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Politics Briefing: The first televised leaders debate of the federal election campaign is tonight – The Globe and Mail




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.

The first televised leaders debate of the federal election will be held in Quebec tonight, and is likely to have an impact beyond the province in the continuing campaign.

TVA, a key Quebec network, is hosting the two-hour debate, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. The Cable Public Affairs Channel, better known as CPAC, will air a translated edition of the debate at 10 p.m. ET after it has aired on TVA.

Only leaders with at least one seat in Quebec are allowed to participate, which means the debaters will be the Bloc Quebecois’ Yves-Francois Blanchet, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh.

“It’s really a Quebec-centric debate,” Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said Thursday,

However, Mr. Béland said, in an interview, that the debate results will resonate across Canada.

“Most anglophones won’t be watching this debate, but they will hear about it, if they follow the news, if they watch television, if they read newspapers even if they are on social media like Twitter,” he aid.

Mr. Béland said the 2019 TVA debate was a “turning point” in the election.

He noted that Mr. Blanchet’s strong performance bolstered the fortunes of his party, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s performance created challenges for his party because of his answers on abortion and medical assistance in dying.

Mr. Béland said he thinks Mr. O’Toole will probably be under the most pressure. “It’s his first [leaders] debate ever and it’s not his mother tongue,” he said.

But he added it could be “game over” for Mr. Trudeau if he does not deliver a performance that allows the Liberals to hold their own in Quebec seats. “They could make gains in Quebec which could offset some of the losses they are likely now to encounter in other parts of the country,” he said.

There are 78 seats in Quebec. At dissolution, the Liberals had 35 seats, the Bloc had 32 seats, the Conservatives had 10 and the NDP had one seat.

The Cable Public Affairs Channel, better known as CPAC, will air a translated edition of the debate at 10 p.m. ET after it has aired on TVA.

Other televised debates are looming. The Leaders’ Debates Commission has scheduled debates next week with a French debate on Sept. 8 and a Sept. 9 English debate.


AFGHANISTAN AMBASSADOR TOOK TIME OFF DURING CRISIS – The Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan took time off in mid-July as Taliban militants were sweeping across the country and former Afghan employees of the embassy in Kabul were begging for help to get them and their families to safety in Canada.

AFGHAN EMBASSY EMPLOYEES CALL FOR ACTIONS – Afghan employees of Canada’s embassy in Kabul had urged Ottawa in 2012 to set up a special immigration program because of the risks they faced working for the Canadian government. But it took almost a decade for such a program to be implemented in July of this year, as the Taliban were already on an offensive sweeping through Afghanistan to power.

CHINESE STATE-RUN PAPER LEVELS ALLEGATIONS AGAINST SPAVOR – Michael Spavor, the Canadian citizen sentenced last month to 11 years in prison in China for espionage, is alleged to have taken photos and videos of military equipment and may have provided them to fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig, a Chinese state-run newspaper reported on Wednesday.

LIBERALS RELEASE COSTED PLATFORM – The Liberal Party released a costed campaign platform on Wednesday detailing how a re-elected government would spend an additional $78-billion over five years – primarily in areas such as health care, housing and seniors – while targeting corporations and the wealthy for $25-billion in tax hikes.

SUZUKI ON GREEN PARTY WOES – David Suzuki broadens his election endorsements beyond the Green Party, telling the Tyee in British Columbia that one reason he is casting his net more broadly is that although “this is a moment when the Greens are desperately needed,” the party, in his view, has been “fatally weakened” by internal controversies made highly public. Story here.

HOW DOES MAIL-IN VOTING WORK – There’s a Globe and Mail primer here.


Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, in Montreal, participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, in Montreal, participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

Campaign-Trail Commitment: In a media release, Mr. O’Toole promised a `Free Trade with Free Trade’ strategy that includes pursuing a Canada-Australia-New Zealand-United Kingdom agreement, and reviving free-trade talks with India.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a press conference on Afghanistan and Canada’s place in the world.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Montreal, holds a media availability, and serves poutine in Préfontaine Park, and participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.


1 seat. At dissolution of Parliament: 1 Liberal

Rhiannon Klein, Chair and Instructor, Indigenous Governance Degree Program, Yukon University

“With only one federal electoral district covering the entire Yukon territory, this current election campaign is turning into quite a contentious and interesting race to observe. Yukon is home to approximately 43,000 people with an estimated 29,100 eligible voters. Since 2000, Liberal MP Larry Bagnell has served six out seven terms (Bagnell lost his seat to Conservative candidate Ryan Leef in 2011, winning it back again in 2015). Prior to Bagnell winning his seat in 2000, the Yukon was a federal NDP stronghold from 1987-2000.

