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How Ontario premier rejected union leader’s offer to buy LCBO

Adrian Morrow

The leader of one of Ontario’s largest public sector unions has been quietly pressing the government to turn over ownership of its liquor monopoly to his members’ pension plan – an idea that earned him a smack-down from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office during June’s provincial election.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, is one of the Liberal administration’s most vocal critics on the left, frequently accusing the government of having a secret plan to privatize public services. But Mr. Thomas, apparently, had also been seeking to have the highly lucrative LCBO sold to the OPSEU pension plan.

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Ontario polls swing from Harper, threatening Conservative majority

Éric Grenier

The province that handed Stephen Harper’s Conservatives a majority government in 2011 may be about to take it away, as Ontarians move from the governing Tories back towards Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

The Conservatives won 73 seats in Ontario in the 2011 federal election, the best performance of the party and its predecessors in raw seat count since 1917 and the First World War. The Tories also captured 44 per cent of the vote, their highest share since 1984 when Brian Mulroney won the largest majority government in Canadian history. It was a good year for the party.

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Liberals could nearly sweep Atlantic provinces: polls

Éric Grenier

Seamus O’Regan is only the most recent Atlantic Canadian to throw his lot in with the federal Liberals, as the region looks set to swing over to the party in dramatic fashion.

The former host of CTV’s Canada AM will be seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, currently represented by NDP MP Ryan Cleary. If polls in the province and the wider region are any indication, Mr. O’Regan has a good chance of winning it.

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With his legacy on the line, Harper is eager to tussle over trade deals

CAMPBELL CLARK

Stephen Harper could really use an angry, implacable opponent blasting him for signing free-trade agreements. Without it, the voters might not really reward him for the deals he’s done.

Just look at what happened last week: The long-awaited text of the Canada-European Union trade agreement was leaked, to deafening silence. Industry groups and political parties yawned and blinked and didn’t find much to say. Next month, Mr. Harper is expected to hold a signing ceremony at a Canada-EU summit, but if the recent past is a guide, the pomp may give way to disengagement.

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MP’s bitter exit shows how Bloc Québécois has declined

CAMPBELL CLARK

When Bloc Québécois MP Jean-Francois Fortin quit the party this week to sit as an independent, Bloc Leader Mario Beaulieu opened up an ugly little internal drama.

The whole mess showed how far the party has come from its real decades-long function: to be a solid sovereigntist institution. Now it’s a fractious faction.

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Researcher connects dots on spy agency’s monitoring of WiFi

Colin Freeze

If you want to get an insight into the sweep of modern spying check out what Bill Robinson has just posted. The London, Ont.-based researcher behind the “Lux Ex Umbra” blog has literally connected the dots on an Edward Snowden leak.

Remember the CBC story last winter about how Canadian spies kept tabs on devices that had used WiFi at an undefined Canadian airport? According to Mr. Robinson’s deduction, this was almost certainly Toronto’s Pearson International.

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Trudeau’s Liberals surge in summer polls – but it might be a fluke

Éric Grenier

Are the Liberals in the midst of a summer surge, or are their recently glowing polling numbers a fluke?

A weighted average of the latest polls suggests the Liberals currently enjoy the support of 39 per cent of Canadians, one of the highest aggregate levels of support registered by the party since Justin Trudeau became leader in April 2013. That puts them well ahead of the Conservatives, currently at 28 per cent support, and the New Democrats, who trail in third with 22 per cent.

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NDP resentment over show-stealing Trudeau masks a cry for attention

CAMPBELL CLARK

New Democrats see the Liberals as the political party born with a silver spoon in its mouth. The fact that Justin Trudeau is about to publish an autobiography is just more galling proof.

The mere mention of the book makes many New Democrats’ eyes roll. They snicker that the 42-year-old Mr. Trudeau’s big job was as an amateur sport critic before his 16 months as leader, and now he’s recounting his life’s work in a tome called Common Ground. Worse: They expect it will just garner Justin Trudeau more headlines.

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The big hole in Canada’s public health leadership needs to be filled

André Picard

That sucking sound you hear coming from Ottawa? It’s the void in public health leadership.

The two most important positions in Canadian public health circles – chief public health officer and scientific director of the National Microbiology Laboratory – are vacant. They have been for months.

Worse yet, there is no indication that the federal government is in any rush to fill these positions quickly, or with high-profile candidates these jobs require.

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Should Ontario hike its sales tax? Here's what happened to Manitoba

Adrian Morrow

Greg Selinger may be one of the boldest politicians in this country.

Last year, the Manitoba premier took a massive political risk by hiking the provincial sales tax to pay for infrastructure. Over the next five years, the 1-percentage-point increase is expected to raise $1.5-billion in extra revenue, which will be funnelled into public transit, improved highways and flood protection for the perennially inundated province.

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The non-apology: Redford, Fennell, and how not to take responsibility

CAMPBELL CLARK

Mistakes were made. The buck stops here. I take responsibility for my decisions. I just won’t specify precisely which decisions.

Wednesday was a day when two politicians facing allegations of lavish expenses responded with declarations of responsibility so vague they seemed nothing like a mea culpa. This has become a peculiarly political formula: taking credit for taking responsibility without actually talking about what you did wrong.

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Why B.C. is so crucial to Mulcair’s hopes of becoming prime minister

Éric Grenier

Much has been made of the importance – and supposed fragility – of the gains made by the New Democrats in Quebec. But if the NDP wants to form government in 2015, there is another province that will be integral to their hopes: British Columbia.

Only in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador (and there by a 10th of a percentage point) did the New Democrats in the 2011 federal election capture a higher share of the vote than the 32.5 per cent taken by the party in British Columbia. The NDP won one-third of the 36 seats on offer in the province, a higher proportion than anywhere else in Canada, with the exception of Quebec.

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Federal public service shed 31 per cent more jobs than budgeted

BILL CURRY

The Conservative government’s switch from stimulus to austerity shed more than 25,000 public service jobs over the past three years, a significant overshoot of its original target.

The 2012 budget promised to eliminate 19,200 jobs over three years and the federal Treasury Board’s self-assessment said the end result of those budget cuts was the elimination of 19,900 positions, just slightly above the original target.

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Don’t look to Harper to be a mediator in global crises

CAMPBELL CLARK

Two major international crises, in Ukraine and Gaza, have brought out the lion in Stephen Harper. He has made it clear which side he is on.

But his forceful statements on these two conflicts are not, as some say, proof of a new set of foreign-policy principles. They are more about a new persona.

Mr. Harper’s words and actions will, through no fault of his own, have little influence on either crisis. But they attract notice.

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Glitches in trade pact with EU could hurt Harper badly

CAMPBELL CLARK

There was a glossy brochure. A press conference. That Canada-EU trade deal was done in principle last fall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told us. And then reports this week that Germany has qualms showed just how unfinished the deal is.

Mr. Harper’s done-deal announcement last fall was more show-biz than legal conclusion, timed for domestic political reasons. But it set the wheels in motion, and now, politically, he’s got to get a deal finished. And he’d better finish it fast, before domestic politics in Europe unravel it further.

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