Politics Briefing: Trudeau and Poilievre hold townhalls in Atlantic Canada – The Globe and Mail
Thursday was a townhall day for both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre with each on the road, taking questions from members of the public in Atlantic Canada.
With the House of Commons on a break until March 6, the two leaders had an opening to get out of Ottawa for outreach on key issues.
“Townhalls outside of elections are critical opportunities to trial balloon ideas, tone, and key messages,” Nik Nanos, chief data scientist at Nanos Research, and the official pollster for The Globe and Mail, said in a statement.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that in a minority parliament with the two front running parties, neck and neck in the polls that they are calibrating their tour and messages. These are warm up events for the next federal election.”
After a pair of townhalls earlier this week in York Region, near Toronto, and Longueuil, near Montreal, Mr. Trudeau was in Nova Scotia where the Liberals hold eight of 11 seats to three for the Conservatives.
Over the week, the Prime Minister appeared before the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario and farmers and agricultural producers in Longueuil (where, story here., he said the federal government is looking at how it can provide targeted aid to farmers who are struggling with inflation.) On Thursday, the audience in the room was university students.
Mr. Trudeau was largely talking about health care at Dalhousie University’s Collaborative Health Education Building in Halifax. During the event, Mr. Trudeau mentioned that his government had confirmed health care agreements in principle with five provinces. Story here.
“This is really as much an opportunity for me to hear from you on whatever it is you are preoccupied with. There is a lot going on in the world right now,” Mr. Trudeau said, opening the event.
Meanwhile, Mr. Poilievre was scheduled to hold a townhall in the Newfoundland and Labrador town of Clarenville, about 190 kilometres west of St. John’s.
An advisory from Mr. Poilievre’s office earlier this week said Mr. Poilievre would be holding a “Keep the Heat On, Take the Tax Off” townhall on increases to the cost of home heating.
The Conservatives did not release any details, in advance, on other parts of Mr. Poilievre’s visit to the province where the Liberals hold six of seven seats. However, The Telegram in St. John’s caught up with the Official Opposition leader to learn what he was up to, which is largely outside the provincial capital – and urban centre – of St. John’s. Their story is here.
Alex Marland, a professor and the head of the political science department at Memorial University in St. John’s, said he expects that Mr. Poilievre’s team is seeking, through the event, to bolster the messaging around a recent television spot they have been running in Atlantic Canada to attack federal Liberal policies on pricing carbon. Global News reports here on the ad effort.
He also noted that the Tories may see rural Newfoundland, outside the capital of St. John’s, as more promising political terrain. Their sole MP, Clifford Small, won his Central Newfoundland riding by 281 votes over his Liberal rival in the 2021 election.
“It’s a very strategic and targeted thing that they are doing. They’re trying to talk about a particular issue in a particular area where they think it’s going to resonate. [Mr. Poilievre is] not there by accident,” said Mr. Marland.”There’s not a lot of seats in Newfoundland, but he has chosen to be there.”
BREAKING – Toronto’s city clerk says a mayoral by-election to replace John Tory is planned for June 26. Story here.
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FIVE PROVINCES SIGN IN ON OTTAWA’S HEALTH DEAL – The federal government has reached health care funding deals with five provinces Thursday, quickly cementing the 10-year spending plan Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced just over two weeks ago. Story here.
DATE SET FOR ONTARIO BUDGET – Ontario is set to introduce its budget on March 23. Story here.
FREELAND RAISES SECURITY CONCERNS ABOUT BANK – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is raising national-security concerns about Wealth One Bank of Canada, telling three of its founding shareholders that they could be susceptible to Chinese government coercion, according to two sources. Story here.
$37.7-BILLION IN PANDEMIC WAGE SUBSIDIES TO BUSINESSES WITH TAX DEBTS – The federal government paid $37.7-billion in pandemic wage subsidies to businesses with tax debts, and $1-billion to insolvent companies, raising new concerns about the level of screening Ottawa applied to its most generous COVID-19 support program. Story here.
