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Politics Briefing: Government says European Union export law won't affect vaccine supply – The Globe and Mail

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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written 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 signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

The federal government is offering assurances that Canada’s vaccine supply will not be affected by a new European Union export law.

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But as questions on the matter were raised, there was a report India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot made by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise.

On the European Union issue, Indigenous Services Minister Mark Miller was asked at an unrelated news conference Wednesday to comment on the matter.

“The latest news that I have is that we have been assured that we’ll receive our supplies, but we continue to remain in touch with our European partners,” Mr. Miller said.

“That’s why our vaccine portfolio involves different sources and that’s what we have been doing since the very beginning, but I have been assured that our vaccine supply will not be affected.”

This week, The New York Times reported the bloc of countries was finalizing emergency legislation that would give it sweeping control over exports of the critical COVID-19 shots that are manufactured within its borders. The Times reported that the draft law would be made public on Wednesday.

Marieke Walsh reports on EU development here.

FedEx workers offload a plane carrying 255,600 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

TODAY’S HEADLINES

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Canada slapped sanctions on nine Russian government officials for the poisoning and prosecution of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, joining other Western allies who acted earlier.

Eight foreigners suspected of espionage, subversion or terrorism were removed from Canada last year, according to the federal government.

The Liberal government has set April 19 as the date for the first federal budget in over two years and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says in a letter to the Prime Minister that the government must bring in a clear plan for reopening the Canadian economy.

Erin O’Toole says he will disregard his party’s skepticism about climate change and fight the election expected this year with a new policy to help the Conservative Party compete for votes.

The Canadian Armed Forces must learn why approaches to address sexual misconduct in the military have not worked, the acting chief of the defence staff said Tuesday, while he emphasized the need to confront the use and abuse of power in its culture.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau virtually attends the National Caucus meeting as well as Question Period Mr. Trudeau does live interviews with CIBM 107 in Rivière-du-Loup, 107.7 Estrie in Sherbrooke, Quebec as well as an interview on The Bridge with Peter Mansbridge that airs on SiriusXM channel 167, CANADA TALKS.

LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet holds a news conference on Parliament Hill on support for culture.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul makes an announcement in Toronto on COVID-19 vaccinations and adults in racialized and marginalized communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attends NDP virtual caucus meeting then holds a news conference in Ottawa.

OTTAWA ROUNDUP

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Canada has a new ambassador to Ireland. Nancy Smyth, most recently director-general for social development in Global Affair Canada’s Global Issues and Development Branch, will replace Kevin Vickers as ambassador. Mr. Vickers, the former sergeant at arms of the House of Commons noted for helping end a lone gunman’s 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, was appointed ambassador to Ireland in 2015 by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Former B.C. MP Jay Hill, whose political career has spanned Canadian conservative politics, has announced the first three candidates of his new western-independence Maverick Party. The government house leader under former prime minister Stephen Harper, now Maverick interim leader, says the newly announced prospects are running in his former British Columbia riding of Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies (Dave Jeffers), and the Alberta ridings of Red Deer Mountainview (Mark Wilcox), and Calgary Rocky-Ridge (Dave Robinson). Maverick has established 15 electoral district associations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., Mr. Hill said in a recent interview, and is looking to run about 40 candidates if the election is not held until the fall. Additional candidates are expected. Maverick is a new political commitment for Mr. Hill, an MP from 1993 to 2010, carrying the banner for the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance, the Democratic Representative Alliance and the Conservatives. Mr. Hill is working to get the six-month-old party going, but not seeking a seat himself for what he describes as a “very simple” reason. “Do I believe fervently, and am I putting in eight to 10 hour days right now for Maverick? Absolutely,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “But I was just starting to enjoy my retirement and spending time with my grandkids and I don’t intend to go back to Ottawa, potentially for four years, and be separated from them.”

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why the Conservative party should embrace a carbon tax:The carbon tax was, originally, a conservative idea. In Canada, the centre-right BC Liberals were first to introduce it (with the BC NDP at one time pledging to “axe the tax”). Since 2015, some Harper-era Conservatives have been making the case to embrace a carbon tax paired with income-tax cuts. Preston Manning long ago supported the idea, and former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown did, too. Polling suggests such a pivot could be a winner for Conservatives in vote-rich regions such as the Greater Toronto Area, and even in Western Canada.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the need for the quick appearance of a “new take-charge” Erin O’Toole: “The leader’s tussle with his party highlighted the difference between the Erin O’Toole who wooed the party and the one wooing voters. It won’t take that much to point out that he has already had two different political agendas, and his party may have a third. It makes it easy for opponents to spread the perception that he will say anything to get elected, and do what he wants once he is there. That is supposed to be Mr. Trudeau’s weakness. Now Mr. O’Toole gets to share it. Unless, that is, the new take-charge Erin O’Toole really is able to establish who he is, and what he stands for – quickly.”

