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Politicians condemn harassment of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland

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Current and former politicians from across the Canadian political spectrum have condemned an incident in Alberta during which a man appeared to verbally accost Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Friday.

A 14-second video posted on Twitter by an account that voices opposition to COVID-19 public health measures shows Freeland entering an elevator while a large man approaches her, hurling profanities and calling her a “traitor.”

The man in the video looms in front of the open elevator doors and tells Freeland to get out of Alberta,while a woman tells her, “you don’t belong here.”

Another, longer clip shows the man being asked to leave the building and walking outside to a parking lot, where he says “that was perfect timing.”

Freeland, who is also the finance minister, had posted photos on social media Friday showing her meeting with Jackie Clayton, the mayor of Grande Prairie, Alta., northwest of Edmonton.

The first video shows the man calling Freeland by her first name and the deputy prime minister turning to face him, saying “yes,” before he begins yelling.

Freeland addressed the incident with a post on social media Saturday, saying what happened was wrong and “nobody, anywhere, should have to put up with threats and intimidation.”

She wrote that she is proud to be from Alberta, and she was grateful for the warm welcomes she had received while visiting Edmonton, Grande Prairie and Peace River, Alta., over the past few days.

“One unpleasant incident yesterday doesn’t change that,” she wrote.

Former deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt posted on Twitter sayingshe felt a knot in her stomach when she watched the video, worried that the man would follow Freeland.

“She hears her name (and) turns … because she is open to engaging with people. He becomes abusive (and) she heads into the elevator,” Raitt wrote, adding, “physical intimidation is not a form of democratic expression.”

Former Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna replied to Raitt, saying she felt the same way while watching the video.

McKenna, who had received additional security for certain events during her time in office, called on “all party leaders” to hold a joint press conference to condemn what she described as an “attack” on Freeland and commit to enhanced security for elected officials.

Cabinet ministers do not generally receive protection from the RCMP, but it can be arranged if circumstances warrant. A number of politicians and pundits took to social media after the incident in Grande Prairie to question whether additional security should become more common.

Michelle Rempel Garner, a former federal cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government and a current Conservative Member of Parliament from Calgary, also replied to Raitt, describing “the hot, sick feeling of being trapped … of not knowing where to run if it escalates, of being confronted by someone hostile and physically larger than you.”

Many Liberal MPs have voiced support for Freeland, including Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who tweeted that harassment, intimidation and threatening behaviour must be “condemned by everyone, regardless of political affiliation.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter that she was “appalled by the threats and intimidation” directed at her cabinet colleague.

“This behaviour has no place in Canada. We’ve all run for office to promote dialogue on important public policy issues, and harassment like this cannot be tolerated,” she wrote.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also spoke out on Twitter, saying the “verbal harassment and threats” directed at Freeland were “reprehensible.”

“You know that our governments have a lot of serious disagreements. But you’re always more than welcome to come and visit us here in the province where you grew up (and) your family lives,” Kenney wrote to Freeland.

Jean Charest, the former premier of Quebec who is vying to become the next federal Conservative leader, condemned the incident as “gross intimidation.” He issued a tweet calling it “dangerous behaviour” that “cannot be normalized.”

Edmonton New Democrat MP Heather McPherson also posted a tweet directed at Freeland, saying she doesn’t always agree with the Liberal government’s decisions, “but on behalf of the vast majority of Albertans who are kind, generous and decent, you are welcome here.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2022.

 

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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Canadian politics: Poilievre and Trudeau spar at QP – CTV News

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There’s been a 20-year series of middleweight clashes in the parliamentary fight club – Chretien vs. Day, Martin vs. Harper, Harper vs. Mulcair, Trudeau vs. O’Toole – but nothing comes close to the slugfest now raging between Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

After three grudge-settling matches this fall, which is all the prime minister has managed to show up for in the dozen days since the House returned to normal Question Period operations, my scorecard is Pierre Poilievre 2, Justin Trudeau 1.

For their first two encounters, the fledging Official Opposition leader clearly had the upper hand.

