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24 Sussex to be de-hazardized

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Good Friday morning,

It’s a busy Friday for the cabinet, with the PM and some ministers working in far-flung corners of the globe, and the defence minister teeing up what’s being billed as a big announcement in Halifax.

Back in Ottawa, officials at the National Capital Commission are closing the prime minister’s official residence on 24 Sussex Drive, and setting in motion a plan to start significant work on the property.

Wait, wasn’t it already closed?

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No, it wasn’t, but it’s in such a state of disrepair that it has become a dilapidated fire hazard, and so Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU has chosen to live with his family in another residence on the grounds of Rideau Hall. Staff have apparently still been working at 24 Sussex, however, and now they won’t be anymore.

Wait, does this mean they’re finally rennovating 24 Sussex?

Somehow, also no. Successive prime ministers have declined to pay the cost of repairing and renovating the aging building, which is filled with asbestos and decrepit in so many other ways PTM hasn’t the space to list them all. Bad politics, and so forth. The NCC appears to have run out of patience, and is ordering what it calls an “abatement” of the property.

Definitions of the word abatement include, “to reduce in amount, degree, or intensity.” What’s being reduced here is the risk that the building will burst into flames or poison a staff member. Asbestos and faulty heating and electrical systems will be removed—must be, said the NCC press release, “regardless of any future decision on the residence.”

“With continuously aging and worsening materials and systems, more significant actions must be taken to mitigate matters of great concern such as potential fire hazards, water damage and air quality issues,” read the release.

The building is destined, it seems, to a future as a cold and empty husk sitting on prime Ottawa real estate—at least until a government and opposition can both agree to make its restoration or replacement a non-partisan issue.

Drug shortage briefing

At 11 a.m., as-yet-unnamed federal officials will brief the media on the government’s efforts to resolve the shortage of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

What’s the cabinet up to?

Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU is in Bangkok, Thailand, for the APEC summit today.

Environment Minister STEVEN GUILBEAULT is wrapping up his time at the UN climate summit in Egypt. He’ll hold a virtual press conference from Sharm El Sheikh at 9:30 a.m. Ottawa time.

Foreign Minister MÉLANIE JOLY is in Tunisia to meet with international counterparts at a summit of the Francophonie.

Defence Minister ANITA ANAND is in Halifax. She’ll start her day at the Navy’s dockyard, where she will make what her office is billing as an “important defence announcement” at 10 a.m. local time. Immigration Minister (and Nova Scotia MP) SEAN FRASER will be there, as will Chief of Defence Staff WAYNE EYRE.

After the presser, Anand, Eyre, and the deputy minister for Defence, BILL MATTHEWS, will head to a Westin hotel for the Halifax International Security Forum, where Anand will hold an opening news conference at 2 p.m. Atlantic, deliver a keynote speech on “Canada’s national defence priorities” at 3 p.m. Atlantic, and participate in a panel talk shortly after 4 p.m.

Defence Minister Anita Anand has a busy day in Halifax, where she will make an announcement this morning alongside Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

The three-day security conference is the flagship event for the organization that also goes by the name of Halifax International Security Forum. It is, somewhat confusingly, based in Washington, a non-profit NGO founded in 2009 by a U.S. think tank with support from the Canadian government.

Later in the day, Fraser will testify virtually before the House Immigration Committee as part of its study of “conditions faced by asylum seekers.”

Meanwhile, a trio of ministers are in Vancouver today to announce something to do with “strengthening marine preparedness, response, and partnerships during the next phase of the Oceans Protection Plan.”

They are Transport Minister OMAR ALGHABRA, Natural Resources Minister JONATHAN WILKINSON, and Fisheries and Oceans Minister JOYCE MURRAY, the latter two also being Vancouver MPs.

In Parliament

Today MPs are scheduled to continue debating the fall economic statement implementation bill, C-32.

In committee

Eight House and joint committees are meeting today.

Those include the joint committee on medical assistance in dying, which is hearing from disability advocates and associations of Quebec doctors and lawyers beginning at 8:45 a.m.

As mentioned above, Fraser will testify before the House Immigration Committee at 2 p.m., following an appearance by his deputy minister, CHRISTIANE FOX, at 1 p.m.

Also at 1 p.m., fisheries ministers from all four Atlantic provinces will be testifying—three virtually—before the House Fisheries and Oceans Committee, as part of its study of climate change.

At the same time, Auditor General KAREN HOGAN and officials from the Finance Department and Treasury Board Secretariat will appear before the House Public Accounts Committee as it studies last year’s government spending.

What else is happening today? 

The Public Order Emergency Commission’s hearings continue today. The government’s top public servant, clerk of the Privy Council JANICE CHARETTE, is scheduled to testify, as are deputy clerk NATHALIE DROUIN; JACQUIE BOGDEN, the deputy secretary to the cabinet responsible for emergencies; and JEFF HUTCHINSON, an advisor at the PCO.

Bloc Québécois Leader YVES-FRANÇOIS BLANCHET is beginning a lengthy visit to France today.

