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.
An Ontario Liberal government would reinstate rent control, create a new tax on vacant homes in urban areas across the province and charge speculators who keep approved housing projects idle – a levy meant to spur them to build.
The new policy proposals are contained in Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s platform document, released Monday, which includes costing details and also pledges billions in new spending.
All of the main political parties competing for votes in Ontario’s June 2 election have made runaway real estate prices a key issue, as many worry most in younger generations will be shut out of home ownership.
Meanwhile the Ontario New Democrats are promising northerners quicker reimbursement for health travel expenses and more local health centres in their communities. Story here. And the Progressive Conservatives are promising to increase disability support payment rates by five per cent, if re-elected. Story here.
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TRUDEAU VISIT TO UKRAINE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Sunday and told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Canada would deliver more weapons and other assistance, as well as reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital. Story here.
Reporter’s Comment Mark MacKinnon, Senior International Correspondent: “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday (along with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly) was supposed to be kept secret, with media barred from reporting on the trip until after the PM and his entourage had already left Kyiv following a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But that plan exploded when Irpin mayor Oleksandr Markushyn posted photos on his Telegram account of Mr. Trudeau touring his shattered town on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital. Suddenly, it was a media free-for-all, with reporters racing to get their own images and stories online.
“That glitch aside, the visit – which was highlighted by an announcement of more military and humanitarian aid, plus the reopening of the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv – was warmly welcomed in Kyiv, with Mr. Zelensky naming Canada as one of four countries of whom ‘I don’t know what to ask for because you’ve already given everything you had.’
“Canadian ambassador Larisa Galadza was particularly delighted, tweeting that she ‘never expected to have such great company on my return to Kyiv.’”
Meanwhile, on a day meant to showcase his country’s military might, Russian President Vladimir Putin spent his Victory Day speech on Monday justifying his decision to invade Ukraine, as a smaller-than-usual parade of Russian forces rolled through Red Square. Story here.
CALL FOR REVIEW OF RCMP TREATMENT OF WOMEN – An alliance of organizations focused on women’s rights is calling for the federal government to establish an external review of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to address its treatment of women. Story here.
QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT MP’S PARTICIPATION FROM WASHROOM IN HOUSE PROCEEDINGS – The Conservatives are alleging “contempt of the House” after a Liberal MP appeared to be participating in House of Commons proceedings virtually from a washroom stall on Friday. Story here from CTV.
FEDERAL FUNDING NOT RELEASED – A year after the federal government announced a $45-million fund for organizations making sexual and reproductive information and services more available, advocates say none of the money has been released. Story here.
VANCE TERMINATES MILITARY HONOUR – Retired gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s former chief of the defence staff, has terminated his appointment to a major Canadian military honour. Story here from CP24.
SIMON TOURS REGION WHERE SHE GREW UP – Governor-General Mary Simon is on a tour of the Nunavik region of northern Quebec this week, marking the first time she’s been on an official visit to the area where she grew up since she was appointed to the viceregal office in July, 2021. Story here.
FERGUS DEPARTS LEADERSHIP ROLES IN BLACK CAUCUSES – Greg Fergus is stepping down from his dual roles as co-chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus and head of the Liberal Black Caucus – groups whose advocacy has more than once turned into government policy. The parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also the MP for Hull-Aylmer, said he’s making room for a new generation of Black parliamentarians. Story here from CBC.
MANY WOMEN IN QUEBEC NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BAIL ON PROVINCIAL POLITICS – One in four women in Quebec’s National Assembly are not seeking re-election in this year’s provincial election. There’s a CBC story here on what’s going on.
CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE
CAMPAIGN TRAIL – On Monday, Scott Aitchison was campaigning virtually. Former Quebec premier Jean Charest – after spending the weekend in Manitoba visiting Winnipeg and Brandon – was in Edmonton, preparing for Wednesday’s leadership debate. Leslyn Lewis is en route to Alberta and had no events scheduled on Monday. Pierre Poilievre is in Ottawa ahead of departing for Edmonton on Tuesday. No schedules were available for the other candidates.
DODGE DENOUNCES POILIEVRE CLAIM – Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, in an interview on CTV’s Question Period, reacts to Pierre Poilievre’s claim that the central bank is “financially illiterate.” Story here from CTV. Mr. Poilievre responded here.
