A new LifeWorks study commissioned by the Alberta government says the province could be entitled to take $334 billion — more than half of assets in the Canada Pension Plan — were it to exit the national plan entirely and start its own fund. The figure has raised eyebrows in pension circles and big questions across the rest of the country: Can Alberta really walk off with half the CPP? And what happens to everyone else if they do? The Financial Post’s Ian Vandaelle breaks down what you need to know about the issue.
The son of a Russian spy couple who lived clandestine lives in Canada and the United States said Friday that he wants a future in Canada after the country’s Supreme Court ruled he can keep his Canadian citizenship.
Alexander Vavilov was born in Toronto, which would typically qualify him for Canadian citizenship. But authorities had ruled that Vavilov didn’t qualify because his parents were part of a Russian spy ring in North America that was broken up by the FBI in 2010.
The high court rejected that finding on Thursday, meaning Vavilov can reside permanently in the country where his parents once lived clandestine lives as deeply embedded spies who were the models for the TV show The Americans.
“It’s a huge relief,” Vavilov said at a news conference after flying to Toronto from Russia. “I am happy to be back in Canada, to be here without this constant doubt in my head, with the ability to finally put down roots and build a life for myself. It’s going to take time. But I’m happy I can move forward with my life and put these problems behind me.”
Vavilov, 25, said he works in finance but said it’s been difficult to find work. He said people trust him, but companies don’t want to be associated with his espionage story. “It’s been difficult, a lot of anguish and stress,” he said.
As he waits for the ruling on his citizenship, he’s been bouncing around countries in the Middle East and Asia. He said it’s “hard to say” where he now resides, though he flew in from Russia. He declined to comment on life in Russia under Vladimir Putin.
Who is entitled to citizenship?
The Canadian government argued he wasn’t entitled to citizenship and appealed to the Supreme Court to annul the passport granted to him by a lower court. The top court upheld that ruling.
Vavilov’s supporters said a son shouldn’t pay for the sins of his parents, while critics contend his claim to be a Canadian by birth was based on fraud since he and his parents lived under stolen identities in the Toronto area and later Massachusetts as they collected intelligence for Moscow.
He said he has mended his relationship with his parents. He said it’s OK now after initial difficulties after they were arrested.
“I understand their decisions now. They did what they did for patriotic reasons. They wanted to help their country to fight for peace and better understanding between the countries,” he said. “Although I suffered through the result of all this, but I have an understanding of why they did what they did. In their position maybe they shouldn’t have had children, but that’s not to say I’m not happy to be alive and be here.”
In the dark about his parents’ dealings
Canada, like the U.S., grants citizenship to anyone born within its territory with limited exceptions, such as the children of diplomats. The government argued that Vavilov’s parents were employees or representatives of a foreign government and thus ineligible. Vavilov’s lawyer argued that they were not official representatives and that all that matters in this case is their physical birthplace.
The parents came to Toronto in the 1980s and took the names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Ann Foley. They then gave birth to two sons — Timothy in 1990 and Alexander in 1994 — before moving to Paris in 1995 and then Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1999.
In 2010, the FBI arrested a ring of sleeper agents for Russia that it had been following for years in the United States. All 10, including the now well-known Anna Chapman, pleaded guilty and were returned to Russia in a swap. Vavilov had not been to Russia before.
Vavilov said he had no idea his parents were spies and that he was surprised and confused at their arrest. “I thought the FBI had the wrong house,” he said. “I did not believe it.”
The family’s story became the inspiration for The Americans. He said he and his parents have watched the show.
“My parents said they enjoyed watching it, because it at least portrayed the sense of patriotism and the sense of connection. It’s a good show,” he said.
The FBI agent who oversaw the arrests said in 2010 that Timothy Vavilov may have found out about his parents’ secret life before they were arrested.
Alex called it nonsense and said his parents would never have put them in jeopardy by telling them that. The brothers weren’t charged. “He’s over the moon,” he said of his brother.
Their lawyer said no evidence had ever surfaced suggesting the sons knew their parents were Russians or were spies.
Alexander Vavilov wanted to return to Canada for university but was denied. The government ruled Canada would no longer recognize him as Canadian because his parents were “employees or representatives of a foreign government.”
