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Politics Briefing: Tam warns of ‘tight race’ between COVID-19 variants and vaccines – The Globe and Mail

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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.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer is warning of a “very tight race” between vaccines and variants of concern as severity indicators and daily cases of COVID-19 are back on the rise.

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At a briefing Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam said new incidents are highest among young adults.

She said daily cases have increased more than 30 per cent over the past two weeks, with an average of 29 deaths reported daily.

And variants of concern are an increasingly high proportion of new cases in several provinces.

Details on the briefing are here.

Meanwhile, the Auditor-General says Canada did not use its pandemic early warning system appropriately during the early months of COVID-19 and underestimated the threat posed by the virus. Grant Robertson reports here on Karen Hogan’s findings.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Carbon Pricing Ruling: The warming of the planet is a “threat to the future of humanity,” the Supreme Court said Thursday, ruling that Ottawa has the authority to impose a minimum price on greenhouse gas emissions across the country. The Globe and Mail explainer on carbon pricing in Canada has been updated and is available here.

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Committee conflict: Federal Liberal cabinet ministers will instruct their staff not to appear if called to any parliamentary committees in an attempt to curb what they call an “abuse of power” by opposition parties.

Municipal infrastructure funding: Ottawa plans to double to $4.4-billion in next month’s budget a fund cities and towns use to build infrastructure as part of a package of COVID-19 spending dedicated mostly to health care costs and vaccination efforts.

Military misconduct: Military Ombudsman Gregory Lick said Thursday that he would have taken the same actions as his predecessor, Gary Walbourne, if faced with an anonymous sexual misconduct complaint.

Quebec and Nova Scotia Budgets: The Quebec government’s pandemic budget increased spending on health, education and infrastructure on Thursday but avoided any major new plans either to generate new revenue through taxes or to spend it. Patrick Brethour explains here how budgets from Ontario and Quebec set the stage for next month’s federal budget. Meanwhile Nova Scotia also tabled a budget yesterday – the first since Iain Rankin became premier – that forecasts a $585-million deficit, but a return to balance within four years. Details here.

ROUNDUP

Ten weeks after the Newfoundland and Labrador election was called, voters will get the results Saturday. Results were expected Feb. 13, but the outcome and voting has been delayed due to the impact of the pandemic. Now Elections NL, the provincial elections agency, says results will be out Saturday at noon NT. Story here. Meanwhile, the Yukon is going through its own pandemic election, with parties and the public dealing with a new dynamic detailed here and an interesting new voting feature ahead of an April. 12 vote.

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The federal Conservatives have held their policy convention. Next up, among the national parties, comes the federal Liberals, with a virtual convention scheduled April 8 to 10. Four MPs – Rachel Bendayan, Marci Ien, Terry Beech and Mona Fortier – are convention co-chairs. A federal NDP convention scheduled for April 9-11 will overlap. (The last Green party convention was in 2018.) The two imminent conventions come amidst speculation that a federal election call is looming.

Canada has a new ambassador to Israel. Lisa Stadelbauer, most recently Canada’s high commissioner in Kenya, is replacing Deborah Lyons, says a statement from Global Affairs Canada.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings and the Prime Minister, joined by Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid, virtually meets with nurses from Victoria General Hospital, in Winnipeg.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on where the Supreme Court carbon price ruling leaves federal and provincial conservatives:So Mr. O’Toole’s job, in political terms, is to make the last stand against carbon taxes without making too big a deal of it. Mr. O’Toole has promised to scrap the Liberals’ carbon tax, although he has endorsed the idea of some form of industrial carbon pricing, but also to issue a climate plan without one. That can be done – heck, he could ban coal plants and gasoline engines cars – but no effective method will be without costs, or universally popular.”

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Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on why the biggest winner out of the Supreme Court carbon tax ruling may be Erin O’Toole: “ Suppose these four provinces decide to bow to the inevitable and collect the tax themselves. Behind the scenes, Mr. O’Toole might even be encouraging them to. Because at that point there would be no federal tax to scrap. The tax would now be solely a provincial tax, even if collected at the federal government’s behest. Mr. O’Toole has always said he would support the provinces in whatever they decided. All he has to do then is shut up about it.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail ) on that path ahead after the Supreme Court carbon price ruling: With the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the carbon tax, the federal Liberals clearly won the day. The main pillar of Ottawa’s climate-change plan, to impose minimum carbon-pricing standards across the country, is upheld by Thursday’s decision. Provincial governments in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta will have to undergo a process of radical acceptance – Canada’s carbon-tax policy is here to stay, or at the least has become much more difficult to unwind. But it’s a mistake to think climate policy in Canada is somehow settled, and quarrelsome premiers such as Jason Kenney are now going to back off.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on why the RCMP needs a new commissioner: “In the business world, when there is a crisis of confidence within a company, the CEO steps down to appease the shareholders. This is de rigeur: Someone takes responsibility and a thorough review happens or else investors flee. Canada’s bureaucratic public institutions must be held to an even higher account, as they serve the people; the RCMP, which deals in life and death, should be held to standards even higher than that.

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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