Blanchet plans to meet with French MPs, journalists, and politicos, build diplomatic ties, and talk about “la cause de l’indépendance du Québec,” according to a release from the party. He’ll be in France until Nov. 26.

Last but not least, Parliamentary Budget Officer YVES GIROUX is issuing a report at 9 a.m. that will present an analysis of the government’s latest package of supplementary estimates, which outlined almost $26-billion of new spending.

Legislation corner

New bill aims to ease trade, punish railway interference

Speaking of Alghabra, he tabled a new bill into the House of Commons yesterday.

Bill C-33, the Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act, will be added to the pile of now 13 government bills stacked up at second reading stage. ​​

The bill amends a half-dozen federal laws for a variety of purposes, the common theme of them being a desire to improve the functioning of Canadian ports and railways.

In a press scrum yesterday, Alghabra talked up some of the ways in which the bill aims to ease trade through Canada’s ports. For example, it will give ports the authority to regulate marine traffic in their vicinity, including anchored cargo ships waiting for their turn to offload. It will also require that ports share information about traffic and scheduling with the transport companies that pick up or drop off goods at the port.

Alghabra and the government’s press materials did not draw the same kind of attention to other clauses in the bill that have to do with public safety. For example, it proposes to create new offences for interfering with a railway, a tactic that has been employed to great effect in the past by protesters, including members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk nation in 2020.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has sponsored a bill that aims to change numerous laws related to the operation of Canada’s ports and railways. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

At the moment, the Federal Railway Safety Act simply says that no person can access the land on which a railway line is located without permission—a violation that, in the most severe case, could land you in jail for a year. The new language would more specifically outlaw anything that interferes with or damages railway “operation,” “work,” or “equipment” in a manner that threatens safe rail operations. It also bans  “unruly or dangerous behaviour” toward railway employees, riders, or that endangers the railways themselves. The same penalties would apply to those violations as do now to accessing railway land without permission.

The bill also proposes to give the transport minister powers to order ports and railways to improve security or change their operations if the minister deems it necessary for avoiding injury to Canada’s national security.

In case you missed it

Feds reviewing Competition Act

Yesterday, Industry Minister FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE announced the launch of a formal review of Canada’s Competition Act.

The act, enforced by the Competition Bureau, aims to prevent big businesses from forming monopolies, or otherwise using their heft to distort what should be relatively free markets.

Lack of competition ultimately means higher prices for consumers, a timely issue for Champagne to address. His review will include gathering public feedback and talking to unspecified stakeholders.

So what’s this all about? PTM spoke to LAWSON HUNTER, a lawyer at Stikeman Elliott who previously served as the commissioner of the Competition Bureau, and led the drafting of the existing Competition Act.

While Canadians often complain about a lack of competition in the grocery, banking, and telecommunications industries—Hunter also worked in the latter—this review likely has more to do with the tech sector, he said.

Companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon dominate in their respective fields.

“You need to sort of evolve your approach to the law as technology changes and make sure that you are as up to date as you can be with those technological changes,” he said.

There are also enforcement problems that this review could address, he said.

At the moment, the Competition Bureau can intervene in cases where it sees a merger or other practice as unduly restricting competition. However, the last call on whether those mergers or practices fall within the boundaries of the law must be settled by a tribunal.

As things stand, said Hunter, it takes too long for final decisions on those matters to be made, which is bad for business. Hunter also said the current law may make it too difficult for the Competition Bureau to actually win some of those cases.

Other things to consider, he said, include:

Whether the current competition law does enough to prevent digital giants from squashing up-and-coming businesses that might one day compete with them;

Whether the system used to evaluate the impact of mergers on competition relies too much on predicting changes in price;

And, whether tribunals should continue to include “lay people” as well as judges.

Hunter also drew attention to the fact that the government seems to be conducting the review in-house, rather than striking an external panel of experts to offer suggestions on how to reform a very technical piece of legislation. He said he was worried that would lead to errors that would have to be fixed down the road.

You can find details on the government’s consultation here.

Send your news tips to pmazereeuw@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

 

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B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet

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B.C. Premier David Eby to reveal new cabinet with health, safety, housing priorities

Here is a list of British Columbia Premier David Eby‘s ministers following his first major cabinet shuffle since taking over as leader:

Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)

Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)

Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)

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Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare

Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)

Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma

Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne

Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)

Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy

Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston

Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)

Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin

Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)

Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)

Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside

Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang

Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson

Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)

Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)

Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson

Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham

Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)

Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)

Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022

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Bob Rae heads to Haiti in attempt at political consensus, amid possible intervention

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OTTAWA — Canada is trying to dislodge a political impasse in Haiti by sending one of its top diplomats to Port-au-Prince.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, started an in-person push for negotiations Wednesday.

Haiti is facing a series of crises as armed gangs block access to fuel and essentials, leading to water and power outages that are worsening a cholera outbreak.

The Haitian government has asked for a foreign military to intervene and push out the gangs, but opponents argue that might only prolong an unpopular government in a country that has not had elections since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada might be part of an intervention, but only if there is a consensus across Haiti’s fractured political scene.

Rae’s three-day visit will include talks with politicians, grassroots groups and United Nations officials on how Canada could play a role in what the Liberals say would be “Haitian-led solutions.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand gave no sense of what that might look like.