Criticism of the decision
After losing in a lower court, Vavilov won support from the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2017 that the law applies only to foreign government employees who benefit from diplomatic immunities or privileges. Vavilov was given his citizenship back.
In its decision, the Supreme Court said the citizenship registrar’s decision was unreasonable. Although the registrar knew her interpretation of the provision was novel, she failed to provide a proper rationale, the court said.
Although it involves the same central issue, Timothy Vavilov’s case proceeded separately through the courts and was not directly before the Supreme Court. However, in a decision last year, the Federal Court of Appeal said its 2017 ruling on Alexander Vavilov equally applied to his brother, making him a citizen.
Former FBI agent Richard DesLauriers, who oversaw the arrest of the couple, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, and the other eight sleeper agents criticized the high court’s decision on Thursday. DesLauriers called it ridiculous.
Albertans dread a Canada Pension Plan exit. Will Danielle Smith’s $334B claim fix that?
Premier Danielle Smith may have wanted Alberta to go it alone on pensions for more than two decades, but to fulfil her dreams she’ll have to convert a wary Alberta public.
Polls have shown Albertans clearly don’t dream her dream with her. Pick your pollster: it was opposed by a margin of 31 per cent to 60 in a Janet Brown poll last October, or 21 per cent to 54 in Leger this spring.
With numbers like that, it’s a heftier turnaround task than persuading a majority of Quebecers to separate from Canada after decades of unwillingness. Or, for a local example, getting rural and small-town Albertans to suddenly prefer NDP over UCP.
Smith has the benefit of the premier’s bully pulpit to tilt public opinion in her favour on this one, to persuade people as she’s been arguing since at least 2003 that Alberta has “the obligation” to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan, and pay much lower premiums for equal or higher benefits.
She has now also armed herself with some of the biggest, rosiest numbers ever wielded in all the years of hardened conservatives trying to turn the public tide on the pension issue.
Billions upon billions
At the centre of her new argument is that eye-popping figure, $334 billion, which a government-commissioned report estimates Alberta is entitled to if it wants to become like Quebec, and separates from CPP.
That’s one-third of a trillion dollars, or more than half the CPP program’s total assets in a fund that collects contributions and pays out pensions of every Canadian who lives in a province that doesn’t start with Q.
For perspective, the amount Alberta is claiming as its rightful share of CPP is more than triple the ransom amount that Austin Powers film villain Dr. Evil demanded from world leaders, with pinky diabolically extended to his mouth. (That’s after the not-good doctor realized $1 million wasn’t a sufficient ask).
It’s also nearly equivalent to the value of Alberta’s entire economy in a year.
Sovereignist leaders would say: separate, and “all this becomes possible.” Smith was musing Thursday about how all sorts of good becomes possible if Albertans agree to start their own nest egg with a $334-billion principal.
Dramatically slashed premiums! Larger paycheques! Higher benefits for seniors! Maybe a $10,000 bonus for retirees!
But the reality checks on the Lifeworks report’s central assumption rolled in almost instantly after the astronomical estimate rolled off the premier’s tongue.
It’s an “impossible figure,” says Michel Leduc, senior managing director of the non-partisan Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, which stewards the assets for Canadians. While he maintains any province has the legal right to withdraw and start its own pension plan, he urged skepticism of the numeric claims.
If other provinces used the “alternate formula” and demanded their shares be paid out too, he explained, there would be a negative balance by the time Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta left. (Sorry, other provinces.)
While Smith attributed Alberta’s share to the hard work of Albertans, the Lifeworks report itself attributes about 80 per cent of the province’s claimed share to investment income — the amount CPPIB has made by investing contributions, most of that since the 1990s reforms that boosted CPP premiums but also made the pension board a global investment heavyweight.
If Alberta had its pension funds outside that larger pan-Canadian pool, it’s far from a given that it would have performed nearly as well all these decades.
One could hear a scoff in the voice of University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe as he spoke of the outsized hunk — half! — of the pension pie Alberta believes it deserves. “I think it was a little problematic that the government’s hanging its hat on half the CPP assets, which you think is kind of transparently unreasonable and not going to fly anywhere else in the country,” he said.
In Tombe’s own newly published paper, he estimates Alberta would be more reasonably entitled to 20 or 25 per cent of CPP’s present assets. CPPIB has not worked out its own figure, but Leduc said Tombe’s math is much closer to a realistic figure, though even that may be high.
