On Mondays, TVO.org provides a primer on what to look for in the coming week in Ontario politics, and features some stories making news now.
Here’s what we’ve got our eye on:
Queen’s Park Keywords
Whose streets?: Ottawa residents made it very clear yesterday that they want the Freedom Convoy to leave their city. Counter-protesters, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, gathered at several intersections to block supporters of the convoy from driving downtown. “I spoke to the driver of almost every truck in the ‘blue-collar convoy’ that’s been blockaded at Riverside and Bank [Streets],” Ottawa resident Sean Devine wrote on Twitter. “I was polite, and civil, but determined to let them know that Ottawa residents are suffering from their actions, and won’t stand for it.” Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden, who was at the counter-protests, said scenes on Saturday of convoy participants sitting in makeshift hot tubs and partying in the downtown without any apparent police pushback drove many residents over the edge. “The straw broke last night,” he told Paul McLeod of Buzzfeed News. “The patience of our various communities broke. This was organized on Facebook groups normally for cookouts and dog walking.”
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Emergencies Act: The federal cabinet apparently discussed the Emergencies Act at a meeting last night. The law gives the government the power to deal with a “public order emergency.” It has been on the books since 1988, but has never been used. A first ministers’ meeting has been scheduled for this morning, presumably to discuss invoking the act.
“Backchannel” debacle: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson announced yesterday he had reached a “backchannel” deal with one of the Freedom Convoy leaders to have all trucks leave residential streets and limit their presence to a smaller set of streets in the downtown core. The idea was to reduce the negative effect the protest has had on residents. However, messages from convoy leaders late last night claimed no deal had been made. But then later, one of the organizers said the deal with Watson is still on. (It’s all very confusing).
Ambassador Bridge: While the occupation of Ottawa continues, the blockade by anti-vax and anti-government protesters at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit is over. A large police presence cleared the blockade Sunday, and the bridge reopened to traffic late last night.
Trade: While the Ambassador Bridge blockade has ended, the damage to Canada’s economy may already be done. Flavio Volpe of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association told CTV News yesterday the days-long shutdown at the key Canada-U.S. trade route may scuttle any chance Canadian lobbyists have of convincing American lawmakers not to go ahead with “Buy American” policies that could hurt several Canadian industries, particularly auto manufacturing based in southwestern Ontario. “I just came back from Washington last week, where we were trying to work Canada quietly into that ‘Buy American’ legislation,” he said. “Now, that’s all blown up.”
Rogue cop: Video surfaced this weekend showing an OPP officer expressing sympathy with the Freedom Convoy. “I get what you guys are doing. I support you guys 100 per cent,” the officer says at one point. The OPP’s Professional Standards Unit is now investigating the matter. There was also news that three members of the armed forces, including two current members of the elite Joint Task Force 2 unit, are being investigated for allegedly taking part in the Ottawa anti-government protests.
2,000 guns: Police in Peterborough are investigating the theft of a truck containing more than 2,000 firearms. They say they do not believe the truck was carrying any ammunition. Authorities across the province have been notified.
COVID-19 restrictions: The provincial cabinet is scheduled to meet this morning to consider lifting some public health restrictions earlier than planned, according to the Toronto Star. However, the first ministers’ meeting announced late last night, mentioned above, may force cabinet to reschedule.
Case numbers: The province reported there were 1,540 people are in hospital with COVID-19 yesterday. Of those, 402 were in intensive care. The previous Sunday, there were 2,230 patients with COVID-19, and 486 of them were in ICU.
Surgical backlog: An analysis by the Toronto Star suggests that the province now has a backlog of more than 300,000 postponed surgeries caused when hospitals had to suspend certain services to handle surges in COVID-19 patients. “This is a catastrophic problem the health-care system will face for at least the next five years,” said David Gomez, an acute care and trauma surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “Unless we redesign surgical care in the province, many, many Ontarians are not going to get their surgeries. There’s going to be a significant impact to people’s lives, but also to their mobility, fertility and quality of life.”
Upcoming Ontario politics coverage on TVO
Tonight on TVO at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., The Agenda covers the latest news on the convoy protests, and discusses what can be done to end them.
And be sure to check out TVO.org this week for the latest #onpoli podcast, articles covering issues from around Ontario, as well as regular columns from John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney.
This article was updated at 7:26 a.m.
One for the books: 2022 Politics and the Pen – Ottawa Business Journal
Pity poor Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota, who had the job of getting a roomful of social butterflies to hush up and listen during this year’s Politics and the Pen dinner, which was back in the flesh Tuesday for its first time since 2019.
