In the coming days, Canada will see heightened activity in the nation’s ongoing gender identity politics debate. The “1 Million March 4 Children” protest against how gender identity is taught in schools, is set to occur on Wednesday, with synchronized events in more than 50 cities countrywide. Two days later, separate Toronto rally will spotlight two figures prominent in the gender-critical movement: Chris Elston, colloquially known as “Billboard Chris” for his distinctive method of protesting against childhood medical transition, and Josh Alexander, a Renfrew, Ontario student who was expelled earlier this year after objecting in class to his school’s transgender washroom policy.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong was the target of a disinformation campaign in May that was likely orchestrated by China, according to the Department of Global Affairs.
This is the second time that Mr. Chong has been on the radar of China because of his outspoken criticism of Beijing’s authoritarian regime.
The federal government is in the midst of all-party negotiations to set up a public inquiry after revelations reported in The Globe and Mail that Beijing targeted Mr. Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong in the lead-up to the 2021 election – attempted intimidation that the MP had not been told about. The disclosure of this meddling prompted the Canadian government to expel Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in May.
Global Affairs announced Wednesday that Mr. Chong appears to have once again been the target of China.
“In June 2023, while monitoring the digital information ecosystem for the June 19, 2023 by-elections, Global Affairs Canada’s [GAC’s] Rapid Response Mechanism [RRM] Canada detected an information operation targeting Michael Chong, Member of Parliament for Wellington-Halton Hills, which took place on the social media platform WeChat in May 2023,” the department said in a statement.
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Ford’s Greenbelt plan favoured certain developers, Ontario’s Auditor-General report says – Ontario’s Auditor-General has issued a scathing report on the provincial government’s removal of 3,000 hectares from its protected Greenbelt, saying the move was unnecessary to hit the province’s housing goals, done without considering environmental impacts, and favoured certain developers. Story here.
Manitoba NDP promises to search landfill for First Nations women if elected – The leader of Manitoba’s Opposition NDP is promising to move forward on the search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women if the party forms government after the provincial election on Oct. 3. Story here.
New temporary foreign worker pilot program to speed up approvals for some employers – The federal government is making it easier for businesses to bring temporary foreign workers into Canada, announcing a new “recognized employer” program aimed at speeding up the approval process for companies with a track record of using foreign labour. Story here.
Doctor shortage leaves Northern Ontario emergency rooms on the brink of shutting down – Emergency rooms across Northern Ontario’s rural hospitals are in “dire” need for more physicians and funding as doctors struggle to keep emergency rooms open through the summer trauma season. Story here.
Alberta must reassure renewable power market after wind, solar pause, says federal Energy Minister – The Alberta government should reassure the renewable energy sector that the pause it has placed on approvals for wind and solar projects is a short-term measure, the federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister says, citing the need to avoid creating uncertainty and driving away investment. Story here.
Vancouver hospital suggested MAID as test to assess a patient’s suicide risk – A Vancouver woman who went to hospital seeking help for suicidal thoughts says she was further distressed by a clinician who unexpectedly suggested medical assistance in dying. Story here.
Conservatives launch massive ad campaign amid surge in polls – The Conservative Party of Canada is launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign that depicts its leader, Pierre Poilievre, as a family man who wants to fix the country – all while his party is soaring in the polls and his main rival is going through a public split with his spouse. Story here by CBC.
Quebec judge certifies class action over federal prisons’ segregation practices – A Quebec court has given the go-ahead for a class-action lawsuit that will test the constitutional validity of prisoner-segregation techniques introduced in federal prisons in 2019 as a humane replacement for previous isolation practices that were deemed illegal. Story here. Meanwhile, the Quebec Superior Court has ruled that it can hear a challenge to the appointment of Governor-General Mary Simon, who isn’t fluent in French. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
Summer Break – Both the House of Commons and the Senate are on breaks. The House sits again on Sept. 18. The Senate sits again on Sept. 19.
