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Politics Briefing: Trudeau uses first Liberal caucus meeting to take aim at Conservatives' COVID stance – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Federal Liberals held their first official caucus meeting since the Sept. 20 federal election today, a gathering that comes after other parties have held similar meetings.

The meeting provided a venue for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to criticize the federal Conservatives for their stand on COVID-19 in a speech the media was allowed to observe before being ushered out.

Mr. Trudeau also urged Liberal MPs to work with other progressive parties to deliver concrete results on climate change, housing, and reconciliation.

The meeting in the West Block of Parliament Hill came as the NDP caucus held their own caucus meeting, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole held a news conference during which he denounced the possibility of what he described as an NDP-Liberal coalition.

The NDP and Liberals have been holding talks on a co-operative agreement to prop up the Liberal government.

Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and parliamentary reporter Marieke Walsh report here on today’s Liberal caucus gathering and Mr. O’Toole’s news conference.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, November 8, 2021.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Liberal cabinet ministers heading into the caucus meeting did drop a few bits of information on various matters, such as:

CHILDCARE DEAL WITH ONTARIO – Asked when Ontario would sign a childcare deal with the federal government, Families Minister Karina Gould said, “As soon as we can.”

TIMING OF THE CAUCUS MEETING – On the question of whether the caucus should have met sooner, Bill Blair, president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, linked individual MPs’ schedules to the delay. “I know that everyone has been very busy,” he told reporters.

MANITOBA POLITICAL DRAMA – Manitoba MP Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, was asked for his thoughts on the ongoing political rivalry between Heather Stefanson and Shelly Glover. Ms. Stefanson has been sworn in as the province’s Premier after winning the Progressive Conservative leadership, succeeding Brian Pallister. Former federal cabinet minister Ms. Glover, the runner-up, has disputed the result. “I think Heather’s going to make a fine Premier,” Mr. Vandal said.

Watch The Globe for more details on the Liberal caucus meeting, set to conclude later this afternoon.

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

FREELAND ADVISES AIR CANADA ON LANGUAGE FUROR – Learning to speak French should become part of Air Canada chief executive officer Michael Rousseau’s job performance review, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said, wading into the scandal over the CEO’s comments about his inability to speak one of Canada’s two official languages. Story here.

PLANTE RE-ELECTED MONTREAL MAYOR – Valérie Plante has been re-elected mayor of Montreal in a striking endorsement of her controversial brand of green urbanism that has crisscrossed the city with bike lanes, often angering drivers and small businesses, as she scored a second surprise victory over former federal cabinet minister Denis Coderre, the man she unseated four years ago. Story here. Allison Haines of The Montreal Gazette writes here about the to-do list ahead for the mayor. Meanwhile, the candidate initially declared Quebec City’s new mayor Sunday night conceded defeat Monday after further vote counts. Story here.

MACKLEM FORECASTS `TRANSITORY’ INFLATION – Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem says high inflation will be “transitory but not short-lived,” giving additional insight into the central bank’s thinking a week after it raised its inflation projections and shifted toward a more aggressive timeline for tightening monetary policy.

ALBERTA GOVERNMENT & OIL SECTOR LOSING PR FIGHT: COMMISSIONER – The commissioner of a widely criticized Alberta public inquiry into the funding of environmentalists says his report should be a wake-up call for the province’s government and oil sector that they are losing the public-relations fight over resource development.

NEW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES COMING – With Parliament returning Nov. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon name a fresh crop of parliamentary secretaries, who are neither ministers nor backbenchers, to support 38 ministers. The pay bump of $18,100 on top of the annual MP salary may not be the real incentive. Many see the job as an audition for a future cabinet spot. From CBC. Story here.

THIS AND THAT

GG SURNAME CLARIFIED – The Governor-General’s office has clarified usage of her full name. In a statement to media, they said the formulation “Mary May Simon” will be used for official and constitutional documents, while “Mary Simon” will be used for communications with the public, such as social media, news releases and media events.

MP TURNS MAYOR – Former NDP MP Guy Caron has a new job. He was elected mayor of Rimouski, Que., on Sunday. Mr. Caron, who represented Rimouski-Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques in eastern Quebec, was an NDP MP from 2011 to 2019. He also spent two years as federal House leader for the New Democrats while Jagmeet Singh did not hold a seat.

NEW ROLE FOR BELLEGARDE – Perry Bellegarde, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has been named as the new honorary president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Details here.