It took a bagpiper to get the roughly 500 guests to clear out of the cocktail reception areas and into the Fairmont Château Laurier’s main ballroom, where the laughs, smiles and chatter continued. Rota repeatedly called for order. Former politician Brian Tobin, now vice chair of BMO Financial Group, tried the tapping-the-utensil-against-a-glass trick. Eventually, folks took their seats and settled in.
“After two years of COVID, an event like this is just wonderful for the soul,” Rota told the black-tie dinner crowd. “It’s nice to see people interacting in person rather than on video conference.”
The sold-out gala, which had the support of CN, CIBC, Imperial and other corporate sponsors, is the largest fundraiser for the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a charitable organization that advances, nurtures and celebrates Canadian writers and writing. It also brings politicians together with prolific authors and journalists to poke a little fun at each other and themselves.
The event raised more than $300,000 this year, culminating with the awarding of the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing to Joanna Chiu, senior journalist for the Toronto Star and author of China Unbound: A New World Disorder.
Rodger Cuzner, former long-time Liberal MP for Cape Breton, may have left politics but everyone was happy to have him back for his always-popular video to open the evening program, done by Shaw Communications. Cuzner is now Canada’s consul general in Boston.
Elizabeth Gray-Smith, co-founder of GSD&Co, co-chaired this year’s Politics and the Pen with Patrick Kennedy, principal at Earnscliffe Strategies. They were joined by fellow volunteer committee members Jim Armour (Summa Strategies), Hardave Birk (Shaw Communications), Maureen Boyd (Parliamentary Centre and Carleton University), Heather Bradley (Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons), Catherine Clark (Catherine Clark Communications) and Dan Mader (Loyalist Public Affairs).
Clark also chairs the board of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a Toronto-based national organization led by award-winning Canadian author Charles Foran as its executive director.
Clark’s famous parents — former prime minister and former PC leader Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer, who’s a long-time advocate for gender equality and women’s health — attended that night as authors.
So did former governor general David Johnston and his wife, Sharon Johnston, and retired Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who in 2020 was presented the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for her memoir.
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, 88, was also among the distinguished guests.
Marci Ien and Seamus O’Regan, both of whom are federal cabinet ministers, served as this year’s delightful co-hosts. They’re close pals from their days together in television broadcasting on CTV’s former morning news show, Canada AM.
“It is so much fun, I have to say, co-hosting with you here again,” Ien told O’Regan on stage during an affectionate moment shared between the two.
Ien went on to point out that she’s the second black woman from the GTA to serve in cabinet, after Jean Augustine, while O’Regan is the second gay man to serve in cabinet, after Scott Brison.
“Yeah, yeah, the second gay man to serve in cabinet,” replied O’Regan with a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ expression that had the whole room laughing. “This is a political award for non-fiction, right?”
Ien, who’s the MP for Toronto Centre, is minister of women, gender equality and youth while O’Regan, who’s the MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl in Newfoundland and Labrador, is minister of labour.
Also finalists for the literary prize were Mike Blanchfield, international affairs writer for The Canadian Press, and Fen Osler Hampson, Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University, for The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War; Stephen Poloz, former governor of the Bank of Canada, for The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future; Geoffrey Stevens, former managing editor of Maclean’s and The Globe and Mail, for Flora!: A Woman in a Man’s World; and Jody Wilson-Raybould, former justice minister and attorney general, for “Indian” in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power. Wilson-Raybould was not in attendance.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Lisa Raitt, vice chair of global investment banking at CIBC, was part of the three-member independent judging panel for the literary prize, joined by Charelle Evelyn from The Hill Times and Jacques Poitras from CBC News in New Brunswick.
Liberals move to bar sanctioned Russians from Canada through immigration amendments
OTTAWA — The Liberal government is moving to ban Russians sanctioned over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine from entering Canada.
The government tabled proposed amendments to federal immigration law in the Senate on Tuesday to ensure foreign nationals subject to sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act are inadmissible to Canada.
The changes would allow the Canada Border Services Agency to deny entry to, and remove, people who have been sanctioned, and would enable Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials to deny visas.
Once in force, the amendments would apply to all foreign nationals subject to sanctions by Canada, as well as any accompanying family members.
Since the start of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February, Canada has sanctioned more than 1,000 people from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Banning close associates and key supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime is one of the many ways in which Canada is holding Moscow accountable for its unprovoked aggression, said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.
“We will continue to exhaust all options to uphold freedom and democracy, punish Russia, and support Ukraine,” he said in a statement.
In April, Moscow announced it was barring 61 additional Canadians, including politicians, journalists and military members, from entering Russia due to Canada’s actions against the country.