Ministers on the road – Health Minister Mark Holland, in Vancouver, announced funding on sexual and reproductive health services. Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, in Esquimalt, B.C., participated in the 31st annual Peacekeepers Memorial Day event to unveil the 2023 Veterans’ Week poster. Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal and Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault, in Whitehorse, with Yukon Tourism and Culture Minister John Streicker. made a joint announcement on support for the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association. I Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez, in Ottawa, made an announcement on supply chains and improving cargo capacity at Ottawa International Airport.
New Canada Strong and Free Network president and CEO – Adam Bolek has been named the new president and CEO of the Canada Strong and Free Network, formerly the Manning Foundation for Building Democracy. The appointment, announced here, is effective Aug.1. Mr. Bolek comes to the network from Binance, a global cryptocurrency exchange, where he worked in Canadian government affairs and policy. He succeeds Jamil Jivani, who left to seek the Conservative nomination in the Toronto-area Durham riding of former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole.
New government liaison in the Senate – Quebec Senator Michèle Audette is the new government liaison in the Senate, responsible for outreach on government business in the Senate and working to ensure that senators have the information they require in anticipation of votes. Ms. Audette, who was one of five commissioners responsible for conducting the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, is taking over the position of Government Liaison in the Senate. In that position, she is responsible for outreach on government business in the Senate. Ms. Audette was appointed to the Senate in 2021.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Personal day. The PMO has said Justin Trudeau is on vacation.
No schedules released for party leaders.
On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, biological anthropologist Dr. Tina Lasisi of the University of Michigan, who focuses on studying the evolution and genetics of human hair and skin, will talk to us about the importance of curly hair. The Decibel is here.
Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle won’t affect Canadians’ views of Liberals: poll – Almost 70 per cent of Canadians say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent cabinet shuffle will have no impact on their likelihood of voting Liberal in the next federal election, according to a new poll. Story here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on learning from the last pandemic to get ready for the next one: “At this point, the last thing that Canadians want to think about is the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s enough other big stuff to worry about – the high cost of living, the threat of a recession, floods and wildfires – without having to dwell on yesterday’s nightmare. The problem is that our politicians are of the same mind. There is little urgency at any level of government for a formal public review of what went right and what went wrong from the moment a novel coronavirus was first identified as a threat in China in early 2020. And that’s bad.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on outtakes from a `kinder, gentler; Pierre Poilievre’s efforts to flip the script: “The Conservative Party is set to launch a major advertising blitz aimed in part at introducing a more personable side of Pierre Poilievre to Canadian voters… a kinder, gentler image of a man known in Ottawa circles as a sharp-elbowed partisan. — Global News CLIP ONE: EXT. FIELD – DAY (A verdant meadow, covered in dandelions and Queen Anne’s lace. Larks sing, insects hum. PIERRE strolls into view, smiling, a sweater tied around his shoulders. He is picking a daisy.)”
Omer Aziz (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the last call for neoliberalism: “In that ritzy apartment, the very people who had upheld and relied upon the way things worked – the comfortable system often referred to as the liberal international order – were now having doubts. There was assorted chatter around me: worries expressed about American politics and the global uncertainty. Whenever the conversation veered into the substantive, I sensed a disquiet about the future. They seemed to understand that populists were on the rise everywhere; Ukraine was being attacked; the spirit of rebellion was spreading; young people were losing hope. Animosity toward the elites – toward the people in the room – was reaching pitchfork-raising levels. The neoliberal ideology that had pushed apart the haves from the have-nots over the past four decades had been exposed as a fraud. Leaders had taken notice, and now they found themselves on the line.”
Jen Gerson (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how, without genuine political courage, we’ll get more of the same on housing: “Every once in a while, it’s only fair to tip one’s hat to the Conservatives. So many of their barrages of late have been doomed, bizarre or weak, so some credit is due for a clean rhetorical hit. The party recently issued a particularly on-point political advertisement, contrasting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statements on housing from 2015, 2021 and finally from a press conference held last week. Needless to say, the comparison was stark. At the beginning of his term, a dewy Mr. Trudeau was keen to “prioritize significant new investment in affordable housing.” In 2021, he lamented that first-time homes were “out of reach for far too many,” and firmly promised change.”