DEPARTING MLA CALLS B.C. LEGISLATURE `TORTURE CHAMBER’ – A former New Democrat cabinet minister who gave what was likely her last speech in the legislature Wednesday, said she was proud of her accomplishments despite working in an institution she called a “torture chamber.” Story here.
FEDERAL HOUSING ADVOCATE REVIEWING HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS – The federal housing advocate is launching a review of homeless encampments in Canada, calling the situation a human-rights crisis fuelled in part by the failure of all levels of government to provide adequate housing. Story here.
STILES SEEKS OPINION ON FORD DAUGHTER’S STAG-AND-DOE – NDP Leader Marit Stiles is asking Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner to issue an opinion on whether Premier Doug Ford’s actions surrounding his daughter’s stag-and-doe event were improper. Story here.
GOVERNOR-GENERAL PERFORMING ARTS AWARDS ANNOUNCED – Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and Alberta singer k.d. lang are among the major Canadian artists being recognized for a lifetime of creative achievement at this year’s Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards at Rideau Hall in the spring, ahead of a ticketed gala in Ottawa on May 27. Story here.
ONLINE NEWS BILL PROMPTS GOOGLE TO BLOCK NEWS WEBSITE ACCESS – Google is testing ways of blocking Canadians’ access to news websites in response to the federal government’s online news bill, which would force the company and other tech giants to compensate news organizations for using their work. Story here.
MP PREPS BID TO LEAD ONTARIO LIBERALS – Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is assembling a team in preparation for a bid for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, which he says needs renewal to beat Premier Doug Ford. Story here.
ONTARIO CONSIDERS BUILDING NEW NUCLEAR PLANTS – Ontario is exploring the possibility of building new, large-scale nuclear plants in order to meet increasing demand for electricity and phase out natural gas generation. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
ON A BREAK – Both Parliament and the Senate are on breaks, with the House of Commons returning on March 6 and the Senate on March 7.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY – Chrystia Freeland, also the Finance Minister, is in Bengaluru, India, where she held private meetings, participated in the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, and participated in the family photo for finance ministers and central bank governors attending the meeting. Ms. Freeland was also scheduled to meet with G20 partners throughout the day ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
MINISTERS ON THE ROAD – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Peterborough, Ont., and accompanied by Mayor Jeff Leal, provided an update on the High Frequency Rail project that includes a stop in Peterborough. Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, in Abbotsford, B.C., made an announcement on federal disaster recovery funding for the province. Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge, also minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, in Candiac, Que., toured the facilities of a clean-technology company. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, in North Vancouver, announced special measures to support Iranian residents in Canada on behalf of Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, in Winnipeg, announced funding for the province’s early learning and child-care plan along with the province’s Education Minister Wayne Ewasko.
SHARPE TAKES ON PAGE ASSIGNMENT – Teenaged journalist Wyatt Sharpe is taking a break from the political beat as host of the Wyatt Sharpe Show broadcast on YouTube, to serve as a page at the Ontario legislature – details here. He began Tuesday.
But the 14-year-old from Orono, east of Toronto, says he will be back in two weeks chasing stories for his show, which has featured interviews with key political figures including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
He said in an interview on Thursday that work as a page is proving productive. “A lot of the people I see here are people I had already interviewed, but, in addition, I am getting to make further connections for my show when it comes back,” he said.
One of the things he says he has most enjoyed is being among teenagers his own age who share his interest in politics. “It’s not necessarily like at my normal school that I go to everyday where there is not necessarily other kids who are interested in politics. That part has been interesting.”
He said he has pre-recorded interviews for his show, and has a guest host: 19-year-old Jackson Gosnell. Once he is back on March 10, Mr. Sharpe says he will be airing an interview with U.S. Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Halifax held private meetings, participated in a townhall with students at Dalhousie University, and held a media availability.
Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, in Clarenville, N.L., held a townhall on increases to the cost of home heating.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Globe and Mail columnist Konrad Yakabuski explained an agreement between Canada and the U.S. called the Safe Third Country Agreement central to an issue that has seen thousands use an unofficial border crossing between Southern Quebec and New York state called Roxham Road. In December, almost 5,000 people – migrants seeking to claim refugee status in Canada – entered Canada through Roxham Road. The Decibel is here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Danielle Smith’s corporate welfare for the oil industry: “Alberta Premier Danielle Smith wants to clean up old wells, ones that haven’t produced any oil or natural gas for decades yet still blight the province’s landscape. She’s got the right goal in mind – industry has been far too slow remediating old wells – but where Ms. Smith goes wrong is the proposed method. The Premier wants to give owners of inactive wells breaks on royalty payments on new wells they drill, in exchange for dealing with the old wells. The plan is corporate welfare, with Albertans bearing the cost of the private sector’s unfulfilled obligations and cleaning up the mess left behind after profits are extracted.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on why we should let the politicians tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why: “Let’s hold all our politicians to one simple rule about Roxham Road: Don’t tell us what you want to do about it. Tell us how you would do it. Quebec politicians have been calling for the unofficial crossing on the border between Quebec and New York state to be closed. And Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the feds to do so within 30 days. But as it turns out, there is no switch that opens and closes the border. So what is it they are actually proposing?”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how the Emergencies Act has proved its mettle: “The least important part of the report of the Public Order Emergency Commission is the part that attracted the most attention: Justice Paul Rouleau’s finding that Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to quell the lawless occupation of downtownhall Ottawa and other points across the country last February “met the threshold” set out in the act for its use.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road: “It is easy to understand why a government that prefers to project a compassionate image would be reluctant to act in any manner that might make it look heartless to some. Turning asylum seekers away at Roxham Road, in effect surrendering them to U.S. immigration authorities, would subject the Trudeau government to a backlash from within Liberal ranks. Yet, it must be pointed out that this government has no problem turning away asylum seekers who arrive at official land border crossings. Are those who arrive at Roxham Road any more worthy of refugee status in Canada than the others?”
Irwin Cotler (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Israel needs to learn the right lessons from Canada’s legal reforms: “Ultimately, I believe that any justice reform in Israel should proceed with the hope of eventually adopting a written constitution – grounded in the existing compendium of Basic Laws, and incorporating its foundational Declaration of Independence – and I am hopeful that the current proposed reforms can be revised toward that end.”
Vicky Mochama (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the best job in politics? Quitting as soon as you start: Politicians can’t be fired like regular employees; they are simply allowed to instigate some paperwork and leave, apparently whenever they choose. The only problem is that actually being a politician seems undignified, usually involving some combination of scandal, burnout or incompetence – a.k.a., the Liz Truss Trifecta. If only I could become an office-holder without sacrificing my remaining dignity. Then, I realized I could – the best time to resign a job is immediately after starting it.”
David Schneiderman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Justice Paul Rouleau’s Emergencies Act report raises troubling questions: “In respect of these threshold legal questions, the Rouleau commission report is seriously inadequate. By deferring to the government’s claims without much scrutiny, Justice Rouleau has lowered the very high threshold for invoking a public order emergency. This precedent-setting exercise, regrettably, makes it easier for future governments to invoke this authority despite the best efforts made by the drafters of the Emergencies Act.”
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What does Trump’s indictment mean for American politics?
Donald Trump is expected to become the first former or sitting US president to face criminal charges.
Donald Trump is expected to appear before a New York court on Tuesday, where he will become the first former or sitting US president to face criminal charges.
The charges have not been revealed yet, but a grand jury has been investigating a payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an extramarital affair with Trump which he has always denied.
Media reports in the US suggest the former president may face other charges, too.
Trump denies all wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a witch-hunt by the Democrats, whom he accuses of trying to derail his 2024 election campaign.
Presenter: Laura Kyle
Adolfo Franco – Republican strategist and chief counsel to the chairman of the International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives
Claire Finkelstein – Law and philosophy professor at the University of Pennsylvania and faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law
Rina Shah – Founder of Rilax Strategies, a political and public affairs communications firm
Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad’s indictment
Ivanka Trump breaks silence on her dad’s indictment
Presidential historian Tim Naftali discusses Ivanka Trump’s statement about her dad, former President Donald Trump, being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.
Ivanka Trump has broken her silence on her father’s criminal indictment to say that she is “pained” for both her parent and her country.