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Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why Erin O’Toole will have to disappoint “some of his closest friends” if he hopes to lead Canada: “This is the great test for Erin O’Toole. If he wants to be taken seriously by climate policy makers and the general public, he’s going to have to disappoint members of The Resistance. He’s going to have to say to Mr. Kenney, “Thanks for helping me win the leadership, but now I have to do something that’s going to upset you.” And he’ll have to have similar conversations with Mr. Moe, Mr. Pallister and Mr. Ford.”

Tom Mulcair (The Montreal Gazette) on the challenges facing Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade: “Montreal-born Anglade grew up facing far fewer barriers than her parents did, but she, too, has had to overcome numerous hurdles that still bar women, especially women of colour, from the top jobs. She is brilliant, determined and engaging. She was acclaimed leader of the Quebec Liberal Party amid the pandemic and, as our unprecedented health crisis begins to wane, Quebecers will get a chance to know more about this extraordinary woman who could well become premier after next year’s provincial election.”

READERS’ POLITICAL NEWSLETTER QUESTIONS

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

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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Beijing huddles with friends, seeks to fracture U.S.-led ‘clique’

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By Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is shoring up ties with autocratic partners like Russia and Iran, as well as economically dependent regional countries, while using sanctions and threats to try to fracture the alliances the United States is building against it.

Worryingly for Beijing, diplomats and analysts say, the Biden administration has got other democracies to toughen up to a rising, more globally assertive China on human rights and regional security issues like the disputed South China Sea.

“China has always resolutely opposed the U.S. side engaging in bloc politics along ideological lines, and ganging up to form anti-China cliques,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement to Reuters.

“We hope relevant countries see clearly their own interests…and are not reduced to being anti-China tools of the U.S.”

After last month’s stormy talks between top U.S. and Chinese diplomats in Anchorage, Beijing also appeared to engage more urgently with countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, which are also on the wrong end of U.S.-led sanctions.

COLD COMFORT

“China is very worried about U.S. alliance diplomacy,” said Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, pointing to what he calls attempts to “huddle for warmth” with governments shunned by the West.

Days after the Alaska meeting, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, received Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who called for Moscow and Beijing to push back against what he called the West’s ideological agenda.

A week later, Wang flew to Iran and signed a 25-year economic pact, which Renmin University professor Shi Yinhong said “effectively exposes every Chinese company participating to direct or indirect U.S. sanctions.”

President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, exchanged messages with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling for a deeper partnership with another country whose ambitions for nuclear arms has drawn sanctions.

China is also wooing its economically dependent neighbours. Wang hosted foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea in China’s southeastern Fujian province in recent weeks.

Li said Beijing will be holding out promises to help these countries revive their economies after the COVID-19 pandemic, making them think twice about siding with the United States.

After Philippines diplomats and generals accused China of sending militia-manned vessels into their waters, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was not going to let territorial disputes in the South China Sea get in the way of working with China on vaccines and economic recovery.

BUILDING BLOCS

Biden has continued to pressure Beijing on many of the same issues the Trump administration did, but with a more alliance-focused strategy.

At a meeting between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday, the two countries presented a united front against China’s assertiveness, on issues ranging from the disputed East China Sea islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, to rights issues in China’s Hong Kong and Xinjiang region.

Last month, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed coordinated sanctions over reports of forced labour in China’s western Xinjiang region, while over a dozen countries jointly accused China of withholding information from an investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and France all recently joined the United States in sending warships through the disputed South China Sea, or announced plans to do so.

Washington also said it wants a “coordinated approach” with allies on whether to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, amid concerns over human rights violations, particularly related to the treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

BREAKING THE ‘CLIQUE’

China has responded angrily to shows of unity by Washington’s allies, with its diplomats dubbing Japan a “vassal” and Canada‘s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “running dog” of the United States.

China’s strategy to weaken this unity revolves around encouraging U.S. allies to engage independently with Beijing, and put the economic benefits first, while punishing them if they engage in joint-action against China.

Beijing responded to the EU’s sanctions of Chinese officials over Xinjiang with disproportionately harsh counter-sanctions, analysts said, potentially torpedoing a long-awaited investment agreement.

Janka Oertel, director of the Asia Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, believes Beijing is prepared to sacrifice economic benefits for core interests if they are threatened by the U.S.-EU alliance.

Xi drove home the message in a recent phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, telling her that he hoped “the EU will make a correct judgment on its independence”.

But China still needs European technology and investment, said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China.

“They still talk to us, despite the sanctions, business keeps going, and that’s very reassuring.”

Beijing has not given up persuading Washington that cooperation is better than competition, as demonstrated last week when it assured U.S. climate envoy John Kerry of support for Biden’s virtual climate summit this week.

“China hopes Washington can appreciate that it is in U.S. interests to have China as a friend rather than as a foe,” said Wang Wen, a professor at the Chongyang Institute of the Renmin University of China.

 

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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