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Politics Briefing: Trudeau upbeat on vaccines, but warns COVID-19 variants could impact ‘the final stretch’ – The Globe and Mail

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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is in “the final stretch” of the pandemic crisis with increased vaccine supplies on the way, but variants are complicating the path ahead.

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“Even if the end of the pandemic is in sight, the variants mean the situation is even more serious. We’re entering the final stretch of this crisis. We just need to stay strong a little longer,” the Prime Minister told a news conference Tuesday.

“As we’ve been saying for months, and as we’ve been planning with provinces and territories since last year – the end of March will be followed by an increase in vaccine supply.”

Mr. Trudeau said Pfizer has confirmed they will be moving up shipments of five million doses of their vaccine from later in the summer into June.

He said that will bring Canada’s total of Pfizer vaccines from 4.6 million to 9.6 million doses for that month alone. That’s in addition to other expected doses of the Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

During the same news conference, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said by the end of June, Canada will receive 44 million doses of vaccine.

Mr. Trudeau was also asked about his past support for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine given concerns about possible risks of blood clots. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending provinces pause the use of the AstraZeneca on those under age of 55 because of safety concerns.

“Health Canada continues to ensure the safety and effectiveness of any vaccine administered in Canada,” Mr. Trudeau said.

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“Our work as politicians is to think about citizens and reassure them on messages we get from experts and the findings from experts and what we have been saying for a long time remains the truth, the reality, the best vaccine for you is the very first one you are offered.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, noted the advice on any vaccine or medication can evolve over time. “Canadians should be reassured we have systems in place to detect safety signals, and then analyze them.”

Overall, she also said COVID-19-related hospitalizations are up 6 per cent in the last week and the number of patients needing critical care is up 14 per cent.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

ISIS fight continues: Canada is staying in the fight against the Islamic State group for another year. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Tuesday that Canada will keep up to 850 troops in Iraq and the surrounding region until next March. The extension comes only one day before the mission, which began in October, 2014, was set to end.

Not political interference: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was wrong to say ordering an independent investigation into a sexual misconduct complaint about the country’s top military commander would have been political interference, an analysis done for the military ombudsman says.

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MPs criticize Facebook execs: Members of Parliament chastised Facebook’s senior Canadian officials Monday after chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg ignored a summons to appear before the House of Commons committee on Canadian Heritage.

Concerns linger over Newfoundland election: Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey now has the majority government he says he needs to tackle the worst fiscal crisis his province has seen since it faced bankruptcy in the 1930s. But the troubled, prolonged provincial campaign that gave him that mandate also created another crisis – this one on democratic legitimacy – that raises questions about whether voters’ rights were met in the unprecedented election.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister also speaks with United Kingdom PM Boris Johnson. Mr. Trudeau tours a City of Ottawa vaccination clinic with the Mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson. He also addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 situation and holds a news conference.

Correspondent’s Comment Paul Waldie: “Prime Minister Boris Johnson will likely press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday to join a group of world leaders in calling for a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response. Mr. Johnson and 23 other leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, issued a joint statement about the treaty idea on Tuesday and no doubt they would like to see Canada sign up. The statement said they were “committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines.” That came as surprise to some given that Mr. Johnson and many of the same leaders have been locked in a bitter fight over vaccine supplies lately and that the European Union has threatened to ban vaccine exports. Mr. Trudeau has also had problems accessing vaccine from the U.S. and notably, President Joe Biden, was not among the signatories of the statement.”

LEADERS

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Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole delivers remarks to a Burnaby, B.C. Board of Trade event.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul makes an announcement and holds a news conference on postsecondary education at the Madison Pub in the riding of University-Rosedale.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the federal government moving to stop opposition MPs from calling Liberal political aides to testify before parliamentary committees: “The battle over aides comes up in minority Parliaments because opposition parties can use their collective majority in committees to summon political advisers and grill them. For the government, that can be distracting. Or embarrassing. Or worse.”

Éric Grenier (CBC) on the political relevance of the “new friendliness” between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault: “A wink and a smile from Legault is not going to win the federal Liberals an election — but a better relationship could make it easier for them to win some of the Quebec seats on their target list for the next campaign.”

John Michael McGrath (TVO) on the proper venue for a fight against the carbon tax: “It wasn’t the federal government or the Liberal Party of Canada that put this matter before judges. It was three provincial premiers, who thought it made for good politics to be seen to be trying to fight a carbon tax even as every expert warned their chances were slim to non-existent. For their trouble, they’ve now helped constitutionally entrench more federal power, not less.”

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André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on parallels between the elder-care systems of Australia and Canada: “You can bet that Canada will soon have more public inquiries than you can shake a stick at examining the pandemic response, and the disaster in long-term care in particular. But before we go too far down that bureaucratic road, we should turn our attention to the findings of the Australian Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety.”

DO YOU HAVE A POLITICAL QUESTION?

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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