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politics briefing

Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at his Langevin office in Ottawa, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2015.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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POLITICS BRIEFING

Google has been reaching out to journalists in the last 24 hours to clarify a story about how search results for government web pages from the Harper era were deleted. As iPolitics and the Canadian Press reported, the day that Justin Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister all government websites (such as pm.gc.ca) were updated to reflect their new boss. The Privy Council Office – Ottawa's bureaucratic nerve centre – then began to make requests to Google to remove search results that referenced former prime minister Stephen Harper.

"I do think it begs the question as to why the government would try to rewrite history. It's a little petty," Conservative MP Candice Bergen told reporters yesterday.

So what actually happened?

Google says no censorship was involved and it processed the requests as it would from any website owner who requested old cached results be cleared to reflect what the website is like now.

"It's important to make the distinction between requests to remove search results – versus webmaster requests (made by website owners) – that help ensure Google Search accurately reflects the content of a publisher's website," Aaron Brindle, Google Canada's head of public affairs, wrote in a statement.

Mr. Brindle said the process was not to be confused with how the tech company deals with official government requests, which are tracked in Google's transparency reports.

The Privy Council Office does archive websites from former prime ministers, if you want a blast from the past.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA

> Finance ministers from Ottawa and the provinces meet in Vancouver on Monday to talk about expanding the Canada Pension Plan. B.C. Premier Christy Clark, for one, is sounding optimistic a deal can be reached. Finance Minister Bill Morneau, meanwhile, has been warned by public servants that Canada spends far less on public pensions than other rich countries.

> Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion is following the lead of a United Nations panel in saying the Islamic State is committing acts of genocide.

> The assisted-dying bill is back in the Senate today for a vote, after the House of Commons agreed to accept most of the senators' recommendations. Talk on the Hill is that Parliament could rise for the summer as soon as today if the Senate passes the bill.

> And thalidomide survivors say support from the government has greatly increased their wellbeing, while many who contracted Hepatitis C from the tainted blood scandal go uncompensated.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

> Gabrielle Giffords – who as a U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona was shot at a constituency event in 2011 – sent out a series of tweets about the tragic death of British MP Jo Cox:

"Absolutely sickened to hear of the assassination of Jo Cox. She was young, courageous, and hardworking. A rising star, mother, and wife.

"The assassination of MP Jo Cox at the hands of a man driven by hatred is a manifestation of a coarseness in our politics that must stop.

"The scores of events that I and so many others like Jo Cox have hosted represent the importance of a democracy connected to its citizens.

"I grieve for Jo Cox's family, friends, constituents, and for the people of Great Britain."

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Jeffrey Simpson (Globe and Mail): "The pity of it all, for those who take seriously the need to reduce carbon emissions, is that simpler, cleaner, less bureaucratic means were available; instead, [Ontario] taxpayers will see their money spent by others, inside government, rather than making their own choices in their own time and as they, and not the government, see fit." (for subscribers)

Gary Mason (Globe and Mail): "Once universally condemned as a notorious global polluter, Alberta – Alberta! – is now viewed as a more aggressive climate-change fighter than British Columbia, a province that has smugly self-identified for years as being this great protector of the environment. In an election year, I can't imagine this is a circumstance that [Christy] Clark and her Liberal government are going to find acceptable. But the truth is the Premier has mostly coasted on the coattails of a carbon tax that was introduced by her predecessor, Gordon Campbell, and in the interim, she has not done much to address the province's growing emissions problem."

Joanne Stanley (Globe and Mail): "In the struggle for diversity and inclusion, numbers matter. ... Substantive change rarely happens by accident. Rather, it is accomplished by knowing your current position and setting targets and strategies for improvement. When Ontario achieves its target of ensuring that women make up at least 40 per cent of all provincial boards and agency appointments, substantive change will ensue. This is a vastly more intelligent approach than simply talking about equality as a philosophical concept and hoping that it will take care of itself."

Jen Gerson (National Post): "While Alberta's New Democratic Party seems more united than ever behind Premier Rachel Notley, things are decidedly more fractured among the province's Conservatives: a House of Cards-style drama is playing out, complete with allegations of double-crossing, 'dark ops,' disgruntled ex-employees and threats of general revolt."

Aaron Wherry (CBC): "When he stood recently to cast his vote with the government, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith says some of his colleagues applauded. This he took as good-natured ribbing. That a Liberal backbencher would vote in line with the Liberal government is typically predictable. But Erskine-Smith is so far the least predictable of what has been a slightly unpredictable Parliament."

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