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POLITICO Playbook: McConnell: Quit the charade, impeachment is a 'political exercise' – POLITICO

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DRIVING THE DAY

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL on “Fox and Friends” this morning: “Do you think Chuck Schumer is impartial? Do you think Elizabeth Warren is impartial? Bernie Sanders is impartial? So let’s quit the charade. This is a political exercise. … All I’m asking of Schumer is that we treat Trump the same way we treated Clinton.

“We had a procedure that was approved 100 to nothing — Schumer voted for it, to go through the opening arguments, to have a written question period, and then, based upon that, deciding what witnesses to call. We haven’t ruled out witnesses. We’ve said let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.”

MCCONNELL was asked if he had spoken to Schumer: “Yeah, before we left town. Look, we’re at an impasse. We can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.”

“THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, if they think this is a very significant episode, can take it into account we’re voting [next] year. Most people that I run into, whether they are fans of the president or not, say, ‘Well, why don’t you just let us decide this. We’re in the middle of the election.’”

SWING STATE READ … FRONT PAGE of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, banner headline: “‘Nakedly partisan … disrespectful’: Impeachment of Trump echoes that of Clinton”

THE NEXT BIG OBJECT OF FASCINATION among President DONALD TRUMP’S allies is U.S. Attorney John Durham’s report on his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe — and, more specifically, the intelligence community’s role in it.

WE KNOW REMARKABLY LITTLE about Durham and what he’s up to. POLITICO and others have reported that he’s focusing on former top intel leaders like CIA chief JOHN BRENNAN, but not much else. What we do know is that the president personally and his allies have said — over and over — that they are putting a lot of stock into Durham, which makes him a central figure of the moment.

— KNOWING DURHAM … NYT, A1: “Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case,” by Elizabeth Williamson: “Mr. Durham is known in New England’s close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his own cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others’.

“Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington — under Republicans and Democrats alike — needs someone to handle sensitive tasks. …

“‘He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox,’ said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Mr. Durham is so by the book, he once asked Mr. Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the I.R.S. ‘If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they’re mistaken.’”

THE EVANGELICAL VOTE … SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL FRONT PAGE: “President Donald Trump to rally evangelical voters in Miami,” by Skyler Swisher: “President Donald Trump is going to rally his religious supporters in Miami, a move that comes after an evangelical Christian magazine called for him to be removed from office. Trump is rolling out an ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ coalition on Jan. 3 in Miami, according to his campaign.” Front page

“At one evangelical church, congregants dismiss the Christianity Today editorial — if they’ve read it at all,” by WaPo’s Amy Wang in Brookfield, Wis.

BREAKING IN THE KINGDOM … AP/RIYADH: “Saudi sentences 5 to death for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing,” by Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy: “Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death on Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year by a team of Saudi agents.

“The killing of Khashoggi stunned the international community and also many Saudi citizens, who were deeply shocked that a Saudi national could be killed by 15 government agents inside one of the kingdom’s consulates.

“Another three people were sentenced to prison for a combined 24 years, according to a statement read by the attorney general’s office on Saudi state TV. No individual breakdown for the sentencing was given.”

Good Monday morning. WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS WEEK! Hanukkah started Sunday night. Playbook will still be in your inbox as usual, but just a bit later this week and next. Playbook PM and the Audio Briefing are on hiatus.

MARKET WATCH — “How the economy could make or break Trump in 2020,” by Ben White: “Most of the economic gifts President Donald Trump is going to get for 2020 are already unwrapped and out from under the tree. The Federal Reserve slashed rates and went dark. The phase one China deal is pretty much done. So is the new NAFTA.

“That leaves one big question for a recently impeached president as he heads for a dicey reelection bid: What’s left to goose markets and the economy beyond what most expect will be a pretty blah 2020?

“Even blah — a 2 percent-or-so growth rate with unemployment still near or below 4 percent — could be enough to help Trump overcome a low approval rating and win again. But if he really hopes to romp over the eventual Democratic nominee, he’ll probably need markets to keep popping and growth to bubble higher, especially in the industrial Midwest. And it is far from obvious how the United States can get there from here.” POLITICO

TRADE WARS … WSJ/BEIJING: “China to Cut Tariffs on Range of Goods Amid Push for Trade Deal”: “China will cut import tariffs for frozen pork, pharmaceuticals and some high-tech components starting from Jan. 1, a move that comes as Beijing and Washington are trying to complete a phase-one trade deal.

