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Canada’s departing Ethics Commissioner says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ethics issues have probably complicated efforts to encourage his MPs and cabinet ministers to stick to the rules.

However, Mario Dion also says it’s his understanding that the Prime Minister’s Office is trying hard to stay out of trouble.

“People follow the leader, leading by example in every management book I have read. Therefore, it most probably has an impact on the people who are led that the Prime Minister was twice been found to be in contravention of the act. You always look up to the leader,” Mr. Dion said.

Mr. Dion’s predecessor Mary Dawson found Mr. Trudeau breached the ethics code for a 2016 Christmas trip with family and friends to visit the Aga Khan’s private Bahamas island. Mr. Dion, who took on his job in 2018, found, in 2019, that the Prime Minister violated the federal Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his then-attorney-general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement over corruption charges.

Referring to the record, Mr. Dion said, “What the leader does always has an impact on the troops. It’s unavoidable.”

But Mr. Dion added a pair of caveats on the point.

“I can sense some real efforts on the part of the Prime Minister’s Office to do much better,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that. Real efforts have been invested in making sure that all the prevention can be done to avoid anything of this nature in the future,” he said.

Asked if he could be more specific, Mr. Dion said he could not because his knowledge of the issue is confidential.

The Ethics Commissioner, who announced this week he is leaving his post due to persistent health issues, also said it is his view that ethics issues are endemic to government.

“I think it is. Canada has a certain political culture,” he said. “It’s part and parcel of the exercise of democracy and the players within democracy.”

Mr. Dion added, “I think it would be utopia to think that it would disappear one day completely.”

As an independent officer of Parliament, the ethics commissioner administers the Conflict of Interest Act, as well as the Conflict of Interest Code for MPs.

Mr. Dion said, this week, that many MPs have used training opportunities offered by his office, but that he also recommends the government consider mandating that all ministers and parliamentary secretaries receive training from his office.

He said he had no specific advice for his successor. “It’s a very important job. I hope the government picks the right person.”

BREAKING - The final report of the inquiry studying the federal government’s unprecedented decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to quell anti-vaccine-mandate, anti-government protests will be released in Ottawa on Friday. Story here.

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OTTAWA ANNOUNCES NEW CROWN CORPORATION TO COMMERCIALIZE RESEARCH - Promising that it “will not be just another funding agency,” the federal government is launching a new Canada Innovation Corp. that promises to help businesses commercialize their research and protect intellectual property. Story here.

PM PLEDGES HAITIAN HELP, BUT NO MILITARY INTERVENTION - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a slate of new supports for Haiti in the Bahamas on Thursday including humanitarian aid and some naval vessels to help with surveillance. Story here.

JOLY IN UKRAINE - In a whirlwind tour of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced more than $21-million in donations for demining efforts and humanitarian causes, including assistance for the victims of sexual abuse. Story here.

TORY OUT ON FRIDAY - Toronto Mayor John Tory finally laid out late Wednesday night his timeline for leaving office, but only after presiding over a chaotic budget meeting that locks in his vision of the city for another year. Story here.

LUCKI LEAVING RCMP COMMAND - Three months after saying she did not want to step aside, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is leaving her post as head of the Mounties. Her announcement caps a long period of uncertainty over her future. Story here.

‘MILGAARD’S LAW’ INTRODUCED - New legislation introduced in the House of Commons today would make it easier and faster for people who may have been wrongfully convicted to have their cases reviewed. Story here.

QUEBEC ASSEMBLY CONDEMNS BILL C-11 - Quebec’s National Assembly has unanimously passed a motion condemning the federal government’s online streaming bill for failing to recognize Quebec’s laws on cultural matters, saying it is up to the province to define its cultural direction. Story here.

IMMIGRATION TARGET UNRELATED TO McKINSEY OR BARTON: FRASER - Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada’s target of welcoming 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025 has nothing to do with his department’s consulting contracts with McKinsey & Co. or past policy advice from Dominic Barton, the former head of the global consulting firm. Story here.

HOCKEY CANADA DIDN’T USE GRANT MONEY FOR SEXUAL-ASSAULT SETTLEMENTS: AUDIT - An audit ordered by the federal government has confirmed Hockey Canada did not use grant money it received from Ottawa to settle sexual assault cases. Story here.

BROKEN BAIL SYSTEM TO BLAME FOR VIOLENT, UNPROVOKED CRIME: POILIEVRE - Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says the responsibility for addressing violent and unprovoked crime in cities across Canada falls on the shoulders of the federal government, and that the criminality is a result of a broken bail system. Story here.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Feb.16, accessible here.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY - Chrystia Freeland, in Toronto, held private meetings and met with union leaders as art of pre-budget consultations.

NEW POWER & POLITICS HOST - CBC journalist David Cochrane has been named the new permanent host of the CBC News Network’s flagship daily political program, Power & Politics, replacing Vassy Kapelos. Mr. Cochrane’s appointment is effective immediately. Details here.

TELLING THE STORY OF AN UNLIKELY INSIDER - Edie Austin had a lot to cover in co-writing the memoir of her father, Jack. Over his 90s years, Jack Austin was a chief of staff to prime minister Pierre Trudeau, a minister in the governments of Mr. Trudeau and Paul Martin, and a senator. After Mr. Trudeau retired from politics in 1984, Mr. Austin and his wife travelled with the former prime minister to such locations as China, Pakistan and South Africa and Indonesia. Now, he is an honorary professor and senior fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research.

The story is covered in Unlikely Insider: A West Coast Advocate in Ottawa, co-written by Mr. Austin and Ms. Austin, an editorial page editor at The Montreal Gazette. The book was published by McGill Queen’s University Press. Ms. Austin discussed te background story behind the book in an e-mail interview.

