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Politics Briefing: Timing of Trudeau's Vancouver Island vacation continues to be questioned – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

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.

Justin Trudeau is in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino today on a vacation that has raised questions for the Prime Minister and his team over the trip’s timing.

Mr. Trudeau and his family flew to the town of about 2,000 people on Thursday, the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, prompting criticism for not appearing at Indigenous events to mark the historic occasion.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada expressed shock and dismay on Friday about Mr. Trudeau’s trip, questioning the sincerity of past comments from Mr. Trudeau, when he said there is no relationship more important to the Liberal government than that with Indigenous people. Story here.

Mr. Trudeau had little to say about the situation when Global News caught up with him on Thursday on one of the beaches for which Tofino is world famous. See here.

The Globe and Mail asked the Prime Minister’s Office for comment on Friday, but had yet to receive a response by mid-afternoon.

On Thursday, spokesperson Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said that Mr. Trudeau is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days. She also said that, after his participation in a Truth and Reconciliation ceremony on Wednesday night, he spoke Thursday to residential-school survivors from across the country.

Asked about the controversy on Friday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told a news conference on COVID-19 that she could not speak to other people’s scheduling, and, instead, talked about her own experience marking the day.

Visiting Tofino has been a vacation routine for Mr. Trudeau, who lived in the Vancouver region before entering elected politics. See here and here

J.J. Belanger, the operator of a resort in Tofino and vice-chair of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., said Friday that Mr. Trudeau has been visiting Tofino since about 2014, the year before he became Prime Minister.

“I think he gets peace and quiet when he comes here, in a short time frame” Mr. Belanger said in an interview. “He never comes for long. It’s usually four or five days.”

Mr. Belanger said Mr. Trudeau stays in a private home that a friend owns.

He said the Prime Minister surfs and walks on the beach. “He’s kind of left alone here. Nobody really goes after him and bugs him,” said Mr. Belanger. “Today is a gorgeous day, and there are some pretty decent waves so he might be on a board out there today.”

Mr. Belanger said the vacation was probably “bad timing,” but that trips tend to be set up well in advance for security reasons, and the commitment may indeed have been locked in before the Truth and Reconciliation day was confirmed earlier this year with royal assent for legislation enacting the day.

J.D.M. Stewart, author of the 2018 book Being Prime Minister, which is about the lives of Canada’s prime ministers, said Friday that there has always been a tension between duty and personal time for prime ministers, and Canadians don’t understand just how demanding the job is.

“That said, this decision by the Prime Minister has many people righty scratching their heads,” Mr. Stewart wrote. “No one would begrudge a prime minister a vacation – especially after an election campaign but to take it during the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation leaves me dumbfounded.”

Mr. Stewart, in a statement, said the situation raises a question about the quality of the advice the Prime Minister may be getting.

“He is supposed to have people who prevent him from making mistakes such as this so, in my view, the blame for this can be squarely put on his close advisers as well,” he said. “The only plausible explanation I can think of is that the fatigue from an election campaign had everyone’s brain running on autopilot and this one slipped through.”

Ultimately, however, the blame rests with Mr. Trudeau, he said. “He should apologize for this.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

CANADA CELEBRATES THE FIRST NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION – Thousands of people blazed a trail of orange across the country on Thursday to mark the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as they reflected on past and present harms suffered by Indigenous peoples. Story here.

PM URGED TO ACCEPT RULING – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being urged to accept a court ruling that could cost billions in compensation to Indigenous children and families but would contribute toward reconciliation.

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LAW TO CUT TORONTO COUNCIL – Canada’s top court has upheld an Ontario law that slashed the size of Toronto’s city council nearly in half during the last municipal election. Story here.

QUEBEC LANGUAGE LAW UNDER SCRUTINY – Bill 96, Quebec’s proposed overhaul of its French-language charter, is under the microscope at legislative hearings, with participants this week raising concerns about the bill’s effect on English speakers and the independence of the judiciary. Story here.

SASK. MLA QUITS OVER VACCINATION STATUS – A member of caucus of the governing Saskatchewan Party has resigned from caucus after misrepresenting her vaccine status. Premier Scott Moe said the remaining 47 members of the Saskatchewan Party caucus are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Story here.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the fatal flaw in the Alberta sovereignty fantasy:All of this is meant to provide some factual context for the Free Alberta Strategy, the latest and most extreme in a parade of attempts on the part of the province’s increasingly demented right wing to argue for a Quebec-style “knife at the throat” approach to the rest of the country – if not for outright separation. There would be little justification for this even if Alberta were the hapless victim of Confederation the report pretends. But read in the light of reality, the report appears even more to be a work of fantasy, of the most paranoid kind.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on why any member of Parliament who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 should resign: There may be MPs who believe that refusing to receive the vaccine is an assertion of liberty. Sure, whatever. But your liberty does not entitle you to put the health of others at risk. That’s why so many employers are demanding that workers be vaccinated before they return to the workplace. You want to be unvaccinated and free? Then go sit in your basement. Stay away from Parliament Hill.

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Kevin Vuong being ready to serve his most important constituent: himself: “Mr. Vuong has since faced calls to resign – from constituents, from fellow politicians, from the Liberal and NDP Spadina-Fort York riding associations – but he has pledged to stick around, telling those who are unhappy with his win that he will “work hard to earn your trust.” Indeed, it is theoretically possible that the people of Spadina-Fort York will come around to the guy who seems to have snuck into office and is now hanging onto the job out of sheer hubris, just as it is theoretically possible that a majority of members will mobilize to expel Mr. Vuong from the House. But since the latter action has only been executed four times in Canada’s past, neither outcome seems particularly likely.”