“The plan, approved by China’s cabinet, will lower tariffs for all trading partners on 859 types of products to below the rates that most-favored nations enjoy, the Finance Ministry said Monday. Most-favored-nation rates are the lowest possible tariffs a country offers to its trading partners.

“The lower levies will apply to frozen pork, as China aims to shore up its meat supplies amid an outbreak of swine fever, as well as semiconductor products and medicines to treat asthma and diabetes. Tariffs on some of the products will go to zero.

“The plan will also cut import levies for more than 8,000 products even lower for 23 countries and regions that have free-trade agreements with China, including Australia, South Korea, Iceland, New Zealand and Pakistan, from the beginning of next year. The statement said China would further cut tariffs on some information-technology products and services from July 1, 2020.”

WE’RE STILL AT WAR … AP/KABUL: “U.S. soldier is killed in Afghanistan; Taliban claim attack”

2020 WATCH …

— “Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name,” by Maggie Severns: “As President Donald Trump raises money for his reelection campaign, he’s competing for cash with a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Trump’s campaign, which have pulled in over $46 million so far.

“The groups mimic Trump’s brand in the way they look and feel. They borrow the president’s Twitter avatar on Facebook pages, use clips of Trump’s voice in robocalls asking for ‘an emergency contribution to the campaign’ and, in some cases, have been affiliated with former Trump aides, such as onetime deputy campaign manager David Bossie. But most are spending little money to help the president win in 2020, POLITICO found.

“The unofficial pro-Trump boosters number in the hundreds and are alarming the actual operatives charged with reelecting the president: They suck up money that Trump aides think should be going to the campaign or the Republican National Committee, and they muddy the Trump campaign’s message and make it harder to accumulate new donors, Trump allies say.” POLITICO

— DES MOINES REGISTER FRONT PAGE: “Warren shakes up campaign style in Iowa”

— BOSTON GLOBE: “Elizabeth Warren’s brothers are a silent fixture of her campaign,” by Jess Bidgood in Newcastle, Okla.: “It feels as far away as possible from the chaos and choreography of a presidential campaign: a little red house in a neighborhood surrounded by fields, where almost nothing breaks the straight line of the horizon.

“But the man who lives here, a decorated Air Force veteran who the neighbors don’t see very often, has a crucial role to play in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. So do his two brothers, who live their own quiet lives in Oklahoma City and nearby Norman.

“The men are Warren’s older brothers — Don Reed Herring, John Herring, and David Herring — and, at nearly every campaign stop, she introduces herself to voters by talking about them, weaving folksy family stories with details about their military service, conservative politics, and agreement around her big ideas. Over the past year, they have become a fixture of her pitch, a living link to her upbringing in a financially strained world she says is an indelible part of who she is.

“They also do more: They are a key part of her effort to show she can find common ground with Republicans, offering them as a rejoinder to questions about her electability.” Boston GlobeA1 PDF

— ELENA SCHNEIDER with this AMAZING DETAIL: “How Buttigieg’s childhood pal ended up managing 2020’s breakout campaign”: “Before the Democratic presidential debate in Columbus, Ohio, Mike Schmuhl ventured into the city to get his mop of red hair cut. It wasn’t so much that Schmuhl himself needed a trim — but Pete Buttigieg’s campaign manager wanted to make sure the barbershop was up to the task of a presidential shave.

“Thirty minutes later, after the Royal Rhino Club Barbershop and Lounge passed muster and Schmuhl made an appointment under the name ‘Max Harris,’ another aide who got his hair trimmed, Buttigieg himself appeared for a fresh pre-debate cut.”

— THE HOLLYWOOD VOTE: “Actor Kevin Costner returns to Iowa to support Buttigieg,” by AP’s Thomas Beaumont in Indianola, Iowa

TRUMP’S MONDAY … THE PRESIDENT is in Florida and has nothing on his schedule.

