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Politics Briefing: Liberal cabinet kicks off retreat with Come From Away

Seamus O'Regan, flanked by supporters, makes his acceptance speech at the Delta Hotel in downton St. John's following his win in the district of St. John's South on October 19, 2015. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to shuffle his cabinet today in a modest shakeup that will promote O'Regan from the back benches to become minister of veterans affairs, The Canadian Press has learned. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

The Canadian Press

Good morning. We start today with a report from Gloria Galloway, who's with federal Liberals in St. John's, Nfld.:

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan welcomed fellow ministers to a two-day cabinet retreat last night with a reminder of the role his province played in sheltering Americans and other travellers after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Mr. O'Regan, a rookie MP and former TV host who is also a personal friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was elevated to cabinet from the Liberal backbenches just two weeks ago. On Monday night, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, he was the moderator at an event at a St. John's cultural centre featuring cast members of the hit musical Come From Away, which tells the story of stranded travellers and of the Newfoundlanders who took them in. In the audience were some of the local folks who were part of the original event and who were the inspiration for characters in the stage play.

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The writers of the play "took a great story, they took our story, and they gave it to the world," Mr. O'Regan told the Liberal-friendly crowd of just over 900 people that was made up mostly of federal, provincial and municipal politicians and their guests.

Mr. Trudeau told the crowd that the tale of the people of Gander and the other Newfoundland communities that sheltered the stranded travellers resonates because everyone wants to believe their own community, and that they themselves, would react with the same open generosity under similar circumstances.

Mr. Trudeau's cabinet will meet in St. John's on Tuesday and Wednesday after a full caucus meeting last week and before the House of Commons returns Monday following the summer break. It will be the first such cabinet meeting for Mr. O'Regan.

The top agenda items are expected to include discussions about the Liberals' controversial proposals for closing tax  loopholes for small corporations and ongoing negotiations over the North American free trade agreement.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa, Mayaz Alam in Toronto and James Keller in Vancouver. If you're reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

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Executives in the high-tech industry are joining other groups, such as doctors, in expressing displeasure with the Liberal government's proposed tax changes. " If I don't have any opportunity of actually cashing out in Canada, I will move down to the States and I'll take all the jobs with me," the president of one firm said.

B.C.'s New Democrats have started the process of reshaping the province, with a budget that increases taxes on the wealthy and corporations while promising massive spending on education, housing and the social safety net. But many of the most expensive promises from the spring election campaign were absent from yesterday's budget — and it's not clear how the government will pay for them in the coming years. Of all the things missing, the most notable were the beginnings of a $10-per-day child-care system and a $400 rebate program for renters. With relatively small surpluses of less than $300-million projected for the next three years, even one of those could push the province into deficit. Finance Minister Carole James insists the government will implement its policies only when it's able to, asking British Columbians to be patient. And she rejects the suggestion that the New Democrats over promised — and are now under-delivering.

For more, read our primer on what's in the budget (and what's not).

Federal NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh says he would decriminalize petty drug possession if elected leader, saying the criminal justice system isn't the right tool to respond to a health problem. Mr. Singh says such laws often target people who are poor or who have mental illness. He made the comments on Sunday at an NDP leadership debate in Vancouver, a city that had recorded nearly 250 suspected overdose deaths by the end of August. The three other leadership hopefuls varied in their support of decriminalization but none offered a clear commitment.

And the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are in a strong position to win next year's provincial election...but the party has some internal turmoil to overcome first.

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on the B.C. NDP's first budget: "A huge danger underlies the rosy economic portrait the Finance Minister painted on Monday, and it is this: The NDP has added hundreds of millions in guaranteed annual spending to the cost of government programs."

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André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on Ontario's high-jinks: "Ontario's puritanical plan to sell marijuana in sterile state-run stores would be laughable if it was not a striking reminder that a) with just nine months before legalization, there is still no comprehensive plan in place and; b) foot-dragging legislators seem to have lost sight of why cannabis needs to be legalized in the first place."