The ultimate number that Alberta would scoop up if it actually pursues the Alberta Pension Plan dream isn’t Alberta’s to determine, or Lifeworks’ or Tombe’s or even CPPIB’s.
The federal government ultimately determines the asset transfer to a withdrawing province, likely in consultation with the other provinces.
The spectre of higher pension contributions in an Alberta-less CPP may soon attract ire in the rest of Canada. Alberta leaders have a long tradition of spats with Ottawa, but this pie-slice-haggling could draw in Smith’s fellow premiers.
But the $334-billion claim will resonate with a slew of people in this province. They have spent generations absorbing conservative rhetoric about how we hard-working, high-earning Albertans send billions of dollars to federal coffers in taxes and premiums, and get far fewer billions returned to us. When the Kenney government held a referendum that purported to demand an end to the equalization program, 62 per cent of voters said yes, a fact Smith often mentioned as she kicked up her rhetorical campaign Thursday.
But in a nod to public discomfort on the pension question, Smith doesn’t even want to commit to a referendum yet, which she’s long promised as a necessary prelude to an APP — and wouldn’t happen until at least 2025, Finance Minister Nate Horner explained to CBC News.
The premier instead appointed an engagement panel to see where public mood is on this. It will be helmed by Jim Dinning, the former provincial treasurer who helped negotiate the modern CPP in the 1990s, and who ran for the Tory leadership decidedly opposed to a candidate who promised an APP — but now says he views the idea as an “intriguing opportunity” that could bring massive investment potential into this province.
An Alberta nest-minder
That opened one massive unknown among the many unknowns on what Alberta’s pension plan would look like. Theoretically, the fund could remain managed by CPPIB, but that would have to be approved in legislation by the Ottawa and other provinces that Alberta wishes to spurn here.
Smith could alternately task the Alberta Investment Management Co. (AIMCo) to manage Albertans’ pensions, but that body has not brought in nearly as sterling returns as the federal wealth manager, and is more susceptible to political intervention than the way CPPIB is set up.
To the many Albertans who are unsettled or spooked by the idea of abandoning the stability and reliability of the Canada Pension Plan, Smith is reassuring them they’ll be guaranteed the same benefits or better, and the same contribution rates or better.
She emphasizes the better, and purports there are 344 billion reasons to believe her on that.
There aren’t nearly as many reasons to question that number. But there are several, and when you add in all the uncertainties and risks that surround this monumental go-it-alone leap Alberta’s premier is proposing — well, that figure is probably pretty large as well.
Alberta wants to leave the CPP: Can they do that and what does it mean for the rest of Canada?
In short, yes, but we haven’t been down this road before: no province has left the Canada Pension Plan since its inception in 1966. Quebec never joined up with that pact, mind you, so it’s an outlier that has had its own provincial pension plan from the get-go. From there, life gets more complicated: Under the Canada Pension Plan Act, a province would need to give three years notice to the feds that it intends to exit CPP, enact its own legislation within one year of that notice, and prove its own made-at-home pension plan was roughly comparable in terms of providing that safety net. So, not a swift process. And in Alberta’s case, it’s by no means a done deal. The provincial government plans to consult with residents into early next year to gauge their appetite to leave the plan, with the results determining if a referendum is held sometime in 2024.
So they can leave — but why would they want to?
It boils down to a few things, all of which go hand-in-hand: demographics, economics and a lingering sense of Western alienation. On the first point, Alberta skews young — 66.2 per cent of those living in the province are between the ages of 15 and 64, according to the 2021 census, putting it above the national average of 64.8 per cent. That means more contributors to the plan, rather than those collecting benefits, with the province reckoning it can save somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 billion a year by repatriating its share. The latter two points have been bedfellows for decades: generations of Alberta politicians have griped about the province over-contributing to so-called have-not provinces through equalization payments, mostly due to the province’s resource wealth, and thus there’s always been a simmer of discontent with allowing Ottawa to control the purse strings.
So what happens now?
We wait and see. With those consultations underway and a referendum possibly in the offing, there’s no chance Alberta leaves CPP until 2027 at the earliest, which, wouldn’t you know it, coincides with the province’s next scheduled general election. Political seas change, and all that, so who knows what will have happened by then.
