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Politics Briefing: Two by-elections replace former Conservative ministers

By-elections will be held today in Alberta and Quebec to replace Rona Ambrose and Denis Lebel.


Good morning,

It's getting to be that time where parties make moves to get ready for the next election. In anticipation of that, two Harper-era cabinet ministers left the House of Commons earlier this year – Rona Ambrose and Denis Lebel – to clear the way for new political blood. By-elections will be held today in their former Alberta and Quebec ridings.

But even after these votes, four vacancies will remain in the House. More by-elections will have to be called to replace retired Liberal cabinet minister Judy Foote in Newfoundland; Liberal MP Arnold Chan, who died last month, in Toronto; retired former Conservative cabinet minister Gerry Ritz in Saskatchewan; and former Surrey, B.C., mayor Dianne Watts, who had only been in the House for less than two years.

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The Prime Minister will get a shortlist today of three to five candidates to replace Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's spot on the Supreme Court of Canada. Many observers are hoping that the first Indigenous justice will be nominated. It is customary to nominate a replacement from the same area of the country; because Chief Justice McLachlin, who is retiring, is from B.C., the prime minister has asked that the shortlist include candidates from the West or North. Justin Trudeau has already named one justice to the bench, Malcolm Rowe, who was the first from Newfoundland and Labrador.

A Saskatchewan lawyer says many residential school survivors have lost money to unscrupulous legal counsel.

He's only been on the job for a few weeks but new NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is already facing challenges in his aim to build a nationwide progressive movement. In Alberta, home to Rachel Notley's NDP government, there is tension brewing because of Mr. Singh's opposition to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The B.C. NDP are supporting the LNG Canada project, with a few conditions attached. The proposal would develop infrastructure and a terminal that would export fuel from the province's northwest across the Pacific to Asia. The NDP's partner in governing, the Greens, oppose LNG development.

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The Prime Minister will appoint former Ontario premier Bob Rae as a special envoy to Myanmar, sources tell CBC.

And Michael Pitfield was a close ally of Pierre Trudeau as Canada's senior civil servant, and his son Tom continues to influence the Liberals as a close confidante of Justin Trudeau. Michael died last week at the age of 80.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the new U.S. ambassador to Canada: "Kelly Craft presents her credentials to Governor-General Julie Payette on Monday, taking up residence as the 31st ambassador of the United States to Canada. None of her predecessors faced what she faces. The disputes between the two countries threaten the foundations of what used to be the world's closest bilateral relationship. Ottawa and Washington are diametrically opposed on a raft of major issues. Most Canadians dislike and distrust President Donald Trump, who may become the first elected president since Franklin Roosevelt not to visit Ottawa. Other than that, things are fine." (for subscribers)

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on Quebec and secularism: "The rest of Canada must understand that the debate about religious accommodation in Quebec is informed by developments in Europe, where bans on wearing religious symbols in public institutions are widespread. Hence, the suggestion that this is an open-and-shut case of religious freedom does not carry as much weight in Quebec as elsewhere in Canada. European courts have consistently upheld bans on religious symbols – including the hijab and kippa – in public institutions."

Globe and Mail Editorial Board on two years of Trudeau: "If nothing else, the first two years of Mr. Trudeau's Liberal renaissance have demonstrated the degree to which he is similar to Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader he defeated in the 2015 election. The tone and the ideology are different, of course. Mr. Harper was a gloomy loner who liked to be featured in party ads working by himself in his office late at night, his sleeves rolled up and his trusty Beatles coffee mug nearby. Mr. Trudeau is the smiling team player surrounded by his gender-balanced cabinet, sleeves rolled up and his trusty Star Wars socks poking out beneath his slim-cut trousers. But like Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister is the avatar of his party's values."

Linda Nazareth (The Globe and Mail) on the gig economy: "In Canada, that overhaul of the social-insurance system will be a herculean task and not one that should happen without some careful analysis. The first step in the process is realizing that the old model of work has already been shelved for many and that the new gig workers need a system that works for them."

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Penny Collenette (Toronto Star) on corporate responsibility: "The government is considering the use of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), which are in place in the U.S. and the U.K., and more recently in France. A DPA does not replace a criminal prosecution, but rather acts as an additional tool for prosecutors. Under the scheme, a corporation that has been charged must adhere to certain conditions, which may include significant fines, as well as independent monitoring, for a prescribed amount of time. If the business complies, charges will be withdrawn. If they don't, the charges remain."

Vicky Mochama (Metro) on cabinet minister's foibles: "Yet someone seems to have forgotten the old adage: when you point one finger, there are three pointing back at you. Journalists, following the three pointing fingers, found that Morneau himself is a Richy Rich of the highest order. Doctors should probably pay more taxes, but it's a hard pill to swallow from someone so rich he sort of forgot about owning a French villa."

Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on Finance Minister Bill Morneau: "The Liberals may have to face yet-unknown fallout from spending half their term not sweating small stuff. But it is in Mr. Trudeau's interests to communicate internally that the bar is being raised from this point – to hold up Mr. Morneau as a cautionary tale of what happens if they fail to consider how each action would look through the eyes of voters."


Russian President Vladimir Putin has put one of his fiercest critics on an Interpol wanted list, preventing him from travelling. Bill Browder, an American-British human rights campaigner, successfully pushed Canada to pass a Magnitsky-style bill last week to target Russian human rights abusers.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced over the weekend that he would empower the central government to take control of Catalonia, the autonomous region that voted to secede. In doing so he called upon a previously unused section of Spain's constitution that allows Madrid to intervene in regional management if its leaders break the law. Spanish courts declared the independence referendum held earlier this month in Catalonia illegal.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored a big win over the weekend. His coalition won a combined 312 seats in the 465-member lower house, retaining its "super-majority" status. Mr. Abe is expected to continue his "Abenomics" growth strategy and to revise the country's pacifist constitution in a way that critics fear would allow for a greater role for Japan's military.

The World Health Organization named Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, known for human rights abuses and corruption, as its "goodwill ambassador." The agency was ridiculed across the world and reneged on its decision, but not before suffering a public relations disaster.

The U.S. government is warning that hackers are targeting energy and industrial firms.

And if you want to put a human face on what it's like for a U.S. factory worker to see their plant close and move to Mexico, read the story of Shannon Mulcahy in the New York Times.

Derek Burney and Fen Osler Hampson (The Globe and Mail) on China and the U.S.: "Unquestionably, China's power, prestige and influence is on the rise globally. Against the cacophony emanating these days from Washington and the bumbling track record in Europe, China stands out as a beacon of relative stability – an authoritarian stability that is attractive to leaders of a similar bent, including those in Ankara and Moscow. China's ambitions for greater global influence are not inspired by any special desire to be a force for good in the world – rather, as a force for what is good for China. In that sense, though, China's approach is really not that different than the 'America First' nationalism enunciated in varying degrees these days by the Trump administration."

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