumbersome and daunting litigation that is among the slowest in Europe.

Mr. Draghi is so convinced Italy’s courts need fixing that he has said he is willing to risk his government’s survival on the issue, by putting to a confidence vote new legislation that would shorten civil and criminal proceedings. Without speedier trials, he argues, all the economic renewal and political change required in Italy will not come — and there is a lot that needs changing.

Elisabetta Zavoli for The New York Times

On Thursday evening, the government announced it had reached a unanimous agreement with a broad array of interests in the government. A vote will take place in coming days.

“The objective is to guarantee a speedy justice system that respects the reasonable duration of a trial,” Marta Cartabia, Italy’s justice minister, said Thursday night after the announcement. “But also guarantees that no trial goes up in smoke.”

The issue has become the first major test, beyond vaccinations, of whether Mr. Draghi, a titan of the European Union who helped save the euro, can leverage his formidable Mr. Fix-It reputation and the grand political coalition behind him to solve a long-festering problem that has threatened the democratic process and economy in Italy, the last of Europe’s major powers to escape far-reaching overhauls of its postwar systems.

Mr. Draghi’s gambit has all the potential to change a country where, as the saying goes, “you aren’t anybody unless you are under investigation.” It is nothing less than an attempt to restore Italians’ confidence in their political leaders and institutions after decades of anti-establishment vitriol, angry headlines and social media invective.

The threat of endless litigation, Mr. Draghi has argued, scares off foreign investors, constrains growing Italian companies, and could even keep Italy from meeting the requirements imposed by the European Union to gain its share of a more than 200 billion euro post-Covid recovery fund.

“Justice is one of the keystones of the recovery,” said Claudio Cerasa, the editor of il Foglio, a newspaper that has emerged as the voice of protecting the rights of defendants, and also frustrated accusers, from slow and politicized justice. He said Mr. Draghi “depoliticizes the conflict and brings it on a different level, which is the Draghi trademark, he transforms everything into common sense.”

Still, it is no easy task. But Mr. Draghi is betting that, after many decades, the political winds around the issue have shifted in his favor.

Justice emerged as perhaps the central theme of contemporary Italian politics in 1992, when the watermark Clean Hands investigation exposed complex, vast and systemic corruption that financed the country’s political parties.

The scandal came to be known as Bribesville and brought down a ruling class, marking the end of Italy’s First Republic after World War II.

Prosecutors became public heroes and, capitalizing on the spreading impression that all politicians were guilty of something, stepped into the power vacuum.

But so did Silvio Berlusconi, the brash media mogul, who became prime minister and a constant target of prosecutors who investigated him for corruption and other crimes. He portrayed them as politically motivated Communists, or “red robes,” and almost always beat the rap by running out the clock and reaching a statute of limitations.

That infuriated magistrates and eventually fueled a “hang ’em all” populist backlash led by the anti-elite Five Star Movement, which once again depicted the political establishment as a corrupt caste.

By 2018, Luigi Di Maio, one of its leaders, made lists of all rival candidates under investigation and called them “unpresentable.” The media splashed accusations and leaked investigations on front pages, and then barely mentioned or buried dropped charges or acquittals.

Max Rossi/Reuters

Now, that anti-establishment season seems to be waning, and populists have apparently made the calculation that, electorally, “lock-em up” no longer pays.

Mr. Di Maio, who led j’accuse Five Star protests against Mr. Uggetti and once rode the popular anger to victory in national elections, is now contrite. Now Italy’s foreign minister, he wrote an apology in Il Foglio to Mr. Uggetti after his acquittal in May for the “grotesque and indecorous manner” he behaved.

But Mr. Cerasa, Il Foglio’s editor, suspected that the change may be more tactical than heartfelt. He said that parties that wielded the judicial system as a weapon also felt its scorpion sting while in power, and faced a barrage of civil and criminal cases.

But something else has changed: Mr. Draghi has now become the organizing force of Italian politics.

With hundreds of billions of euros of E.U. assistance hanging in the balance, and a pandemic still in the air, establishment chops and palpable sanity are in high demand. Mr. Draghi is seen to have both and has seized the moment to consolidate power.