Zelenskyy visits Canada: Recap his Ottawa events
Addressing a joint session of Parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered repeated thanks to Canada for its continued support for his country as it continues to defend itself from Russia’s invasion.
His speech was the marquee event of his visit to Canada, and he used the opportunity to make his case for why persisting allegiance is needed. Speaking to a rapt crowd, he said Canada’s assistance so far has saved thousands of lives, and is helping strip Vladimir Putin from the ability to use energy as a weapon of war.
“This Russian aggression must end with our victory,” Zelenskyy told the House of Commons, after painting a grim picture of the kinds of horrors seen on the streets in the last 19 months.
During the visit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada will be making a $650 million “multi-year commitment that provides predictable, steady support to Ukraine,” which will include sending more armoured vehicles, as well as other mental health and charity funding boosts. Canada has also levelled new sanctions against Russia.
“In this era of uncertainty and of resurgent great power competition, rules are what will protect us… History will judge us on how we defend democratic values and Ukraine is at the tip of the spear in this great challenge of the 21st century,” Trudeau said, introducing the Ukrainian leader.
“This is a challenge on a generational scale, a challenge that history will judge us on, a challenge we must confront with lionhearted courage.”
This visit—his first since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine—is being held under tight security, and follows stops at the White House in Washington, D.C., and United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Accompanied by the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, prior to, and following his address, the couple made a series of stops alongside Trudeau and members of cabinet, in Ottawa.
4:40 p.m.: Soon, Trudeau, Freeland and the Zelenskyy delegation will travel to Toronto, for evening events, first a meeting holding a roundtable with Canadian business leaders and then an event with members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community. Visit CTV News Toronto(opens in a new tab) for more from those events. This marks the last live update of the day from CTV News’ Parliamentary Bureau, thank you for following along.
4:25 p.m.: Some colour about one of the behind-the-scenes visits: While in the nation’s capital, the First Lady of Ukraine met with researchers serving veterans and their families during a visit to the Royal Ottawa Hospital, according to Trudeau’s office. She was joined by Minister of Veterans Affairs Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Ya’ara Saks.
4:20 p.m.: This marks the end of the official Ottawa program of Zelenskyy’s visit. To put what unfolded in perspective, today’s announcements bring Canada’s total committed support to more than $9.5 billion in assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of 2022. “As long as it takes,” is the Liberal government’s position.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hold a joint media availability in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
3:53 p.m.: Questioning continues one from Ukraine media around Russian sanction evasions, and one from Canadian media in French, again on the potential war fatigue setting in, that it’s getting hard to convince countries to continue to offer more aid. Both respond, Trudeau says he knows it is an economically-difficult time for Canadians, and crises have multiplied since the COVID-19 pandemic, but this support to Ukraine is about helping people get through these hard times, too because of what the consequences would be if Russia was victorious. Zelenskyy, seeming a bit tired, says Trudeau has covered it well. A few minutes later, the press conference ends.
3:47 p.m.: Zelenskyy speaks about how journalists “are the weapons capable of uniting the society,” says he discussed this with Trudeau. “We can not let Russia divide the opinions in the world,” he said. Trudeau notes how “interconnected” Canada is and how that provides platforms to raise the continued need to back Ukraine and uphold the rule of law.
3:45 p.m.: First question is on security guarantees and peace formula. Trudeau in response points to today’s announcement, says Canada will pick a few points of peace plan to lead on. Zelenskyy says big task is for Ukraine to get as many countries on-side. Second question is from CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher: Did President Biden promised to send Ukraine long-range army tactical missile systems? And for both leaders, how concerned are you about divisions in U.S. Congress and NATO allies like Poland pulling military support for Ukraine… And what can Canada do in that respect with allies? Zelenskyy says they are discussing different types of weapons with the U.S. says Russia is spreading disinformation narratives regarding softening support for Ukraine.
3:40 p.m.: Q&A kicks off, the pair of world leaders will only take two questions from the Canadian media and two questions from the travelling Ukrainian media.
3:35 p.m.: Zelenskyy speaks in Ukrainian, based on the translator, he said he wanted to come to Canada to personally thank Canadians. He calls Ukraine’s desired victory in this war, a “common victory,” and emphasized how much he appreciates the latest round of aid being offered as it is highly needed.