Michael Veall (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how, amid Canada’s housing crisis, immigration needs to be slower, more focused: “High expected immigration is the main reason that Canada’s total output will likely increase by 1.5 per cent annually in 2023 and 2024, according to the headline numbers from the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook. That would be the highest in the Group of Seven. But that document also includes the predicted changes in output per person. That is a better measure of the change in the average standard of living, as it adjusts for Canada’s high population growth. The 2023 and 2024 predictions for the country are –0.6 and 0.1, a cumulative decrease over the two years. That’s the worst performance in the G7. Part of this has to do with the lack of investment to complement the inflow of people. The most obvious symptom is Canada’s housing crisis.”
Julia Malott: Nope, parents are not ‘fascists’ for being skeptical of gender politics
As parents’ voices grow louder, there’s a perception in the progressive left that all of these emerging movements are rooted and inspired by “far-right” extremism. Many in leftist circles suggest that parental rights advocacy is a dog-whistle: a veiled attempt to advance anti-transgender policies. A recently leaked video from an Ontario Federation of Labour meeting offers a glimpse into how some of the province’s most influential union members perceive these protests. As one member notably stated during the meeting: “The fascists are organizing in the streets … . This is far more than a far-right transphobic protest. They’re fundamentally racist, they’re fundamentally anti-union, they are fundamentally transphobic, and it’s just a matter of time before they come for us.”
It’s a grave mistake to deride the parental collective pushing back against the status-quo as fascist sympathizers motivated by transgender hate. A glance past such alarmist rhetoric reveals that — while a fringe group of hate has always existed — the concerns many parents are championing are much more moderate than a “far-right” moniker suggests.
For many parents, the core issue at hand is preserving their agency and autonomy over the ideological content of their children’s education. They want transparency about what is being taught, the option to excuse their child from content they believe doesn’t align with their values, and the discretion to determine age-appropriateness for activities, such as certain reading material or events like drag queen performances at schools. Perhaps least surprisingly, parents want to be involved in the key decisions of their own child undergoing a social transition in the classroom.
The matter of social transition behind parents’ backs in particular is so condemning of their role in upbringing that it has thrust the entire gamut of gender identity matters into the national spotlight, revealing just how out of balance transgender accommodation has become. The manner in which the left has responded — by doubling down in their rhetoric and deriding parents as militant zealots, has played powerfully into the rapid growth of this grassroots movement.
Many parents, even amid those who will stand in protest, have little desire to limit other families’ decisions regarding gender teachings and expression for their children. They realize that their objective of ensuring their own parental autonomy is intertwined with safeguarding those same freedoms for other families as well.
So where do we go from here? What might a balanced approach to parental rights look like within the nuanced landscape of gender identity politics? Fortunately, we need not start from scratch; history offers us a model for the coexistence of diverse ideologies within our educational institutions. Look no further than religion.
Amid religious diversity, we teach acceptance. Students are taught to make space for varied faith expression among their peers, whether through clothing or other customs, and with a strong desire to maintain neutral, religious symbols are not adorned by the institution. The lesson for students is to embrace and include, even where personal beliefs diverge; Meanwhile, the guiding principle for the institution is to avoid actions that display favouritism toward any specific religious doctrine.
Such a solution could address a significant portion of the concerns fuelling the rising parental unrest. Moderate parents would applaud such an education system, and this would still be inclusive of transgender students. But in order for this to be realized, the two factions moving ever further apart will first need to come to the table and talk. Given the recent rhetoric from progressive quarters, the prospect of this dialogue anytime soon appears distant.
Ex-diplomat says Poland asked him to keep tabs on Alberta politician
A month after Global Affairs Canada told CBC News it was looking into claims that the Polish government asked one of its diplomats in Canada to gather information on a former Alberta cabinet minister, the dismissed consul general at the centre of the affair says he still hasn’t heard from the department on the matter.
Andrzej Mańkowski told CBC News the only official he has heard from is a B.C. bureaucrat who asked him to return his diplomatic licence plates and identification.
“[Officials with Global Affairs] haven’t tried talking to me,” he said.
