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Politics Briefing: Trudeau pushes back against premiers, says he's ready to discuss health care funding – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is fending off criticism from Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders, saying he is ready to negotiate on increased health care funding, but that any new dollars must go to health care.

At a news conference in Kingston, Ont., Mr. Trudeau was responding on Wednesday to the outcome of the Council of the Federation meeting of premiers and territorial leaders in Victoria this week.

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He was asked by a journalist if he was “ghosting” the leaders on health care, a reference to a suggestion by council chair John Horgan, the premier of British Columbia, that Mr. Trudeau is avoiding their calls for substantive talks on increasing federal health care funding.

“I don’t think there is a prime minister in Canadian history who, over the entire scope of their time in office, has met with the premiers and sat down to talk about health care as much as I have over the past two years,” Mr. Trudeau said, in his first comments on this week’s high-profile exchange between Ottawa and the provinces on the perennial funding issue.

He said the government will invest more in health care, but is intent on ensuring that funding delivers real, tangible results for Canadians in shorter wait times, better services and access to a family doctor.

“There have been huge investments in health care made by provinces and governments in the past that haven’t always delivered the improvements to health care that is necessary,” he said. “We are going to make sure that those investments deliver for Canadians.”

The premiers say that health care funding began as a 50-50 split between the federal government and provinces and territories, but that Ottawa’s share has dwindled to 22 per cent.

Vancouver Reporter Andrea Woo and Queen’s Park Reporter Dustin Cook report here on the meeting of premiers and territorial leaders, which featured jabs between the provinces and Ottawa, but concluded with no resolution on health care.

During the news conference in Kingston, Mr. Trudeau also defended the Canadian government’s recent agreement to import and repair Russian pipeline turbines for up to two years, calling it “a very difficult decision.” Story here from Senior Parliamentary Reporter Steven Chase and Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife.

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.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

BANK OF CANADA HIKES INTEREST RATE – The Bank of Canada increased its benchmark interest rate by one percentage point on Wednesday, the most aggressive rate hike since 1998 and a larger move than investors and private-sector economists were expecting. Story here.

KING IN COURT – “Freedom Convoy” organizer Pat King is expected to appear in an Ottawa court today for a bail review. Story here.

COVID-19 BENEFITS BOLSTER CANADIANS 2020 AFTER-TAX INCOME: CENSUS – Fewer Canadians received employment income in 2020 as COVID-19 upended the labour market, but pandemic support programs more than offset losses for many households, leading to a drop in income inequality, according to census results published Wednesday. Story here.

SCHEDULES CONFOUND GUILBEAULT TRAIN TOUR – Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s promise to travel by train across Canada to talk to people about emissions was derailed by the lack of rail routes available to cross the country. Story here from the National Post.

FIVE-DAY SERVICE CREDIT FROM ROGERS – Rogers Communications Inc. says it will credit its customers with the equivalent of five days of service as it faces a litany of questions from Canada’s telecom regulator regarding a nationwide service outage that left millions without cellphone, home phone and internet service last Friday. Story here.

NO CHARGE FOR SOME RCMP COSTS: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT – The federal government says it won’t bill provinces and municipalities for the retroactive portion of Mountie salaries while it considers whether to help shoulder some of the burden of a steep pay-raise package. Story here.

QUEBEC SETS FRENCH DEADLINE FOR FEDERALLY REGULATED SECTORS – The Quebec government is giving companies in federally regulated sectors one month to begin complying with new requirements to guarantee the use of French in their workplaces. Story here from CBC.

CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE

CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in West Vancouver. Roman Baber has a meet-and-greet event in Lloydminster, Sask. Jean Charest is in Quebec. Leslyn Lewis is in Whitehorse. Pierre Poilievre is in Vancouver and Surrey.

BROWN BACKING CHAREST – Patrick Brown says he is unlikely to overturn a disqualification from running for Conservative leader in time to compete in the race, so he will vote for former Quebec premier Jean Charest. Story here.

BROWN ON THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY – “I’m not going to make any commentary about the Conservative Party, but obviously I didn’t find it democratic and if they want to follow a route that is extreme and not inclusive, I am not sure they will be on the right side of Canadians” – Patrick Brown, as Brampton mayor, in a telephone town hall with city residents on Monday night.

NO PIVOT PLANNED: POILIEVRE – Pierre Poilievre tells Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun that he does not plan to pivot. Story here. Also, more than 1,000 people reportedly attended a rally in Grande Prairie, Alta., featuring Mr. Poilievre. Story here from MyGrandPrairieNow.

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.

