Spat erupts over who can speak for the Conservative Party
The director of communications for the federal Conservative Party and a prominent political pundit are at odds over the commentator’s qualifications to speak on party matters.
The conflict pits Sarah Fischer against Tim Powers, and began with a letter, available here in which Ms. Fischer raised concerns about Mr. Powers being described as a “Conservative strategist” in a story by The Hill Times, an Ottawa publication.
In this week’s issue, Mr. Powers is quoted saying that Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s political strategy attacking the federal government’s policy on the opioid crisis is more about framing the issue as one of security and public safety rather than the science behind efforts by government to provide a safe supply of drugs.
In response, Ms. Fischer wrote in the letter to The Hill Times that Mr. Powers is not a strategist for the Conservative Party of Canada or its leader. She also offered to recommend “an actual strategist” for the party if asked.
“The leader can also confirm that, in his nearly two decades as a member of Parliament, cabinet minister and leader, he is not aware of any strategic work that Mr. Powers has ever done for the party in any capacity whatsoever.”
Mr. Powers, a long-time Conservative, is the chairman of the Summa Strategies government relations firm who has long offered political commentary, appearing on such programs as CBC’s Power & Politics series.
In response here, Mr. Powers said on social media that the strategist label is used by the media. “Sorry I don’t have a Conservative strategist card that I hand out. In fact, I have corrected that before. But run me down falsely if that helps your cause.”
In a statement to The Globe and Mail on Thursday, he said he was put on the party’s 2004 leadership election organizing committee by Stephen Harper to organize the first leadership race of the then new party. Also, he was a paid strategist in the Tory war room in 2005-06.
He also said he has taken on several assignments for the party, including being a member of the party’s “Spinners Calls” where party activists are briefed on announcements and asked to give feedback.
“Sarah Fischer is entitled to her views but I am not sure there is any great value in running down me or anyone else who have had long associations with the Conservative Party and movement,” Mr. Powers said in his statement.
“Party purity tests don’t win elections in my experience.”
Ms. Fischer did not respond to a request for additional comment.
Letters to the editor: 'Many … are so concerned about the state of affairs in my province, yet they don't even live here … – The Globe and Mail
Re “With Danielle Smith’s win, the Wildrose Party has firm control of Alberta” (May 31): The real question, and challenge, should be whether or not Ottawa will have firm control over Alberta.
Douglas Cornish Ottawa
Re “Majority rules” (Letters, May 31): Many letter-writers are so concerned about the state of affairs in my province, yet they don’t even live here.
We have businesses here. If the NDP had won, we would’ve had to pay higher taxes and utility rates and likely another record debt.
Ontarians should worry about the politics in their own province – that’s where they can have a voice for change.
Erica Forrest Red Deer, Alta.
Re “Inquiry or not, foreign interference in Canada’s elections is part of a new Cold War that we cannot hide from” (Opinion, May 27): I think contributor Brian Lee Crowley is absolutely correct that our political leaders are out of date and naive regarding their views of authoritarian leaders.
After all, China created the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and Russia the Holodomor and Great Terror. Multiple millions of citizens died by their own leaders’ making.
I don’t think Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin would have any compunction to do to us what they would do to their own citizens. Alas, humankind hasn’t progressed very far.
Stephen Gill East Gwillimbury, Ont.
Rise and fall?
Re “Inflation is changing the way Canadians are spending” (Report on Business, May 27): No wonder so many Canadians are railing against apparent corporate greed and seemingly superfluous profit, at the expense of so many people’s basic nutritional necessities.
We see this appalling reality through the proliferating overreliance on food banks, as even the giant grocers become unaffordable to a growing populace. There’s unrelenting price inflation while corporate salaries and bonuses correspondingly inflate, yet it appears to never be enough.
There must be an imminent point at which the status quo will end up hurting big business’s monetary interests. One can imagine that a healthy, strong and large consumer base, and not just wealthy consumers, is needed, which would mean livable wages.
Or could it be that the unlimited-profit objective is somehow irresistible? It brings to mind the fox stung by the instinct-abiding scorpion while ferrying it across the river, leaving both to drown.
