Friday marks two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
The virus has caused incalculable changes to Canada. Every Canadian’s life has been affected by the disease. More than 37,000 people have died after contracting it. Government deficits have ballooned — particularly at the federal level. The domino effects of COVID have accelerated subtler health challenges, like degenerating mental health and an increasing risky street-drug supply. The nation’s collective health isn’t all that’s suffered; other societal problems have been exacerbated in Canada, too. Once unimaginable inflation rates and housing prices are now the norm, for example.
Canadian politics hasn’t been spared from the change either. Doug Ford even said Justin Trudeau was doing “an incredible job as prime minister” at one point.
Here are six impactful ways the COVID-19 pandemic changed federal politics in Canada.
No more Morneau
March 12, 2020, the day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, shared she tested positive for COVID-19 — serving as a reality check for Canadians. Parliament shut down the next day.
Both chambers of Parliament held only sparse sittings for months. Trudeau became a midday staple on television, sharing updates about the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Parties were forced to work together to enable the government to act quickly to respond to a virus that was unconcerned with the stereotypically slow legislative process and its due diligence.
For months, that worked. Then, the Liberals made a blunder. On June 25, 2020, Trudeau announced its Canada Student Service Grant, which it planned to use to pay students to volunteer, with WE Charity facilitating it. But that never happened. Trudeau and Bill Morneau, his finance minister, were both quickly, and heavily, scrutinized for their close ties to the organization, as well as the direct business relationships between members of their families and the charity.
Investigations followed and Morneau took the heat, and according to Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s reporting, rightly so. Dion exonerated Trudeau and found Morneau broke ethics laws several times. Long before the ethics commissioner published his reports, Morneau exited politics, resigning as finance minister and an MP. Chrystia Freeland assumed Morneau’s old post, becoming Trudeau’s second finance minister.
On an inextricably linked note, the WE Charity scandal also brought down the WE organization, at least in Canada. The organization run by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger was once considered one of Canada’s most well known charities — if not the signature Canadian charity. It had also been at a time a fertile political entity for politicians of many-a-stripe.
WE Charity did not overcome the scandal. It received harsh blowback during the controversy. Documents made public during its time under the microscope also showed WE Charity and its associated entities were struggling fiscally. Regardless of the blame, the result is the same: the Kielburgers announced, not long into the controversy, that they were shutting down Canadian operations.
A star is born
For a more successful story, see Anita Anand. A first-term MP when the pandemic began, Anand would become crucial to the Trudeau government’s pandemic response. As procurement minister, Anand was tasked with buying Canada’s vaccine supply. The effort to obtain doses wasn’t without its hiccups, but Canada eventually got enough for all its citizens — rivalling the speed of almost any country in the world.
Trudeau elevated her to defence minister after the 2021 election, giving Anand a senior portfolio, and offering a significant vote of confidence, by entrusting her with setting the military straight after numerous current and former top brass lost their jobs or came under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct.
A movement is born
In hindsight, vaccination becoming a key election issue last fall was inevitable — especially once it was weaponized by the Liberals against the Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole. O’Toole struggled navigating questions around his candidates’ vaccination status, which — along with his flipping and flopping — were main causes for the Conservatives snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
But, was the cost of vaccine politics worth it?
Anti-vaccine and -mandate protesters dogged Trudeau throughout the early part of the campaign, leading to him being pelted with gravel (which itself was a pivotal moment of the campaign). Whatever it was spurring these protesters was never effectively addressed in the campaign and months later hundreds of trucks rolled into Ottawa.
“Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways,” Trudeau said in 2015 after defeating Stephen Harper to become Canada’s prime minister.
Pundits oft-remarked that the SNC Lavalin scandal killed Trudeau’s different way of politicking, as he promised.
If “sunny ways” had a pulse before the pandemic, it mustn’t now. The “Freedom Convoy” displayed — among many things — a hatred for Trudeau. Judging by the prime minister’s comments about protesters, there’s no love lost on either side.
CPC soul search
The Conservative party is having its second leadership election of the pandemic. That’s as many as the modern iteration of the party had in total before COVID-19.
Polarizing stalwart MP Pierre Poilievre is the favourite in the early goings of the leadership race, but he’s not the only heavyweight in the race.
O’Toole tried bridging the party, but that meant being “True Blue” before suddenly he wasn’t. That may have cost him and the Conservatives the election.
Like all Canadians, Conservatives have lived through the pandemic, the lockdowns, the mandates and all the other ways the government has helped and, in some people’s opinions, hurt the country. Who they choose to lead them will show how they want to respond to it.
WATCH: For the record, Tim Hudak is not returning to politics – BradfordToday
Tim Hudak spent more than two decades as a provincial politician at Queen’s Park, including five years as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. He is now CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), a position he has held since 2016.
Would the former Opposition Leader ever consider a political comeback?
Hudak was asked that question during a recent appearance on Inside the Village, a news podcast produced by Village Media. His answer was pretty unequivocal.
You can watch the full interview here, or download the episode wherever you find your favourite podcasts.
Marc Garneau on enjoying political life after cabinet ouster, writing his memoirs – The Globe and Mail
Had things gone as he hoped, Marc Garneau would be foreign affairs minster today, carrying on with a run in the cabinets of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that began when the Liberals won power in 2015.