NO THANKS TO BEING B.C. PREMIER: CULLEN – Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen , now British Columbia’s Municipal Affairs Minister, is ruling out a bid to succeed British Columbia Premier John Horgan. Details here. In another province, another high-profile New Democrat is also saying he won’t seek his party’s leadership. It’s Joel Harden, the Ottawa Centre NDP MPP, who was seen as a possible contender for the leadership role vacated by Andrea Horwath. Mr. Harden now says he’s not interested for reasons explained in a story here from CityNews..

FREELAND DEPARTS FOR MEETING IN BALI – Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland departed Toronto for the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

ALGHABRA IN WINNIPEG – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was scheduled to make a funding announcement at the CN Intermodal Terminal in Winnipeg and take media questions.

BOISSONNAULT IN EDMONTON – Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, appearing for Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, was scheduled to make a health-related funding announcement in Edmonton, and take media questions.

DUCLOS IN ST. JOHN’S – At Memorial University in St. John’s, N. L., Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos makes an announcement on support for patient-oriented research in the province.

IEN IN SCARBOROUGH – Marci Ien, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, announces investments in training for young Canadians at an event in Scarborough.

RODRIGUEZ IN ST. JOHN’S – Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Minister Steve Crocker were scheduled to co host a news conference in St. John’s on Wednesday at the conclusion of three days of meetings for federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for culture and heritage.

WILKINSON IN BURNABY – Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, in Burnaby, announces support for electrical vehicle charging infrastructure in British Columbia.

THE DECIBEL

On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Duncan Dee , a former chief operating officer for Air Canada, talks about what should be done to help with delays and bottlenecks at airports. On Monday, 70 per cent of flights from Canada’s largest carrier Air Canada were delayed – the highest percentage in the world. Mr. Dee worked on a panel that reviewed the Air Transportation Act in 2016, looking closely at what could be improved at Canada’s airports. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

In Kingston, Ont., the Prime Minister made an announcement, with Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Ontario’s Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli also present.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on a turbine tussle and a warning to allies against complacency in backing Ukraine for the long haul: The international tussle over a turbine that saw Canada stuck in the middle should serve as a warning to Ukraine’s allies about complacency – because Mr. Putin will keep testing them for weaknesses. There was an outpouring of support for Ukraine when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in February, and the waving of yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flags was accompanied by stiff sanctions by both Canada and the U.S. and shipments of aid and arms. But that might be easy to forget months later in the Canadian summer.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how, if the premiers want more money, they’ll also have to take more responsibility: So there’s a case to be made that the provinces will need more money in future, even if they don’t now. But it must be accompanied by clearer provincial accountability for the results. Experience teaches that otherwise any increase in funds is likely to be dissipated in higher pay for provider groups, rather than improving care. How to square that circle? Complete the work begun in 1977: convert the whole of federal (non-equalization) transfers into tax points. Only when health care dollars are spent and raised by the same level of government will we end the finger-pointing and blame-shifting that has blocked reform until now. If the provinces don’t want to answer to Uncle Ottawa for how they run their health care systems, they can’t also depend on it for their allowance.”

Don Braid (Calgary Herald) on whether Danielle Smith already has a lock on the Alberta premier’s office: Pierre Poilievre is widely considered a cinch to win the federal Conservative Party leadership on Sept. 10. If that’s true, Danielle Smith’s chances for the premier’s office look very good on Oct. 6. Her campaign, equally aggressive, is aimed at a narrower, more reachable band of voters than Poilievre faces in the far-flung federal party. Smith also appeals to many UCP members who are increasingly angry at Ottawa, while adding dramatic Alberta responses inspired by Quebec’s march to autonomy. It’s working for her so far.”

Thomas Mulcair (CTV) on how Stephen Harper clearly has a preferred candidate in the Conservative race: “Conservative skullduggery in booting out Patrick Brown as a candidate reflects very badly on a Party prone to lecturing others about probity, ethics and integrity. Based on the single, untested word of a longtime party operative, Brown was given the heave-ho. Problem is, he landed on Jean Charest, whose chances of winning will go from slim to none if the Conservatives get away with it. The people who made and profited from that decision were very much aware that what they were doing would effectively decide the outcome of the race. Pierre Poilièvre was being handed a victory not by Conservative members but by Party functionaries. When you look at their connections to the Harper era, this whole manoeuvre appears even more troubling.”

Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty (Policy Options) on the need for Indigenous-led housing: Providing a place one can truly call home, surrounded by family in a safe, healthy environment, should be viewed as a reclamation of sovereignty as part of the land-back movement. There is an immediate need for recognition of Indigenous culture within the housing system to move toward true reconciliation. Canada also needs to follow through on Indigenous legal orders – the pre-colonial Indigenous legal system – under the provisions of UNDRIP to find ways of creating a “braiding” of laws at the national and international law that will recognize Indigenous rights at a government-to-government level.”

