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Parliament prorogued until Sept. 23 as Trudeau government reels from WE Charity controversy

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Parliament is prorogued until Sept. 23, giving the the Liberal government an opportunity to relaunch its agenda and refocus as it reels from an ethics controversy.

Parliamentary business, including committees probing WE Charity student volunteer grant controversy, is suspended.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had sought approval to suspend Parliament from Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, who will deliver a speech from the throne on Sept. 23, the same week the House of Commons was previously scheduled to return.

The speech will lay out the government’s long-term plan to recover from the global pandemic, Trudeau said. He also said it will also provide an opportunity for a vote on whether the House has confidence in the government.

“We are taking a moment to recognize that the throne speech we delivered eight months ago made no mention of COVID-19, had no conception of the reality we find ourselves in right now,” Trudeau said in a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.

“We need to reset the approach of this government for a recovery to build back better. And those are big, important decisions and we need to present that to Parliament and to gain the confidence of Parliament to move forward on this ambitious plan.”

A speech from the throne would give Parliament a chance to give the government a mandate, and to debate the government’s spending plan, ahead of an economic statement or even a full budget in October.

In a statement, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called Trudeau “spineless” and accused him of “hiding out” amid a political controversy.

“Justin Trudeau is walking out on Canadians in the middle of a major health and economic crisis, in a disgusting attempt to make Canadians forget about his corruption,” he said.

“At a time when Canadians are looking for stability and leadership, Justin Trudeau has given them corruption, chaos and coverups.”

 

 

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre tweeted that opposition MPs on the finance committee studying the WE Charity matter have written a letter demanding access to thousands of pages of government documents before Parliament is “shuttered.”

“We commit to respecting cabinet confidences and personal information,” read the letter signed by Conservative, Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs.

Trudeau said the reams of documents have been turned over by the government, and committee members can use time in the coming weeks to review them.

Prorogations in past

Many past governments have used prorogation to start a new session of Parliament and launch a fresh agenda, sometimes midway through a four-year mandate. The Liberals went all of their first four years without starting a new session.

But there have been instances where prorogation has been controversial.

In December 2008, the Conservatives under Stephen Harper used it to avoid an impending vote of non-confidence by the opposition parties. A year later, protests erupted when Harper had Parliament prorogued for two months, a suspension that had the effect of killing a committee inquiry into the treatment of Afghan detainees.

Jean Chrétien was also criticized for his use of prorogation in 2002 and 2003.

Watch | Trudeau says his prorogation is nothing like Harper’s:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justifies his decision to prorogue Parliament by comparing it to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to do the same thing in 2008. 1:03

Trudeau’s Liberals denounced the abuse of prorogation in their 2015 campaign platform.

“We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny. Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not,” it read.

Prorogation would suspend current committee studies that are underway, including those related to the WE Charity student volunteer grant program. After the throne speech, committees could be reconstituted and resume their studies.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said prorogation will mean Trudeau is exposing himself to a confidence vote in the House of Commons when MPs vote on the throne speech.

“If it does not contain what it must contain, he will simply not survive a vote on his speech from the throne,” he said.

In a written statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said shutting down Parliament during an economic crisis and pandemic was wrong.

“Canadians shouldn’t be forced to pay the price for Mr. Trudeau’s scandals,” he said.

Singh also listed four issues facing Canadians: the future of CERB, employment insurance, universal child care and a safe back-to-school plan — a clue perhaps to what his party would want to see addressed by a throne speech.

Chrystia Freeland will take on the role of finance minister after Bill Morneau’s resignation Monday. Dominic LeBlanc will take on the intergovernmental affairs post.

Both Morneau and Trudeau are being investigated by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion after the Liberal government gave WE Charity a $43.53-million contract to administer a $900-million student grant program despite both their families having close ties to the charity.

 

 

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Twitter's Jack Dorsey Slams Coinbase for Its No-Politics Stance – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey joined a chorus of criticism for Coinbase Inc.’s newly announced policy of not debating politics at work, saying it runs counter to the core principles of cryptocurrency.

In reaction to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s blog post arguing that the company should be mission-focused and not “advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction,” Dorsey argued that the whole purpose of currencies like Bitcoin, which is traded on Coinbase, is social activism.

“#Bitcoin (aka “crypto”) is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society,” Dorsey tweeted. To not acknowledge and connect the related social and political issues “leaves behind people,” according to the Twitter chief. The bio section of Dorsey’s Twitter profile lists only “#bitcoin,” signaling it’s a key issue for him.

