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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Inflation may be the focus of a midterm cycle political blame game, but economists caution the problem — and the most effective solutions — are global.
Rising prices were a focus of this week’s meeting of the Group of Seven (G-7) major economies.
The White House said Tuesday it is investing $760 million to combat the effects of high food, fuel and fertilizer prices, and the European Council said the war in Ukraine is leading to steep price increases and that the G-7 needs to “assist the global economy.”
“We are united and determined to strongly support Ukraine in producing and exporting grain, oil, and other agricultural products and we will foster coordinated initiatives that promote global food security and address the causes of the evolving global food crisis,” the council said.
In the U.S., inflation stands at a 40-year high of 8.6 percent, weighing on personal expenses and effectively making people poorer.
Around the world, it is sparking protest movements, driven by a soaring cost of living felt in the price of goods like food and gasoline.
In the United Kingdom, where inflation is higher than it is in the U.S. — above 9 percent — the biggest rail strike in 30 years has disrupted travel around the country and seen tens of thousands of workers walk off the job demanding more pay. There are also concerns that the rail strike could be the first of many in the country.
U.K. rail union members “are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and government policy,” union head Mick Lynch said in a statement last week, adding that his group was seeking a “decent pay rise.”
In South Korea, where inflation surpassed 5 percent for the first time in more than a decade, truckers reached a deal with the government earlier this month after a weeklong strike to get a minimum pay guarantee. This led to production cuts by South Korean steel producer POSCO as well as automaker Hyundai, which said sales are facing “unfavorable external environments.”
Inflation has also hit a decades-high 5.2 percent in France, where there are concerns over whether there will be a resurgence of the Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vest, grassroots protest movement this fall.
Over the past few months, economic- and inflation-related protests have been reported in India, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Tunisia, Sri Lanka and Peru, where the government imposed a curfew and enacted various emergency measures after demonstrations turned violent earlier this year.
“Inflation is not just in the U.S. or in Europe, but it’s also in developing countries — it’s almost everywhere,” Hamid Rashid, head of the global economic monitoring branch of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said in an interview.
This ubiquity means that workers in numerous countries with varying political systems and social dynamics are pushing in the same direction, putting pressure on global labor markets that many central banks are hoping to see loosen.
In the U.S., having a looser labor market, or slightly higher unemployment, would take some of the pressure off companies to keep raising their prices in order to turn a profit for their investors, some economists argue.
But with more than 11 million open jobs and unemployment levels in the U.S. at 3.6 percent — which is still not as low as the pre-pandemic level of 3.5 percent — a looser labor market may just not be in the cards.
This means that the “supply-side interventions” — measures aimed at specific industries and pipeline bottlenecks, such as those in the shipping industry — that some economists are recommending to fight inflation may not be as effective as policymakers in the U.S. or around the world hope.
“When we think of the supply side, we tend to focus on supply chains. Supply chains are part of the supply side, but the most important element of the supply side is the labor supply,” Rashid said. “There are a lot of uncertainties in the labor supply, and that compounds a lot of supply chain issues, from packaging to transportation to warehouses to port clearance. Don’t underestimate the role that labor supply plays in most economies.”
With the tight job market in the U.S. and workers able to demand higher pay both here and in other countries, the global supply side of the economy may take a while to sync up.
That’s why economists are seeing increased international cooperation as an important additional measure in the fight against inflation. This cooperation can take many forms, including coordinated central bank policies, conforming regulatory frameworks and supply chain improvements.
One unexpected source of cooperation, at least among Western powers, has been the war in Ukraine, which economists note has brought the G-7 much closer together.
“Why do we have this cooperation happening right now? First, recognize really it’s Western cooperation. The G-7 is really leading this,” Abraham Newman, a professor in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, said during an online event on economic globalization hosted by the Brookings Institution. “Within the G-7, you just see this complete belief that this is a legitimate exercise.”
Despite the global nature of inflation, the war of words between Democrats and Republicans over who is to blame for the high cost of living rages on.
“The White House and congressional Democrats are in denial about how their policies fueled inflation,” House Republicans on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said in a statement Monday, referring to the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
A study from the San Francisco Federal Reserve found in March that direct fiscal stimulus related to the pandemic — which went out under both the Trump and Biden administrations — “may have contributed to about 3 percentage points of the rise in U.S. inflation through the end of 2021.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have been focusing on corporate price gouging and market concentration in the private sector as drivers of inflation. President Biden earlier this month railed against oil companies for profiting while gas prices soared.
