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Tanzania opposition leader Lissu returns from exile

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His return follows President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s announcement this month of the end of a ban on political gatherings in Tanzania.

Tanzanian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Tundu Lissu returned home after more than two years in exile in Europe to a cheering crowd on Wednesday, after the government lifted a ban on political rallies.

A former lawmaker and a fierce critic of the government, Lissu initially left the country to seek treatment abroad after he was shot 16 times, mostly in his lower abdomen, in his car by unknown gunmen in the administrative capital Dodoma in 2017.

He had been arrested eight times in the year leading up to the attack.

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Lissu was welcomed by a large gathering of his supporters at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, after flying in from Brussels before making his way to address a rally in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

He was seen waving his Chadema party flag while sitting atop a car as he greeted supporters who had gathered along the roads and were following him on foot, cars and motorcycles.

Lissu had returned for a few months in 2020 to challenge then-President John Magufuli in an election. However, shortly after the election he fled to the residence of the German ambassador after receiving death threats, and then left the country again.

His return follows President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s announcement this month of the end of a ban on political rallies imposed by her hardline predecessor Magufuli, in an overture to the opposition.

The Chadema party on Saturday held its first mass rally since the lifting of the 2016 ban, led by its leader Freeman Mbowe in the lakeside city of Mwanza.

The government’s move has been cautiously welcomed by rights groups and the opposition as a boost for democracy, with Hassan overturning some of Magufuli’s authoritarian policies.

Lissu was last in Tanzania in late 2020 contesting the election against Magufuli, who died just five months after winning his second term. The victory was disputed and the opposition called for protests. Lissu took refuge with diplomats after threats to his life, before escaping the country.

Under Magufuli, who was first elected in 2015 as a straight-talking man of the people, political gatherings were outlawed, opposition leaders detained and media cowed.

Nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his authoritarian leadership style, Magufuli had hardline policies and an uncompromising style of governance that saw Tanzania’s reputation for stable democracy in the region badly damaged.

Since the sudden death of Magufuli in March 2021, Hassan has reversed some of his most controversial policies and promised reforms long demanded by the opposition.

But hopes dimmed in July that year when Mbowe was arrested on charges of “terrorism financing”. He was released after seven months but some critics labelled Hassan a “dictator”.

She sat down face to face with Lissu in Brussels in early 2022, again buoying hopes that change could be on the horizon.

Earlier this week, Tanzania’s information minister said the government was planning to amend a media bill that critics say restricts freedom of expression, but gave no details of the proposed changes.

“President Samia Suluhu Hassan, through her government and party, have shown they are ready for a new journey. We need to demonstrate that we are also ready for that,” Lissu said.

“I am coming home for the new beginning of our nation.”

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Federal party leaders stake out political turf ahead of Parliament's return – The Globe and Mail

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre greet each other as they gather in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau called on his MPs to rally together to confront the country’s economic and health care crises, as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said the Prime Minister has already missed the mark and should get out of the way.

In competing speeches to their caucuses on Parliament Hill on Friday, the two leaders set the agendas for their parties heading into the winter sitting of Parliament and disparaged their opponents – a sign of the tone to come in the House of Commons.

According to Mr. Trudeau, the Conservative Leader exploits people’s anger and fears and twists facts for personal gain. Mr. Poilievre said the Prime Minister turns a blind eye to people’s suffering and dodges responsibility while leaving the country worse off.

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Apart from the blistering attacks, both leaders focused much of their speeches on the same issue: the rising cost of living that is pushing households to the brink.

“These are difficult times,” Mr. Trudeau said at the outset of his speech, which struck a sombre tone. He rolled out a new slogan for the governing Liberals: “Meet the moment.” The Prime Minister repeated the phrase several times, urging his MPs to rise to the challenge of strained health care systems and pinched pocketbooks.

“These are difficult times, but that’s why our Liberal team has decided to work even harder,” Mr. Trudeau said, promising a future with secure jobs, “where everyone has a real and fair chance of success.”

John Ibbitson: Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre need to stop insulting each other

Mr. Poilievre made a similar pitch, speaking of a country where it doesn’t matter who you know, but rather what you can do. But the Conservative Leader struck a much more aggressive tone than Mr. Trudeau, launching into a scorching assessment of the Prime Minister’s tenure. He mentioned the country’s crime rates, its rising cost of living, its drug overdoses and its chaotic airports.

“Everything feels broken,” Mr. Poilievre said, adding the Prime Minister “gets very angry when I talk about these problems. He thinks that if we don’t speak about them out loud that Canadians will forget that they exist.”

While lobbyists and consultants have “never had it so good,” Mr. Poilievre said, other people are suffering. “There is pain in the faces you do not see,” he added, addressing Mr. Trudeau, who was not present.

Last year, The Globe and Mail reported that the total value of federal outsourcing contracts had climbed 74 per cent since Mr. Trudeau took office, from $8.1-billion in 2015 to $14.7-billion in 2022.

Turning one of Mr. Trudeau’s past slogans against him, Mr. Poilievre said: “You told us that ‘better was always possible.’ And yet everything is worse, and you blame everyone else.”

For his part, the Prime Minister lambasted Mr. Poilievre for pushing cryptocurrencies, which the Conservative Leader had championed as an investment that would help people “opt out of inflation,” just months before the crypto crash.

Mr. Trudeau also defended his government’s record, saying new child care spending means that higher mortgage payments are being offset by lower daycare costs, and that spending on the clean economy is creating new jobs.