Russia had already barred many prominent Canadians from its soil.
Canada’s recent sanctions against Russians have been based on the grounds of a “grave breach of international peace and security” in the Special Economic Measures Act.
The bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Marc Gold, the government representative in the upper chamber, would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to include these grounds and all others listed under the special economic measures law.
Foreign nationals who are inadmissible to Canada may have their applications for temporary resident visas refused or cancelled by immigration officials.
Those barred from Canada due to sanctions will still be eligible to have a refugee claim considered by the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, and will have access to a full pre-removal risk assessment, the government says.
NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said while it was encouraging to see the Liberals take action to bar sanctioned individuals, the government should work to get Ukrainians to safety quickly by dropping visa requirements for them.
In addition, New Democrats will continue to push the government to allow for sanctioned assets to be used to support Ukrainians, she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Alberta premier to learn fate Wednesday in party review of his job performance
EDMONTON — Albertans are to learn Wednesday whether Premier Jason Kenney has enough support from his party to keep his job — but political observers say whatever the outcome, it won’t end the rancorous political melodrama.
“It’s going to be chaotic no matter what the result is,” political scientist Duane Bratt said in an interview Tuesday.
“(Kenney) has drawn a line in the sand that says as long as he wins (dissenters) get in line. Well, that’s going to lead to a purge in the party, either voluntarily walking, or him forcing people out.”
The United Conservative Party said in a statement it was going to count mail-in ballots Wednesday and announce results sometime in the late afternoon in a live feed on its website.
“We’ve taken extraordinary steps to ensure the security and integrity of this vote,” UCP president Cynthia Moore said.
Kenney’s office said that the premier was planning to speak about the results at the Spruce Meadows entertainment and equestrian facility in south Calgary.
The leadership review consisted of month-long mail-in balloting by as many as 59,000 party members on whether Kenney should remain leader.
If he does not get a 50 per cent, plus one, majority, he must step down and a leadership race called. Kenney has said if he gets any majority, even a slim one, he’ll stay on.
Normally, leaders set the bar of confidence much higher, at least three-quarters or more.
Former premier Ralph Klein left after getting a 55 per cent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford stepped down from the top job due to party pushback after each receiving 77 per cent.
Kenney has said this vote is different, that a lower number is OK, because the voting pool has been toxically diluted by two-minute members casting ballots to destabilize his government.
Bratt and fellow political scientist Lori Williams said Kenney and the party are battling not only disaffected members but trust in the review itself.
The party is still being investigated by the RCMP for allegations of criminal voter identity fraud in the contest that elected Kenney leader in 2017.
Documentation leaked to The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is investigating the current leadership review over allegations of illegal bulk buying of memberships.
The vote itself was drastically altered at the last minute from an in-person, one-day vote of 15,000 members to a mail-in ballot open to all members. Critics say Kenney’s team forced the changes because he was going to lose the in-person vote. The party denies that.
Bratt and Williams said a low review number in the 50s would leave Kenney with a questionable mandate, while anything around 60 per cent or higher would prompt speculation the vote was rigged in his favour.
“I don’t see that this vote is going to settle anything,” said Williams.
“The divisions in the party and the province are profound.”
Kenney has been dealing with open dissent from party and government members for over a year over his COVID-19 health restrictions, a perceived failure to stand up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a top-down management style.
Todd Loewen, a UCP caucus member kicked out a year ago for openly demanding Kenney resign, said the UCP needs renewal and it can’t be done with Kenney in charge. The issue boils down to trust and Kenney no longer has that, he said.
“There’s no way he can win a fair, open, honest transparent leadership review,” said Loewen.
“If he gets over 50 per cent and stays, the party continues to splinter.”
Former UCP president Erika Barootes said she expects Kenney will get a majority, and said once that is done, it’s incumbent on the dissenters to decide once and for all if they are in or out.
Kenney, she said, has the experience and political skill to win a second term, adding that the party hasn’t a moment to lose given it’s facing an election in a year against a tough opponent in NDP leader, and former premier, Rachel Notley.
“(The dissenters) have got to respect that he won, and he needs to recognize that he’s not getting 95 per cent (support). So there’s work to be done,” she said.
Calgary-based pollster Janet Brown said, win or lose, Kenney is dealing with a sobering numerical reality.
“In 2019, Jason Kenney won the election with 55 per cent support from the general public,” said Brown.
“Three years later, and we’re speculating whether he can even get 55 per cent with his own base.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
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One for the books: 2022 Politics and the Pen – Ottawa Business Journal
Russia closing CBC's Moscow bureau in retaliation for Canada banning Russian state TV – CBC.ca
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