These are the top stories:
Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts is testifying today on the SNC-Lavalin affair
Butts’s remarks in front of the House justice committee come a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton to seek advice on what to do next in responding to the SNC-Lavalin controversy. MacNaughton is a political veteran who chaired the 2015 Liberal election campaign. Trudeau, according to a senior official, realizes he needs to acknowledge he could have handled the matter differently. (for subscribers)
Tory Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt says it will be hard to counter Jody Wilson-Raybould’s account of political pressure: “Is he going to show contrition for the first time they interfered with her, or the 11th?” Raitt said.
Campbell Clark writes that Trudeau’s only way out is to offer Canadians a full accounting: “What can he do now? The thing he should have done from the beginning: talk about it, explain it, address what happened and why.” (for subscribers)
As for Butts, he’s expected to testify about his version of events concerning political pressure Wilson-Raybould faced on the SNC-Lavalin case. In his resignation letter on Feb. 18, he wrote: “I categorically deny the accusation that I or anyone else in [Trudeau’s] office pressured Ms. Wilson-Raybould.” During her testimony last week, Wilson-Raybould alleged that Butts once told her chief of staff that there “is no solution here that doesn’t involve some interference.”
The Globe will have live coverage of Butts’s testimony, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET. Check tgam.ca for the latest.
Elizabeth Renzetti reflects on the fanfare of Trudeau’s gender-balanced cabinet – and the recent resignations of Jane Philpott and Wilson-Raybould: “Maybe, back in those sunny days of 2015, Trudeau thought he could appoint women to cabinet while still adhering to politics as usual. Maybe he wanted the shiny wrapping, without bothering to change the contents of the gift box. But that wasn’t going to work, because all indications are that women generally go into politics for different reasons than men, and operate differently once they’re there.” (for subscribers)
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Canada should create a new drug agency to address pharmacare gaps, a federal report says
But a federal advisory council’s interim findings are silent on the big question of whether Canada should adopt a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan.
The report said Canada’s patchwork system of public and private drug plans “is neither adequate nor sustainable over the long-term and leaves too many Canadians behind.” But the final report, which would form the basis of a federal pharma plan, won’t come until June.
As many as 20 per cent of Canadians are either uninsured or under-insured, according to the report, which noted any pharmacare plan should guarantee all residents get the drugs they need without financial barriers to access.
North Korea has restored part of a missile test site it had pledged to dismantle
A pair of U.S. think tanks say satellite images show that structures on a rocket launch pad had been rebuilt sometime between Feb. 16 and March 2 – a period that overlaps with Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam last week.
Pyongyang had initially said it would take apart the test site during an initial summit with Trump last year. The latest round of talks broke down over differences in how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program. Trump adviser John Bolton is warning that the U.S. could ramp up sanctions if North Korea doesn’t give up on nuclear efforts.
China has blocked a Canadian company’s canola shipments amid widening tensions
Winnipeg’s Richardson International says Beijing’s decision is an “attack” on Canada’s agricultural industry. China has recently voiced concerns about the quality of Canadian canola imports, which are worth about $2.5-billion a year. But a Richardson executive said the “timing suggests it’s something much greater than a quality issue.” (for subscribers)
China’s foreign ministry countered on Wednesday, saying the country’s customs officials had frequently discovered “hazardous pests” in samples taken recently from Canadian canola imports.
Canada and China are in the midst of a spat over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. After Canada said it will go ahead with a hearing on the U.S. extradition request, China proceeded to float spying allegations against two Canadians it has detained since December. Meng will make her next Vancouver court appearance today, where a date is expected to be set for the start of the extradition proceedings.
Former OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair says his firing was ‘reprisal and an attempt to muzzle me’
Blair was fired on Monday – and he alleges it’s because of his legal battle over the hiring of Premier Doug Ford’s friend, Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, as commissioner of Ontario’s police force. Ford’s government, Blair alleges, interfered politically in police operations. The government has denied allegations of political interference.
Deputy minister of community safety Mario Di Tommaso fired Blair, saying he wasn’t respecting confidentiality by filing internal OPP documents in court. He accused Blair of attempting “to use your professional status to further your private interests.”
In his affidavit, Blair countered that “Di Tommaso does not appreciate what a conflict of interest is.” Di Tommaso was part of the hiring committee that passed over Blair in favour of Taverner; he had also served as Taverner’s boss while with the Toronto Police Service.
