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politics briefing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.John Woods/The Canadian Press

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By John Ibbitson (@JohnIbbitson)

With the Supreme Court's June 6 deadline for Parliament to produce complying legislation now past, even as the Senate continues to deliberate over Bill C-14, we enter confusing terrain as to who might qualify for an assisted death. Some observers angrily wonder how the Trudeau government could have botched this bill so badly. In fact, the government didn't botch anything at all.

Yes, Justin Trudeau's physical display on the floor of the Commons last month, and the apologies that followed, delayed passage. But the real issue with Bill C-14 is that it's people-compliant, not court-compliant.

In the Carter decision, the Supreme Court said a person might qualify for an assisted death who had a "grievous and irremediable medical condition." That definition is broad enough to qualify a minor, a person with a mental illness, or a person with a chronic but not terminal condition, for an assisted suicide.

The street doesn't like that at all. On our street, to name just one, people welcome the idea of a medically assisted death for someone in the final and agonizing stages of a terminal disease. But the mentally ill? Minors? Someone with a non-life-threatening condition? No.

Two separate polls bolster that street sense. An Angus Reid Institute poll reported that 78 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement: "Psychological suffering on its own should NOT be considered a reason for obtaining a doctor assisted suicide." A Nanos poll showed 59 per cent of Canadians disagreeing with the statement: "Minors who are 16 and 17 years of age should be able to access assisted dying." There is, however, broad public support for the right to an assisted death in the final stages of a terminal condition.

Although some Liberal MPs argued the government's bill doesn't go far enough, others worried it goes too far. Bill C-14, whatever else it might be, is a compromise intended to win the support of the Liberal caucus.

Courts, of course, exist in part to defend minorities from the rights-trampling will of the majority. When Bill C-14 becomes law, and its constitutionality is challenged, the Supreme Court might strike it down for being too restrictive. The eminent legal scholar Peter Hogg told a Senate committee Monday: "It is incredible to me that the Court in Carter … was envisaging legislation that would narrow the class of entitled persons." Based on such advice, the Senate may well amend the legislation to broaden its scope and send it back to Commons.

But it is difficult to fault a government that is simply trying to pass legislation more or less in accord with the public will.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

> Until a new law comes into place, physician-assisted dying is now a matter between doctors and patients, with guidelines from some provincial regulatory bodies.. In an interview with the Toronto Star's Paul Wells (Mr. Wells' first report for the paper), the Prime Minister said the bill went as far as the Canadian public would go. "This is a big step in Canadian society and Canadian justice," Justin Trudeau said.

> In an interview with The Globe, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi challenged Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. "I say let the regulator do its job. This kind of political interference is not in fact helpful," Mr. Nenshi said. Mr. Robertson has a news conference scheduled this morning with First Nations leaders.

> Canada's chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand says he will step down at the end of year.

> Members of Parliament have just gotten another bump to their office salaries.

> Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo is the first declared candidate for the leadership of the federal New Democrats. She was part of the leftist wing of the party that wanted Tom Mulcair out earlier this year.

> And Hillary Clinton is now the first female presidential candidate from a major party in U.S. history.

REGIONAL ROUNDUP

> Ontario: Ted McMeekin, the province's municipal affairs minister, says he is stepping down from cabinet to help Premier Kathleen Wynne appoint more female ministers. In other news, The Rebel reports that the strategist who helped Ms. Wynne in the last election has won almost $900,000 in "research services" contracts from the government.

> Alberta: Premier Rachel Notley has spent the same amount on running her office as her predecessor Alison Redford, according to financial documents. Ms. Redford, meanwhile, may be aiming to get back in the public eye with a role at the Conference Board of Canada.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Nik Nanos (Globe and Mail): "Although the Conservative numbers are also currently flat, the reality is that they retain their base and have a clearly ideological space to occupy – to the right of the Liberals and the New Democrats. The Liberals, however, have eaten the political lunch of the New Democrats, not only having captured the anti-Harper universe but also the progressive ideological space. Realistically, it is not enough for the NDP to renew their leader and their platform. They need the Liberals to make mistakes to recapture the progressive voters that have now swung to the Trudeau Liberals." (for subscribers)

Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail): "The chokehold of the elderly on social spending throttles the prospects of the young. If Mr. Trudeau really cared about social justice, he'd try to loosen their grip."

Lawrence Martin (Globe and Mail): "Inevitably, prime ministers determine, though often it is their own folly that is the cause, that the media are biased against them. Justin Trudeau may be even more apt to feel set upon than his father. In Pierre Trudeau's era, the press was more liberal. Today, the fellow who runs the great mass of print media in the country is an avowed conservative, Postmedia's Paul Godfrey. Though not the force it used to be, print still factors heavily in the national discussion and never have conservatives been in control of more major newspapers."

Chantal Hébert (Toronto Star): "The assisted death discussion is not a replay of the abortion debate: The parallels between the two are overstated. There are more Canadians – including some social conservatives – who want as much latitude as possible to exercise the right to a medically assisted death than those who support the right of women to exercise their reproductive freedom without government interference."

Andrew Coyne (National Post): "Still, in the broad strokes the [supporters of a guaranteed minimum income] have much in common. Take today's jumble of overlapping income support programs, some in cash, some in kind, each with a different clawback rate, and rationalize them into one income-adjusted payment. The universality of the benefit would ensure no one falls between the cracks. Simplification would mean less confusion on one side of the exchange, less bureaucracy on the other. Converting in-kind benefits, such as subsidized housing or drugs, into cash would give recipients more control over their lives."

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