Kamila Talendibaeva (Contributor to The Globe and Mail) on why there should be no more excuses for Canada to bring her husband Huseyin Celil home from China: “Let me begin by saying that I am grateful for the reunification of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor with their families. It was moving to watch them return safely to Canada after more than 1,000 days of detention in China. And it has given me renewed faith that Canada can and will be able to save my husband, Huseyin Celil, too. Still, explaining to my four boys here in Canada why their father did not walk off the plane with the two Michaels has proven difficult. Our youngest is now 15 years old; he has never met his father. I have not heard my husband’s voice in 16 years. I don’t even know whether he is still alive.”

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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Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense

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The United States would come to Taiwan‘s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.

“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.

While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

In August, a Biden administration https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-position-taiwan-unchanged-despite-biden-comment-official-2021-08-19 official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.

A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”.

“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.

Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,”

“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.

“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”

Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.

Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.

China says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States and has denounced what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, China’s United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun said they are pursuing “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and responding to “separatist attempts” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“We are not the troublemaker. On the contrary, some countries – the U.S. in particular – is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait into a dangerous direction,” he said.

“I think at this moment what we should call is that the United States to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war definitely is in nobody’s interest. I don’t see that the United States will gain anything from that.”

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Do climate politics really matter at the local level? A Seattle professor thinks so – knkx.org

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The changing climate is a topic you’d think would be front and center in local elections – especially after the heat wave that killed hundreds of people in the Northwest this summer.

A professor of politics at the University of Washington noted a lack of attention to the issue – until he and a colleague pushed for a debate about it in Seattle.

Aseem Prakash

Aseem Prakash directs the school’s Center for Environmental Politics. In July, he wrote about his amazement that none of the candidates seemed to care about the climate. Instead, their focus – as with candidates in New York City – is on crime, policing and, lately, homelessness.

And when you ask them how we’re truly adapting to climate change, the candidates either pass the buck and say some other jurisdiction is ultimately responsible, Prakash says. Or they talk about pilot programs for this and that.

And there are lots of pilot programs, he says. But he doesn’t see any Seattle mayoral candidates — or past mayors — following up with data that would help keep them accountable. Instead, he says, most seem to use a local office, like mayor or city councilmember, as a stepping stone at the beginning of a career in politics — or toward something else more lucrative.

“At some point, all of us, we have to call out the B.S. You have to call out the B.S. and force politicians to confront the issues that affect us,” he says.

“Because there’s a program for everything, right? … Is it really helping?” Prakash wonders.

“Do we have data that the heat island effect in Seattle has improved over the years because there are programs? Have we evaluated how effective these programs are? No. … So then what’s the point? This is what you call ‘virtue signaling.’” 

Prakash says there are too many pledges and not enough action. Accountability is missing. Most people aren’t getting help with things like cooling their homes during heat waves or getting electric cars that are affordable and reliable.

Everybody wants to be a global leader, (to) talk about the future generation. It’s a moral responsibility,“ Prakash says, with a note of frustrated sarcasm in his voice.

“But you ask them, ‘OK, can you please translate it in the context of my humble census tract, my ZIP code? What does climate change mean for my ZIP code? Why should I care?’ ”

These are issues that students and professors from departments all over the University of Washington want to come together to discuss and attempt to solve, as they relate to climate change.

This interdisciplinary approach is why Prakash founded the Center for Environmental Politics seven years ago. The debate is co-hosted by the UW’s EarthLab.

“A Climate Conversation with Seattle Mayoral Candidates” is free and open to the public via Zoom. It takes place Friday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. You can register here.

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Factbox-Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, spent a night in hospital but returned to Windsor Castle on Thursday.

Here are some facts about the 95-year-old queen:

PRINCESS:

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1, on April 21, 1926, and christened on May 29, 1926, in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace.

After her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 for the love of a divorced American woman, the queen’s father, George VI, inherited the throne.

Two years after World War Two, she married navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a Greek prince, whom she had fallen for during a visit to a naval college when she was just 13.

QUEEN

She was just 25 when she became Queen Elizabeth II on Feb. 6, 1952, on the death of her father, while she was on tour in Kenya with Prince Philip.

She was crowned monarch on June 2, 1953, in a ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey that was televised live.

MOTHER AND WIFE

Philip was said to be shattered when his wife became queen so soon.

Her marriage to Philip, whom she wed when she was 21, stayed solid for 74 years until his death in April 2021.

Their children are Charles, born in 1948, Anne, born in 1950, Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.

MONARCH

Winston Churchill was the first of her 14 British prime ministers.

As head of state, the queen remains neutral on political matters. The queen does not vote.

SOVEREIGN

Elizabeth, who acceded to the throne as Britain was shedding its imperial power, has symbolised stability. Her nearly 70-year reign is the longest of any British monarch.

A quiet and uncomplaining dedication to the duty of queenship, even in old age, has earned her widespread respect both in Britain and abroad, even from republicans who are eager for abolition of the monarchy.

OFFICIAL TITLE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

Her Majesty Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

COMMONWEALTH

The Queen is head of state of 15 Commonwealth countries in addition to the United Kingdom. She is also head of the Commonwealth itself, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.

DIFFICULT TIMES

The 40th anniversary of her accession, in 1992, was a year she famously described as an “annus horribilis” after three of her four children’s marriages failed and there was a fire at her Windsor Castle royal residence.

The death of Princess Diana, the divorced wife of Elizabeth’s son and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, in 1997, damaged the family’s public prestige.

Charles’ younger son, Harry, and wife Meghan said in an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year that one unidentified royal had made a racist remark about their first-born child. The couple had stepped back from royal duties in early 2020 and moved to the United States.

 

(Writing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Peter Cooney)

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