But give Thursday to the prime minister for his neck-wrenching topic switch. Answering a question about the rising cost of Thanksgiving dinners, Trudeau segued to the story about a boneheaded Poilievre staffer who had linked their boss’s YouTube messaging to a misogynistic online movement.

Poilievre knew it looked bad, particularly given his reputation of playing footsie with extremist elements. He stood silently to endure 20 seconds of high-volume Liberal shaming after Trudeau demanded an apology.

But he didn’t apologize, merely condemning the movement before swinging wildly into the past to attack Trudeau’s sins, be it wearing blackface or firing Jody Wilson-Raybould as attorney general.

It didn’t quite connect as an emergency defensive strategy, but sometimes it’s best to flail away and move on as quickly as possible.

The reality of Question Period in Canada is that it hasn’t produced a political bombshell since March 2003 when then-prime minister Jean Chretien revealed Canada would not go to war in Iraq without a United Nations Security Council resolution.

That suggests a thousand-question gap filled with huffing and puffing since the House was last blown away by any major revelation from a prime minister.

But breaking news is not its primary purpose. In this age of social media, Question Period has become a mine for YouTube quips, a sentence or two for the nightly newscasts or a couple quotes for print media.

Yet there’s something about these two leaders, at least going by their first trio of matches, which makes the stakes seem higher.

Poilievre does not recite questions from a piece of paper. He hurls them into the prime minister’s face, rubs in the political salt and levels a sneering sidebar or two, usually involving Trudeau’s use of government jets which, to be fair, is the only way he’s allowed to fly.

Trudeau for his part has upped his usual going-through-the-motions performance, which was noticeable on Wednesday when he stickhandled every question fairly well without reading his cheat sheets or sliding into a stammer.

Now for my media friends rolling their eyes at this attempt to build drama out of dogma, let us concede that the duelling themes between these two leaders are fairly repetitious.

Poilievre sounds the alarm about a future where the tripling of carbon taxation prices pumpkin pie out of the Thanksgiving food budget.

Trudeau retorts how the hurricane, flooding and wildfire climate catastrophes he has seen are grounds for a hefty pricing of pollution.

Poilievre snarks that boosting the carbon price is a tax plan, not a climate change plan, which has yet to meet lower emission targets.

Trudeau insists average Canadians get all the carbon tax they pay back and more.

And so it goes, blah, blah and more blah, but there’s a noticeable uptake in intensity between these two leaders.

(Unfortunately, there’s no corresponding improvement from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who continues to excel at irritating, arm-waving, talk-down double-speak – pleading with the Conservatives to support her government’s social programs in one sentence and ridiculing them for doing so in the next. The more you watch her, the harder it is to see her as future prime ministerial material.)

Trudeau seems to be rising to take on Poilievre as if he’s in a boxing match with a pugilistic senator or something.

This combat arena is not just political, it’s personal. It’s Pierre’s whine versus Justin’s woke; spontaneity versus scripting; the rising cost of potatoes versus the catastrophe of Fiona; bad hair versus good.

It will never win a ratings battle against any afternoon soap opera, but this fall’s editions of Question Period, after a long run as a theatrical bomb begging for the curtain to come down, is now a semi-entertaining clash of leadership styles, beliefs, personalities and policy.

That’s the bottom line.

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Redemption: Danielle Smith aims to be ‘force of unity’ as new Alberta premier

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CALGARY — The political story of Danielle Smith is one of triumph then defeat, followed by betrayal, banishment and, now, redemption.

Smith, a 51-year-old Alberta-born journalist and restaurant owner won the leadership of the United Conservative Party on Thursday to become its new leader and the next premier of Alberta.

It’s a stunning comeback for Smith, who eight years ago was a reviled outcast in the conservative movement after she engineered a floor crossing for the ages.

“(It’s) unfinished business for me,” Smith said in an interview earlier this week when asked why she decided to re-enter politics.

“After everything I’ve done in the past to divide the movement, then try to bring it together the wrong way, I feel like I owe it to the conservative movement to do what I can to be a force of unity.”

Smith was born in Calgary and got into politics in junior high school, after she told her dad that her teacher was lauding the virtues of communism. Her father had roots in Ukraine, where millions died under Josef Stalin, and gave the teacher an earful. He then ensured politics was discussed around the dinner table.