And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill in March that would tax windfall profits of corporations, a similar measure to ones enacted during the 20th century in times of war.
“The American people are sick and tired of the unprecedented corporate greed that exists all over this country. They are sick and tired of being ripped-off by corporations making record-breaking profits while working families are forced to pay outrageously high prices for gas, rent, food, and prescription drugs,” Sanders said.
Regardless of whether inflation is a global issue, Americans expect action on the inflation front and are likely to express that expectation at the polls in November.
A NewsNation-DDHQ poll released last week found 97 percent of U.S. voters are very or somewhat concerned about inflation and inflation ranks as the top issue for 72 percent.
John Horgan has announced his exit as British Columbia premier.
At a news conference in Vancouver, one of Canada’s highest-profile New Democrats said Tuesday afternoon that he will be standing down as leader of the British Columbia New Democrats, and has asked the party to organize a leadership convention for the fall.
Mr. Horgan, who has been treated for throat cancer and said he is now cancer free after 35 treatments, said his health is good but his energy flags as the days go by.
“There has been endless speculation as a result of my recent battle with cancer about what my plans would be. I want to put the speculation to rest so we can get back to what really matters, and that’s the issues before British Columbians,” he said.
Mr. Horgan, a Vancouver Island member of the legislature since 2005, has been premier since 2017 after forming a minority government with support from the BC Greens, and ending 16 years of BC Liberal government.
He led the party to a majority government in the 2020 election. Although critical of the federal government on issues such as health-care funding, the 62-year-old has been supportive of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in other areas.
Mr. Horgan is chair of the Council of the Federation, and was scheduled to host a gathering of Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders in Victoria early next month. He said he remains committed to that event and the issues of importance to the leaders.
The Angus Reid Institute measured Mr. Horgan’s popularity with other premiers and territorial leaders earlier this month. Of Mr. Horgan they said, “British Columbia Premier John Horgan’s approval continues a downward trend. Just under half of British Columbians approve of Horgan, the lowest approval measured for the BC NDP leader since before the onset of the pandemic in 2020.” Details here.
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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TURNS OVER ADDITIONAL RCMP FILES IN N.S. MASS KILLING – The federal Justice Department said Tuesday that it had turned over a further 17 pages of RCMP investigative files to the public inquiry into the April, 2020, mass killing of 22 people in Nova Scotia. Department spokesman Ian McLeod said another three pages have been withheld as lawyers determine if they should be disclosed to the Mass Casualty Commission, which is investigating the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Story here.
Reporter’s Comment, Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife: “The fact that the Justice department withheld documents and did not bother to inform the commission should be taken seriously. The opposition parties are right to ask Justice Minister David Lametti and officials to appear before the House of Commons public safety and national intelligence committee next month to explain why this happened.”
SCOTIABANK SUSPENDS SPONSORSHIP TIES WITH HOCKEY CANADA – Scotiabank is suspending its sponsorship of Hockey Canada after the national sport organization paid an undisclosed sum last month to settle allegations that eight Canadian Hockey League players sexually assaulted a young woman after a Hockey Canada Foundation gala in June, 2018. Story here.
FEDS MISSING $23.4B IN UNCOLLECTED TAXES – The federal government is missing out on up to $23.4-billion a year in uncollected taxes, according to the Canada Revenue Agency’s most detailed effort to date to estimate Canada’s tax gap. Story here.
TRUDEAU DEFENDS MILITARY SPENDING – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending Canadian military spending as a new report released ahead of a major NATO meeting this week shows Canada heading in the wrong direction. Story here.
STANDING GRANTED IN EMERGENCIES ACT INQUIRY – The commissioner of the inquiry examining Ottawa’s use of the Emergencies Act to bring an end to the “Freedom Convoy” protest in February has granted standing to the organizers, police and representatives of all three levels of government. Story here.
ONTARIO NDP NAMING INTERIM LEADER – Ontario’s NDP was set to name an interim leader Tuesday to replace Andrea Horwath and the party is expected to select a longtime Toronto caucus member. Story here.
CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE
CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in Ontario. Roman Baber is hosting a meet and greet in Mississauga. Patrick Brown is in Brampton. Jean Charest is in Calgary. Pierre Poilievre is in Ottawa. There is no word on the campaign whereabouts of Leslyn Lewis.
PARTY CHANGE INEVITABLE: MACKAY – Elmer MacKay, a veteran cabinet minister under Brian Mulroney, says the evolution of the Conservative Party is an inevitability that some critical veteran party members should accept. He also said he is supporting Pierre Poilievre for the leadership. Story here.
On Tuesday, Elmer MacKay’s son, former Stephen Harper cabinet minister Peter MacKay, said in a statement that he is not making any endorsements in the Conservative leadership race, and is supportive of all of the six candidates. He said his father is entitled to his own choices. But he added, “I honestly don’t feel former leaders should weigh in too heavily in these critically important decisions that remain in the hands of the broader membership. That has been the tradition in our party for a long time [with] a few notable exceptions.”
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20
MURRAY HAS COVID-19 – Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has tested positive for COVID-19 while attending a UN fisheries conference in Portugal. “I’m feeling fine and I’ll be isolating in my hotel room, following public health guidance,” Ms. Murray wrote in a tweet. She offered thanks to the Canadian Embassy team and fisheries department staff for continuing to ensure a Canadian presence at the conference.
IEN IN TORONTO -Women’s Minister Marci Ien made a funding announcement in Toronto supporting sexual and reproductive health services for LGBTQ communities across Canada.
Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast looks into the controversy over Hockey Canada’s handling of a civil lawsuit filed by a women who alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players in 2018. The public did not hear about this until 2022, after TSN broke the news that Hockey Canada settled a civil lawsuit with the woman. Now the government has cut off funding for the national organization until more details of their investigation are provided to a parliamentary committee. Taylor McKee , an assistant professor of sports management at Brock University, talks about how hockey has built a culture of secrecy and what that means for a sport deeply connected to Canadian identity. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
In Elmau, Germany, the Prime Minister, attending the G7 summit, held private meetings and met with Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, attended the G7 Working Session entitled Shaping International Cooperation: Multilateral and Digital Order/G20, and held a media availability. The Prime Minister was then scheduled to depart for Madrid, Spain, and participate in the official NATO leaders’ arrivals. The Prime Minister was then scheduled to participate in the official family photo with Their Royal Highnesses the King and Queen of Spain and NATO leaders and to attend a dinner they hosted.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet will be in the Quebec City region to meet with his local MPs, Caroline Desbiens and Julie Vignola, and to hold private meetings.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
SWEARING ALLEGIANCE OATH TO QUEEN – Most people in Canada do not think people should have to swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, according to a poll ahead of Canada Day. Story here.
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on whether the Conservatives are heading for a cataclysmic rupture: “There will be many Conservative MPs and party supporters who will dismiss the warnings of Ms. LeBreton, Ms. Rempel Garner and Mr. O’Toole as the bleatings of disgruntled losers, a small rump that represents the out-of-touch moderate old guard. Anyone who holds that view is deeply misguided. Mr. Poilievre is taking the Conservatives in a radically different direction, one in which it has never been. It is a deeply divisive and corrosive path as well, one along which not all party members and elected representatives will be comfortable travelling. When the party ruptures, as it surely will, Mr. Poilievre can’t say he wasn’t warned.”
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on why legislating abortion access in Canada would be a mistake: “Once you have a law, even one that guarantees access to abortion and other reproductive health services, it can serve as a platform for opponents to launch attacks, and protections can be whittled down with restrictions on who has access, when and how. These issues are summed up brilliantly by the National Association of Women and the Law and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights in its response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.”
David Moscrop (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on America’s social contract with its citizens lying in tatters: “Just this month, decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion, gun control and Miranda rights, for instance, will make the country far less safe and far less just. In the wake of the decision to leave abortion laws up to the states, several states immediately banned it; more will follow. Former vice-president Mike Pence called for a national ban. This is the stuff of theocracy. The court’s decision not only limits the rights of people who may become pregnant, it will lead to deaths. It is a fundamental violation of the right to life. So is the lack of adequate gun control measures in a country where more than 45,000 people were killed by guns in 2020. A recent effort to impose some control resulted in a bipartisan bill – shocking, of itself – but it leaves much to be desired. If the country continues on its current course of decline, the U.S. will face violent revolution or oblivion – maybe even both.”