Donald Trump’s daughter finally released a brief statement on Instagram just before midday ET on Friday – around 18 hours after a grand jury voted to indict the former president on criminal charges over the 2016 hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
“I love my father and I love my country. Today I am pained for both,” she wrote.
“I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.”
On Thursday 30 March, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Mr Trump on criminal charges over hush money payments to adult film star Ms Daniels days just before the 2016 presidential election.
The unprecedented indictment makes Mr Trump the first current or former president to ever face criminal charges in the history of the US.
It is currently unclear what the charges are but multiple reports say that Mr Trump is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
Court officials have confirmed that he will appear in court in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon for his arraignment.
The indictment is said to have caught Mr Trump off guard after it was announced that the grand jury was taking a weeks-long break from hearing the case.
As soon as the news broke, Mr Trump’s adult sons Eric Trump and Don Trump Jr leaped into action raging against what they described as “third world prosecutorial misconduct”.
“This is third world prosecutorial misconduct,” tweeted Eric. “It is the opportunistic targeting of a political opponent in a campaign year.”
Meanwhile, Don Jr branded it a “weaponization of our Govt against their political enemies” on Twitter before railing against the indictment during a somewhat emotional appearance on his show Triggered with Don Jr that night.
“Let’s be clear, folks, this is like communist-level s***,” he said. “This is stuff that would make Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, it would make them blush.”
He later shared a tweet from another social media user which sought to claim that his father’s indictment was an attempt to distract from the school shooting which left six victims dead in Nashville earlier this week.
While Don and Eric both raged about the indictment, Ivanka – who worked as a top adviser in Mr Trump’s White House – was silent on the matter for many more hours.
Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when his former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made the payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels.
Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.
Mr Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Pakistan’s political heavyweights take their street battles to the courts — as a weary nation looks on
Pakistan’s leaders and the man who wants to unseat them are engaged in high stakes political brinkmanship that is taking a toll on the collective psyche of the nation’s people – and many are exhausted.
As their politicians argue, citizens struggle with soaring inflation against an uptick in militant attacks. In major cities, residents regularly navigate police roadblocks for protests, school closures and internet shutdowns. And in the northern province of Kyber Pakhtunkhua, three people died last Thursday in a stampede to get subsidized bags of flour.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is attempting to unlock billions of dollars in emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund, a process delayed since last November – but some people aren’t prepared to wait.
Government statistics show a surge in the number of citizens leaving Pakistan – up almost threefold in 2022 compared to previous years.
Zainab Abidi, who works in tech, left Pakistan for Dubai last August and says her “main worry” is for her family, who she “really hopes can get out.”
Others, like Fauzia Rashif, a cleaner in Islamabad, don’t have the option to leave.
“I don’t have a passport, I’ve never left the country. These days the biggest concern is the constant expenses. I worry about my children but there really isn’t anywhere to go,” she said.
Experts say the pessimism about the Pakistan’s stability in the months ahead is not misplaced, as the country’s political heavyweights tussle for power.
Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations, Britain and the United States, told CNN the “prolonged and intense nature” of the confrontation between Pakistan’s government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is “unprecedented.”
She said the only way forward is for “all sides to step aside and call for a ceasefire through interlocutors to agree on a consensus for simultaneous provincial and national elections.”
That solution, however, is not something that can easily be achieved as both sides fight in the street – and in court.
How did we get here?
The current wave of chaos can be traced back to April 2022, when Khan, a former cricket star who founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), was ousted from office in a vote of no confidence on grounds of mismanaging the economy.
In response, Khan rallied his supporters in street protests, accusing the current government of colluding with the military and the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.
Khan survived an assassination attempt last November during one of his rallies and has since been beset with legal troubles spearheaded by Sharif’s government. As of March 21, Khan was facing six charges, while 84 have been registered against other PTI workers, according to the central police office in Lahore. However, Khan’s party claims that 127 cases have been lodged against him alone.
Earlier this month, attempts to arrest Khan from his residence in Lahore led to violent clashes with the police and Khan’s supporters camped outside. Khan told CNN the government was attempting to arrest him as a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections,” a claim rejected by information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.
