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Trump, bruised by midterms, vows to bring down Biden in fresh bid for U.S. president

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WASHINGTON — It’s setting up as a right-wing clash of the titans, a battle royal between Republican leviathans in search of the ultimate political prize.

So far, however, only one player has entered the game: Donald Trump.

“America’s comeback starts right now,” the former president said Tuesday as he declared his intention to seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

“In order to make America great and glorious again, I am declaring my candidacy for president of the United States.”

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He did it inside a gilded, mirrored ballroom at his private Mar-a-Lago country-club fortress in Palm Beach, from a lectern surrounded by American flags. In the crowd, dozens of cellphone screens held aloft captured his entrance, his wife Melania at his side.

In an abbreviated version of his usual rally performance — he entered, on cue, to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.,” his unofficial theme song — Trump made no mention of his presumptive rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

But in a speech that ran just over an hour, which is brief by Trump standards, he hinted at a possible strategy for the nomination battle to come: portraying DeSantis as a career politician who will put party loyalty above his constituents.

“This is not a task for a politician or a conventional candidate,” Trump said. “This is a task for a great movement that embodies the courage, confidence and the spirit of the American people.”

As he often does, he mentioned Canada by name when he cited the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, signed in 2018, which replaced NAFTA: “the worst trade deal ever made,” as he described it.

He lingered, as well, on energy independence and fuel prices — an issue that often perks up ears north of the border, particularly since the Alberta government’s full-throated efforts earlier this year to promote Canadian oil and gas to Joe Biden’s current administration.

It also raises fears that a Trump administration would run roughshod over efforts by the current White House to confront climate change — a threat Trump dismissed by comparing the threat of nuclear war with the prospect of sea levels increasing “by an eighth of an inch” over “the next 200 to 300 years.”

Foreign countries “that hate us gravely” are perplexed by a U.S. reluctance to expand domestic fossil-fuel production even now, he said.

“We go to them begging for oil, and we have more liquid gold under our feet than they have or any other nation has — and we don’t use it because we’re going to them? It’s crazy, what’s happening. We can’t let it continue.”

Over his four-year term, Trump appeared uninterested in a constructive relationship with the federal government. He complained frequently about access to Canada’s dairy market, griped publicly about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, who was foreign affairs minister at the time, and left punitive tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum producers in place for months after the USMCA was completed.

A Trump presidency would be “a terrible situation for Canada,” warned Aaron Ettinger, a politics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“Canada has enjoyed a sort of benign neglect from the Biden administration,” Ettinger said.

“Trump back in the White House places uncertainty back at the centre of the North American relationship. And that is bad for Canada, because when access to the American market is uncertain, the Canadian economy suffers.”

In recent days, Trump has not appeared as invincible as he once did.

Republicans — until recently either on board or on mute when it came to the idea of Trump as their nominee — have been having second thoughts ever since voters pulled the rug out from under their feet in last week’s midterm elections.

For them, the best news to emerge Nov. 8 was the convincing 20-point re-election win for DeSantis, who has yet to declare his intentions but is widely seen as a contender for the crown of presumptive Republican nominee.

Media reports suggest DeSantis himself has done little to dispel that notion.

“At the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night,” he said Tuesday, ahead of Trump’s announcement, when asked about the former president’s criticism.

Several recent polls suggest DeSantis is gaining on Trump, if not surpassing him. That appears to have loosened the tongues of some Republicans on Capitol Hill, particularly those who blame his candidates for their poor showing.

“You have two players with significant constituencies, both having political claims to be the next leader, going at it for all the marbles,” Ettinger said. “This is going to be civil war within the Republican Party.”

Trump’s most vocal Republican critics, meanwhile, are hardly pulling their punches.

Wyoming Sen. Liz Cheney, the vice-chair of the select Senate committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots, told a Washington Post event Tuesday that she doesn’t expect Trump to ever again set foot in the White House.

“It’s important for people to look at what’s happening and what he’s doing, not just through a political lens, but through the basic facts of his total lack of fitness for office,” Cheney said.

“There’s no question that he’s unfit for office and I feel confident that he will never be president again.”

Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican who twice voted to impeach the former president, was only slightly more diplomatic in an interview with MSNBC.

“It’s like the aging pitcher who keeps losing games,” Romney said. “If we want to win, we need a different pitcher on the mound.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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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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Premier Heather Stefanson announces new cabinet Monday

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Manitoba’s premier is set to shuffle cabinet after her finance minister said Friday that he’s stepping down, following a list of Progressive Conservative caucus members who have announced their intentions to leave provincial politics.

Heather Stefanson will unveil her new cabinet at a swearing-in at 11 a.m. Monday at the legislative building in Winnipeg.

CBC Manitoba is livestreaming the news conference here, on Facebook and on CBC Gem.

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen announced Friday that he is stepping down to run for a seat in the House of Commons.

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Friesen’s decision was the latest in a series of recent similar announcements.

Four other cabinet ministers — deputy premier Cliff Cullen, Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke, Government Services Minister Reg Helwer and Alan Lagimodiere, minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations — have said they will serve out their terms but not run again.

Roughly one-third of the 36 Tory caucus members elected in 2019 have either quit in the last two years or have said they will not run again in the provincial election scheduled for Oct. 3.

A number of those announcements came earlier this month.

The governing Tories have been trailing the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls for two years, especially in Winnipeg, where most legislature seats are.

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