But the 73-year-old former astronaut – once one of the highest-profile members of Mr. Trudeau’s cabinets for his roles as transport minister for five years and foreign affairs minister for nine months – was left out after the Liberals won a minority government last fall, a turn that caught many by surprise.
In an interview, the MP for the Montreal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount declined to say whether he would have run for his fifth term had he known he wouldn’t make it back to cabinet.
“Obviously, when I went into the election I was hoping to continue my work in foreign affairs, but I am also grounded in reality and know every new government is a new decision point for the prime minister to decide how he wants to compose his government. I was aware of these things, but I decided that I wanted to run again,” Mr. Garneau said from his Parliament Hill office.
Now, Mr. Garneau says, things are fine, and he is enjoying his roles as a chair, joint chair and member of various Parliament Hill committees.
“I am fully occupied with things that I do care deeply about so you move on in life and you enjoy what you have the chance to do, and as long as you feel the desire to serve you continue to do that.”
His roles include chair of the standing committee on Indigenous and Northern affairs, and joint chair of a Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying.
“For me to have had an opportunity to work, in essence, on reconciliation through this standing committee and to work on a topic that is so important it can affect everybody, which is medical assistance in dying, those are very rewarding new responsibilities I am enjoying tremendously.”
For seven years of his political career, he was asking the questions on committees as a member of the opposition, and then for six years he was taking questions as a cabinet minister. “I was the one, if you would like, in the hot seat,” he said. Being the chair is a new experience. “It does require you to have a certain level of impartiality so the committee can function properly in the way it should and everyone has a voice. That was a bit of a learning curve for me.”
Peter Trent, the former mayor of the Montreal suburb of Westmount, is a long-time friend of Mr. Garneau. He was so taken aback by Mr. Garneau being left out of cabinet that he wrote a column for The Montreal Gazette that ran last October under the headline: “Marc Garneau, the ‘anti-politician,’ deserves better.” It was sharply critical of Mr. Trudeau’s judgment.
But, he says, Mr. Garneau has taken his fate well. “He’s accepted what happened in a very Zen way,” Mr. Trent said. “The rest of us aren’t as Zen and still harbour a strong resentment as to the way he was treated.”
Mr. Garneau is writing his memoirs, drafting a narrative on a life story that saw the Quebec City native serve in the navy and become, in 1984, the first Canadian in space when he served as a payload specialist on the Challenger space shuttle. He returned to space on subsequent missions, and was president of the Canadian Space Agency.
But elected politics beckoned. Mr. Garneau was first elected to Parliament in 2008, while Stephen Harper was prime minister. In 2012, he ran for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, competing with, among others, his eventual boss at the cabinet table. He eventually left the race and endorsed Mr. Trudeau, who won.
Mr. Garneau stepped up work on his memoirs over a few weeks in December and January while recovering from hip-replacement surgery.
“I got quite a bit done,” he said. “I got the chapters from the beginning of my life up until I entered politics done, and I have had those reviewed by my dear wife and my daughter so those are in pretty good shape.” He does not have an agent or publisher.
When he was left out of cabinet, Mr. Garneau says his constituents and the media reacted more intensely than colleagues on Parliament Hill. “Here in Ottawa, I think people understand the way things go and that these are possible outcomes.”
Mr. Garneau says the Prime Minister offered him an opportunity to be Canada’s ambassador in France, but he turned it down for reasons that he was not going to discuss.
As for seeking another term, he notes the next election is three years away. “My health is good,” he said. “We’ll see.”
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Ex-Wildrose leader Danielle Smith reannounces UCP leadership bid as next step in Alberta politics – Global News
She thanked Kenney for the work he has done for Alberta’s energy industry and added she wouldn’t mind seeing Kenney stay on as premier until a new leader has been elected.
“I want to start off by thanking Premier Jason Kenney for all the work that he’s done over the last number of years.
“I’ve decided to jump back into politics, seeking the leadership of the UCP. That is just a continuation of my last political life,” Smith said.
Jason Kenney announces intention to step down as UCP leader
Smith spared no time getting into her platform, saying she will fix and restore faith in Alberta politics. She also said she will attempt to unite the UCP and pointed to the large number of people who registered to vote in Kenney’s leadership review.
“If you look at what happened during the UCP leadership contest, there were a lot of people who got brought into the UCP who had never been in politics before and I think that’s what has occurred,” Smith said.
“I think there has been a lot of division that has happened between friends and family, and we need to stop dividing people along identity lines… We are stronger united and that holds for our conservative movement as well.”
Smith also said she wants to see more people run in the leadership race and noted she respects the role of individual MLAs in Alberta politics.
“I would love to see Todd Lowen and Drew Barnes throw their name in the race for UCP leadership. We need to start unifying the movement again and that’s going to require all hands on deck over the next couple of years,” Smith said.
UCP caucus meeting to discuss future after Jason Kenney announces plan to step down
But Smith also spent time talking about her own credentials, saying she has a lot of experience as the former party leader for the Wildrose Party, which merged with the UCP in 2017.
She also talked about her time as a former radio host on 770 CHQR as proof she can “take the heat” in Alberta politics.
“I’m not going to enter a contest thinking I’m going to come in second place… This is a real opportunity for the UCP to make sure that we’re selling memberships, that we’re getting people excited again.
“I can handle the heat. I have handled it for a lot of years, and that’s the way I conducted myself on the radio,” Smith said.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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