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Ontario Liberals waste no time playing hardball with opposition

Adrian Morrow

The Ontario Liberals have wasted little time throwing around the weight of their majority government.

In the opening days of the new parliament, they demanded six out of nine seats on most legislative committees – even though the seat count in the legislature, mathematically, entitled them to just five. When the Progressive Conservatives protested the move, the Liberals ramped up the pressure. They threatened to have the legislature sit until midnight every night and stay in session through the summer. They also refused to convene a special committee looking at improving services for people with developmental disabilities, a PC priority, until the opposition parties agreed to government dominance of most other committees.

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Conservatives opt for Twitter diplomacy in the Gaza conflict

CAMPBELL CLARK

Canada has never done diplomacy like this before. Vivian Bercovici, the Canadian ambassador in Tel Aviv, is online and unequivocally in sync with Israel’s government, at a time when it is locked in a conflict in Gaza.

The narrative that she’s written on Twitter, in bursts of 140 characters or fewer, has garnered notice. It’s not traditional diplomacy. It echoes Israel’s government. And it’s very different from the things her fellow ambassadors from pro-Israel allies, such as Australia or the U.S., are tweeting.

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Rob Ford far behind in polls compared to last Toronto election

Éric Grenier

As the Toronto mayoral election approaches, more and more polls will be published in an attempt to gauge the state of the race. Can anything be learned from the last election’s experience with the polls?

In the early days of the 2010 Toronto mayoral campaign, the race was close and the field was crowded. George Smitherman narrowly had the advantage, averaging about 31 per cent in polls conducted between April and June of that year. Rob Ford was not far behind at 27 per cent, and one poll even put him in the lead.

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How Inuit are working with Canada, Russia and other Arctic countries

GLORIA GALLOWAY

Duane Smith has witnessed a significant shift in the relationship between the indigenous people of the Arctic and the governments of northern countries over the dozen years he has been President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

“There’s much more understanding by the Arctic states, and hopefully by other states that are interested in becoming more active in the circumpolar Arctic, about who the Inuit are, what role we play, what rights we have,” says Mr. Smith. He was acclaimed to a fourth term this week at the annual general meeting in Inuvik of the council that represents roughly 150,000 Inuit who live in the United States, Canada, Greenland and Russia.

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Mike Duffy’s trial will test Harper’s political defences

CAMPBELL CLARK

Every time Mike Duffy’s name returns to the news, Stephen Harper’s hold on power seems a little more brittle.

By now, you’d think this scandal’s impact would have been exhausted. But people are still interested. It can still damage. And each time it pops back up, it underlines that Mr. Harper’s formidable political defences are getting weaker.

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‘I can’t change the past,’ Alberta MLA says one year after prostitution sting

KELLY CRYDERMAN

It was a decision that Fort McMurray MLA Mike Allen said he made when he was bored, single and lonely, and it has haunted him for the past 12 months.

Caught in a prostitution sting while on Alberta government business in the United States last July, Mr. Allen was quietly granted the forgiveness of a majority of his fellow Progressive Conservative MLAs earlier this month. He has now been allowed back into the government caucus.

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Rogers sheds new light on what personal data spy agencies can get

Colin Freeze

Federal spy agencies are, like police, “obviously going to have to get a lot more production orders than they did in the past,” one of Canada’s Big Three communications companies says.

And while Ottawa’s agents had been getting warrantless access to some corporately held records, “we have not opened up our metadata to the government as apparently has happened in the U.S.”

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Tories making a mountain out of a molehill on inter-provincial trade barriers

CAMPBELL CLARK

It’s the public-policy problem that’s raging through our country like a zombie, eating our economy, and apparently, our brains.

Trade barriers between the provinces have become the subject of intense campaigning by politicians like Industry Minister James Moore and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who vow to knock them down. Mr. Moore and his department say those inter-provincial barriers cost a lot, up to an estimated $50-billion a year – a number that’s been widely repeated.

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Just how realistic are Harper’s hopes of a Quebec breakthrough?

Éric Grenier

The Conservatives are hoping to make a comeback in Quebec in 2015, and as part of this renewed drive have pledged to hold a cabinet meeting in the provincial capital at the end of the summer. But just how realistic are Conservative hopes in Quebec?

The Conservatives captured just under 17 per cent of the vote in the province in the 2011 federal election. This was the second consecutive decrease since the breakthrough of 2006 when the party took 25 per cent of the vote. Polls suggest that the Tories could take another step backwards next year.

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Key plank in Harper’s Arctic plan rests with energy board

Shawn McCarthy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invested considerable political capital in northern development and, as in the past, will travel to the North this summer to underscore his government’s commitment to the vast region.

But a key plank in that economic development plan – the production of offshore oil and gas – now rests in the hands of the National Energy Board.