Coinbase, a digital-currency exchange that has more than 35 million users according to its website, suggested that its push for an apolitical stance was a reaction to a growing movement within tech companies for employees’ beliefs to be better represented by their companies.

“We’ve seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do to productivity,” Armstrong said in the post. “We are an intense culture and we are an apolitical culture.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Spotlight Politics: A Chaotic Presidential Debate

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The first Trump-Biden debate. A fiery hearing on corruption in Springfield. Chicago’s loosening COVID-19 restrictions. Our politics team tackles those stories and more in this week’s roundtable.


Tuesday’s presidential debate was loud, but there often wasn’t much you could actually hear.

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Perhaps the most notable moment came when moderator Chris Wallace asked President Donald Trump to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, and ask them not to behave violently.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said.

State politics

A House investigative panel met in Springfield on Tuesday to look into whether House Speaker Michael Madigan engaged in conduct unbefitting of his elected position.

Madigan declined to testify, and it remains unclear whether he’ll face the pressure of a subpoena.

The six legislators on the Special Investigative Committee met for about five hours, with much of that time spent peppering the Commonwealth Edison vice president who executed the deferred prosecution agreement, David Glockner, with questions about utility’s bribery scheme as described in the DPA.

City politics

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week the city is easing restriction on bars and restaurants after a drop in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

However, Lightfoot said she was not prepared to announce whether Chicago Public Schools students would return to in-person classes in November.

“We’re not there yet,” Lightfoot said, while detailing what she said were significant problems with remote learning. “We’d have to see more progress.”

At a virtual town hall Tuesday evening, Lightfoot said that negotiations with community groups on police oversight are at an impasse.

“We’re moving on from GAPA (the Grassroots Association for Police Accountability),” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to get it done, we’ve waited too long, we need to move forward and it’s unfortunate that the GAPA folks have not come forward to us with a concrete proposal that solves some of these outstanding issues, but the time is now for us to act. We can’t wait any longer.”

Lightfoot said at the town hall she would propose an alternative proposal before the end of the year.

Our politics team of Amanda Vinicky, Heather Cherone, Paris Schutz and Carol Marin discuss these stories and more in this week’s edition of “Spotlight Politics.”


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Tuesday’s Debate: A Milestone in the History of Climate Politics – POLITICO

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In Tuesday night’s demolition derby of a debate, President Donald Trump did not even pretend to confront white supremacists. He didn’t pretend to respect the legitimacy of the election, either. So it was telling that after moderator Chris Wallace asked him the first-ever question about climate change in a general election presidential debate, Trump did pretend to support electric vehicles.

“I’m all for electric cars,” he said. “I’ve given big incentives to electric cars.”

In fact, Trump is not all for electric cars; he’s mocked them, and his policies have penalized them. He certainly hasn’t given big incentives to electric cars; he actually tried to eliminate the existing incentives. But while Trump’s 90-minute tornado of unfiltered insults and right-wing red meat suggested that he’s happy to run as an enemy of cities, the news media and racial sensitivity, he clearly would prefer not to be seen as an enemy of the climate.

That is a milestone in the history of climate politics. Global warming has been dismissed for years as a niche concern for the tree-hugging fringe, but not only has it become the kind of mainstream issue that even a moderator from Fox News deemed worthy of prime time, it has become the kind of hot-button issue that even a Republican president who used to call it a hoax manufactured in China feels the need to dissemble about. If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, political lies are the tribute that unpopularity pays to popularity—and 2020 polling has found that climate science and climate action are both popular.

Green cars are especially popular; a survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that 82 percent of Americans support tax rebates for energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels. That helps explain why Trump claimed to be one of them, even though his 2020 budget would have eliminated a tax credit for electric vehicles that was enacted during the George W. Bush administration and expanded during the Barack Obama administration. Trump made fun of electric vehicles during a 2019 rally in Michigan—“Darling, where do I get a charge?”—and scoffed that “all-electric isn’t going to work” in a Fox Business interview. And his rollback of Obama’s tough fuel-efficiency standards, along with his efforts to relax clean air regulations, could be devastating blows to zero-emissions electric vehicles.

Wallace’s original question was whether Trump believes the scientific consensus about climate change in light of the fires burning in California; the president dodged it rather than repeat his recent assertions that the science can’t be trusted and the earth is about to start cooling. When Wallace pressed him to clarify whether he accepted that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, he grudgingly conceded: “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes.” That made political sense, too, since the Yale survey found 72 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, while only 12 percent don’t.

The survey found the public also agreed by a 61-29 margin that global warming will harm Americans, by a 56-44 margin that it’s already harming Americans, and by a 60-11 margin that the president should do more to address it—all of which helps explain why the president tried to tack towards the climate majority on the debate stage.