Your father writes in the acknowledgements that, at a certain point, you declared that if he didn’t write his memoirs, you would and you launched into the project despite your busy schedule. Why did you feel this way about your father’s memoirs? How and when did you kick off this project?

My dad did not, in the first instance, want to write his memoirs. Even well into his 80s, he was too busy! He perceived writing memoirs as being a backward-facing exercise, and he is a very forward-looking person. He also wasn’t interested in what he called “a vanity project.” But my feeling as a journalist was that there was a terrific untold story; my feeling as a daughter was that I wanted to gain a better understanding of what his role was in certain events, and to write something that at the very least would be a legacy for the family. But because his story is also a story about Canadian history, politics, public policy and values, it seemed it might also be of public interest.

In early July, 2019, he visited me in Montreal. He was 87 and in remission after having gone through several rounds of very harsh chemotherapy for his chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He still wasn’t interested in committing to a book, and that was when I said, essentially, “well, if you won’t write it, I will.”

How did things change when your father became involved in the project?

The more time and energy he invested, the more analytical and more reflective the manuscript became. Also, the more forward-looking. His contemporary reflections were not something I could find in the archival material I had. As well, he added a lot of anecdotes that were not on the public record. For the conclusion, which in many ways is a call to Canadians to reflect on the nature of our society and values, he was the primary drafter. (The reference to Pogo is a giveaway!)

What was your approach to researching and writing this book?

I started working with the archival material I had. By this I mean old papers of various sorts, a couple of oral history interviews he had recorded a decade ago, and information available on the internet.

It helped that I already had strong historical knowledge and a background in many of the policy areas covered in the book. As my dad’s involvement grew, I asked some tough questions and pushed for clarity in his answers. I sought more “color” – telling, relatable details – as well as more analysis. We recorded many hours of interviews, which I transcribed. I also needed to corroborate what he was telling me with other sources. He wasn’t making stuff up, but memories are fallible, particularly when recalling episodes that took place decades ago. I worked hard to ensure factual rigor. This probably took more time than the actual writing. I devoted most of my vacation time and a chunk of almost every weekend to this project for a couple of years.

What did you learn about your father that you did not know before starting work on this project?

Quite a few things! For example: I hadn’t been aware of his key role in the creation of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiry. I didn’t know he had met Nelson Mandela while in South Africa with Pierre Trudeau in 1992. While I had known that Mexico had awarded him the Order of the Aztec Eagle, that country’s highest award to foreigners, I had had no idea why.

Based on your experience, what advice would you offer to someone entering into a project like this?

Publishing a book is a lot of work. Finishing a full draft of the manuscript is just a start. But if it’s something you want to do, don’t be daunted; like most big tasks, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. Another thing is that it’s essential to be open to feedback.

BALL APPOINTMENT - Dwight Ball, the former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, has been appointed to the board of directors of the Canada Development Investment Corp. for a four-year term. Chrystia Freeland, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, announced the appointment this week. The investment corporation holds a portfolio of assets and investments held by the Government of Canada


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Nassau for the meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, held private meetings, met with Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, followed by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and then Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Mr. Trudeau participated in the plenary session and delivered remarks, and participated in the conference family photo. The Prime Minister also attended a working luncheon given by Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, and held a media availability. Later in the evening, he was then scheduled to return to Ottawa.


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, spoke to reporters about the NDP’s opposition-day motion on rebuilding Canada’s public health care system, attended Question Period, and spoke, in the House of Commons, to the opposition-day motion. Opposition-day motions allow parties to put issues they deem important before the House.


On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, personal finance reporter Erica Alini and author of the newsletter MoneySmart Bootcamp, shares her tips for how to think about investing wisely. The Decibel is here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how Canada isn’t broken, but Canadians are at the breaking point: Canada is not broken. We continue to live in a prosperous, peaceful and tolerant land that we are blessed to call home. But millions of Canadians are under great stress, and governments are not moving swiftly enough to their aid. Politicians and bureaucrats at all levels should be laser-focused on helping them.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the U.S. isn’t rushing to deal with Canada’s Roxham Road migrant problem:On the day that Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette celebrated the mass relocation of Roxham Road migrants to Ontario, her boss, Premier François Legault, told reporters he couldn’t understand why the U.S. wasn’t willing to take border-crossers back. He met U.S. Ambassador David Cohen on Tuesday, and then said he doesn’t know why the U.S. won’t change a border agreement so people who enter Canada at Roxham Road, an unofficial crossing between Quebec and New York State, can be returned to the U.S. “I said to him, I don’t understand why it is taking so long to settle with the United States.” Mr. Legault is an intelligent politician, so he must be deliberately playing dumb.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on how U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will emerge from the balloon follies:An upshot of “balloongate,” as some are calling it, is that Americans now know we have a role to play in helping them ward off threats of invasion from the north: we pay about 40 per cent of the NORAD bills. Not that NORAD performed capably in this crisis. It’s been an embarrassment for both sides, exposing, as NORAD Commander General Glen VanHerck put it, a “gap” in our air defences. “I will tell you that we did not detect those threats,” he said. How serious the threats were is still not known. Some suggest it’s all overblown – another example of American threat inflation. Mr. Trudeau, however, does not appear to see it that way.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how the notwithstanding clause is set to be another fissure between French and English Canada:Quebeckers are hardly unanimous in their support for the notwithstanding clause. But a broad consensus exists among the francophone majority that – in the absence of a “distinct society” clause in the Constitution, as proposed in the 1987 Meech Lake accord – the notwithstanding clause is a sine qua non to protect Quebec’s cultural and linguistic specificity. English Canada’s increasing disdain toward the clause suggests to francophone Quebeckers that our differences may truly be irreconcilable, after all.”

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