— MERIDITH MCGRAW in West Palm Beach, Fla.: “Escape to Mar-a-Lago: Trump gets a post-impeachment mood lift”: “Friends of the president noted just how content he seemed in the glamorous getaway town of Palm Beach he now calls home, away from it all and back at his Mar-a-Lago resort — what’s described to be like a personal ‘Cheers bar,’ where Trump knows everybody’s name.

“‘He’s very happy to be back at what he calls the winter White House and is happy to take a break from the cold and craziness of his job,’ said George Guido Lombardi, a Mar-a-Lago member and longtime Trump friend. ‘It’s the only time that he’s got to be his real self and let down.’

“For aides, Mar-a-Lago can sometimes be a headache, as there is less control over who gets face time with the president and who might be able to whisper an idea in his ear. But that’s the way Trump likes to be, unfettered and able to do what he loves best — playing host, golfing with friends, watching television and working away from the confines of the West Wing.” POLITICO

PLAYBOOK READS

DAILY RUDY — “Giuliani pals leveraged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal,” by AP’s Desmond Butler and MIchael Biesecker in Kyiv, Ukraine: “The Associated Press reported some details in October of the brash pitch that [Lev] Parnas and [Igor] Fruman made to [Andrew] Favorov in Houston. But in a recent series of interviews with the AP in Kyiv, Favorov painted a more complete picture of his dealings with Giuliani’s associates.

“His tale, corroborated by interviews with other key witnesses, reveals that the pair continued to pursue a deal for months. The campaign culminated in May, at a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that included a lobbyist with deep ties to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a Republican fundraiser from Texas close to Donald Trump Jr. Three people with direct knowledge of that meeting described it to the AP on condition of anonymity because some of the players are under federal investigation.

“The maneuvering over Naftogaz came at the same time that Giuliani, with the help of Parnas and Fruman, were trying to get Yovanovitch out of the way and persuade Ukraine’s leaders to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work with Burisma, a rival Ukrainian gas company.” AP

— NBC’S JOSH LEDERMAN: “Inside Giuliani’s new push to flip the script on Trump’s impeachment”

TOP-ED — SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-Vt.) in the NYT: “What the Senate Does Now Will Cast a Long Shadow”: “When the Senate ultimately convenes to consider whether to remove the president from office, for just the third time in its history, it will convene not as a legislative body, but as a court of impeachment. And it will not just be President Trump on trial. The Senate — and indeed, truth itself — will stand trial.”

FED WATCH — “Fed Confronts Lack of Diversity in Its Ranks,” by WSJ’s Nick Timiraos: “The economics profession embarked this year on a soul-searching appraisal of perceived hostility to women and minorities in its ranks, and the Federal Reserve—the nation’s largest employer of Ph.D. economists—wants to get ahead of the curve.

“For the Fed, where three quarters of its research economists are men and most are white, facing up to the lack of women and minorities among these employees isn’t just a matter of appearances. A staff that better reflects the U.S. population could limit the potential for groupthink or blind spots that hinder the central bank’s assessment of how the economy is changing. …

“Current and former staffers and private economists who interact with the central bank say the Fed’s attention to diversity issues gained new urgency under former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and has continued under her successor, Jerome Powell. The shift has coincided with veteran female staffers earning promotions to three of the central bank’s most important management positions this year.” WSJ

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Fur is under attack. It’s not going down without a fight,” by WaPo’s Robin Givhan

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION FRONT PAGE: “Loeffler reaches out to skeptical Georgia GOP activists,” by Greg Bluestein: “As Kelly Loeffler prepares to be sworn in as Georgia’s next U.S. senator, many of the grassroots activists who form the backbone of the state’s Republican Party remain reluctant to give her a full-fledged endorsement.

“An Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of dozens of local party officials and county GOP chairmen showed many are taking a wait-and-see approach to Loeffler, a financial executive Gov. Brian Kemp selected for the job who is largely unknown to even many top Republicans.