“We are making sure to be prudent in this situation,” she told reporters Wednesday.

“We are studying those contributions, potential contributions, and we will have more to say on that in short order.”

This fall, Canada has sanctioned 11 prominent Haitians over alleged ties to gangs, sent military vehicles to the country, and had Trudeau’s former national security adviser conduct an assessment mission.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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An anti-environmental group is shaping Oregon politics and policy – Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Shortly after this year’s midterm elections, an anti-government group in Oregon called Timber Unity posted a call to action on Facebook. It asked its followers to “bombard” Portland City Council members during an upcoming hearing over a proposed change to a motor vehicles fuel code.

The changes in the code would reduce dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels by “increasing the required percentage of renewable fuels blended with petroleum diesel.”

In its post, Timber Unity called this a “special eletist [sic] blend” that would raise the price of diesel, lead distributors to disinvest in Oregon and cause biodiesel and renewable diesel to “not meet specs.”

All of these claims were false, according to the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

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Timber Unity has been active in Oregon politics since its founding three years ago.

This year, it endorsed Republican Christine Drazan for governor. Even though she lost, other conservative candidates won and did so with help from Timber Unity, an increasingly active conservative organization with a decidedly anti-conservation agenda.

County commissioners backed by Timber Unity flipped several seats this year, including Ben West who won in Clackamas County, unseating an incumbent. In Lane County, Ryan Ceniga defeated Dawn Lesley, an environmental engineer who prioritized climate change.

Taking over these hyper-local positions has been central to Timber Unity’s strategy of political influence.

Timber Unity’s origins

In June 2019, truckers and loggers living mainly in logging country between the coast and Portland became fed up and angry over a proposed carbon emissions bill.

Many of them, including the trucker and movement’s founder, Jeff Leavy, viewed the bill as a means of killing jobs.

In fact, the bill would have financially benefitted rural communities, such as theirs, affected by climate change.

Known as cap-and-trade, the bill proposed that companies emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide would have to buy carbon credits at auction.

But the proposal galvanized workers in the industry who mistakenly thought that China would be able to trade in the marketplace and, as Leavy put it to me, “keep polluting this earth on our dime.”

After hearing about the bill, Leavy used Facebook to organize a protest at the Capitol in Salem.

Over the course of several weeks in June, truckers and haulers staged their rigs, coordinated a convoy and held speeches in front of the Capitol.

They called themselves Timber Unity.

Soon after that protest, right-wing figures, including anti-vaxxers and secessionists, joined Timber Unity.

The protests attracted national media attention and statewide political interest.

That month, each of the 11 Republican state senators walked out of the legislative session and effectively killed the bill.

Political alignment

Now over three years later, Timber Unity is still energized, even after some initial internal splintering and leadership changes (Leavy says he resigned).

The group endorsed several winning candidates in the 2020 election, and even helped flip a House seat that hadn’t voted for a Republican in two decades.

In a September 1 Facebook post leading up to this year’s elections, the group applauded then candidate and former House minority leader Drazan for joining a 2020 Legislature walkout by Republicans over a bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The news that Timber Unity endorsed Drazan wasn’t a complete surprise despite the fact that an early Timber Unity supporter, Betsy Johnson, ran this year as an independent.

Angelita Sanchez, a co-director of the Timber Unity PAC, told me, vaguely, that Johnson was “a yes vote on a gas tax,” which Sanchez considered a “bad vote.”

And Mike Pihl, a former Timber Unity president, was already listed as an endorsement on Drazan’s website.

Anti-conservation agenda

In interviews, Timber Unity leadership distances itself from extremism and right-wing figures, but posts on Facebook and other promotional materials reveal far-right ideologies.

In October, Timber Unity screenshotted a Vox story headlined “How logging, a Nike founder, and the alt-right warped the Oregon governor’s race” and wrote, “Well, well, WELL!!! Look at what we have here!!! The FAR LEFT EXTREMIST came out with a story today, and lets just say they are running scared and they give ALL THE CREDIT TO YOU!!!”

The group also previously promoted a rally with a poster that included a QAnon banner and members of the private Facebook group in 2020 included election deniers, QAnon conspiracy theorists and at least one man calling for war ahead of the Capitol riots.

The rise of Timber Unity mimics previous anti-government movements, particularly in western states.

The “Wise Use” movement in the 1980s and ‘90s, for example, wanted the expansion of private property rights and less government oversight on federal lands. Its anti-government and anti-environmental rhetoric was similar to that used by Timber Unity, which sees environmental and government regulation as an infringement on freedom and rights.

Pihl, the former president, told me there’s already too much regulation of the timber industry.

“We already have the Forest Protection Act, which is very deep and it’s 87 pages of regulation,” he says. “I have it sitting on my desk, I read it all the time and there’s so many protected already, like the Siuslaw National Forest. You can’t do anything there.”

Timber Unity has successfully tapped into deep-seated resentments over environmental regulation, and its statewide support seems here to stay—at least for now.

This story was originally published in Columbia Insight, an independent environmental journalist news site.

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