Mańkowski showed CBC News a copy of a letter dated Aug. 31 he received from B.C.’s Chief of Protocol for Intergovernmental Relations Lucy Lobmeier asking him to turn in his identity card and to return his diplomatic plates “within 30 days of this letter.” She also thanked him for his service.
Mańkowski alleges he was dismissed from his post in late July after he refused to carry out orders from the Polish government to gather information about Thomas Lukaszuk, a former deputy premier of Alberta who often provides commentary to CBC News about the province’s politics.
“It’s clear that Polish diplomacy during Communist times, the main responsibility was to collect information, to gather information on some Polish representatives abroad,” Mańkowski said, adding he felt as if the request was a throwback to that time.
“The analogy’s extremely evident.”
Last month, Global Affairs Canada said it was taking the allegations seriously.
Spying allegations ‘out of this world’: ambassador
In August, Lukaszuk said he believed he had been targeted by Poland’s department of foreign affairs over his activism against a controversial Polish pastor, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, who has private radio and television stations in Poland.
Rydzyk, who has ties to the Polish government, has been criticized for delivering sermons featuring homophobic and anti-Semitic views and for preaching against the European Union.
Lukaszuk also shared what he said were encrypted messages Polish government officials sent to Mańkowski asking him over the course of a year to prepare notes on the former Alberta politician.
CBC News has not independently verified these messages were official government communications. Mańkowski did not dispute their veracity in his interview.
“Asking for my opinion about Lukaszuk was just a kind of trap, was just a political test of my loyalty,” he said.
Poland’s Ambassador to Canada Witold Dzielski called the allegation “totally absurd.”
“The idea of Polish diplomacy spying on a former provincial politician … it’s really out of this world,” Dzielski said.
He said he has never met Lukaszuk and did not know of his previous career in politics before Lukaszuk emailed him about an unrelated consular matter long before the reports about Mańkowski came out.
Dzielski said that if the notes cited by Lukaszuk are real, they were leaked illegally because they would constitute private diplomatic communications.
The affair has captured attention in Polish media, where the story first broke.
In July, Polish opposition politicians cited the messages released by Lukaszuk when they asked Piotr Wawrzyk, a secretary of state in the government’s foreign affairs department, whether Mańkowski was dismissed because he refused to spy on Lukaszuk.
In reply, Wawrzyk said the government could recall a diplomat who refused to carry out an assignment.
Wawrzyk, who was also a deputy foreign minister, has since been fired himself over an unrelated matter both local media outlets and Reuters have linked to a clandestine scheme awarding migrants visas in exchange for cash.
On Saturday, The Associated Press noted he had been hospitalized following an apparent sucide attempt.
“The minister, Wawrzyk, was laid off because of a totally different subject,” Dzielski said.
He pointed out that those documents were cited by opposition politicians in the context of a heated election campaign.
Dzielski� also said it’s normal for diplomats to be asked to gather information on notable members of diaspora communities.
‘A very marginal conversation’
“We are working very closely with them,” he said. “It is obvious and natural, and it is an element of diplomatic workshops, that we provide and we build ourselves opinions about the quality of cooperation with particular actors.”
He said Global Affairs has spoken to him about the allegations. “We had a very marginal conversation on this which reflects the level of seriousness of this topic,” he said.
A NATO member, Poland has worked closely with Canada to help out its neighbour Ukraine ever since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year.
Asked for comment, Global Affairs said in a media statement it “continues to work closely with security and intelligence community partners to assess the situation and identify next steps as appropriate.”
The department said last month it had contacted Lukaszuk and that it took the responsibility of protecting Canadians from “transnational repression” very seriously.
Put politics aside to solve housing crisis, or your kids might never own a home: Raitt
The Current20:05Putting politics aside to tackle the housing crisis
Political leaders of all stripes must find a way to work together to solve the housing and climate crises impacting Canadians, says former Conservative MP Lisa Raitt.
“Toronto is the best example. NDP mayor, provincial premier who’s Conservative, federal Liberal who’s the prime minister,” said Raitt, co-lead of the new non-governmental Task Force for Housing and Climate, which launched Tuesday.