“The 2021 federal election campaign has started out much differently. In July 2021, Jonas Smith was named the Conservative Party candidate. Smith lost to Bagnell in 2019 by only 153 votes with a 72 per cent voter turnout. On Aug. 5, Bagnell caught everyone by surprise when he announced he would not be seeking re-election. Further to everyone’s surprise, the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced he had been named the Liberal candidate. This announcement has come with several strong criticisms and questions around the politicization of the CMOH role and whether it was appropriate for him to run. Only two days after the federal election was called, another big surprise came when the Conservative Party announced they were dropping Jonas Smith as their candidate because of his public opposition to supporting public health guidelines, predominantly vaccine mandates and passports. Smith decided he would stay in the race, running as an independent candidate.

“Shortly after Smith was dropped, Barbara Dunlop, long-time Yukoner and retired public servant, was named the Conservative candidate. The NDP announced their candidate, Lisa Vollans-Leduc, a Yukon Government policy analysist. The Green Party announced Lenore Morris, a lawyer and business owner, would be running again, though she would be absent for the first two weeks of the campaign. Morris ran previously in the 2019 election. With six candidates running for one seat in an electoral district that has previously been won by less than a percentage point, it could really be anyone’s seat to win at this point! Some of the key issues being highlighted so far on the campaign trail include climate change, reconciliation, housing, and economic recovery. It is difficult to know how people are going to vote this time around- will it be partisan-based, issue-based, or strategical – one thing is for sure: Yukon will have a new Member of Parliament this Fall who will have to represent many different political viewpoints.”


Together with CTV and Nanos Research, The Globe and Mail is doing daily surveys to track which party and leader Canadians prefer. Check here for the latest results.


The Editorial Board of the Globe and Mail on the better-late-than-never U-turn Premier Doug Ford just did on vaccine passports: “Mr. Ford’s reversal is belated, and it will rely on easily faked printouts of vaccine receipts until Oct. 22, when the province says the secure passport it’s working on will be available. But it is nonetheless welcome. Ontario is the fourth province, after Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec, to bring in a vaccine passport – a tool this page has long argued is critical to raising Canada’s vaccination rate, thereby minimizing the impact of the fourth wave.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the Liberals are intent on vaccine-wedge politics:The Liberal platform had thousands of words and hundreds of promises to spend $78-billion, but at the press conference to unveil it, Justin Trudeau kept talking about a single paragraph tucked away on Page 51. That’s the passage that outlines the Liberals’ promise of protection from lawsuits for companies that require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the next step in Mr. Trudeau’s increasingly strident support for vaccination requirements: promising federal protection to companies that demand their employees get the jab. “Making sure workplaces can keep themselves and their employees safe,” in the Liberal Leader’s words.”

Dan Lett (The Winnipeg Free Press) on Manitoba’s new “reluctant” Premier, Kevin Goertzen: “Goertzen made no bones Wednesday about the fact that he was going to be different — much different — than the last guy. For nearly an hour, Goertzen took questions from reporters and provided elegant, confident and — most importantly — credible answers. He did not attack anyone, did not blame anybody else for his government’s mistakes and never once used political hyperbole to claim some sort of hollow victory. In other words, in his very first public appearance as Premier, he was everything that Pallister was not over five years. You could tell that Goertzen was leaning into the contrast that was materializing between him and Pallister. He talked about the importance of projecting calm and respect while avoiding “conflict and animosity.”

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.

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Quebec undergoes a culture shift as ‘woke’ politics is redefined in the province – The Globe and Mail



Quebec Solidaire Leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois questions the government during question period on Sept. 23.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

For 50 contentious years, the defining split in Quebec politics was between sovereigntists and federalists. “Should Quebec remain in Canada?” was the ideological question par excellence.

But last week, when Premier François Legault exchanged barbed words with the rising opposition star Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in the Salon bleu of the National Assembly, a new political axis was born. Call it “les wokes” vs. “les Duplessistes.”

This divide isn’t about economics or independence so much as issues of race and religion, whose primal importance in Quebec was once again borne out by this year’s federal election. And although the divide stems from a pair of insults hurled across the floor of the provincial legislature, it reveals a deeper realignment in Quebec’s political class that is being mirrored around the democratic world, away from traditional standards of left and right and toward a preoccupation with identity.

The fracas began on Sept. 15, when Mr. Nadeau-Dubois, a leader of the “Maple Spring” student protests in 2012 and now parliamentary leader of the left-wing Québec Solidaire, rose in the Assembly to accuse Mr. Legault of imitating Maurice Duplessis. It was meant as a bitter reproach: “The Boss” ruled Quebec for most of the period between 1936 and his death in 1959 with a mixture of Catholic piety, anti-Communism and Quebec nationalism, while openly persecuting religious minorities such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and suppressing dissent. His time in power is still often called The Great Darkness.