“Their hesitance will play a major factor as the political newcomer faces a steep task. Her new role will require her to almost instantly take part in impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump, even as she tries to establish her political brand and fend off conservative challengers.” AJCFront page

MEDIAWATCH — “Devin Nunes, Johnny Depp lawsuits seen as threats to free speech and press,” by WaPo’s Justin Jouvenal: “The suits are part of a string of splashy defamation claims by politicians and the A-list star seeking nearly $1 billion in damages in Virginia courts this year, even though many of the cases have only loose connections to the state.

“The plaintiffs argue their names have been smeared and the venues are appropriate, but several of the defendants — including Twitter and Heard — say the filing location is aimed at exploiting the state’s weak protections for defamation defendants. Some legal experts say Virginia law allows those with deep pockets to bulldoze targets with frivolous, protracted and expensive litigation they couldn’t pursue in many other states.

“The true goals of the suits, the defendants argue, are to stifle critics, blunt aggressive journalism and settle scores. Some deride the legal maneuvers as ‘libel tourism’ and see a growing trend not just in Virginia but in other states that similarly lack safeguards. The suits have prompted Virginia lawmakers to look at changing the law.” WaPo

PLAYBOOKERS

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

ENGAGED — Jacques Petit, regional press secretary at Giffords, got engaged to Alyssa Harris, a contractor at the Department of Energy. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Steve Thomma, executive director of the White House Correspondents Association. An interesting book he’s been reading: ‘American Caesar.’ It was a gift from David Bradley of Atlantic Media after a conversation about our mutual admiration for the reporting and writing of the late William Manchester. It’s a terrific book, deeply reported, and a reminder to this addict of presidential bios that there really are other lions of American life even if they didn’t make it to the White House.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Bill Kristol … Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) is 67 … Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) is 69 … retired Gen. Wes Clark is 75 … Fox News’ Shannon Bream … Lucinda Guinn, executive director of the DCCC (h/t Cole Leiter) … Michawn Rich, USDA communications director (h/t Alec Varsamis) … Chris Peacock of Stanford University communications is 59 (h/t David Jackson) … POLITICO’s Julia Franklin … Alyssa DiBlasi … Steve Hills is 61 … Dentons’ John Russell IV … Axios’ Claire Kennedy … Julio Negron … Adam Milakofsky … Meghan Stabler … Patrick Burgwinkle … Kelley Moore, communications director for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) … Lauren Kahn …

… Fatima Noor … Jared Gilmour … Dan Shott is 33 … Tom Epstein (h/t Jon Haber) … Lewis A. Kaplan … Melissa Ann Merz … Abe Sutton … Josh Satin … Bill Goodson … Natasha Dabrowski … Trump White House alum Zina Bash … Texas A.G. Ken Paxton is 57 … Louisiana A.G. Jeff Landry is 49 … Brittany Bolen … Google’s Patrick D. Smith … Audrey Kubetin … James Miller … Joe Boswell … Jonathan Zucker is 48 … Hilary Novik Sandberg is 31 … Emil Pitkin, CEO of GovPredict … Elizabeth Bingold … Karen Roberts … Brennan Foley … Deloitte’s Rasheq Zarif … Allison Dobson … Rich Tarplin … Carter Snead … Kevin Hayes … Roy Behr … Doug Vilsack … Mark Clesh

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Quebec Premier François Legault promises more affordable housing ahead of fall election campaign

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LAVAL, Que. — Quebec Premier François Legault is getting an early jump on the fall election campaign with a promise to build thousands of new social and affordable housing units if re-elected.

The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec promised today to fund 11,700 new units in the next four years if his party wins a second term on Oct. 3.

He says that amount will bring the province about halfway to filling the estimated shortfall of social and affordable units over the next 10 years, which his government pegs at 23,500 units.

Legault says his party would also subsidize rent supplements for 7,200 housing units, for a total investment of $1.8 billion.

While Legault has yet to announce an official start date for the fall election campaign, the main party leaders have been criss-crossing the province for weeks to hold public appearances and name candidates.