Jeffrey Crelinsten (The Globe and Mail) on why superclusters may be doomed to failure: "The federal government's latest innovation initiative – in which $950-million is up for grabs for three to five superclusters – contains a mix of new and old thinking. The focus on sectors is new. So is the fact that these entities are to be industry-led. Unfortunately, an old paradigm is still driving it."

Stephen Gordon (National Post) on what it means to be "middle class": "Since the upper-middle class is no more altruistic than anyone else, and better able to defend its interests than most, it is well-placed to push itself to the front of the line when income is being redistributed. The best example is perhaps the Liberal government's 'Middle-Class Tax Cut,' based on a narrative in which the middle class had been left behind. ... The people who benefit most are those with taxable incomes of around $90,000—that is, people near the 90th percentile and almost exactly in the middle of the upper middle class."

Chantal Hebert (Toronto Star) on Jagmeet Singh and the House of Commons: "Job one at the time of McDonough and Layton's respective first campaigns was getting the leader elected. As a seat-less rookie leader in 2019, Singh would be in a similar situation. The result could be a more GTA-focused NDP campaign. That happens to be both what many of Singh's supporters hope for and what more than a few of his detractors fear."


Irma continued to make its way north, bringing destruction on its path. It had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm. Around 13 million people, or two-thirds of Florida's population, are without power and estimates for insured damages range from $20-billion to $65-billion for Florida and the affected areas in the Caribbean. Canadians who were stranded in the Caribbean criticized the federal government's response and only today were they able to return.

British lawmakers voted for a key Brexit bill at second reading, 326-290. The EU Withdrawal Bill aims to convert thousands of European laws and regulations into British laws for when the U.K. leaves the Union in 2019. The ruling Tories argue that it is essential but the opposition say that the bill gives the government extra powers, allowing them to amend laws without subjecting the changes to scrutiny in Parliament.

The UN Security Council unanimously voted to intensify sanctions against North Korea because of the country's sixth nuclear test, its most powerful yet. The latest round limits the amount of crude oil the country can import and places an export ban on the textile industry. So far, diplomacy has not worked to slow down the development of a nuclear weapon. If you need a primer on North Korea's nuclear program you can get caught up here.

"The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the United Nations' top human rights official, said of the crisis unfolding on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Rohingya people have been persecuted by Myanmar's military and hundreds of thousands have crossed the narrow border in the northwest of the country into Bangladesh in the past week alone. "We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians," Mr. Zeid said.

And 10 years after three University of Manitoba students travelled to Pakistan to allegedly join al-Qaeda, newly released correspondence gives an inside look into the mind of a jihadist. The documents include a nine-page letter by Maiwand Yar, the son of Afghan refugees who came to Canada, to his family, in which he justifies his reason to join the terrorist organization. Mr. Yar's fate remains unknown, as does that of his alleged Canadian co-conspirator. The third man, who was born in Texas, is in court today and was the subject of a New York Times article that revealed that high-level U.S. officials had discussed whether he should be killed or captured while fighting for al-Qaeda in the Middle East.

Margaret Wente (The Globe and Mail) on politics and climate change: "It doesn't really matter what Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh, or Naomi Klein or Vogue think about climate change. Climate-change policies are not going to prevent hurricanes from blowing or storms from surging. The most important thing to do is take steps to minimize the damage."

Gerald Caplan (The Globe and Mail) on Trump and Latin America: "The U.S. President has been criticized for undermining all the established conventions of the presidency, but that's not how it looks to me. In fact, he's honouring several of the central themes of American history. What else is anti-Mexican racism but part of the warp and woof of American life? What else is Sheriff Joe Arpaio but a classic case of law and order serving the cause of bigotry and racism? What else are threats to Mexico and the slander of Mexicans? Playing the race card and bullying the countries of Latin America are as American as McDonald's golden arches."

At the Women in the World Summit in Toronto Sophie Grégoire Trudeau spoke about women and girls being exposed to pressure and fear has become "normal" - which is the hardest thing to change in a society.
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