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Politics Politics Briefing: Bombardier layoffs have politicians pointing fingers, suggesting policy

Good morning,

Bombardier confirmed reports Wednesday that it will cut half of the work force at its Thunder Bay rail-car plant – 550 jobs. Two major contracts in Ontario – for Toronto Transit Commission streetcars and Metrolinx GO Transit rail cars – are slated to halt by the end of the year.

Ontario’s Transportation Minister, Caroline Mulroney, said negotiations are ongoing for Metrolinx to buy more trains under an existing contract. Bombardier said Wednesday talks with the province have resulted in an offer to make 36 more rail cars for Metrolinx.

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Federal Employment Minister Patty Hajdu, who represents the riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North, said in a statement, "It was just a few months ago that Doug Ford told the union president that there would be another contract coming. But where is he now?… Our Government has made historic investments in public transit, but Doug Ford has left that money on the table.”

Premier Doug Ford shot back that his government has put forward a $28.5-billion Toronto-area transit plan that could help keep the facility afloat, but he hasn’t “heard hide nor hair” about funding from Ottawa.

“They’ve been sitting on their hands,” Mr. Ford told reporters at a premiers meeting in Saskatoon. “My message to the federal government is: We put our money where our mouth is. Where is their money?”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is blaming Mr. Ford’s government, saying, “It should never have come to this. The alarm has been sounding for a while on the need to tender contracts for the rolling stock Ontario needs.”

Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro suggests stronger policies so governments and agencies will use Canadian suppliers and vendors. “Even if the TTC and Metrolinx were to go forward with more procurement with support from the province and/or federal government, without a Canadian-content policy, there’s less certainty the work would even stay in Ontario.”

The TTC ordered hundreds of streetcars in 2009, but there were repeated delays and a lawsuit settled earlier this year. Last year, the TTC said 67 of 89 streetcars delivered needed to be sent back to the factor to repair substandard welding. In 2017, Metrolinx cut in half a $770-million deal with Bombardier and brought in competitor Alstom as a supplier.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

The second-in-command of the Canadian military is stepping down, citing aborted plans to replace him with Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk wrote, in a leaked letter to Chief of Staff General Jonathan Vance, that he had delayed his retirement to serve in the No. 2 spot, but when charges were dropped against Vice-Adm. Norman, Gen. Vance asked him to step aside so Vice-Adm. Norman could return to that post.

Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial leaders are expected to discuss trade and climate policy among other issues when they sit down Wednesday to begin two-days of meetings for the Conference of the Federation. The gathering, just ahead of October’s federal election, comes as some conservative leaders are decrying federal energy policies and four provinces are taking Ottawa to court over its carbon tax.

Most of the country’s premiers visited Big River First Nation, north of Saskatoon, yesterday to meet with Indigenous leaders. After the meeting, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called Trans Mountain “very divisive” and said that groups which hold title along the pipeline’s path from Edmonton to Vancouver should determine whether a proposed expansion is built. He said that along with talk on pipelines, the premiers need to present a plan for a faster transition to a lower carbon economy.

The Liberals, looking to make gains in Quebec to offset expected losses in other parts of the country, are targeting NDP ridings in that province by recruiting high-profile, left-wing candidates to attract voters away from the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party. On Tuesday, a former Parti Québécois minister and sovereigntist announced plans to run for the Liberals, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a nomination meeting for a well-known environmentalist on Wednesday. Mr. Trudeau’s ratings have suffered in Quebec after the SNC-Lavalin affair, losing support to the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois.

The CBC is reporting that People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier posed for a photo in Calgary Sunday with members of an organization described as a hate group.

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Efforts are under way to find and possibly rescue three North Atlantic right whales spotted entangled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The move comes a day after Ottawa announced new measures to protect the animals.

In international political news this morning, Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. has resigned. The move comes after memos leaked to a British newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, showed that Sir Kim Darroch described President Donald Trump’s administration as “dysfunctional,” “clumsy” and “inept.” Mr. Trump then labelled Sir Kim as “stupid” and “wacky.”

Also in U.S. political news, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, who refers to himself as “Middle-Class Joe,” earned more than US$15-million in the two years since leaving office, according to returns released by his campaign. He earned the money through six-figure speaking engagements and a book deal. Senator Kamala Harris and her husband reported the next-highest income of the candidates, earning US$3.4-million over those two years.

Britain and Canada are leading a push to secure more protections for journalists. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland convened a two-day conference in London Wednesday with politicians, activists and journalists from more than 100 countries.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s departure is now seen by many in the city as merely a matter of time. On Tuesday, she apologized for the extradition bill, calling it “dead,” but that has failed to quell political tension, with activists saying they can’t trust her.

And back in Canada, a tweet from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is angering Attawapiskat residents. She recently tweeted that Ottawa’s tap water is rated among the best in the world. A day later, residents of Attawapiskat First Nation were told to severely limit their water use because of the presence of trihalomethanes. Adrian Sutherland, who lives there, tweeted a picture of himself wearing a gas mask and holding a reusable water bottle with the words, “So I hear Ottawa’s real proud of having the cleanest drinking water in the world! Meanwhile in Attawapiskat the water is contaminated.”

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Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on the U.S. women’s soccer team showing sport is being politicized: “In the U.S., the champions of sport have become the country’s chief source of inspiration. The trend toward athlete activism like that of Megan Rapinoe on issues beyond sport isn't going to take away from that. More likely it will make the country better.”

John Ivison (National Post) on where Mr. Trudeau went wrong on foreign policy: “The problem is not specifically Trudeau’s lack of credibility with Narendra Modi’s government, though India is an important Commonwealth partner. The larger issue is that it is just one example of Canada’s continuing evisceration of its foreign service, its subjugation of relations with regional powers to domestic politics and of the millenarian belief that Canada should be regarded as a moral superpower.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Jason Kenney and a new public inquiry: “Mr. Kenney is prepared to fight on their behalf, even if it’s against imaginary enemies. The fact is, Mr. Kenney, more than anyone, has helped ensure that environmental activists begin their attacks on the oil sands all over again.”

Paul Wells (Maclean’s) on national leadership, in cowboy hats: “As I wrote back then, this is the sort of thing Kenney does: He’s a born networker who rallies as much support as he can for his positions. The idea here is to storm Saskatoon – with a cohort of colleagues that includes the host of the Saskatoon meeting, oddly enough – with a firm set of plans. Against the distracted mush most premiers usually bring to their summer meetings, it’ll be harder to resist.”

A Globe editorial on politicians singing lullabies: “It makes sense that voters with no savings, increasing debt, high housing and food costs, precarious work and little disposable income would toss and turn at night. And it also makes sense that the Trudeau Liberals and the Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer will promise them the political equivalent of a sleeping pill in the election campaign, the healthy state of the economy notwithstanding.”

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