Days later, more clashes erupted when police arrived with bulldozers to clear the supporters from Khan’s home, and again outside Islamabad High Court as the former leader finally complied with an order to attend court.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that the police operation intended to “clear no-go areas” and “arrest miscreants hiding inside.” Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “abusive measures” and urged all sides to show restraint.
What is happening with elections?
General elections are due to be held this October, but Khan has been pushing for elections months earlier. However, it’s not even clear if he’ll be able to contest the vote due to the push by the government to disqualify him.
Disqualification will mean that Khan can’t hold any parliamentary position, become involved in election campaigns, or lead his party.
Khan has already been disqualified by Pakistan’s Election Commission for making “false statements” regarding the sale of gifts sent to him while in office – an offense under the country’s constitution – but it will take the courts to cement the disqualification into law. A court date is still to be set for that hearing.
Yasser Kureshi, author of the book “Seeking Supremacy: The Pursuit of Judicial Power in Pakistan,” says Khan’s “ability to mobilize support” will “help raise the costs of any attempt to disqualify him.”
However, he said if Pakistan’s powerful military – led by government-appointed former spy chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir, who Khan once fired – is determined to expel the former leader, it could pressure the judiciary to rule him out, no matter how much it inflames Khan’s supporters.
“If the military leadership is united against Khan and committed to disqualifying and purging him, the pressure from the military may compel enough judges to relent and disqualify Khan, should that be the consensus within the military top brass,” said Kureshi, a lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Qaiser Imam, president of the Islamabad Bar Association, disagreed with this statement. “Political parties, to save their politics, link themselves with certain narratives or perceptions which generally are never found correct,” he told CNN.
The Pakistan Armed Forces has often been blamed for meddling in the democratic process to maintain its authority, but in a statement last November outgoing army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said a decision had been made in February that the military would not interfere in politics.
The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with purported attempts on his life.
Some say the government’s recent actions have added to perceptions that it’s trying to stack the legal cards against Khan.
This week, the government introduced a bill to limit the power of the Chief Justice, who had agreed to hear a claim by the PTI against a move to delay an important by-election in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, and one considered a marker for the party most likely to win national leadership.
It had been due to be held on April 30, but Pakistan’s Election Commission pushed it to October 8, citing security concerns.
In a briefing to international media last Friday, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the security and economic situation had deteriorated in the past two months, and it was more cost effective to hold the vote at the same time as the general election.
The decision was immediately condemned by Khan as an act that “violated the constitution.”
Lodhi, the former ambassador, has criticized the delay, tweeting that a security threat had been “invoked to justify whatever is politically expedient.”
The PTI took the matter to the Supreme Court, where it’s still being heard.
Some have accused Khan of also trying to manipulate the court system in his favor.
Kureshi said the judiciary is fragmented, allowing Khan to “venue-shop” – taking charges against him from one judge to seek a more sympathetic hearing with another.
“At this time it seems that even the Supreme Court itself is split on how to deal with Imran Khan, which helps him maneuver within this fragmented institutional landscape,” Kureshi said.
What happens now?
The increasing acrimony at the highest level of politics shows no sign of ending – and in fact could prolong the uncertainty for Pakistan’s long-suffering people.
Khan is adamant the current government wants him dead without offering much tangible evidence. And in comments made to local media on Sunday, Sanaullah said the government once viewed Khan as a political opponent but now sees him as the “enemy.”
“(Khan) has in a straightforward way brought this country’s politics to a point where either only one can exist, either him or us. If we feel our existence is being negated, then we will go to whatever lengths needed and, in that situation, we will not see what is democratic or undemocratic, what is right and what is wrong,” he added.
PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said the comments were “offensive” and threatened to take legal action. “The statement … goes against all norms of civilized world,” he said.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the director the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, says Khan’s popularity gave him “the power to cripple the country,” should he push supporters to show their anger in the street.
However, Mehboob said Khan’s repeated attempts to call for an early election could create even more instability by provoking the government to impose article 232 of the constitution.
That would place the country under a state of emergency, delaying elections for a year.
And that would not be welcomed by a weary public already tired of living in uncertain times.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the former army chief.
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