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Praise pours in for outgoing New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern

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Tributes have poured in for outgoing New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has announced she will step down from her position no later than early February and will not seek reelection.

Ardern’s shock announcement on Thursday that she had “no more in the tank” to continue as New Zealand’s prime minister was greeted first with surprise and then praise by fellow politicians and supporters at home and abroad.

Arden, 42, said it had been a tough five and a half years as prime minister and that she was only human and needed to now step aside.

“Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she said.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led the tributes from Australia’s politicians, praising Ardern for leading her country with a mix of intellect and strength.

“She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities,” Albanese wrote on Twitter.

“Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me,” he wrote.

In her resignation announcement, Ardern said she was not stepping down because the job was hard but because she believed others could do a better job.

She made a point of telling her daughter Neve that she was looking forward to being there when she started school this year and told her longtime partner Clarke Gayford that it was time they married.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” wrote Katy Gallagher, Australia’s minister for finance, women and public service, noting that Ardern had set an example for a generation of young women who had watched her lead New Zealand with “strength, empathy and grace”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Ardern for her strength, compassion and empathy, and expressed thanks for her partnership and friendship over several years.

“The difference you have made is immeasurable. I’m wishing you and your family nothing but the best, my friend,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

“Thank you for so many things, PM Ardern, but especially for making kindness and empathy cool again,” Angela Pratt, the World Health Organization’s representative in Vietnam, wrote on Twitter.

Political commentator Ben Thomas said Ardern’s announcement was a huge surprise as polls still ranked her as the country’s preferred prime minister even though support for her party had fallen from the stratospheric heights seen during the 2020 election.

Thomas said there was not a clear successor.

Julia Gillard, Australia’s first and only female prime minister from 2010-2013, said that Ardern had demonstrated “a new style of leadership” that placed kindness and empathy to the fore and in so doing became a “shining light”, particularly to women.

“I congratulate her on all she has achieved to date and wish her well in this next phase of her life,” Gillard said in a tweet.

Ardern’s initial election in 2017 made a big splash on the global stage because of her gender and youth, coining the phrase “Jacinda-mania”.

Her empathetic leadership style was cemented by her response to the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019 that killed 51 people and injured 40.

Ardern swiftly labelled the attacks “terrorism” and wore a hijab as she met with the Muslim community a day after the attack, telling them the whole country was “united in grief”. She promised and delivered major gun law reform within a month.

Chris Bowen, Australia’s minister for climate change and energy, said Ardern had “led her country through its hardest ever day”.

“She inspired people around the world with calm, assured, progressive and robust leadership,” Bowen wrote on Twitter.

The United Kingdom’s opposition party leader Keir Starmer described Ardern as a “true global leader” and an “inspiration”.

Mark Brown, prime minister of the Cook Islands, said Ardern had led with “compassion, strength, and kindness” during some of the most turbulent times the world and New Zealand had known since World War II, including the Christchurch mosque attack, the White Island volcanic eruption in 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You leave a legacy of true leadership,” Brown said, according to New Zealand’s Stuff news media.

Ardern won praise across the political spectrum for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw New Zealand face some of the strictest measures globally but also resulted in one of the lowest death tolls.

But Ardern also faced growing anger at home from those who opposed coronavirus mandates and rules.

A protest last year that began on Parliament’s grounds lasted for more than three weeks until the demonstrators were forced to leave. The heated emotions around the coronavirus debate led to a level of vitriol directed at Ardern that was rarely been seen by former New Zealand leaders. She was forced to cancel an annual barbecue she hosts due to security fears.

Her popularity had also waned over the past year as inflation rose to nearly three-decade highs and the country has also become increasingly politically divided over issues such as a government overhaul of water infrastructure and the introduction of an agricultural emissions programme.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was deeply saddened by news of the resignation.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, member of parliament and co-leader of New Zealand’s Te Pati Maori political movement, said Ardern’s resignation was a “sad day for politics”.

“It is a sad day for politics where an outstanding leader has been driven from office for constant personalisation and vilification,” Ngarewa-Packer said.

“Her whanau [family] have withstood the ugliest attacks over the last two years with what we believe to be the most demeaning form of politics we have ever seen,” she said.

Well-known New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who has starred in such films as The Piano and the Jurassic Park series, blasted “all the bullies, the misogynists, the aggrieved” who had subjected Ardern to “disgraceful” treatment over the last few months.

“She deserved so much better,” Neill wrote in a tweet. “A great leader. Thanks PM!”

Gerald Butts, a Canadian political consultant and vice chairman of the Eurasia Group, said Ardern was leaving her post “like she led: honestly, empathetically, on her own terms. Bravo on a great run.”

The ruling Labour Party’s vote for a new leader will take place on Sunday. The new party leader will be the prime minister until the next general election.

Ardern’s term as leader will conclude no later than February 7 and a general election will be held on October 14.

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Canada politics: NDP to talk health care with Trudeau – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that he would sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to discuss private health care ahead of next week’s summit with premiers.

Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.

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“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.

The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.

Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.

On Monday, legislators’ first day back at the House of Commons after a winter break, the NDP requested an emergency debate on the privatization of health care. The request was denied.