Recent polls suggest Legault’s party has a commanding lead, with more than double the support of his nearest rival.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

 

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Politics Briefing: Canadian researchers and scientists march for better compensation – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Scientists and researchers marched on Parliament Hill Thursday for a Support our Science rally, with the group calling for a living wage for early-career researchers.

The group is calling for a funding increase for grad students and post-doctoral scientists who are supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, an open letter details. The value of scholarships for graduate and postgraduate recipients has not changed since 2003, while living costs have risen steadily, the letter notes.

“You’re not able to really even focus on your studies because of so many financial concerns,” Sarah Laframboise, a biochemistry PhD student at the University of Ottawa, told CBC Ottawa Morning on Thursday.

A petition to the federal government is calling for a 48 per cent increase to graduate scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships – to match inflation since 2003. That petition has received more than 1,200 signatures, while the group’s open letter has been signed by around 7,100 people.

A physical copy of the letter – stretching more than 70 metres – was carried along the Rideau Canal toward Parliament Hill on Thursday.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written today by Marsha McLeod, who is filling in for by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

INFLATION BILL CREATES POSSIBLE BUMPSWhen the United States Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this week, Canadian political and industry leaders were elated by the legislation’s climate provisions, but other major changes in the bill set the stage for a trade standoff between the two countries over digital sales taxes. Story here.

NON-EMERGENCY PARAMEDICS As a number of hospitals across Canada cut back the hours of operation of their emergency departments amid staff shortages, some veteran paramedics say an innovative form of paramedicine could help take the pressure off, specifically, through community paramedicine programs outside of hospitals. Story here.

EDITS ON SPEECH – A line attributing responsibility for abuses of children at residential schools – specifically, that it occurred “at the hands of the federal government” – was edited out of remarks prepared for Carolyn Bennett, who was the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations at the time. Story by The Canadian Press here.

HIGH UNIVERSITY REVENUES – From coast-to-coast, Canadian universities recorded record profits in the 2020-21 fiscal year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Story by the Toronto Star here.

AID SHIPMENT CANCELLED – A Canadian aid group said that a shipment of food, which they were forced to cancel because of a Canadian anti-terror law, could have fed around 1,800 children in Afghanistan. Story by CBC News here.

FIRES CONTINUE IN NEWFOUNDLAND – Newfoundland residents are preparing for the possibility they may have to evacuate their homes as two large forest fires continue to rage through the central parts of the province. Story here.

SENATOR WANTS TO END NDAs – A Manitoba senator wants all federal bodies to be prevented from using nondisclosure agreements in misconduct cases, following months of concern over Hockey Canada’s handling of a sexual-assault allegation. Story by the Winnipeg Free Press here.

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.

FUNDING FOR SOMBRE MONUMENT – On Thursday, Betty Ross, an elder and member of the Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group, along with Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, announced more than $600,000 in funding to build a monument and gathering place to commemorate survivors of the Assiniboia Residential School in Winnipeg.

UNIFOR UNVEILS PROPOSAL – Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, released a proposal Thursday outlining its vision for “vehicle and parts manufacturing that transforms Canada into a global leader as the world transitions to electric vehicle production.”

THE DECIBEL

In today’s episode, chef and author Suzanne Barr teaches The Decibel how to make her famous Caribbean curry chicken and reflects on how the dish helped launch her cooking career. Episode here. It’s the fourth episode of The Decibel’s Food Week.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister is on a two-week vacation in Costa Rica.

LEADERS

No schedules provided for party leaders.

