The smoky, yellow-tinged sky here in Ottawa is a vivid reminder of the areas of the country that are directly in danger and tremendously stressed by a record-breaking wildfire season. Here’s hoping for rain and helpful winds to make things easier for the fire crews.
Inside the parliamentary precinct, a continuing search for clarity of the literal sort was underway, as MPs spent three hours grilling David Johnston, the special rapporteur on foreign interference, in the procedure and House affairs committee (PROC).
One of the key findings of his interim report was that misinformation campaigns against Canadian politicians couldn’t be traced back to Beijing – information that directly contradicted what former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was told by the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Pressed repeatedly on this disconnect, Mr. Johnston said his conclusions were based on what he knew at the time.
“We reported on what was available to us,” he said. “What transpired between the director of CSIS and Mr. O’Toole, I don’t know.”
He also faced repeated questions about why he is continuing his work as special rapporteur, even after the House of Commons voted that he should step aside. NDP House Leader Peter Julian asked Mr. Johnston why he was ignoring the will of a minority Parliament in which all opposition parties voted in favour of his resignation.
Mr. Johnston responded that he is standing firm because he believes the vote by parliamentarians was “based on allegations that were false.” At another point, he said he has “deep respect” for the House of Commons, but he denied that his work with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation constituted any conflict of interest.
“These allegations are, put simply, false,” he said.
Mr. Johnston kept emphasizing that not only was he perfectly fit to investigate foreign interference in Canada, but in his opinion, fixating on him at all is a mistake because Canada has much bigger and more worrying fish to fry.
“Let’s move with urgency on dealing with a problem which is very, very serious and is affecting not simply our national security, but our citizens in very direct and immediate and difficult ways,” he said.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Shannon Proudfoot. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
JOHNSTON’S LEAD COUNSEL ATTENDED LIBERAL FUNDRAISER – Sheila Block, the lead lawyer for David Johnston in the foreign-interference probe, has donated exclusively to the Liberal Party and attended a virtual fundraiser with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2021. Former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said the situation does not violate conflict-of-interest laws, but it amounts to “a mess.” Robert Fife and Steven Chase broke this story here.
CONSERVATIVES CALL FOR ETHICS REVIEW OF SABIA’S MOVE TO HYDRO-QUÉBEC – The Conservative Party is calling for the Ethics Commissioner’s office to review Michael Sabia’s move from deputy minister of finance to CEO of Hydro-Québec, pointing out that the 2023 budget included measures that benefit the provincial utility. Bill Curry reports here.
WILDFIRE ACTIVITY THIS YEAR ‘UNPRECEDENTED,’ FEDERAL OFFICIALS SAY – Canada could exceed the largest total amount of burned area recorded in this country in a single year, as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of wildfires and puts Indigenous communities at higher risk, according to new federal numbers. Bill Curry and Mike Hager have the story.
CHINA IRRESPONSIBLE OVER TAIWAN STRAIT COLLISION RISK WITH CANADA, U.S. SHIPS – Defence Minister Anita Anand says Beijing acted irresponsibly on the weekend in the Taiwan Strait, where Washington says a Chinese warship forced a U.S. vessel to avoid a collision near a Canadian frigate. The Canadian Press reports here.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – MPs continue debating the government’s budget mega-bill, C-47 – or rather, the Conservatives continue filibustering said bill, while the government tries to nudge it through before school’s out for the summer.
Also, C-35 – which seeks to shore up the Liberal government’s early-learning and child-care plans, and the funding that supports them, against future dismantling – is at the report stage in the House.
A second reading is scheduled for Conservative MP Colin Carrie’s private members Bill C-320, which would require victims of crime to be provided with an explanation of how the temporary release, parole and review dates of offenders were determined.
Canadians have been dealing with high inflation for two years now. But, as consumers, we keep spending. However, the picture of where we spend our money and how much of it is a messy one. The Globe’s retailing reporter Susan Krashinsky Robertson explains why some stores are seeing a drop in some areas of spending, even as Canadians are spending at an extremely high rate.
You can listen here or on your favourite podcast platform.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
This morning, Justin Trudeau chaired the cabinet meeting, then attended Question Period. Afterward, he met with His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, then attended the unveiling of the official portrait for the 36th speaker of the House of Commons, Geoff Regan.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh held a press conference before joining the procedure and House affairs committee to join in the questioning David Johnston.
Marsha Lederman (The Globe and Mail) on: In Poland, the truth about the Holocaust continues to come under attack: “In 2021, [University of Ottawa professor Jan] Grabowski, who was born in Warsaw – his father was a Jewish Holocaust survivor – was prosecuted under a terrifying law that makes it illegal to accuse Poland of Holocaust complicity. His book, Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in German-Occupied Poland, co-edited with Polish historian Barbara Engelking, landed them both in court in a lawsuit supported by the Polish Anti-Defamation League, which has been described as a nationalist organization close to Poland’s government.”
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) ponders: Is administering MAID in a funeral home undignified?: “The latest furor began when La Presse published an article last month about a funeral home in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., that offers a “turnkey” service that includes MAID, embalming/cremation, funeral services and burial. The article included a photo of the funeral director moving a comfy recliner where a client had sat while having MAID administered 15 minutes earlier.”
Louise Blais, the former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and consul general to the U.S., writes in The Globe: Our blasé approach to intelligence makes Canada a choice target: “To me, the fundamental problem here is not who-read-what-and-when (if ever). This entire unfortunate situation is laying bare our systemic blasé approach to intelligence and to the handling of sensitive information in this country. We don’t take our intelligence seriously enough, and we get a failing grade at securing our data.”