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By Chris Hannay (@channay)
Few political issues in recent weeks seem to have resonated in non-political circles as much as the issue of Sophie Grégoire Trudeau's assistants. Ms. Grégoire Trudeau said last week that the mountain of correspondence she receives and her work promoting various causes and speaking to charitable organizations is becoming too demanding for her and her assistant, and so the Prime Minister's Office was looking at ways to get her additional help. Opposition MPs, of course, said this was evidence of a "disconnect" between the Trudeaus and average Canadians (a theme espoused by the National Post's Robyn Urback, who said it was "off-message" for a party concerning itself with the middle class.) Others have said, because Canada hasn't historically had a "first lady," it doesn't need one now.
The Toronto Star's Heather Mallick made the case that this is debate is really about what people think about Ms. Grégoire Trudeau, and not about the staffing itself.
But for an outside perspective – and one that many Canadian parents may be sympathetic to – it's worth considering the view of Chatelaine editor Christina Vardanis. "By speaking openly about the challenges she faces as a working mother of three, she spurs a necessary conversation about the enormous strain on working families, lets other women know it's okay to speak up when they need help and could even inspire demand for better resources and infrastructure. Just because she has financial resources doesn't mean she's immune to the intense stress a job or family circumstances can bring."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA
> The Liberals will introduce legislation this week to extend protections to transgender Canadians. Justin Trudeau is set to make the announcement later today.
> Finance Minister Bill Morneau meets with his team of economic advisers in Chelsea, Que., today.
> The Liberals are also looking at giving new powers to the information commissioner – and giving cabinet the power to block release of those documents if it wishes.
> Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose spent the weekend in the Maritimes to try to "earn back" the trust of Atlantic Canadians, after the Liberals swept the region last October.
> Maxime Bernier and Michael Chong became the second and third candidates, respectively, for the leadership of the Conservative party, after Kellie Leitch. Mr. Chong says he is putting a strong emphasis on reforming our democratic institutions, while Mr. Bernier says he's learned his lessons from his short time as foreign affairs minister. "What I learned is very simple," he said. "Being more cautious with confidential documents."
> In other leadership news, the New Democrats will elect a replacement for Tom Mulcair in the fall of 2017.
> Senator Patrick Brazeau opened up to the Ottawa Citizen about his darkest hour, when he tried to take his own life earlier this year.
> Lifeline Syria, one of the most prominent groups resettling Syrian refugees in Toronto, has had its executive director and half of its board quit.
> And from pieces of mannequins to Harry Potter gear, all the odd items for sale on the Canadian government's version of eBay.
> Ontario: The province will spend $7-billion over four years on a massive climate plan that will touch on all aspects of residents' lives. The plan is so sweeping, some sources say it's causing tensions between Environment Minister Glen Murray and his cabinet colleagues.
> Manitoba: The legislature kicks off its first session since the election with a Speech from the Throne this afternoon.
> Nova Scotia: The four Atlantic premiers are set to meet in Annapolis Royal today to talk about how to get more funding from the federal government for health care in the region.
WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT
Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "You have to think there's a better way [to craft the assisted-dying legislation]. This is literally a matter of life and death, a change to criminal law to deal with the difficult issues of grievous suffering and end of life. But collectively, parliamentarians have shown they tend to dodge these uncomfortable, divisive issues." (for subscribers)
David McLaughlin (Globe and Mail): "Considering how to change voting systems isn't new in Canada. But five provinces that did this each took about two years to do it, not six months. Each proposed a two – or three-step process involving the legislature, independent commissions or citizen assemblies and in four cases, a referendum. The Liberal majoritarian plan is a marked departure."
Barrie McKenna (Globe and Mail): "The Liberals are absolutely right to stop tilting the balance even further in favour of [small business]. It's bad tax policy that's expensive and sends all the wrong signals to business owners. The government would be wise to go a step further and end the preference altogether." (for subscribers)
Toronto Star editorial board: "After six months as Canada's top diplomat, [Stéphane] Dion is starting to give the impression that his pragmatism knows no bounds. There's reason to worry he's erring in the opposite direction: too much responsible, not enough conviction."
Dan Leger (Halifax Chronicle Herald): "Referendum or no referendum, the Liberals should not be able to set the rules and then capitalize on their current popularity to dominate the process to their own narrow partisan advantage."
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