Smith attended the University of Calgary and found herself entranced by soapbox lectures of conservatives like Ezra Levant and Rob Anders.

She joined the campus Progressive Conservative club and soaked in teachings of the “Calgary School” of economists and political scientists advocating for free markets and small government.

She devoured the works of John Locke and Ayn Rand and got tongue-tied when she met her idol, former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher. She took leadership courses and attended Toastmasters meetings to hone her debating skills and smooth out a public speaking style now considered to be her strongest political attribute.

In 1998, at 27, she won was elected a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education.

It was a short, rocky ride. Smith clashed with the liberal majority on the board and the panel was so fraught with acrimony and dysfunction that the province fired them within a year.

She then moved to media and business advocacy. She wrote newspaper editorials, hosted the current affairs TV show “Global Sunday” and was the Alberta boss for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

By 2009, politics was calling again. A rift was widening in Alberta’s conservative movement.

The Wildrose Alliance, later the Wildrose Party, was hiving off members and money from the governing Progressive Conservatives, under then premier Ed Stelmach.

The PCs, they said, had forgotten their roots, delivered top-down decisions and indulged in profligate spending that delivered multibillion-dollar deficits as oil and gas prices hit the skids.

Smith agreed change was needed and won the Wildrose leadership, telling cheering supporters in her maiden speech: “Ed Stelmach, you haven’t begun to imagine what’s going to hit you!”

The Wildrose grew under Smith and poached floor crossers from the PCs, who in turn kicked Stelmach to the curb and installed Alison Redford as premier.

In the 2012 election, Smith and the Wildrose appeared primed to end the PC dynasty.

But there were late-stage mistakes. Smith questioned the science of climate change and refused to sanction two candidates for past remarks deemed homophobic and racist.

When the votes were counted, Smith and the Wildrose lost to the PCs but captured 17 seats to become the Opposition.

Smith began trying to rebuild the party brand and reached out to marginalized groups.

The Tories, meanwhile, continued their descent into infighting and disarray. Redford quit in 2014 amid scandal and was replaced by former federal Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice.

As Prentice took over, the Wildrose began to fray. The party lost four byelections to the PCs, then Wildrose rank-and-file voted to roll back a policy to respect all Albertans regardless of differences, such as sexual orientation.

Some of Smith’s caucus began bolting to Prentice and eventually Smith agreed: if the goal was to keep the conservative movement strong and Prentice would give them what they wanted, let’s roll.

A week before Christmas, Smith led eight more members across the floor, leaving five shell-shocked Wildrosers and staffers getting pink slips for the holidays.

“Tighty Righties” was one cheeky tabloid headline at the time that appeared beneath a photo of a beaming Prentice and Smith.

The fallout was swift and merciless. Smith and the other crossers either didn’t win their PC nominations or their seats in the 2015 election.

The Wildrose rebounded under new leader Brian Jean to retain Opposition status. Jean called Smith a “betrayer of family.”

Rachel Notley and her NDP won government for the first time ever, taking advantage of vote splitting between the Wildrose and PCs in key Calgary constituencies.

Smith began a six-year stint as a daily current affairs radio talk show host in Calgary.

“It was not easy deciding to stay in the public eye after what I’d done and the visceral reaction people had,” said Smith.

“It was unpleasant the first three months I was on the air — the texts and the emails that came in and the people who were so furious at me.”

It was three years before she began attending conservative meetings again, after a friend told her: “you can’t keep hiding.”

“I had dear friends from my Wildrose days that I’d go in for the hug and they’d give me the hand, or they’d walk away,” Smith recalled of the first few events.

“It was a seven-year process of trying to get people to forgive me. Not everyone has, but a lot of people have.”

Smith said she never discounted running again for premier, but figured Jason Kenney had a long-term lock on the job after he united the PCs and Wildrose in 2017 to form the new United Conservative Party.

Kenney won the UCP leadership, then made Notley’s NDP a one-and-done government in 2019.

