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.
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Hours before tonight’s French-language leaders debate, the Conservative Party announced they would release their costed platform – a move likely to have an impact on the two-hour event as rival party leaders weigh in.
The Liberals released a costed platform on Sept. 1 while the NDP, Greens and Bloc Québécois have not said when they will release theirs.
On Wednesday, party leaders were largely behind closed doors preparing for the evening debate, which offers leaders a last opportunity to appeal to Quebec voters after last week’s TVA debate.
Tonight’s two-hour debate, which begins at 8 p.m. ET, will be followed Thursday night by an English-language debate that begins at 9 p.m. ET. Both are being convened by a consortium of broadcasters, and will be held at the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau, Que.
Details on where and how to listen to both debates are available here.
The French-language debate will cover five themes: climate, the cost of living and public finances, Indigenous peoples as well as cultural industries and cultural identity, justice and foreign policy, and the pandemic and health care. The moderator will be Patrice Roy of Radio-Canada, with journalists Hélène Buzzetti (Les coops de l’information), Guillaume Bourgault-Côté (L’actualité), Paul Journet (La Presse) and Marie Vastel (Le Devoir) also participating. Journalist Noémi Mercier (Noovo Info) will facilitate segments, including questions asked by members of the public directly to the party leaders.
Unlike the recent TVA debate, tonight’s debate will include Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. However, Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, failed to meet the criteria established for participation by the independent leaders’ debate commission.
Ms. Paul’s predecessor Elizabeth May has been in this spotlight before, having participated in two previous sets of debates.
“They’re never anything but nerve-wracking,” Ms. May said in an interview. “It’s high stakes. You want to basically make a favourable impression under incredibly intense circumstances.”
Ms. May said she never prepared, as is conventional, with mock debates in which other people pretend to be the party leaders, nor went into the debates with prepared witty “zinger” lines, but rather approached the experience like an exam, studying all her files. “This may not be a winning strategy, because I am not prime minister.”
Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, said the debate will likely generate clips that will be replayed on social media, helping voters draw conclusions about the proceedings.
“That’s one of the reasons why they talk over each other, to try and prevent the other person from getting memorable lines out,” he said.
SAFE HOUSES OPERATING – A network of safe houses for interpreters in Kabul is still operating to keep people out of the hands of the Taliban until they can be evacuated, but limited resources and the Canadian government’s response continue to make the situation uncertain.
O’TOOLE PROMISES VACCINATED HEALTH MINISTER – Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he would appoint a health minister who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if his party forms government, despite not requiring his candidates to be vaccinated.
LPC TAX PLAN IMPACTS SHARES – A Liberal Party campaign pledge to raise taxes on large banks and insurers is weighing on the share prices of large financial institutions and creating uncertainty for investors expecting a windfall from bumper profits the sector has earned so far this year.
SAFETY CONCERNS COMPROMISE DEBATE – A live election debate in Dawson Creek, B.C., that was supposed to take place this week has been cancelled over safety concerns amid rising conflict over COVID-19 mandates. (CBC) Story here.
GREENS FACE B.C. CHALLENGES – In British Columbia, the Greens face a slide into obscurity that could benefit the NDP in a few critical races, and complicate Liberal ambitions. Story here, from The National Post.
All major national leaders have one key commitment today, namely participating in the French-language leaders’ debate.
ELECTION SPOTLIGHT – NUNAVUT
1 Seat. At dissolution of Parliament, 1 NDP.
Corey Larocque, managing editor of the Nunatsiaq News
“At a time when Canadians are encouraging more women to run for office, we already know Nunavut’s next MP will be a woman. The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all have female candidates in the three-way race to represent Canada’s geographically biggest riding. Nunavut should be seen as “up for grabs.” In a tight national race, it’s an open seat in a riding that has picked an MP from three different parties over the past 10 years.
“It’s a wide-open race because New Democrat Mumilaaq Qaqqaq announced in May she would not seek re-election to the seat she won in 2019.