KENNEY AND MACKAY OFFER TORY LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES SIMILAR ADVICE – Jason Kenney and Peter MacKay, both former federal Conservative cabinet ministers under Stephen Harper, are offering advice to candidates seeking the Conservative leadership. In the wake of last week’s combative first leadership debate, both say candidates need to look beyond the hurlyburly of the current fractious race. “My advice to all of the candidates would be to remember…whoever wins, you’ve got to unite the party at the end of it, and try and be respectful,” Mr. Kenney, now Alberta premier, told CTV’s Question Period. Story here. Mr. MacKay warned, on Global’s The West Block that the combative tone of the debate in Ottawa was “off-putting” to Canadian voters, who will need to be swayed if the party is to have a hope of toppling the Liberals. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, May 9, accessible here.
COMMITTEE MEETINGS – House of Commons committee meetings later today include a 3:30 p.m ET meeting of the Official Languages committee on Government Measures to Protect and Promote French in Quebec and Canada featuring Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, and a 6:30 p.m. ET meeting of the Special Committee on Afghanistan on the situation in Afghanistan featuring an appearance by Defence Minister Anita Anand. All hearings can be viewed online. The full list of committee hearings is here.
OLIPHANT IN EGYPT AND MOROCCO – Robert Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, is visiting Egypt and Morocco until May 12, meeting with officials in Cairo to discuss such issues as climate change and human rights, and taking trade, climate change and peace and security in Marrakesh and Rabat, Morocco, as well as attending a ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition Against Daesh.
On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, transportation reporter Eric Atkins talks about the major delays Canada’s international airports have experienced getting passengers on and off their flights, as people begin returning to air travel in numbers not seen since before the pandemic. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
In Rzeszów, Poland, the Prime Minister holds private meetings and then departs for Ottawa.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet concludes a visit to the Madeleine Islands that began on May. 6.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
CANADIANS SUPPORT UKRAINE POLICY – Canadians are mostly supportive of the government response to the crisis in Ukraine, and many are finding their own ways to assist with the situation such as donating money to support efforts to help Ukrainians, according to a new study from the Angus Reid Institute. Details here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the realities of Canada being an energy superpower: “Energy now accounts for more than a quarter of Canada’s exports, a level last hit in 2014, when crude prices were also on a tear. Back then, Stephen Harper was a vocal booster of the oil industry, and not much interested in talking about climate change. Today, Justin Trudeau is the opposite. Yet for all the Liberal government work to try to cut Canada’s carbon emissions, the economy remains as dependent as ever on pumping oil. Why? Because the world remains as dependent as ever on consuming oil. And Canada is among the world’s largest producers of oil.”
Ebru Kaya and Leonie Herx (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how assisted dying must not be confused for palliative care: “While access to MAID is guaranteed in Canada, access to palliative care and other supports, including home and disability services, are not – and worse, MAID is being provided at the expense of already limited palliative care resources. No one should feel compelled to choose an early death because of inadequate care. Tragically, too many physicians know of patients who opted for MAID due to lack of adequate palliative home-care resources to remain in their homes or communities.”
Vanessa Sasson (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how all Quebeckers are victims of Bill 96′s overreach: “History is repeating itself in Quebec. The repressive measures rolling out in Bill 96, the province’s new proposed language law, are returning us an to era of top-down control that echoes Quebec’s earlier history. The language debate regularly returns in Quebec because the solution to the problem will always be a moving target. French is vulnerable in the face of the global dominance of English, and efforts will have to keep being made to ensure it remains vibrant. That is not a history I take issue with. Most anglophones in Quebec don’t either (despite popular fears claiming otherwise). The invasive methods used to reach that target, however, are. I am speaking here specifically about Bill 96, which is facing a vote in the National Assembly later this month.”
Stephen Harper (National Post) on why it’s time to stop negotiating with Iran: “Western leaders must learn from the mistakes that led to the attack on Ukraine and start dealing with the world in accord with our own security interests. We must return to policies anchored in the concept of peace through strength. This means boosting our own capacities, but also working more closely with those with whose interests we are aligned. A nuclear armed Iran, with its apocalyptic vision, would be nothing short of catastrophic for its regional neighbours and global security, including the interests of North America. “
Steve Paikin (TVO) on the real opponent of the Ontario Liberals: “The NDP is understandably miffed that the Liberals would spend any time trying to take back seats that New Democrats occupied in the last house. Surely, given their majority-government status, the PCs have enough seats the Liberals should be targeting, instead of competing against another progressive party, is the NDP argument. On the other hand, see it from the Liberals’ point of view. Their drubbing in the 2018 election was historic. The NDP won plenty of seats it’d never won before, because progressive voters abandoned the Liberals in favour of the NDP. That’s how seats such as Toronto St. Paul’s, Toronto Centre, and Humber River–Black Creek (all Liberal since 1999), and Kingston and the Islands (Liberal since 1995) suddenly went orange in 2018.”
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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