3:32 p.m.: Other bits of funding: $4.3 million to strengthen nuclear security measures at the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone; $1.7 million for Canadian NGO eQualitie to enhance the cyber resilience of Ukrainian civil society; $2 million for Canadian NGO Parliamentary Centre for technical assistance for the Ukrainian Parliament; $250,000 for Ukrainian NGO Building Ukraine Together for community-level youth engagement and recovery initiative, and $34 million in development assistance for four multi-year initiatives supporting: mental health, small-scale farmers and restoration of agricultural livelihoods, local infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction, technical assistance for inclusive recovery.
3:30 p.m.: Trudeau begins by re-announcing what he said in the House earlier, but now with more details. The prime minister announced Canada is “shifting our approach to provide multi-year assistance and ensure Ukraine has the predictable support it needs for long-term success.” This “macro economic support” includes: $650M over three years to supply Ukraine with 50 armoured vehicles; detailing allocations of a previously-committed $500 million which will include drone cameras, NATO-standard small arms, and a United Kingdom-led partnership delivering high priority air defence equipment. Trudeau said 63 Russian individuals and entities “complicit in the illegal transfer and custody of Ukrainian children, generating and disseminating disinformation and propaganda, as well as entities in Russia’s nuclear sector are being added to the sanctions list.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shake hands ahead of a joint press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
3:20 p.m.: They sign, shake hands. What they signed was the modernized Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), “which supports long-term security, stability, and economic development in Ukraine, while also ensuring high-quality market access terms for Canadian businesses participating in Ukraine’s economic recovery.”
3:15 pm.: Ok we have movement. Trudeau and Zelenskyy have just crossed the street, on foot, from Parliament Hill to the Sir John A. Macdonald Building where their signing ceremony “to continue strengthening economic ties between our two countries,” and joint media availability will take place.
3:00 p.m.: Trudeau and Zelenskyy’s joint address and media availability is running behind schedule. From the feed inside the room where it’s set to take place, the red carpet has been rolled out and Canadian parliamentarians are standing within the camera shot, likely they will either witness, or act as a backdrop for some of what’s about to unfold.
2:35 p.m.: Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre issued a statement, saying he was “pleased to welcome President Zelenskyy to Canada’s Parliament and hear his speech.” “Conservatives share the Ukrainian values of faith, family, and freedom. We will stand for those values at home and abroad. Ukrainians know better than anyone the importance of freedom as they have had to defeat communism, fascism, and other forms of socialism,” the statement continues. Without mentioning Trudeau’s latest funding commitment directly, Poilievre says “Canada should continue to help Ukrainians win their freedom.”
2:22 p.m.: The official program ends in the House of Commons, following closing remarks from Senate Speaker Raymonde Gagne.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a speech in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
2:07 p.m.: After joking — he was a comedian pre-politics — earlier in the day about not speaking French, Zelenskyy offers a “merci, Canada.” He speaks about a word Gov. Gen. Mary Simon taught him earlier in the day, which means “don’t give up,” and “stay strong against all odds.” Then, running roughly 20-minutes in total, he ends his address with “Slava Ukraini” which translates to “Glory to Ukraine.” A standing ovation follows, and he walks along the front government benches, shaking hands.
1:59 p.m.: Zelenskyy says Canada’s support has allowed for thousands of lives to be saved, and the global push to get off of Russian oil will result in energy no longer being a weapon of war, just an energy resource. This gets big applause. He goes on to say that in his meeting with Trudeau and cabinet ministers, they discussed the Canadian initiative regarding confiscating Russian assets, because “those funds that Russia and its henchmen used to pay for their war should be used to fairly compensate for the damage caused.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy receives a standing ovation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and parliamentarians as he arrives to deliver a speech in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
1:52 p.m.: “This Russian aggression must end with our victory,” Zelenskyy says, after painting a grim picture of the kinds of horrors seen on the streets in Ukraine since Putin’s invasion. I have already lost track of the number of times he has said “thank you.”
1:48 p.m.: Zelenskyy begins his address with “thank you so much.”