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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Uyghur refugee vote by Canada MPs angers China

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OTTAWA –

The Chinese government says a motion MPs passed Wednesday to provide asylum to persecuted Uyghurs amounts to political manipulation by Canada.

MPs including Prime Mister Justin Trudeau unanimously called on Ottawa to design a program that would bring 10,000 people of Turkic origin, including Uyghurs, to Canada from countries other than China.

They passed a motion that acknowledges reports that Uyghurs outside China have been sent back to their country of birth, where they have faced arrest as part of Beijing’s crackdown on Muslim groups.

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Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said in Beijing that people in the Xinjiang region live in peaceful harmony, contradicting widespread reports of forced labour and sexual violence.

An English translation by the ministry said Canada should “stop politically manipulating Xinjiang-related issues for ulterior motives,” and Ottawa is “spreading disinformation and misleading the public.”

The non-binding motion said the government should come up with the outline of a resettlement program by May 12 that would begin in 2024 and meet its target within two years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

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Republicans push to remove Ilhan Omar from foreign affairs panel

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Washington, DC – In one of his first moves since becoming speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy is leading an effort to block Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from serving on the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee over her past criticism of Israel.

On Wednesday, the Republican majority in the House advanced a resolution to remove Omar from the panel. Democrats opposed the move, accusing McCarthy of bigotry for targeting the politician – a former refugee of Somali descent who is one of only two Muslim women serving in the US Congress.

A few Republicans initially opposed McCarthy’s effort, casting doubt over his ability to pass the resolution against Omar, given the GOP’s narrow majority.

But on Wednesday, all 218 House Republicans present voted to move forward with the measure, as Democrats remained united in support of Omar with 209 votes. A final vote is expected on Thursday as progressives rally around Omar.

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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) defended Omar, calling her an “esteemed and invaluable” legislator.

“You cannot remove a Member of Congress from a committee simply because you do not agree with their views. This is both ludicrous and dangerous,” CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal said in a statement on Monday.

The resolution

The resolution aimed at Omar, introduced by Ohio Republican Max Miller on Tuesday, cites numerous controversies involving the congresswoman’s criticism of Israel and US foreign policy.

“Congresswoman Omar clearly cannot be an objective decision-maker on the Foreign Affairs Committee given her biases against Israel and against the Jewish people,” Miller said in a statement.

Omar retorted by saying there was nothing “objectively true” about the resolution, adding that “if not being objective is a reason to not serve on committees, no one would be on committees”.

While the Republican resolution accuses Omar of anti-Semitism, it only invokes remarks relating to Israel, not the Jewish people.

For example, the measure calls out the congresswoman for describing Israel as an “apartheid state”, although leading human rights groups – including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – have also accused Israel of imposing a system of apartheid on Palestinians.

Early in her congressional career in 2019, Omar faced a firestorm of criticism when she suggested that political donations from pro-Israel lobby groups – including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – drive support for Israel in Washington.

Omar later apologised for that remark but Palestinian rights advocates say accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s critics aim to stifle the debate around Israeli government policies.

In the past two years, AIPAC and other pro-Israel organisations spent millions of dollars in congressional elections to defeat progressives who support Palestinian human rights, including Michigan’s Andy Levin, a left-leaning, Jewish former House member.

‘Different standards’

Although the Democratic Party is standing behind Omar now, the Republican resolution prominently features previous criticism against the congresswoman by top Democrats.

Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, an advocacy and research group, said Republicans are trying to validate their talking points against Omar by using the statements and actions of Democrats.

“They own this,” she said of Democrats who previously attacked Omar. “They made a decision in the last few years to jump on board and score political points at Ilhan’s expense … And that decision is now the basis for the resolution that is being used to throw her off the committee.”

Friedman added that Omar and her fellow Muslim-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib are held to “different standards” when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Both legislators were the subject of racist attacks by former President Donald Trump who in 2019 tweeted that they, along with other progressive congresswomen of colour, “should go back to the broken and crime-infested places from which they came”.

Omar in particular became a frequent target of Trump’s anti-refugee rhetoric in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. At one rally in 2019, Trump failed to intervene as his supporters chanted “send her back” in reference to Omar.

Friedman said attacks on Omar appeal to the Republican base and play well for the party politically.

“It’s a really handy way to embarrass and corner Democrats because when Democrats vote against this tomorrow, the Republican argument is going to be: ‘I don’t get it. You said all these things [against Omar]. Why are you not holding her accountable?’ Politically, this is just fantastic for them.”