“Qaqqaq became a high-profile MP partly due to her House of Commons farewell speech in which she said that as an Inuk woman, she felt she never belonged in Parliament, never felt safe there and that she had been racially profiled by Parliament Hill security. Earlier in 2021, she got into a war of words on Twitter with Labrador MP Liberal Yvonne Jones over Jones’ “Inuk-ness.” In the month leading up to the election, the government paid a lot of attention to Nunavut; cabinet ministers Marc Miller, Catherine McKenna, Ahmed Hussen and Dan Vandal all made government funding announcements in Iqaluit.
“Housing – a perennial issue in the North – is a hot-button issue, partly due to Qaqqaq’s efforts to raise awareness of what she called “deplorable” housing conditions in a report she prepared earlier this year.
“As of Sept. 6, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is the only party leader to visit Nunavut during the campaign. About 100 people turned out to a speech in which he pledged a Liberal government would add $360-million to housing in the North.
“In the past 10 years, the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives have all held the Nunavut riding. Former MPs Hunter Tootoo and Leona Aglukkaq were cabinet ministers in the governments of Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper, respectively.”
Together with CTV and Nanos Research, The Globe and Mail is doing daily surveys to track which party and leader Canadians prefer. Read more here.
MANDATORY VACCINATION POLL – New data from the Angus Reid Institute finds rising support for mandatory vaccinations to enter public spaces, with support for proof of vaccination now a majority opinion in both Alberta and Saskatchewan despite opposition to vaccine passport systems by Premiers Jason Kenney and Scott Moe. Details here.
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Justin Trudeau as the Liberal campaign’s biggest asset, turned into its greatest liability: “There is that brief pause Justin Trudeau often takes before launching into his reply to a reporter’s question, followed by a little nod, an intake of breath, and a stock opening like, “Canadians expect their government to …” Some Canadians will watch it and give it a mental thumbs-up. Others never could stand Mr. Trudeau, anyway. And some large number of Canadians will roll their eyes even when they half-agree with what he says. It’s that last portion who are making this election campaign a bigger challenge than the Liberals expected. Justin Trudeau is the Liberal campaign’s biggest asset, and its biggest liability.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on why Maxime Bernier and his noxious views should be at the leaders’ debates: “There are two weeks to go until the election, but already it’s possible to declare a winner. Not the Liberals, who are down about six points in the polls since the start of the campaign. Not the Tories, whose gains to date are only enough to bring them back to where they were in 2019. The NDP have mostly gone sideways, the Bloc has slipped a little, while the Greens have lost a third of their support. No, the early winner is the People’s Party of Canada, otherwise known as the Max Bernier Experience. At roughly 5 per cent (some polls have them as high as eight), support for the Peeps is half again as high as it was at the start of the campaign, and three times what it was in the last election. They are now clearly ahead of the Greens, and within striking distance of the Bloc. This is an appalling development.”
Camellia Wong (contributor to The Globe and Mail) on how Elections Canada’s cancellation of on-campus voting program fails Canadian democracy: “My experience isn’t unique. Voting is a habit, like drinking your morning coffee or brushing your teeth. Decades of research shows that when our democracies engage young people early we can create entire generations of lifetime voters, just like me. Since the 2019 election, more than 800,000 young Canadians have become eligible to vote for the first time. In this election, many of them should have been offered opportunities to vote on their postsecondary campuses. But, to the detriment of our country’s democracy, Elections Canada has cancelled its Vote on Campus Program this year.”
Michael Wernick (Policy Options), former Privy Council clerk, on how politicians need to be honest about what’s on the table when it comes to their spending plans: “Political parties don’t like to talk about spending cuts – except perhaps to insinuate that the other parties have some hidden agenda. They try to project to voters that they can be trusted to manage the finances of the federal government, but details will always be sketchy. Campaign promises tend to be specific about shiny new programs, and occasionally about the reversal of measures the previous government took. But, generally, political parties are very vague on how to get to fiscal targets. Every party platform should end with the warning: “Check against delivery.” To paraphrase the misquoted remark attributed to Kim Campbell, an election is not seen as a great time to discuss serious matters. But Canadians should start asking for more clarity during the current campaign.”
Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. (Please note, it is not possible to answer each one personally.) Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.
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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