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Why Canada's job figures should scare Stephen Harper

CAMPBELL CLARK

Stephen Harper’s strategists should have felt a chill down their spine when they saw the latest job numbers.

A weak Canadian jobs report last week hinted at a particularly damaging narrative for Mr. Harper. The job market is stubbornly soft in central Canada – the critical political battleground – while in the United States, it is gathering steam.

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Britain’s F-35 fighter jet debut scrapped – with more trouble on the horizon

Paul Koring

Turns out it’s too risky to fly the world’s most expensive warplane, the stealthy, deep-strike F-35 – much-coveted by Canada’s fighter jocks – across the Atlantic.

So the much-ballyhooed debut of Britain’s first F-35 at a major air show this weekend has been scrapped. In fact, all 104 F-35s built so far remain grounded – including Britain’s first F-35B, the model capable of vertical landing of hovering and then landing vertically on naval ships.

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With a Liberal majority, will Wynne stick to hardball with teachers?

Caroline Alphonso

Ontario’s education system may seem like it’s in the summer doldrums. But don’t be fooled: Behind the scenes, the noise is building around teacher negotiations.

A majority government for Kathleen Wynne bodes well for teachers and the upcoming contract talks, as the Liberal government’s education policies are a more palatable option than the Progressive Conservatives and their job-cutting platform. But as teachers and support staff head into negotiations, resentment lingers and could potentially throw a wrench into talks. This is, after all, the same party that imposed contract terms on teachers, cut their pay and caused chaos in the school system less than two years ago.

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If sex workers are the victims, the government doesn’t seem interested in doing much to help them

CAMPBELL CLARK

“Could you let me speak for a second?” sex worker Amy Lebovitch said to Conservative MP Bob Dechert. “Are you asking a question or giving a speech?”

Her question during a session of the justice committee Thursday underlined a disconnect in this week’s parliamentary hearings on the Conservatives government’s new law on prostitution. The government has underpinned the whole bill with the assertion that sex workers are victims, and need to be protected from exploitation. But the Conservative MPs on the committee have often seemed less interested in hearing from them than making points from their testimony.

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In L’Affaire Bolduc, the real scandal is the bonus system itself

ANDRÉ PICARD

In recent days, L’Affaire Bolduc has dominated the political news in Quebec.

The short version is this: Yves Bolduc, a former provincial health minister, is also a physician. When the Liberal government was defeated in September, 2012, he returned to medical practice part-time, while retaining his job as an opposition Member of the National Assembly. When the Liberals took power again in April, 2014, and Dr. Bolduc returned to the cabinet (as education minister), he stopped practising.

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Do Liberals have a shot of winning Alberta seats in 2015?

Éric Grenier

Though the ridings remained within the Conservative fold, the performance of the Liberals in two Alberta by-elections was the best the party had managed in these seats for decades. But the province is still a long way from being painted red.

Alberta has been a Liberal wasteland for quite some time, and with the exception of Saskatchewan, was the province where the party put up its worst result in 2011. Just 9 per cent of Albertans voted for the Liberals in that election, part of a steady decline the party has experienced in the province. In 2004, the first election against a united Conservative Party, the Liberals captured 22 per cent of the vote and won two seats in Alberta. In 2006, that dropped to 15 per cent and no seats, and again to just 11 per cent in 2008.

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Haunted by his ghost, Wynne's Liberals have a complicated relationship with McGuinty

ADRIAN MORROW

For the last year and a half, Dalton McGuinty has been a virtual spectre.

Between stepping down as premier in early 2013 and resigning his seat that summer, he showed his face in the legislature just twice. He never spoke, ghosting out by a back passage to avoid the throng gathered outside.

His only other appearances at Queen’s Park were made to testify at a legislative committee probing the billion-dollar cancellation of gas-fired power plants, the scandal that helped drive him from office.

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Eight ways money fuelled Conservatives, Liberals and NDP

Josh Wingrove

Money fuels election campaigns, and this week Canadians got a glimpse of the bank balances of the country’s three biggest parties. The 2013 financial records, published online by Elections Canada, showed the Conservatives in the lead once again, despite the Liberals narrowing the gap.

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Liberals resist call for speedy nomination in storied riding

Daniel Leblanc

The Liberal nomination race in Mount Royal is already heated, but there could be further intrigue in coming months as the party decides whether to encourage a potential star to enter the fray, sources said.

Two candidates are already in the running to fill the seat that is being vacated by the retiring MP Irwin Cotler: Côte St-Luc mayor Anthony Housefather and consultant Jonathan Goldbloom.

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By-election results further reinforce significant gains of Trudeau’s Liberals

Éric Grenier

The results of Monday night’s by-elections continued a consistent trend since Justin Trudeau took over the Liberal Party: significant gains across the board, even in former Liberal wastelands, and losses for both the Conservatives and New Democrats. This also echoes what the national polls have been reporting for more than a year.

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