Jad Saliba and Neil Desai (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the new cybersecurity bill needs to be backed by resources: “Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino recently tabled legislation that would mandate that businesses in four federally-regulated industries report cyberbreaches. It makes sense for the government to try to tackle this growing global challenge given that it’s estimated that an attack occurs ever 11 seconds and the cost of cybercrime to the global economy will top US$10.5 trillion annually by 2025. However, without wider applicability and a thoughtful implementation strategy that includes training and technology solutions for police agencies, the legislation may do little to actually protect Canadians, especially the most vulnerable among us.”
Murray Mandryk (Regina Leader-Post) on how overcoming dwindling NDP support will be the first test of the party’s new leader: “Much of the not-so-great 2022 Saskatchewan NDP leadership race centred around whether this party wants to be a broad-based, inclusive government-in-waiting or something more akin to a special-interest lobby group. The frightening reality for new leader Carla Beck is that the NDP’s voting numbers suggest it’s more the latter than the former. Beck took the Saskatchewan NDP leadership on Sunday with 3,244 votes (or 68.5 per cent of the mere 4,741 total ballots cast) compared with 1,492 votes (31.5 per cent) for Kaitlyn Harvey. Those 4,741 ballots represented 65 per cent of the announced 7,294 NDP membership. Think about those numbers in the context of NDP bravado purporting to having just selected the next Saskatchewan premier.”
VANCOUVER — British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he’ll resign as leader in the fall after the New Democrats hold a leadership convention because a second bout with cancer has left him with little energy for a job that’s been the thrill of his life.
“I wish I had the energy to do more, but I don’t,” he told a news conference Tuesday.
Horgan, 62, announced last November that he was diagnosed with throat cancer after being diagnosed with bladder cancer in his 40s.
He said that while he is now free of cancer following 35 radiation treatments, he will not seek re-election because he’s not able to make another six-year commitment to the job.
“I get tired and I come home and I fall asleep,” he said, adding he feels at peace about the timing of his “very difficult decision.”
Horgan said he and his wife Ellie, “the love of my life,” recently spent about 10 days in his constituency on the west coast of Vancouver Island reflecting on what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives.
The premier said he asked that question of himself before posing it to his cabinet colleagues at a retreat last week and concluded he couldn’t continue on as leader.
“There has been endless speculation as a result of my recent battle with cancer about what my plans would be. I want to put the speculation to rest so we can get back to what really matters, and those are the issues before British Columbia,” Horgan said.
Horgan said he will continue to work toward his goals to represent British Columbians in the next few months, including as leader of the Council of the Federation as he hosts his counterparts at a meeting next month in Victoria.
He said the No. 1 issue on the table is getting a commitment from the federal government to work with provinces to resolve the crisis in health care.
“I fully intend to carry on that battle to make the federal government stand up for the commitments they made to all of us and convene a meeting so that we can fix the most important social program, in fact, the most important program in Canada.”
Horgan has led the NDP since being acclaimed as leader in 2014 following the party’s defeat in the 2013 election.
In 2017, he formed a minority government after negotiating a so-called confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party, which held the balance of power.
Horgan called a snap election last October during the pandemic and won a majority government, taking 55 of the 87 seats in the legislature.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a message to Horgan on Twitter, thanking the premier for his many years of public service, for his “ambitious” climate action as well as his initiatives on affordable child care and COVID-19.
“Wishing you all the best, John,” Trudeau said.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said it’s no secret that he and Horgan “come from different political stripes.”
“But I’ve appreciated working with him greatly at the Council of (the) Federation table when I was chair a few years ago and this past year, now with him being chair. He’s served as an excellent chair. He’s a very, very capable and competent politician and I would say a friend in many cases as well.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said it had been a real pleasure to work constructively with Horgan on a range of issues.
“We come from different political traditions, but have always worked to find common ground.”
Sonia Furstenau, leader of B.C.’s Green Party, said Horgan led the government during a series of overlapping crises.
“Although we have not always agreed on policy, together our two parties created an era of unprecedented cross-party co-operation,” she said in a written statement, adding the legacy of their confidence and supply agreement lives on as a model for a similar deal between the federal New Democratic and Liberal parties.
“I sincerely hope that the premier enjoys health, rest and time spent with his family,” Furstenau said.
A date for the leadership convention has not yet been set.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2022.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
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