Frank Sterle Jr. White Rock, B.C.
Re “Equinor delays Bay du Nord project by at least three years” and “Worldwide additions to renewable energy capacity set to surge in 2023″ (Report on Business, June 1): A tipping point? We can only hope.
This news is good for those of us who see a dark future if we do not move away from fossil fuels. We may be seeing the beginnings of a path to a sustainable future for our energy-intensive civilization.
Now let’s keep the momentum. Take a closer look at investment policies for our funds and pension plans. Focus on derisking and avoiding stranded assets by investing in a green future.
Sharon Bider Toronto
Re “U.S.-style book bans could happen in Canada too, if we’re not careful” (Opinion, May 27): As a former teacher-librarian and school principal, I am appalled, but mostly saddened, by the frenzy to ban books.
The school library was the one place where students could wander freely. They were encouraged to pull books from the shelves to explore which ones to sign out. The freedom to choose from a vast variety of topics was one of the joys of being in the library.
Reading was a way to explore historical events and different cultures, identities and points of view. The exploration of new ideas was encouraged. Parents always had the right to decide which books their child should or should not read, but could not make the choice for other parents.
I worry about the future in which my grandchildren will live. How narrow-thinking will the populace become if only one point of view is allowed to prevail? This kind of narrow-mindedness frightens me.
Phyllis Levin Toronto
Freedom of thought is the last freedom. Banning books will likely make the public want to read them more.
Banning a book because an author is Black or queer is a suppression of a person’s right to free expression as a human being. I believe Florida’s directive to ban books and worried parents’ attempts to mould their children’s minds is futile.
Curious minds inevitably want to know more, and rightfully so.
Diane Sullivan Toronto
Before retirement, I was a teacher-librarian.
One day, an outraged mother marched in with a non-fiction book on the Salem witch trials and demanded to know why it was on the shelves, and why her Grade 8 son had been allowed to sign it out. I remained calm and explained to her that books on the shelves were all well-reviewed and appropriate for students.
I told her that this book was a carefully researched account of an episode of mass hysteria in history. I also encouraged her to fill out a form to request reconsideration of library materials.
She harrumphed her way out the door. I displayed the book on the recommended-reading table. The form was never returned.
It seems that we are in the midst of another frightening outbreak of mass hysteria. And, yes, it is time to “make a fuss.”
Dianne Harke Edmonton
Re “Our innate urge to own beautiful objects doesn’t make us shallow” (Opinion, May 27): Contributor Phoebe Maltz Bovy writes that she is “never sure what to do” with, for example, information about the food industry: “Factory farming is bad, but so, too, is food production of all kinds, rife with toxins and exploitation … everything is terrible, and yet we all need to eat.” But everything is not equally bad.
If I choose lentils or tofu rather than chicken or beef as a protein additive for my curry or spaghetti sauce, they may be associated with some harms. But those pale by comparison with the harms produced by the factory farming of animals.
Exploitation is typically worse in slaughterhouses than on soybean or lentil farms, and the environmental and climate change impacts of animal agriculture are far greater. Plus, if I choose lentils or tofu, what I’m eating will not have required the deliberate killing of birds or mammals.
The choices we make really do make a difference.
Mauree Okun Nanaimo, B.C.
Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Keep letters to 150 words or fewer. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnston hired crisis communications firm as he prepared report on foreign interference
David Johnston, Canada’s special rapporteur on foreign interference, has hired a firm known for its crisis communications to support him — and taxpayers are footing the bill, CBC News has learned.
Valérie Gervais, a spokesperson for Johnston, confirmed that the former governor general, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate foreign interference in Canadian politics, first retained Navigator at the start of his mandate as special rapporteur to provide “communications advice and support.”
Navigator calls itself a “high-stakes strategic advisory and communications firm” that offers a range of services. Its slogan is, “When you can’t afford to lose.”
Hockey Canada hired the firm to help it through the fallout from its handling of sexual abuse allegations and use of players’ registration fees to quietly pay out settlements. A Hockey Canada executive confirmed the organization paid Navigator more than $1.6 million to guide it through its public relations nightmare.