For her part, Omar has remained defiant, calling McCarthy’s effort to remove her from the committee, against initial opposition from his own caucus, “pathetic”.

Yasmine Taeb, legislative and political director at MPower Change Action Fund, a Muslim-American advocacy group, praised Omar’s commitment to a “human rights-centered foreign policy”.

“Rep. Omar speaks truth to power – a rarity in Congress. And House Republican leadership would rather waste time by attacking a progressive Black Muslim woman and pushing a far-right agenda than working on addressing the needs of the American people,” Taeb told Al Jazeera in an email.

Omar has been a vocal proponent of human rights and diplomacy in Congress. While her comments about Israel often make headlines, she criticises other countries too – including those in the Middle East – for human rights violations.

Still, critics accuse her of perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes in her criticism of Israel and even allies have described some of her comments as “sloppy”, if not malicious.

On Thursday, Win Without War, a group that promotes diplomacy in US foreign policy, decried the Republican push against Omar as an attempt to strip the House Foreign Affairs Committee of a “progressive champion and skilled legislator who challenges the political status quo”.

“Rep. Omar has helped raise the bar for progressive foreign policy in Congress. She has steadfastly advocated for cuts to the Pentagon budget, held US allies accountable for human rights abuses, and confronted the racism and Islamophobia present in US foreign policy,” Win Without War executive director Sara Haghdoosti said in a statement.

Committee wars

Congressional committees serve as specialised microcosms of Congress. The panels advance legislation, conduct oversight and hold immense power over the legislative process.

Usually, the party in power appoints the chairs and majority members of committees, while the opposition party names its own legislators to the panels.

But back in 2021, Democrats voted to remove Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her assigned committees for past conspiratorial, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments.

That same year, the Democratic House majority also formally rebuked Paul Gosar, another far-right Republican, for sharing an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Now, Greene is an outspoken proponent of removing Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“No one should be on that committee with that stance towards Israel,” Greene said earlier this week. “In my opinion, I think it’s the wrong stance for any member of Congress of the United States – having that type of attitude towards our great ally, Israel.”

After Greene was stripped of her committee assignments, McCarthy had openly promised payback against the Democrats if they became the minority in the House, an event that came to pass in the 2022 midterm elections.

“You’ll regret this. And you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,” McCarthy said at that time.

The newly elected speaker has also blocked Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from joining the intelligence committee. Schiff was the former chair of the panel.

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman George Santos, who is facing calls to step down for lying about his heritage and professional and personal history, “temporarily recused” himself from committee assignments as he is being investigated over his campaign conduct.

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Former interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen steps down as MP

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Member of Parliament and former interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen has resigned her seat in the House of Commons.

Bergen, 58, has represented the Manitoba riding of Portage—Lisgar since 2008. She served as interim leader of the Conservatives and leader of the Opposition from February to September 2022. Prior to that, she served as deputy leader of the Conservatives.

In a video posted to Twitter Wednesday, Bergen said she has submitted a letter of resignation, “ending an incredible and very fulfilling 14 years.”

Bergen thanked her constituents, family, volunteers, staff and political colleagues “on both sides of the aisle, regardless of your political stripe.”

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Bergen announced in September of last year that she would not seek reelection. Pierre Poilievre replaced her as Conservative leader that month.

Bergen did not give a specific reason for her resignation and did not mention any future plans.

“I’m choosing to leave now not because I’m tired or I’ve run out of steam. In fact, it’s the exact opposite,” she said in the video.

“I feel hopeful and re-energized. Hopeful for our strong and united Conservative Party, and our caucus, under the courageous and principled leadership of my friend, Pierre Poilievre.”

Bergen ended her goodbye message on a hopeful note.

“With God’s grace and God’s help, I believe that the best is yet to come. Thank you so much Portage—Lisgar, and thank you Canada.”

The Toronto Star was the first to report the story.

“On behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada, thank you Candice for your leadership, your devotion to our Conservative movement and your service to the people of Portage—Lisgar, and all Canadians,” Poilievre said in a tweet Wednesday.

The news means there will be a byelection in Portage—Lisgar to replace Bergen.

Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen announced last week that he’d step down as an MLA to seek the federal Conservative nomination in the riding.

The death of MP Jim Carr late last year set up a byelection in another Manitoba riding — Winnipeg South Centre. The Alberta riding of Calgary Heritage and the Ontario riding of Oxford are also up for byelections later this year.

“I thank her for her many years of service,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of Bergen in a media scrum Wednesday.

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