1:42 p.m.: The prime minister announces Canada was making “a longer-term, multi-year commitment that provides predictable, steady support to Ukraine. It will include $650 million over three years for 50 armored vehicles, including medical evacuation vehicles, which will be built by Canadian workers in London, Ont.” He also announced the government will send F-16 trainers for pilots and for maintenance, “so Ukrainians are able to maximize their use of donated fighter jets.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers his speech in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
1:38 p.m.: Trudeau, still in his opening remarks, says “in this era of uncertainty and of resurgent great power competition, rules are what will protect us. And it’s not enough for them to just be written down somewhere. We must advocate for them, stand up for them, and live by them. History will judge us on how we defend democratic values and Ukraine is at the tip of the spear in this great challenge of the 21st century.” As he speaks, Freeland, who is sitting directly behind Zelenskyy, nods. he then recognizes some of the thousands of Ukrainians that have fled to Canada, who are present.
1:30 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the audience. “This is a time of incredible uncertainty. Attacks upon the rules-based international order threaten to upend the peace and prosperity that have been the bedrock of Canada’s success. This is a challenge on a generational scale, a challenge that history will judge us on, a challenge we must confront with lionhearted courage,” Trudeau says.
“One year, six months and 29 days ago, Vladimir Putin launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing a campaign of violence and brutality that has left countless dead and forced millions to flee. But for one year, six months and 29 days, the people of Ukraine have defended their homes, their language, and their freedom to choose their own future. They have fought back with a courage that has inspired the world and they have been led by President Zelenskyy, a great champion of democracy.”
1:28 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska enter the floor of the House of Commons, to the first of likely many standing ovations. Speaker Rota begins his opening remarks, he calls it an “extraordinary event.”
1:24 p.m.: Deputy House Speaker Chris d’Entremont comes out to update the rapt audience, he gives a five-minute head’s up that the main event is about to get underway.
1:21 p.m.: Chatter in the chamber picks up again as the afternoon address is running a bit behind schedule.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly talks to Conservative MP Michael Chong before a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
1:11 p.m.: MPs have taken their seats and chatter fills the chamber as they await Zelenskyy, some politicians have brought their children in to the House for the occasion, some are wearing Ukrainian colours and lapel pins of the Ukrainian flag. Moments later, a silence falls over the Commons as all rise to their feet in applause.
12:55 p.m.: The House of Commons Chamber is rapidly filling with members of Parliament, Senators, and other dignitaries who will soon be hearing an address from Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy’s speech to parliamentarians will be proceeded by introductions from House Speaker Anthony Rota and Trudeau. Afterwards, there will not be remarks from opposition party leaders as is the case with some special addresses.
12:31 p.m.: As part of CTV News Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos’ special live coverage, Liberal MP and chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group Yvan Baker, called Friday’s visit “incredibly significant.” “Canadians can be very proud of the contributions that we’ve made.” Baker said he expects Zelenskyy to use his platform in the House of Commons to try to convince those Canadians who may be weary about how much support Canada is offering abroad, at a time of cost-of-living pressures at home.
“I think it’s really important that we remember that this war isn’t just about Ukraine, it’s not just the right thing to do to support Ukraine, although it is, but this is something that touches all of us.” Baker said.
12:15 p.m.: According to a pool report provided to Parliament Hill media by the designated reporter granted access to the room, during what’s been described as an “extended bilat” Trudeau was greeted by Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada Yuliya Kovaliv, and as he took his seat, Zelenskyy joked that there was too much paper in front of him, getting a laugh from the room. The PM was one side of the table with the Canadian delegation, and directly across from him was Zelenskyy and his.
In addition to Canadian ministers, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources John Hannaford, National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas, Senior Global Affairs Adviser Patrick Traverse, and Trudeau’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford were present, among others.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (centre left ) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre right) take part in an expanded bilateral meeting in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
11:55 a.m.: CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver has confirmed that on Friday the federal government will announce $650 million in additional military assistance, over the next few years.
As part of that money, Canada will supply more Leopard 2 tanks. Canada will also be applying new sanctions against Russia. Context: Since January 2022, Canada has provided more than $9.8 billion in military, economic, and humanitarian aid. The federal government has also levelled multiple rounds of Russian sanctions, deployed Canadian Armed Forces to Europe to train Ukrainian soldiers, and welcomed more than 175,000 Ukrainians to this country.