Before resigning his position, Ottawa’s police chief Peter Sloly hired Navigator to help with communications during the convoy protest in Ottawa that shut down the downtown core of the capital for more than three weeks.
Navigator’s work for Johnston has included drafting press releases, preparing him for interviews, analyzing news media reports and social media and providing logistical support for the release of his first report on foreign interference, Gervais said in a written statement sent to CBC News.
“Navigator has had no involvement in [Johnston’s] investigation or the development of his conclusions, and has not been privy to any classified materials,” she wrote.
Johnston is set to appear for three hours before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday to discuss his report on foreign interference by China’s government.
The House of Commons passed an NDP motion earlier this week, with Conservative and Bloc Québécois support, calling on Johnston to step down from his high-profile role.
CBC News asked for an estimate of how much taxpayers are paying for Navigator’s services to Johnston. His office said Johnston’s “work is ongoing and as such final costs are not available at this time.”
“In accordance with the Terms of Reference and Treasury Board policies, the Independent Special Rapporteur is authorized to incur necessary expenses to conduct an independent review,” Gervais wrote.
“These services were retained in accordance with Treasury Board policies, and are subject to any necessary disclosures.”
Along with Navigator, Johnston also hired the Ottawa-based communications company RKESTRA to provide “media relations support” related to the release of his first report.
RKESTRA’s website currently lists Gervais as the founder and CEO of the company.
Her LinkedIn profile says she has a “decade and a half of experience advising high-profile employers.” She worked as a spokesperson at Rideau Hall in 2019 when Julie Payette was governor general — before Payette resigned in 2021 in the wake of a report that found she presided over a toxic workplace.
Gervais was also press secretary to then-justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in 2016.
Johnston also hired the international law firm Torys LLP to provide “legal, investigative and drafting support,” wrote Gervais.
In a media statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the “Liberals have missed the mark and consistently failed to reassure Canadians that their elections are free of interference.”
“Hiring a crisis communications firm suggests to Canadians the Liberals’ main concern is how this looks — not getting to the bottom of a very serious issue.”
Singh said that if the Liberals had launched a public inquiry, “taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for another crisis management service.”
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner tweeted that she’s “scratching her head” at this move to hire Navigator and said the firm has “exposed itself to potential weeks” of “questioning by all opposition parties.”
A spokesperson for the Conservatives, Sebastian Skamski, said hiring Navigator has “given Canadians yet another reason to demand an open and independent inquiry.” He said Johnston is wasting Canadians’ “hard earned tax dollars”.
Filing an Order Paper Question immediately to see if taxpayers are paying for this. <a href=”https://t.co/VVGiSllX2Q”>https://t.co/VVGiSllX2Q</a>
CBC News asked Navigator for comment. The firm said “it is Navigator’s policy not to comment on our client engagements.”
Opposition critics have claimed Johnston’s appointment is tainted due to his connections to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation and the prime minister’s family. Johnston has said the family connection is overstated, while the Conservatives have called him a “ski buddy” and “personal friend” of Trudeau.
Trudeau said Friday he’s committed to keeping Johnston in his role and looks forward to public hearings Johnston is expected to hold in the coming months before releasing his final report this fall.
South America: A hard road to unity – Al Jazeera English
Unlike other parts of the world, Latin America is free of war. Yet it is a region plagued by inequality, crime, corruption, drug trafficking and social upheaval. Political stability and strong democratic institutions are more the exception than the rule.
South America, in particular, never seems to stop moving from one extreme to the other, shifting from the political left to the right and back again, without addressing the social and economic demands responsible for moving the pendulum.
Such instability has made it difficult for the continent to form an influential bloc, despite estimates that it collectively represents the fifth-largest global economy.
Earlier this week, all 12 South American countries, represented by 11 presidents and Peru’s prime minister, gathered in Brasilia to give another crack at the elusive goal of continental integration. Spearheading the effort was Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“What he is trying to achieve is the unity of South America,” Lula’s chief adviser, former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, told me.