The current Premier, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois argued, was channeling his notorious predecessor in part by conflating support for Bill 21, a contentious piece of provincial legislation that bans the wearing of visible religious symbols by certain public servants, with membership in “the Quebec nation.”

Visibly angry, Mr. Legault shot back that a majority of Quebeckers support the religious-symbols law. Duplessis, he said, had “many faults, but he defended his nation. He wasn’t un woke like the leader of Québec Solidaire.”

A surprised wave of laughter went up in the Blue Room; the Quebec media has been tittering about Mr. Legault’s choice of epithet ever since. Why was the Premier of North America’s only majority francophone jurisdiction wielding a term popularized by Black activists to describe vigilance about social injustice? Why was he using it as a put-down, not to mention a noun?

Asked to define “un woke” the following day, Mr. Legault offered an original contribution to the Quebec vernacular, saying that to him it meant someone “who wants to make us feel guilty about defending the Quebec nation [and] defending its values.” Google searches for the word exploded in Quebec.

But if the Premier’s particular gloss on the term was novel, its use by conservatives in the province was not. In the past couple of years, columnists for the influential Quebecor media conglomerate have become particularly enamoured of using “woke,” in English, as a slur for liberals and leftists who are highly sensitive about race and gender, a trend on the American right as well. Benoît Melançon, a literature professor at the University of Montreal, searched a media database to find that, since the beginning of last year, the word has appeared in francophone outlets more than 2,000 times.

The word entered Quebec’s political bloodstream purely as a pejorative; virtually no one in the province owns up to the label. While a French politician running to be the Green Party’s presidential candidate recently embraced being “woke,” Prof. Melançon noted, “that’s never done in Quebec.” Likewise, although some historians and journalists have recently begun rehabilitating Maurice Duplessis’s reputation – and Mr. Legault himself jokingly compared his party to Duplessis’s as recently as 2019 – his name remains a popular shorthand for reactionary authoritarianism.

Both political camps have begun life, then, with no self-professed members – but that does not mean they lack weight. In an unsuccessful attempt to steal back some thunder from two rival parties and reassert the importance of his political project, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon tweeted a photo of himself this week wearing a shirt that said, “Neither woke, nor duplessiste. Indépendantiste.” The provincial Liberals, meanwhile, traditional standard-bearers of the federalist cause, have stayed out of the fray altogether. Their only slight involvement in the squabble came when Mr. Legault sneeringly referred to them as one of two “multiculturalist” parties in the National Assembly.

The lower profile of Quebec’s once-dominant parties, and the issue that animated them for decades, is the result of a sea change that has sidelined the traditional debate about sovereignty in favour of lower-stakes skirmishes about immigration and ethnic diversity. The shift dates to around 2007, according to Frédéric Bérard, a political commentator, doctor at law and course instructor at the University of Montreal’s law school. It was then, he said, that the question of “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities came to the forefront of political life in the province.

Quebec has since been roiled by successive controversies around that theme, from the question of whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies to the outrage that greeted a debate moderator’s question during the recent federal election campaign about Quebec’s “discriminatory” religious-symbols law.

These issues have emerged, not coincidentally, amidst the long-term decline of the Parti Québécois. Sensing the withering of its traditional goal of an independent Quebec state, the PQ embraced a program of aggressive secularism and the integration of immigrants into the francophone mainstream as an alternative form of national self-assertion, Mr. Bérard said. “It’s less trouble to ban a veil than to have a referendum on independence.”

Although Quebec’s identitarian shift had local causes, it also happened in parallel with a move away from traditional definitions of left and right worldwide. Culture and identity have replaced economics as the main vectors of politics in much of the West, said Mark Fortier, a sociologist and publisher (as well as the author of a book about reading the work of Mathieu Bock-Côté, one of the main exponents of anti-wokeism in the mass-market Journal de Montréal newspaper).

If “les wokes” vs. “les Duplessistes” seems like a tempest in a Québécois teapot, then, it may be part of something bigger. Consider Brexit in the U.K. and the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., Mr. Fortier said.

“It’s not just in Quebec … It’s the Quebec version of a phenomenon that traverses all liberal democracies.”

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Politics Chat: Democrats At Odds Over Government Spending – NPR



Moderate and Progressive Congressional Democrats at odds over their party’s two big spending bills, plus a deadline for the debt limit looms this week.

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Politics Briefing: Canadian officials decline comment on resolution of Meng case, impact on two Michaels – The Globe and Mail




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.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is to appear virtually in federal court in New York Friday afternoon to resolve U.S. bank fraud charges against her.

But Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and senior parliamentary reporter Steven Chase report here that it is unclear if there is a side agreement with China that would free Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who have been imprisoned on charges of espionage since December, 2018.

The two men were arrested after Ms. Meng was detained at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. extradition request.