Gregorio Borgia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

No political novice, Mr. Draghi appears to have the support to pass his judicial legislation — and to put Italy on more solid footing by baking lasting change into the system.

The government’s agreement on the legislation includes Five Star, which had expressed concerns about letting criminals off the hook, but which ultimately agreed to withdraw their proposed amendments. Other backing came from the nationalist League party of Matteo Salvini; Mr. Berlusconi’s party on the right; the liberal Democrats on the left; and Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister.

Not everyone is enthusiastic, though.

Marco Travaglio, the editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano, which has deep ties to magistrates and has served as a megaphone for Five Star’s aspersions, has been lashing out and angrily resisting what increasingly feels like the end of an era in Italian politics. This month he mocked Mr. Draghi as a privileged brat and characterized his justice minister, Ms. Cartabia, a former president of Italy’s constitutional court, as a rube who “cannot distinguish between a tribunal and a hair dryer.”

But for the most part, people are on board with Mr. Draghi, and Mr. Uggetti hoped that the prime minister would bring more balance to the system that nearly ruined him.

Elisabetta Zavoli for The New York Times

Mr. Uggetti now works as the chief executive of a tech firm outside Lodi developing business management software. “I’m rebuilding my life,” he said.

Still, he misses being mayor. As he walked around the pool that was the source of his judicial nightmare, and which is now an empty ruin, he ticked off all the things he would fix (bike paths and roads), and pointed out historical tidbits (a bridge where Napoleon won a major battle, a statue of a scientist) as if he still represented the town.

He considered running for mayor again a possibility. But there was another possibility too. In Italy, a higher court can overrule an appeals court, cancel an acquittal and put a person on trial again. That higher court still has time to decide to retry him.

“They have the power to say ‘No, this appeal sentence is no good,’” he said, shaking his head. “I really hope that it finishes here.”

Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Rome.

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Totalenergies CEO says its decision to exit Petrocedeno not linked to politics – Reuters

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A general view of a logo on the TotalEnergies headquarters in the La Defense business district in Paris, France, July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) – TotalEnergies said on Thursday that the sale of its 30.3% stake in Petrocedeno was not linked to the political situation in Venezuela, its chief executive said.

Patrick Pouyanné was speaking during an analyst call.

Reporting by Benjamin Mallet. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Independent MP Derek Sloan hopes his new political party ‘excites’ Canadians about politics – Global News

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Independent MP for Hastings Lennox and Addington, Derek Sloan, has confirmed to Global News that he is in the process of trying to launch his own political party. The MP says it will be called the “True North” party, pending Elections Canada Approval.

“I think Canadians are disenfranchised with the current political landscape, and I’m hoping to excite Canadians about politics and about Canada and to really get people happy again about Canada and hopeful,” said Sloan.

A spokesperson for Elections Canada said that they are working to ensure all requirements under the Canada Elections Act are met, in order for Sloan’s party to become official.

Read more:
Tory caucus to meet Wednesday to determine fate of MP Derek Sloan

In the meantime, Sloan has been spending time outside of his riding during the pandemic, making a number of trips to Western Canada.

Sloan explained that his travels are necessary in order to promote his “movement” on a national scale.

“Right now I believe for the sake of our riding, I need to sort of boost the popularity of this movement across the country,” said Sloan.

Sloan became an independent MP earlier this year when he was removed from the Conservative Party of Canada.

Former conservative senator, Hugh Segal, says Sloan’s move to create a new party could negatively impact his former party.

“If he’ll be more to the right, he’ll obviously be taking some votes away from the Conservatives at that far right-winged edge in his constituency and other constituencies where there may be candidates for his new party,” said Segal.

Read more:
Kingston-area politicians react to possibility of conversion therapy bill falling through

Liberal Mike Bossio lost his seat to Sloan last election, and will be trying to win it back during the upcoming election.

Bossio believes Sloan has become a polarizing figure in the riding due to his views (ranging from abortion and LGBQT2 issues, to COVID-19 and vaccines.)

“He has a very different worldview that he’s been sharing with Canadians. It’s certainly not a view that I share in any way, shape or form, I think that it’s a toxic and dangerous view,” said Bossio.

Sloan says while he’s starting to build momentum for his new party in Western Canada, his intention to run in his own riding has not changed.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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