“I think it’s always been important, but it’s now even more important in a world which is progressively divided in blocs. I think, in a world like that, even a country like Brazil — which is very populous and has a huge economy — is not big enough alone.”
But while Lula is still considered the region’s most influential leader, many at Tuesday’s summit were not willing to follow his advice.
Lula had hoped to revive UNASUR, the South American bloc that he had helped create 15 years earlier during his first two terms as president. But ideological disputes eventually convinced more than half of its member countries to abandon the organisation.
“It’s better not to start from zero,” Lula said at this week’s summit, as he pitched reconvening UNASUR.
But he was unable to convince all of his peers who, in the end, chose to assemble a group with members from each country to work on a plan for regional integration over the next 120 days.
Lula had appealed to South American leaders to put aside their ideological differences and concentrate on common interests, including economic growth, energy production and environmental protection.
But his decision to welcome Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro the day before the summit led to open criticism. In his remarks, Lula had dismissed the image of an “anti-democratic” Venezuela as a “narrative” promoted by Western countries and the media.
But Chilean President Gabriel Boric said that, as a left-wing president, he disagreed.
“It’s not a narrative construction. It is a reality. It is serious,” Boric said. He added that respect for human rights was “basic and important” for Chile, no matter the ideology of those who violate them.
Milestone for Maduro
For President Maduro, the meeting was an important milestone. For years, he had been isolated from his South American peers — Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina, for example — after many chose not to recognise his re-election in 2018, opting instead to support an opposition government.
During hours of closed-door meetings at this week’s summit, Maduro faced direct criticism of his human rights record from at least two presidents, but he did not take up the glove.
“We have no problem sitting down to talk with any political force or president in a respectful, tolerant dialogue of unity in diversity. That is what we had here,” Maduro said when the meeting ended.
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernandez and Chile’s Boric — all left-wing figures — were among the majority who agreed that at no time in history has South America shown such economic potential.
It is home to the largest reserves of copper and the highly sought-after lithium used in rechargeable batteries. The region also has the potential to become the largest producer of green hydrogen and other sources of sustainable energy. And it has huge reserves of freshwater, rainforests and an increasingly — though not sufficiently — educated population.
But South America’s economic and political disparities have frustrated decades of attempts to create regional unions. UNASUR has not been the only bloc to flounder. MERCOSUR — a union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — has also struggled amid internal disputes.
What is needed is more pragmatism, according to some experts. And the current immigration crisis in South America could help spur it.
More than seven million Venezuelans have left their homeland since 2015, according to the United Nations. If countries like Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia want to repatriate undocumented Venezuelans and institute an orderly system of legal migration, some observers believe they will need Maduro’s cooperation.
Boric referred to cooperation with Venezuela to resolve the crisis at the Chile-Peruvian border.
“Together, with the governments of Peru and Venezuela, through a dialogue with Venezuela’s foreign minister, we were able to resolve this crisis and allow a Venezuelan aeroplane to return citizens of that country to their homeland,” said Boric.
Following the EU model?
Amorim, Lula’s adviser, pointed to the European Union as a model for how South American nations can proceed to build a new bloc, even with a diversity of political opinions.
“You have several political positions In Europe. You have governments of the centre-right. You have governments which one might say are even more right than centre-right. And you have the centre-left governments,” Amorim said. “And still, on some subjects at least, they are able to speak — if not with one single voice — at least in a coherent way.”
Lula’s dream of a united South America, however, is still a long way from success. But politicians like Amorim see hope in Europe’s example. The 12 countries of South America, after all, are much more culturally and linguistically similar than the members of the European Union.
“Of course, there will be different views,” Amorim said of a possible South American bloc. “But we have common interests in many respects. We have to work for our interests in a unified way. Because like that, we have more strength.”
There is a lot to be gained and no time to lose, Lula explained at the summit, as he referenced South America’s long history of being under the shadow of powerful economic and political powers, stretching back to the earliest days of colonialism.
“We cannot wait another 500 years in the margins,” he warned.
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