Canadian government officials in Ottawa refused to discuss the legal development that is being handled by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.

Reporter’s Comment, Steven Chase: “The Globe and Mail broke the story of Ms. Meng’s Vancouver arrest in 2018, a development that was followed within days by the jailing of two Canadians in China: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in what Canada has since called hostage diplomacy. The result was a deep freeze in Canada-China relations. The Globe also broke the news last week that talks had resumed with an eye to a settlement.

“A plea deal for Ms. Meng would allow her to return home but it’s far from certain China would swiftly reciprocate on the Michaels. Beijing has spent more than 2½ years arguing that there is no connection between the Meng case and the Michaels and defending the Chinese legal system as legitimate and above-board. For them to release the Michaels immediately would serve to confirm their critics’ accusations.”

This is a developing story. Please watch The Globe and Mail for updates.

There’s a Globe and Mail explainer here on China’s conviction and detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.



O’TOOLE DEBATE CONTINUES – Some Conservatives, including former Ontario premier Mike Harris, are expressing support for federal Tory Leader Erin O’Toole, as others criticize the party’s election results. Story here.

VANCOUVER-GRANVILLE WINNER DECLARED – The race is over in the high-profile riding of Vancouver-Granville, formerly held by Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. Her successor is Taleeb Noormohamed, for the Liberals. Story here, from CBC.


NEW DEFICIT INFO – The federal government ran a $12-billion deficit in the month of July, according to new Finance Department figures that provide a sense of the fiscal landscape as the re-elected minority Liberal government faces calls from premiers and opposition parties for billions in new spending.

CANADA STAND ON TRANS-PACIFIC TRADE DEAL – The Canadian government won’t offer any public support for applications by either Taiwan or China to join a Trans-Pacific trade agreement, saying it’s up to the 11-member pact to jointly decide on new admissions.

PROSPECTIVE NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CANADA SPEAKS OUT – Joe Biden’s choice for the next ambassador to Ottawa says the U.S. is waiting for Justin Trudeau’s long-promised update to Canada’s China policy. David Cohen’s remarks Wednesday to a Senate hearing came amid fresh questions about the depth of the Trudeau government’s engagement with the U.S. President on China-related issues. From Politico. Story here. A copy of Mr. Cohen’s opening statement to the committee is here. Video of the hearing at which Mr. Cohen testified is here.

EX-LPC MP PLEADS GUILTY – Former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara has pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and one of being unlawfully in a dwelling house in virtual courtroom on Thursday. From Global News. Story here.

U.K MILITARY OFFERS CANADA ARCTIC MILITARY HELP – Britain is signalling its interest in working with the Canadian military in the Arctic by offering to take part in cold-weather exercises and bring in some of its more advanced capabilities – such as nuclear-powered submarines – to help with surveillance and defence in the Far North. From CBC. Story here.

A HEAD-SCRATCHING MOMENT – CTV National News journalist Glen McGregor catches a political moment, involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on video that defies easy explanation. See here.


“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.


No schedules released for party leaders.


John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how the federal election revealed that Canada has never been more united in purpose: The United States has become so polarized it threatens to tear itself apart. Parties of the far right have become increasingly powerful in Europe. Canada is nothing like that, as the election proved. Our politicians howl over picayune differences. Elections are fought over the best way to deliver a new government program, rather than on whether such programs should exist. The consensus on everything that matters is deep and profound. It’s been a very long time since we were this united, if ever.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why Alberta Premier Jason Kenney should resign:A change in leader is the only hope the [United Conservative Party] has of holding on to power: a new leader, a new voice and mea culpas galore for the disastrous job the party has done since winning election in 2019. That pretty much has to be the only strategy. But we can never lose sight of the real story here. The real story is all the needless death from COVID-19 in Alberta caused by a government’s selfish desire to put politics ahead of the health and safety of the public. That is a scandal that should cost the person responsible for it his job. Mr. Kenney should do the honourable thing and resign.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on why all Canadians should take Sept. 30 to observe National Truth and Reconciliation Day: “This year, Sept. 30 will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and every Canadian should observe the federal statutory holiday. Put on an orange T-shirt to honour the survivors of those 139 so-called schools. Think about how Canada can bring about change. Reflect on how to bring loving homes free of mould and with clean water and full fridges to all First Nations communities that need them. Or high schools, for that matter. But we are only sort of recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, because it’s up to each provincial and territorial government, as well as individual businesses, to decide whether it will be an actual paid day off.”

Murray Mandryk (Regina Leader-Post/Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s failure to explain issues in his eagerness to bash Justin Trudeau: “About the only things surprising in Moe’s Tuesday morning Trudeau bashing is: (a) we didn’t hear more of it during the campaign and; (b) there is a legitimate beef here, if you can get past Moe’s politicking and incoherent messaging.”

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 Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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