One point of contention is the job posting for the commissioner role, which was changed in October to ease the rank requirement that would have made it impossible for Taverner to apply. In a December letter to the Integrity Commissioner made public on Monday, Ford said: “I reject any assertion that this change was made to specifically permit Mr. Taverner’s application for the position.”
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
You can officially rule out a 2020 U.S. presidential run by Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state and first lady, who lost the 2016 vote to Donald Trump, still plans to maintain an active public presence. Another prominent figure, billionaire ex-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, has also ruled out a Democratic bid.
A measles case has been confirmed in Toronto – and officials are warning that some people may have been exposed to the virus. An unvaccinated infant under 12 months of age contracted measles during a recent trip abroad. This case follows a recent outbreak in British Columbia, where at least nine people contracted the virus.
Global stocks consolidated gains on Wednesday after hitting a 4-1/2 month high last week as investors shrugged off reports of fresh China stimulus, while the Australian dollar took a knock from poor growth figures. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 0.6 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite climbed 1.6 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.1 per cent by about 6:05 a.m. ET, with Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 each down about 0.2 per cent. New York futures were down. The Canadian dollar was stuck below 75 US cents.
WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
How do we care for mentally-ill criminals?
André Picard: “As anyone who has cared for a loved one with dementia knows (and there are more than 500,000 people with dementia in Canada), the behaviours that can result – urinating in public, groping, shoplifting, traffic violations, lashing out verbally or physically – can bring people with dementia into contact with police and the justice system. Fining and jailing people for these non-deliberate actions is not useful. Rather, we need to invest in prevention.” (for subscribers)
There’s a health gap in Canada – and women are falling through it
Jaimie Roebuck, Robin Mason and Paula Rochon: “Although universal in name, Canada’s health-care system doesn’t always work the same for everyone. Women are not well-represented in research, and when they are included, the information isn’t reported in such a way that we can distinguish important data differences between the sexes. Yet when it comes to most other industries – fashion, footwear or personal care, to name a few – customization by sex and gender is the standard. So why should we settle for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model when it comes to our health care?” Jaimie Roebuck is a communications specialist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Robin Mason is a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute. Dr. Paula Rochon is the vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital.
Is everything good on TV coming to an end?
John Doyle: “HBO CEO Richard Plepler’s departure comes in a context familiar in the Canadian industry – bluntly put, the phone company takes over the broadcaster. In this instance the shake-up at HBO is a result of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, HBO’s parent company. There are multiple worrisome aspects to the situation. All TV, from network to cable and streaming is being reconfigured as corporate takeovers begin to have impact and multiple giants set out to battle Netflix. Is this the end of everything good? Maybe.” (for subscribers)
TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON
From fishing to music to baking, here are excerpts from three First Person essays
Lisa Giraldi on how baking pulled her out of depression: “With each tin I delivered I was reminded of different moments - of people paying it forward, returning it to me or sharing a little of their own story. What had begun as an attempt to alleviate my own darkness had been transformed into a story more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed.”
Steph Gauer on the joys and perils of learning piano: “I’m a beginner, a lousy sight reader, my sense of rhythm is wonky, and I have no understanding of music theory. It takes me forever to memorize a piece. But I couldn’t be happier.”
Tony Aspler on why fishing is good for the soul: “You learn more about yourself in an afternoon sitting at the end of a boat in the rain than you would from three years of lying on a psychiatrist’s couch.”
MOMENT IN TIME
King Tut’s mummy case opened
March 6, 1924: Before the gleaming, snake-bearded mask and the mummy behind it became one of the most recognizable discoveries in the world, there was a down-on-his-luck archaeologist digging through the Valley of the Kings. He was led by the promise of locating one obscure boy king, referred to by researchers at the time as “Tut-Ankh-Amen.” But Howard Carter’s finding of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 – when he famously peered through a hole in the grave’s sealed doorway and exclaimed that could see “wonderful things” – was just the beginning. It took years to get through the door, survey the treasures on the other side and finally get to the pharaoh himself. It was only in 1924 that the Egyptian government cracked open Tutankhamen’s mummy case. There had been three nested coffins sitting inside a sarcophagus in the tomb’s burial chamber, each one depicting the king’s face. A wreath of flower petals decorated the outermost coffin; the innermost was the gold funerary mask we know today. When the excavators pried open the case, they found the boy wrapped in linens. The body itself would not be examined for yet another year, but the first wave of Tutmania was already well underway. – Carine Abouseif