FREELAND BIO IN THE WORKS – House of Anansi Press has announced it will be publishing an “unauthorized” biography of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in 2023, although the publisher’s publicity director Debby de Groot said via e-mail that the exact publication date has yet to be determined. The book’s author is Toronto-based journalist Catherine Tsalikis, who covers foreign policy, politics and gender.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

In Ottawa, the Prime Minister held private meetings and, along with Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, met with Indigenous veterans to mark Indigenous Veterans Day. Then, the Prime Minister attended a national caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, where he will delivered opening remarks.

LEADERS

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole held a news conference.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, with NDP MPs, visited the National Indigenous Veterans Monument, then attended an NDP caucus meeting.

No other leaders’ schedules available.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on who’s the captain now on Erin O’Toole’s HMCS Conservative:Mr. O’Toole’s problems largely stem from the fact that candidates for the party’s leadership in 2020 had no choice but to pander to the views of the small, crankish and highly unrepresentative group of party members empowered to choose a leader. (Who chooses local candidates? Same problem.) After becoming leader, Mr. O’Toole had to switch positions on carbon taxes, gun control and other issues in order to appeal to a broader range of voters. And now, as he tries to prepare for the return of Parliament, a group of rebel Tory MPs is choosing not to focus on the postpandemic recovery or other pressing matters, but on irresponsible fringe opinions not shared by the vast majority of Canadians. What a gift to Mr. Trudeau. He didn’t get the majority he wanted, but he did get a fractured Official Opposition whose caucus contains its own internal Official Opposition. Christmas has come early to Rideau Cottage.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the hard part of a parliamentary deal between the NDP and the Liberals is how they would deal with a key part of how Parliament works: “The real trick is agreeing on managing Parliament, particularly the things that opposition parties do to scrutinize – and needle – minority governments. Those things can often seem like procedural games, but they can matter to a minority government’s survival. When push comes to shove, they lead to threats of non-confidence votes and elections. Mr. Trudeau doesn’t want another three years of ministers’ aides being summoned to testify at parliamentary committees, or hearings into things like the WE Charity affair, or demands for thousands of documents. But it is hard to imagine the New Democrats could renounce such tactics completely. New Democrat MP Don Davies has said that his party will rejoin the demand for the government to disclose documents related to the firing of two scientists from the high-security National Microbiology Lab, for example. Mr. Trudeau’s government, insisting it was a matter of national security, went to court to argue against disclosure – essentially contesting parliamentary supremacy. That case became moot when Parliament was dissolved for an election, but could resume in the new session.”

Vanessa Chiasson (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the need for a truly global vaccination document: “In her previous role as economic development minister, Mélanie Joly was working with her G20 counterparts to develop global standards for a vaccine certificate. She can continue this work in her new role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, alongside the new Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, to expand upon the World Health Organization’s existing International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis program. Modernization efforts could include expanding the French and English format to include other widely used languages such as Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish. The simple paper booklet could be further updated with security features, such as the metallic stripes and raised ink that protect Canadian banknotes. An app, perhaps like the one I kept seeing in France, could give travellers and businesses the option of an efficient, scannable version of the passport.”

Ashley Nunes (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why it would be better if Air Canada’s CEO spoke French, but it’s not essential: Air Canada is a business, and the goal of a business is to make money. It would be nice – given Canada’s history – if the company’s chief showed fluency in English and French. It would be desirable – given that Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal – if his bilingualism passed provincial muster. But Mr. Rousseau isn’t there to be nice or desirable. He’s there to get a job done. This means maximizing returns for shareholders while keeping fares low (something consumers care about) and goods across the country moving (something the government cares about). There’s little evidence to suggest he has been unable to meet that challenge because his French skills aren’t up to par.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on why Robarts is more than just the name of a library: “Many things in 2021 Ontario have roots in the temperament and wisdom of a man who was sworn in as Ontario’s 17th prime minister 60 years ago today. And, no, that’s not a misprint. When John P. Robarts, the MPP for London, took the oath of office six decades ago, the job was officially called “prime minister of Ontario.” Robarts’s successor, Bill Davis, changed the title to “premier,” figuring the country should have only one prime minister. Robarts won the right to become Ontario’s chief executive after winning a thrilling six-ballot (that, too, is not a misprint) leadership convention at Varsity Arena. He was the education minister in Leslie Frost’s government, and he defeated a cabinet colleague with almost the same last name – Kelso Roberts. When you use electricity in this province, pause for a second and think of Robarts. More than half of Ontario’s electricity generation comes from nuclear power, and it was the Robarts government that built the province’s first nuclear-generating stations in Pickering.”

Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on B.C. Premier John Horgan’s facility for beating the odds: “If he finishes out his current term, he will move past Christy Clark to become the province’s 7th-longest-serving Premier. But he’s already exceeded expectations, including some of his own. There was the first cancer surgery in 2008, followed by drug treatment and a full recovery. He finished third in his first bid for the party leadership in 2011 and when the job came open in 2013, he said he wasn’t interested. Talked into it, he hated the job of Opposition leader, and it showed. Following the cliffhanger 2017 election, Horgan took power on the strength of a power-sharing agreement with the Greens. Even some New Democrats wondered if Horgan’s hold on the office could last more than a few months, never mind four years and counting. “I look forward to being back in the Legislature and travelling in the new year,” Horgan, the cancer survivor, said this week. He’s beaten the odds before and has every reason to think he can do so again.”

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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Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal

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Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field

Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.

“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.

Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.

Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.

Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.

Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.

“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.

Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.

Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.

Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.

Charlotte Bourke walks up the steps to the Henry Hicks Building, where the political science department is located, on Nov. 13, 2021.   Gabrielle Brunette

The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.

The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.

In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.

Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.

“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.

The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.

“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.

Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.

Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.

“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.

Charlotte Bourke is a fourth-year political science student, minoring in environmental studies.   Gabrielle Brunette

Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.

“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.

“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”

For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.

Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.

“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.

“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

Gabrielle Brunette

Gabrielle is a journalist for the Signal at the University of King’s College. She completed her BAH in political studies at Queen’s University.

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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes

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On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?

In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.

In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.  

In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.

This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.

There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.

The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.

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U.S. Senate passes bill to avert government shutdown, sends to Biden for signature

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The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill to fund the government through mid-February, averting the risk of a shutdown after overcoming a bid by some Republicans to delay the vote in a protest against vaccine mandates.

The 69-28 vote leaves government funding at current levels through Feb. 18, and gives Democratic President Joe Biden plenty of time to sign the measure before funding was set to run out at midnight on Friday.

The Senate acted just hours after the House of Representatives approved the measure, by a vote of 221-212, with the support of only one Republican.

Congress faces another urgent deadline right on the heels of this one. The federal government is approaching its $28.9 trillion borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has estimated it could reach by Dec. 15. Failure to extend or lift the limit in time could trigger an economically catastrophic default.

“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink from an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on nailing down a deal with Republicans to clear the way for passing the bill.

The vote ended weeks of suspense over whether Washington might be plunged into a government shutdown at a time when officials worry that the potentially dangerous Omicron variant of COVID-19 could take hold in the United States after being discovered in South Africa.

Such a shutdown could have forced layoffs of some U.S. government medical and research personnel.

Senate Democrats defeated an attempt by a handful of conservative Republicans to attach an amendment that would have prevented enforcement of Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for many U.S. workers.

Republican Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Roger Marshall had earlier raised the possibility that the government could partially shut down over the weekend while the Senate moves slowly toward eventual passage.

“It’s not government’s job, it’s not within government’s authority to tell people that they must be vaccinated and if they don’t get vaccinated, they get fired. It’s wrong. It’s immoral,” Lee said before the defeat of the amendment.

Over the past few days, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted there would be no government shutdown from congressional inaction. But he had to work through the day on Thursday to get his Republican lawmakers in line on a deal allowing quick passage of the funding bill.

The emergency legislation is needed because Congress has not yet passed the 12 annual appropriations bills funding government activities for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.

A partial government shutdown https://www.reuters.com/world/us/what-happens-when-us-federal-government-shuts-down-2021-09-27 would have created a political embarrassment for both parties, but especially for Biden’s Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress.

LONGER TIMELINE

The fact the temporary spending bill extends funding into February suggested a victory for Republicans in closed-door negotiations. Democrats had pushed for a measure that would run into late January, while Republicans demanded a longer timeline leaving spending at levels agreed to when Republican Donald Trump was president.

“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement announcing the agreement.

But she said Democrats prevailed in including a $7 billion provision for Afghanistan evacuees.

Once enacted, the stopgap funding measure would give Democrats and Republicans nearly 12 weeks to resolve their differences over the annual appropriations bills totaling around $1.5 trillion that fund “discretionary” federal programs for this fiscal year. Those bills do not include mandatory funding for programs such as the Social Security retirement plan that are renewed automatically.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton, Doina Chiacu, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

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