When Kenney quit over caucus and party discontent in May, Smith said she decided to run by courting the UCP base — rural members frustrated with Ottawa, mainly over health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was an agent of chaos and confrontation, promising to pass a law allowing Alberta to ignore federal laws deemed offside with its constitutional prerogatives. She pledged no more health restrictions or COVID-19 lockdowns and promised to fire health board members en masse.

As premier, she must now pivot to make the UCP palatable to the broader population, quell a divided, angry caucus and answer the question of whether politician Danielle Smith 3.0 can break her pattern of splashy political entrances and even crazier exits.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Quebec elects record number of women, but will they be named to key cabinet roles?

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MONTREAL — Quebecers made history Monday when they elected a record number of women to the province’s legislature, but political observers say more is needed to ensure equality between men and women in politics.

Of the legislature’s 125 seats, 58 are represented by women, including 41 of the 90 seats won by the Coalition Avenir Québec led by Premier François Legault. That number broke the previous record of 52 women elected during the 2018 general election.

Esther Lapointe, executive director of Groupe Femmes, Politique et Démocratie, a Quebec organization that advocates for more women in politics, said the increase is good news. But for real equality to be achieved, she said, women need to be represented in the places where decisions are made, including the premier’s cabinet and among his political advisers.

“I believe that things will really change when not only in the forefront, but in the background, behind the scenes we also have more female political advisers, with their ideas, their experience, their expertise,” she said. “We don’t want to replace the guys, we want to share the decisions, discussions; we want to be at the table where the decisions are made.”

Lapointe is also calling for Legault to appoint a gender-balanced cabinet — and to maintain parity throughout the next mandate. The women named to cabinet, she said, should have important portfolios.

In 2018, Legault appointed 13 men and 13 women to his cabinet, but after three months, then-environment minister MarieChantal Chassé resigned and was replaced by a man: Benoit Charette. When the 2022 election was called, Legault’s cabinet consisted of 16 men and 11 women.

“We saw that there were women who were penalized while men who were not always exemplary in their files remained in cabinet,” she said. “I have a question about that: is there a double standard?”

Legault has said his new cabinet will consist of between 40 per cent and 60 per cent women.

Pascale Navarro, author of “Women and Power: The Case for Parity,” a 2015 book that explored how gender parity could be achieved in politics, said the results of the Quebec election are “excellent” — but she said women need more support in politics.

“It’s an excellent result in terms of the number — you can’t argue with that. You have to recognize that the parties have made efforts to recruit female candidates, so it’s an excellent thing.”

However, she said it’s not yet clear that with more women in politics comes more female-related issues on the top of the agenda. Prioritizing issues that affect women is important, Navarro said, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a major effect on female-dominated fields such as health care and education.

Navarro said that while the parties are doing a better job at recruiting female candidates, they need to ensure they retain them after they are elected — around a quarter of the women who were elected in 2018 didn’t run four years later.

“It’s not just about finding women, you also have to support them. And in this regard, I have not found that Coalition Avenir Québec has done a lot to ensure its capacity to retain women,” she said, using the example of former environment minister Chassé.

Shortly after the 2018 election, Chassé didn’t perform well during a few news events. Legault initially supported her, but then said it was “mutually agreed” she should leave that position.

“I think (Chassé) started to understand her file well — she’s an engineer, a businesswoman — but communicating with journalists was difficult,” Legault told reporters at the time.

Navarro suggested Chassé would have been treated differently if she was a man.

“Why wasn’t she supported when there are plenty of other ministers who made gaffes? Men who made a lot of gaffes remained in office, and they had a team around them, to help them, to support them, to equip them. I would expect the same for women.”

Danielle Pilette, a political science professor at Université du Québec à Montréal, said there are still barriers to women entering politics. Labour shortages in daycares, for instance, have contributed to a reduction in spaces, making it more challenging for women — especially for those who don’t live in the provincial capital and need to travel to the legislature.

As well, female politicians are often targeted on social media more hatefully than men are, Pilette said in an interview Wednesday.

But despite the increase in women holding elected office in Quebec, power remains centralized in the premier’s office, a growing phenomenon across the country. Whether members are men or women, Pilette said, they all have to toe the party line.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

 

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