During the first question period of the year, Trudeau said his government will continue to ensure the provinces and territories abide by the Canada Health Act.

“We know that even as we negotiate with the provinces to ensure that we’re delivering more family doctors, better mental-health supports, moving forward on backlogs, supporting Canadians who need emergency care, we will ensure the Canada Health Act is fully respected,” Trudeau said.

“In the past, this government has pulled back money from provinces that haven’t respected it. We will continue to do that.”

Singh said that while health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, he believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.

“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health care,” Singh said.

“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”

The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.

Singh spent some of Parliament’s winter break holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.  

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Prime Minister stands behind newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia – The Globe and Mail

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Amira Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence from a 2019 article co-authored that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by his newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia as the country marked the sixth anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, while the Quebec government and federal Conservatives called for Amira Elghawaby to step aside.

Outcry over her appointment dominated headlines in Quebec. The backlash stemmed from a 2019 article co-authored by Ms. Elghawaby – a particular line of which was perceived as showing anti-Quebec sentiment. The piece opposed Bill 21, the Quebec law that bans some public servants from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.

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After criticism was raised last week, Mr. Trudeau said he expected Ms. Elghawaby to clarify her remarks, which she did, saying she does not believe Quebeckers are Islamophobic. Mr. Trudeau said Monday he is satisfied and wants to move forward.

Ms. Elghawaby’s mandate – to support the federal government in rooting out Islamophobia and highlight the diverse experiences of Canadian Muslims – has grown increasingly urgent. In recent years, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed. And, over the past five years, Canada has taken the dark title of the Group of Seven nation with the highest number of Islamophobic killings, advocates note.

“There are anti-Muslim sentiments across Canada,” Ms. Elghawaby said. “This is not a Quebec issue. This is a Canadian issue.”

Amid the fracas, Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment is being celebrated by Muslim and non-Muslim advocates alike.

Stephen Brown, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, or NCCM, said they are very happy to see Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment, noting she has a long history of advocating for Muslims, is bilingual and very dedicated.

He said the recommendation for the role came out of the National Summit on Islamophobia, in 2021, after the killing of four members of one Muslim family – the Afzaals – in London, Ont., which police said was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Six Muslim men were killed and another 19 injured in the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.

Born in Egypt, Ms. Elghawaby was a baby when her family immigrated to Canada, where her father worked for decades as an engineer with the federal government and her mother raised her and her siblings in an east-end Ottawa suburb.

When Ms. Elghawaby decided to start wearing a head scarf – while studying journalism at Carleton University in the early 2000s – she recalled her father warning her against it. He worried about the barriers that a visible marker of faith could pose, she said.

“I remember telling him, ‘I really believe that Canada is a place where I can put on the head scarf and I can still contribute and I can still succeed,’” she said.

Despite the realities of Islamophobia – ones that cause her to be on guard while at mosque – Ms. Elghawaby said she has always had immense hope for Canada.

Over a career spanning two decades, Ms. Elghawaby has written for CBC News and held forth as a contributing columnist for the Toronto Star; been a founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network; and worked with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and, most recently, for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

In interviews, several people said Ms. Elghawaby is known for her work building connections across communities.

Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, described Ms. Elghawaby as very concerned with how Islamophobia ties into women’s rights and to anti-Black racism, as well as issues of antisemitism.

She pays attention to “the need for real bridge-building and conversations,” Ms. Douglas noted. “You often found her where there’s lots of cross-cultural communications happening.”

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, called Ms. Elghawaby the “perfect appointment.”

“We are living in very dark times,” he said. “Most people allow the darkness to envelop us. Amira is quite the opposite. She insists that there is light.”

He said Ms. Elghawaby has been instrumental in bringing Jewish and Muslim leadership together for difficult conversations. He also described doing trainings – he on antisemitism and she on Islamophobia – for police agencies.

And together, the pair authored the 2019 column that elicited criticism from some.

The pair wrote: “Unfortunately, the majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment. A poll conducted by Léger Marketing earlier this year found that 88 per cent of Quebeckers who held negative views of Islam supported the ban.”

Ms. Elghawaby said the pair had seen Montreal Gazette reporting on the poll, which stated that “anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be the main motivation for those who support a ban on religious symbols,” and that the poll found most Quebeckers supported Bill 21.

Mr. Brown, of the NCCM, said no one felt that Léger was “Quebec bashing” when it put those numbers out.

Sarah Mushtaq, a community advocate in Windsor, Ont., who writes columns for the Windsor Star, said Ms. Elghawaby’s kindness and wisdom – and ability to navigate tense issues – have made an impact on her.

Part of being a Muslim in the public sphere means that, sometimes, “no one is ever happy with what you said,” she said.

“You never know how certain comments are going to get dug up and misconstrued,” she added.

She said the role of a federal representative dedicated to combatting Islamophobia is “long overdue” and it’s important that a visibly Muslim woman is filling it.

“Despite the naysayers, there’s a lot of people who are grateful that this role exists,” she said. “We are behind her.”

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Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care

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Parliamentarians kick off return

The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.

Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.

The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.

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But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.

Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.

The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.

But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.

Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.

Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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