Mr. Trudeau said the Liberal vision “could not be more different” from that of “politicians like Mr. Poilievre, who have no real solutions to offer, and who just try to exploit the anger and concerns that people do have.”

“It’s just plain wrong when you twist the facts, or make things up for political gain. That’s not responsible leadership,” he said of Mr. Poilievre.

Heading into the second year of his second minority government, Mr. Trudeau also floated the prospect of another election, telling his MPs to be “ready for anything.”

Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the Conservative Leader is already more polarizing than his predecessors were at the same times in their tenures. Mr. Poilievre has significant negatives among key voting demographics, including women and Quebeckers, she said.

Polling on the different leaders’ characteristics shows just how polarizing both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Poilievre are, Ms. Kurl added. Liberal voters view the Conservative Leader the same way Conservative voters view the Liberal Leader. “It’s like they’re on different planets,” she said.

For example, polling released by her firm last year showed that Conservatives describe Mr. Trudeau as arrogant, dishonest and uncaring. Meanwhile, Liberals describe Mr. Poilievre as arrogant, bullying and dishonest.

Polling released Friday by Leger for the Canadian Press showed the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 34-per-cent vote intention, the NDP sitting in third at 19 per cent and the Bloc Québécois at 7 per cent.

Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Mr. Poilievre mentioned NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at all in their speeches. Mr. Singh ended the week in Victoria, where he told reporters he had heard from people feeling squeezed on housing costs and unable to access health care.

He said more health care workers need to be recruited, properly compensated and trained. And he said expanding for-profit health care services, as Ontario and Alberta have proposed doing, will only exacerbate staffing shortages.

“While the Prime Minister has been applauding private, for-profit delivery in Ontario, and not taking the crisis seriously, the Conservative Leader, Pierre Poilievre, has also been cheering on the privatization and for-profit clinics that make things worse,” Mr. Singh said.

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on constitutionality of mandatory firearm sentences – CBC.ca

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The Supreme Court of Canada plans to rule today on the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences in cases involving armed robbery and recklessly firing a gun.

In one case, Jesse Dallas Hills pleaded guilty to four charges stemming from a May 2014 incident in Lethbridge, Alta., in which he swung a baseball bat and shot at a car with a bolt-action rifle, smashed the window of a vehicle and fired rounds into a family home.

Hills argued the minimum four-year sentence for recklessly discharging a firearm violated the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

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A judge agreed and Hills was sentenced to a term of 3½ years, but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the finding of unconstitutionality and the sentence was increased to four years.

In two other Alberta cases, men pleaded guilty to charges related to armed robberies of convenience stores.

In each case, the sentencing judge declared the relevant mandatory minimum sentence to be unconstitutional, decisions that were upheld on appeal.

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Affordability top of mind at Liberal retreat, but Indigenous MP has focus elsewhere

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Jaime Battiste, a Mi’kmaw MP and member of the Indigenous caucus, says they’ve been dealing with prices around affordability and large areas of poverty for ‘decades, not just years.’Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The cost of living will be top of mind for Liberal members of Parliament as they prepare to head back to the House of Commons next week, but for their Indigenous caucus, affordability is a long-standing issue.

The Indigenous caucus met on Thursday, kicking off the federal Liberal’s three-day winter retreat during which they are strategizing about their priorities for the upcoming sitting.

As Canadians continue to deal with decades-high inflation along with rising food and fuel costs, Liberal caucus chair Brenda Shanahan said her party’s No. 1 priority is affordability.

But affordability is not often discussed at the Indigenous caucus table, said Jaime Battiste, a Mi’kmaw MP and member of the Indigenous caucus. Instead, they focus on closing the gap between living on and off reserve.

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“If you look at (the) situation on reserves, we’ve been dealing with prices around affordability and large areas of poverty for decades, not just years,” said Battiste.

“(We’re) usually talking about things everyday Canadians take for granted. Essential services like having health care in their communities. Essential services like having a policeman in their communities. Essential services like having clean water and infrastructure.”

He said the group is focused on addressing the harms caused by colonization and creating economic prosperity within First Nations communities.

Battiste said the Indigenous caucus will also discuss his party’s proposed gun buyback program to ensure Indigenous hunters are protected under firearms legislation.

The debate over the government’s firearms bill will resume this year amid concerns that it will ban some common hunting rifles.

“Indigenous people have the constitutional right to hunt, and that’s something we’re looking at,” Battiste said.

Other Liberal priorities include building a green economy, addressing climate change and expanding dental-care coverage, as highlighted in the confidence-and-supply agreement with the NDP, Shanahan said.

She said the retreat is critical because the 158 Liberal MPs haven’t got together since before the holidays and it’s time for them to put forward fresh ideas.

“You cannot underestimate what it means to morale and team-building to have people together,” Shanahan said.

The event coincides with the one-year anniversary of the “Freedom Convoy” protests on Saturday. That weeks-long protest began with the arrival of hundreds of vehicles on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill on Jan. 28 and 29, 2022.

Caucus members attended last year’s winter retreat virtually due to COVID-19, but Shanahan was in Ottawa. While speaking to reporters Thursday she quipped that there is no honking ringing through Parliament this time.

“We started hearing some horns honking and I walked out on Wellington Street later that day to a lot of unexpected company,” she said.

She said she is not concerned the retreat will be disrupted by protesters this year.

Liberal ministers met for a cabinet retreat in Hamilton earlier this week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver a speech to caucus on Friday in Ottawa.

The House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday.

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