“And if they don’t figure this out, one voter is going to punish them all.”
The new task force is concerned with accelerating the construction of new homes, while ensuring that’s done in a sustainable way. In a press release, the group of former city mayors, planners, developers, economists and affordable housing advocates said it intends to convene until April 2024 to develop policy recommendations. The work is supported by the Clean Economy Fund, a charitable foundation.
Raitt held several senior cabinet posts under former prime minister Stephen Harper. But as co-lead of the task force, Raitt said she won’t engage in the political partisanship that she thinks “poisons the well” around these issues.
“Part of the reason why we’re coming together as the task force is to have a real pragmatic and practical conversation about these issues instead of weaponizing it into a political arena, and finger pointing back and forth,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.
Canada needs to build an extra 3.5 million new units by the end of the decade, over and above what’s already in the works, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. A report this week showed rental costs have increased 9.6 per cent from Aug. 2022 to 2023, to an average now of $2,117 a month.
This week, the federal government announced it would cut the federal goods and services tax (GST) from the construction of new rental apartments, in an effort to spur new development. The Liberal government also pledged $74 million to build thousands of homes in London, Ont., — the first in what it hopes will be a series of agreements to accelerate housing construction.
Speaking in London on Wednesday, Housing Minister Sean Fraser called on municipalities to “legalize housing,” urging them to remove “sluggish permit-approval processes” and zoning obstacles if they expect federal investment in housing construction.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre criticized the government’s plans as not going far enough, while pointing out it echoes some of his party’s proposals. He’s proposed measures that tie federal funding to the number of housing starts. Funding would be withheld from cities that fail to increase the number of homes built by 15 per cent, while cities that pass that threshold would receive bonuses.
Poilievre’s proposals also include a “NIMBY” fine on municipalities that block construction because of opposition from local residents, and the sale of 15 per cent of federally owned buildings so the land can be used to build affordable homes.
Don Iveson, former mayor of Edmonton and co-lead of the task force, said he understands why partisan politics can creep into the debate — but Canadians expect more.
He said the task force intends “to help all orders of government” understand what’s needed to tackle these problems from an economic, technical and planning perspective.
“We’re not going to be able to solve the housing crisis [by] building housing the way we built it for the last several generations,” said said Iveson, who was mayor of Edmonton from 2013 to 2021.
Your kids need a place to live: Raitt
Iveson said the challenge of scaling up housing construction will require some new ways of thinking.
That might mean a greater emphasis on automation and building houses from components prefabricated off-site, which he described as “essentially a more factory approach” that could also reduce construction costs.
Raitt said the task force will examine where houses are built, and in what kind of density, to ensure scaling up can “get the most bang for the buck.”
That might mean Canadians might need to have difficult conversations, including whether to build multi-storey buildings instead of single-family homes.
Raitt said older Canadians who already own their own homes might not like the idea of taller buildings going up around them, but they should speak to their kids about it.
“They don’t care if it’s going to be four, six storeys in a residential neighbourhood. They just want a place that they know that they can purchase,” she said.
“Talk about whether or not our kids are going to have a place to live, let alone rent, let alone own, let alone a house in the communities where they were brought up, because right now it’s not looking so good.”
Counting the cost of climate change
When it comes to climate change and sustainability, the task force’s goals come down to a “very simple equation,” Raitt said.
“Whatever we’re building now is going to be here in 2050. So if it’s going to be part of the calculation of our net-zero aspirations, whatever they’re going to be,” she said.
She said the task force will work to formulate ways to build housing that take emissions into account, but don’t include prohibitive costs that slow down the rate of construction.
“It’s going to be a little bit more costly to build with climate indications built in … but you’ve got to make sure that there’s policies surrounding that to make sure it still makes it affordable,” she said.
Iveson said wildfires, floods, heat domes and extreme weather events are already disrupting the economy, as well as posing huge financial burdens for the Canadians caught up in them.
“Climate change is already costing us a fortune,” he told Galloway.
Building without those climate considerations “maybe seems affordable in the short term, but it’s false economy when it comes to the real costs ahead of us,” he said.
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