OPINION

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on the latest battleground for First Nations rights: “The next battleground is to the north and west of Lake Superior, on the traditional territories of Treaty 9, Treaty 3 and the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850. It is here, in an area many Indigenous people share, where the waters of Turtle Island split and either flow north to Hudson Bay or south to urban cities. It is also the spot where the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, or NWMO, wants to send truckloads of radioactive material to be buried 500 metres deep into the Canadian Shield.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on the arrival of the ‘great resignation’ in Canada: “Canada has largely avoided this phenomenon, at least in terms of the broad labour market. The number of workers overall who have voluntarily left their jobs has been well below prepandemic levels through the past two years, and has been on the decline over the past three months. … But among the 55-plus population, the story is suddenly very different. It’s as if older workers, having stuck it out during the depths of the recession and the frantic, uncertain recovery, have decided that they’ve had enough.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on the hollow reassurances of Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones: “When asked whether the current health care situation in Ontario is unprecedented, Ms. Jones replied, “No, I’m sorry, it is not,” which is both incorrect and not the winning defence she thinks it is. (Don’t despair, good people of Ontario: our health care system has always been on the verge of collapse!) It is true that the province has faced ER shutdowns before, but it has never faced such a confluence of compounding crises: record-high waits for ward admissions, record-high health care sector vacancies, unprecedented lengths and numbers of “level zero” events where there are no paramedics available to answer emergency calls, and a massive backlog of diagnostic procedures and surgeries that have already put lives at risk and quality-of-life in peril.”

Max Fawcett (National Observer) on the recent U.S. tax bill, and how it should have Canada upping its climate change commitments: “It might finally be time to expect more here in Canada as well. After years of tiptoeing around the energy sector and its numerous allies in politics and the punditocracy, the federal government finally has the cover it needs to bring forward more ambitious policies. Those should include its long-overdue cap on oil and gas emissions and the proposed regulations on methane emissions, which are set to be published next year. And if the government was ever inclined to go easy on the oil and gas industry, recent comments from some of its most prominent (and well-paid) executives should make it think twice.”

Fae Johnstone (Ottawa Citizen) on how Canada must step up to protect LGBTQ2+ rights: “I see increasing attacks on efforts to make schools more inclusive for LGBTQ2+ students, rising incidence of hate crimes against LGBTQ2+ Canadians, and a more organized anti-LGBTQ2+ hate movement than ever before. Since 2015, I’ve lost most of my optimism. Early warning signs indicate Canada could be headed in the wrong direction. Provincially and federally, right-wing fringe parties have adopted anti-LGBTQ2+ rhetoric.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Former British Columbia premier Christy Clark endorsed Jean Charest

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OTTAWA — Former British Columbia premier Christy Clark on Wednesday endorsed Jean Charest to be the next leader of the federal Conservatives at a time when she says the party is racing to the extremes.

She also expressed choice words for a pitch from a front-runner in Alberta’s United Conservative Party leadership contest who has vowed to introduce legislation to ignore federal laws.

“I think that is bats–t crazy,” Clark said of Danielle Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act.

Clark’s comment followed an impassioned speech she delivered in Edmonton to a room of conservatives gathered to discuss the need for the federal party to stick closer to the political centre.

The event was hosted by Centre Ice Conservatives, an advocacy group that formed at the start of the Tories’ leadership contest to encourage candidates to focus on issues like the economy. It argues that championing affordability measures resonate with mainstream Canadians more than others like fighting pandemic-related health restrictions, which has become a rallying cry for many across conservative movements.

Its co-founder Rick Peterson ran in the party’s 2017 leadership contest and has said the new group will not endorse a candidate in the current race.

Clark was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event and only waded into commenting on the contest to replace Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as UCP leader when asked to by an audience member.

Clark, who formerly led the centre-right BC Liberal Party, spoke for roughly 20 minutes about the need for political leaders to focus on what Canadians have in common and not stoke division.

She accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of dividing the country when he said the views of the “Freedom Convoy” protesters who blockaded roads and highways last winter to oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates were unacceptable.

Clark said politicians who divide create opportunities for others to do the same.

“Now we’re watching the Conservative Party of Canada make its race for the extremes to play to the very edges of the political divide,” she said.

“I think some days their rhetoric is just as bad or even worse.”

Her comments come as party members have less than one month left to cast their ballots to pick the next leader.

The race, which began in February, has been a fight for the party’s soul and future direction.

The main rivalry has been between longtime Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who is running on a broad campaign message of “freedom,” and ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest, who has condemned the convoy as breaking the rule of law.

Of the 678,000 Conservative members able to vote in the race, the party reports that around 174,000 ballots have been returned ahead of the deadline Sept.6.

Speaking Wednesday, Clark said she recently received her ballot in the mail and will vote in the contest.

“I think Jean Charest would be a fantastic prime minister,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

 

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