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Politics Briefing: New modelling warns of spike in Ontario COVID-19 cases; province announces shutdown – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

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.

Hours before Ontario announced a provincewide shutdown today, new coronavirus modelling warns that the more contagious and deadly variants could drive new cases close to the 6,000-a-day mark by the end of April.

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The forecast comes from the government’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table as part of a presentation that recommends a two-to-four week “stay-at-home order” to prevent the surge.

Ontario’s new measures aimed at stopping the rapid spread of new variants of COVID-19 come amidst sparring between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford over vaccines, detailed here.

Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail Editorial Board writes on a necessary surge in lockdowns this spring.

And L’actualité says Mr. Trudeau and his inner circle have ruled out a spring election because of developments in the pandemic, and are now looking at an August election call for a vote in September, after Labour Day.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

More military misconduct allegations: A senior commander is on leave from his role as head of military personnel amid allegations of sexual misconduct now under investigation by military police.

New vaccine plant: Sanofi will build an influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto, with an announcement Wednesday that the global pharmaceutical giant, the federal government and the province of Ontario will invest close to a billion dollars in the project.

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Committee standoff: Opposition members shut down a parliamentary committee hearing Wednesday after the Liberal government once again refused to let a political aide appear to answer questions about the now-dead deal with WE Charity.

Fighter jet decision looms: Canada’s top military procurement official says he is optimistic the federal government will finally end its decade-long search for a new fighter jet for the Royal Canadian Air Force next year despite challenges and delays from the pandemic.

Securities regulators bid falters: The federal government and seven provinces and one territory are shutting down the organization charged with creating a national securities regulator due to waning political support for the project in jurisdictions such as Ontario and British Columbia.

Study predicts pipeline losses: The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion stands to lose Canada between $3.2-billion and $18.5-billion, according to a new benefit-cost analysis study from researchers at Simon Fraser University in B.C. They examined close to 20 business scenarios for the pipeline expansion, but didn’t find any in which it generates a net benefit for Canada.

Ches Crosbie quits: Ches Crosbie’s father, John, was a St. John’s city councillor, provincial cabinet minister under premier Joey Smallwood and high-profile federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister under prime ministers Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney.

But Ches Crosbie’s own political career has stumbled after he fell short in his second bid to become Newfoundland premier. After three years as leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Progressive Conservative party, Mr. Crosbie has announced he is stepping down as leader after losing his seat in the recent provincial election.

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PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings.

LEADERS*

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole delivers remarks virtually to the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.

*Some Politics Briefing newsletter readers have wondered about posting what the Prime Minister and other party leaders are up to, questioning why some leaders show up more often than others. I can’t take credit for the observation, but the most valuable commodity of political leaders is their time. For that reason, it’s useful to see what they are doing with it in scheduled events. The Prime Minister’s Office generally issues advisories on what Justin Trudeau is scheduled to do, even when it is “private meetings.” Advisories on other leaders tend to be intermittent, but are posted when available.

POLLS

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An Angus-Reid Institute poll, conducted with Cardus, looks at religious worship and the pandemic. Among its findings: Two-in-five respondents (or 39 per cent) say gathering restrictions on places of worship in their province have been unfairly harsh compared to those imposed on other public venues. British Columbia hosts the highest proportion of those who hold this view (50%). Details here.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on what the PM didn’t know about an allegation of sexual misconduct against the military’s top officer and when he didn’t know it: “The thing is, taking Mr. Trudeau at his word doesn’t lead to reassuring conclusions, either. Was there a surprising lapse by the experienced senior bureaucrats at the centre of government? Or did the Prime Minister’s aides decide that it was best he didn’t know. After all, his Defence Minister, Mr. Sajjan, had chosen not to see any evidence. One thing is certain: The Prime Minister didn’t make it easy to find out what he didn’t know.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on the need for Ottawa to employ apt stimulus: Four months ago, there was frustration in economic-policy circles that Ottawa’s $70-billion-to-$100-billion recovery stimulus pledge was a big figure without a plan. That we would have to sit nervously until a spring budget for the government to get started with lifting the economy out of the deep pit of the pandemic. Now, less than three weeks until that spring budget, it’s a good thing the government waited. The more pressing question is whether the country needs this stimulus at all.

Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the implications, for Canada, of Joe Biden’s expensive climate plans: “Canada’s debate around how much to spend on climate transition has got a jolt from south of the border less than three weeks before a federal budget that will chart the path for postpandemic economic recovery. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced a US$2-trillion infrastructure plan that, while also including more familiar measures such as bridge and road upgrades, would represent an unprecedented U.S. investment in emissions-reduction and clean-technology competitiveness.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on dealing with health and long-term care workers who decline vaccination:How can it be that during a pandemic that has killed more than 22,000 Canadians and sickened nearly a million, individuals who work directly with the most vulnerable populations are under no obligation to be vaccinated? That hospital staff, long-term care workers and other front-line personnel can choose to decline a safe and effective tool to protect their health and the health of their patients, and yet still show up to work as normal as if we aren’t in the midst of an ongoing global public health emergency?”

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Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on leadership challenges facing the BC Liberal party once led by Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark: “ [Mike Bernier] did provide a memorable post-mortem on the Liberal showing in the October election: “We had our asses handed to us in the last election for good reason.” Now there’s an inviting topic for any Liberal leadership forums: “We had our asses handed to us in the last election for good reason — discuss.”

DO YOU HAVE A POLITICAL QUESTION?

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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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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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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