11:45 a.m.: Zelenskyy took part in an expanded bilateral meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Minister of National Defence Bill Blair, Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, and Minister of Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development Mary Ng.
11:05: a.m.: Zelenskyy says this during his bilateral opening remarks, before media were ushered out of the room: “Thanks so much Justin. Thank you very much for hosting us, me, my wife and my team, and thank you for this invitation. It’s a privilege for us to be in Canada… I’m thankful to you, your government and of course to all the Canadians. I have a lot of warm words and thanks to say from Ukrainians to you, your beautiful country. I know it’s beautiful, I have no time to see it but I know that it’s beautiful. I think after the victory… of course we will come, maybe with children… In this tough period you hosted Ukrainians and you helped us on the battlefield, militarily, and financially, and humanitarian aid, which is crucial. I can say it in English, in Ukrainian, and I am sorry but I have no French… Thank you so much.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
11:04 a.m.: Trudeau and Zelenskyy sit in the PM’s office for a bilateral meeting. Trudeau says: “It is an extraordinary privilege and pleasure to be able to welcome my friend Volodymyr to Ottawa. This is yet another opportunity for us to sit down and talk about all the things we need to continue to do together to make sure the rule of law is supported, make sure we’re supporting everything that Ukraine is doing. And also make sure we’re standing very, very strongly against Russia… But this is also an opportunity for Canadians to express directly to Volodymyr and through him to the Ukrainian people how strongly and unequivocally we stand with Ukraine. It is it is a very exciting day for Canada to be able to welcome you here.”
11:01 a.m.: Zelenskyy was invited to sign the distinguished visitors books of the House and Senate, before heading down the hall for a bilateral meeting with Trudeau.
10:57 a.m.: According to a pool report provided to Parliament Hill media, ahead of the DND event with Blair and Umerov, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre gave the CAF members a short pep talk, telling them that “first impressions” are important.
“Everybody’s got a role in this,” Eyre said, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Umerov then entered the room, stood on a small platform, flanked by the Ukrainian and Canadian flags. The Ukrainian and Canadian national anthems played. Upon exiting the building, Conservative MP James Bezan was standing in the foyer, to hold his own meeting with Ukraine’s minister.
Canadian Chief of Defence staff General Wayne Eyre (left) guides Ukrainian Minister of Defence Rustem Umerov (right) as Canadian Minister of Defence Bill Blair follows after a honour guard ceremony at Canadian Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Friday Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
10:53 a.m.: Ukraine’s president has arrived on Parliament Hill. He is greeted by Trudeau, a big hug. His welcoming party includes Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and other parliamentary officials, including Senators and the speakers of both chambers.
According to the pool report from inside the room, Poilievre said to Zelenskyy that he’s proud to come from Western Canada, where many proud Ukrainian’s have built Canada. Poilievre then introduced Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters, who was wearing a blouse her Ukrainian grandmother had embroidered more than 100 years ago, before coming to Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
10:32 a.m.: Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are standing ready for inspection, as National Defence Minister Bill Blair hosts Ukraine’s Minister of Defence Rustem Umerov, at National Defence Headquarters.
10:12 a.m.: CTV News reports the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and Canadian Centre for Cyber Security re-issued their call to “adopt a heightened state of vigilance(opens in a new tab), and to bolster their awareness of and protection against malicious cyber threats.” The CSE emphasized the call especially for operators of government and critical infrastructure websites.
10:04 a.m.: Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Olena Zelenska enter Rideau Hall, he is dressed in army green, she is in a tan pantsuit. The couple sit down with Canada’s governor general, exchanged pleasantries and spoke briefly.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, meets with Governor General Mary Simon in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
9:50 a.m.: Zelenskyy’s motorcade of what appears to be more than 20 vehicles pulled up the drive at Rideau Hall for Zelenskyy and First Lady’s meeting with Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and her husband Whit Fraser.
9:22 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill ahead of Zelenskyy’s arrival. He didn’t respond when CTV News asked if he is going to be pledging more military support for Ukraine during today’s visit. In a scrum moments prior, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he would “absolutely” support Canada offering more aid. “There’s more that we need to do.” Singh said he thinks Ukraine is “fighting not just for their own rights… they’re defending the rights of international law and justice for all for all citizens of the world. They’re really fighting a battle… for justice for everyone.”
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