“We now have the lowest carbon,” Trump said. “If you look at our numbers now, we are doing phenomenally.”

America’s emissions are indeed lower in 2020, but that’s because of the coronavirus lockdowns, not because of Trump’s energy or environmental policies, which have had the consistent objectives of relaxing restrictions on polluting industries and promoting the mining and drilling of fossil fuels. Trump scrapped Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would have regulated carbon emissions—which, incidentally, had 75-24 support in the Yale poll—as well as rules limiting mercury, soot and other pollution from coal-fired power plants. As Biden tried rather inarticulately to point out, Trump’s administration has also ditched rules limiting methane emissions by oil and gas companies, accelerated permits for drilling, mining and logging on public lands, rolled back protections for wetlands, and made the United States the only nation to announce its withdrawal from the Paris climate accords.

Nevertheless, Trump tried to portray himself as a champion of clean air and water—or, as he put it, “immaculate air, immaculate water”—another nod to the power of environmental issues, especially among the suburban women who have been such a problem for his reelection campaign. The only specific environmental policy Trump brought up, aside from his nonexistent electric vehicle incentives, was his support for a global initiative to plant a trillion trees, which he misidentified as the Billion Tree Project. “It’s very exciting for a lot of people,” he said, although he didn’t really make it sound like he was one of those people.

Trump’s message was that he’s an environmentalist, but Biden is a radical environmentalist who would destroy the American economy with left-wing nonsense. Again, though, he had to resort to wild falsehoods to make that case. He attacked the Obama-Biden administration’s Clean Power Plan for somehow “driving energy prices through the sky,” even though it never went into effect. He accused Biden of wanting to spend $100 trillion on the climate, using a sketchy right-wing analysis of the Green New Deal that Biden doesn’t even support, and also of wanting to ban cows and air travel, another misleading reference to the Green New Deal, or at least to a list of talking points about the Green New Deal that Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s office released and then hastily retracted.

Biden, on the other hand, seemed delighted to discuss the substance of issues he sees as politically advantageous as well as globally consequential. When Wallace said he’d like to discuss climate change, Biden blurted out: “So would I!” He talked with a lot of passion, though not a lot of focus, about his role overseeing the Obama stimulus that helped bring down the cost of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources; about “weatherization” programs that could put unemployed Americans to work caulking windows and otherwise upgrading the energy efficiency of homes and businesses; and about his idea to pay the Brazilian government to crack down on the destruction of the carbon-rich Amazon. He also called for electrifying the federal government’s fleet of vehicles and installing 500,000 charging stations on America’s roads—a solution for the Darling-where-do-I-get-a-charge problem.

Wallace also challenged Biden about the fiscal and economic cost of his climate plan, which irritated many climate activists, but it’s a legitimate question that led to one of Biden’s strongest moments in the chaotic debate. He argued not only that his $2 trillion plan will provide millions of jobs in green industries and green infrastructure projects, a common Democratic argument, but that the cost of inaction would be far greater, since America is already spending more than ever on climate-driven floods, hurricanes, fires and droughts.

“We’re in real trouble,” Biden said. “Look what happened in the Midwest with these storms that come through and wipe out entire sections and counties in Iowa. They didn’t happen before. They’re because of global warming.”

Back in 2012, CNN’s Candy Crowley explained after a presidential debate that she considered including a question for “you climate change people” but changed her mind because “we knew the economy was still the main thing.” Eight years later, there’s increasing recognition from politicians as well as media bigwigs that all people are climate change people, and that there’s no way to isolate the economy from the energy that fuels and powers it or the climate disasters that increasingly threaten it. It’s hard to imagine that there will ever be another year of presidential debates without a climate question, and the worse the problem gets, the more pressure candidates will face to embrace the science and call for action.

That doesn’t mean that every candidate will make climate warriors happy with every answer. Trump never did acknowledge that climate change is contributing to California’s fires, arguing that the more pressing issue was bad forest management, which was a reasonable case to make. Biden made a point of distancing himself from the Green New Deal, prompting Trump, in a weird moment of off-message punditry, to declare: “You just lost the radical left.”

But Biden isn’t tailoring his message to the radical left. He’s aiming for the 63 percent of Americans who are worried about climate change, the 86 percent who support research into renewable energy, the 56 percent who say it’s important to their presidential vote. And while it’s obvious from his rhetoric as well as his record that Trump doesn’t truly care about the climate, it’s a reflection of the changing political climate that he felt the need to pretend he does.

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