This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.
Add senate appointments to the current points of conflict between the federal and Alberta governments.
On Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office was defending the announcement, this week, that a senator from Alberta is being appointed despite elections this fall to give voters in the province a say on prospects.
“We introduced and are committed to an independent Senate appointment process which is designed to move towards a less partisan and more independent Senate,” the PMO said in a statement, responding to the criticism from Alberta.
The PMO added that, since 2016, the selection process for senators has been open to all Canadians with candidate submissions reviewed by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, which provides recommendations to the Prime Minister.
Canada’s new Governor-General Mary Simon, this week, appointed five new senators on advice from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Three are from Quebec, one from Saskatchewan, and one from Alberta. Details of the appointments are here.
Mr. Trudeau’s team was reacting Friday to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney accusing the Prime Minister of showing “contempt for democracy in Alberta” by engineering the appointment of Karen Sorensen, who has been the mayor of Banff, as the province’s new senator.
“Sadly, the Prime Minister’s decision to snub his nose at Alberta’s democratic tradition is part of a pattern of flippantly disregarding our province’s demands for a fair deal in the Canadian federation and the desire of Albertans for democratic accountability,” Mr. Kenney said in a statement.
Mr. Kenney noted that, earlier this month, he told Mr. Trudeau at a meeting in Calgary to hold off filling two Senate vacancies, and await the outcome of a vote as part of municipal elections on Oct 18. The Legislative Assembly of Alberta has also passed a motion urging the Prime Minister to not appoint the senators until after the elections.
Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole took note of the Senate dispute. “Once again the Prime Minister shows his lack of respect for the West. Albertans deserve better,” Mr. O’Toole said in a tweet.
Mr. Kenney noted that Alberta has had four Senate elections in the past, and five nominees went on to be appointed.
Columnist’s Comment Kelly Cryderman of the Globe and Mail’s Alberta Bureau: “Senate elections might be a head-scratcher in many other parts of the country but they have been part of Alberta’s political landscape since 1989. Designed to send a signal to Ottawa about provincial autonomy, western alienation, and the need for Senate reform, they have no official status and are seen as illegitimate by critics. Mr. Kenney is continuing in a line of conservative premiers who have asked (all they can do is ask) Ottawa to respect the outcome of the Senate elections. However, with Alberta voters preoccupied by the pandemic, economic concerns – or just the summer – the Premier’s beating of the drum on this issue has failed to garner any major public interest to now.”
PROBLEMS IN AFGHAN AID EFFORT - Afghans trying to come to Canada through the government’s new resettlement program have been frustrated by a difficult application process, which is creating serious challenges for those urgently trying to escape the Taliban.
PROF. DEFENDS CHINA HUMAN-RIGHTS RECORD - A professor at one of Canada’s major universities has written a column for a state-run newspaper in China in which she defends Beijing’s record on ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs and argues Canadians are being thoughtless and self-righteous in accusing the Chinese government of genocide in Xinjiang.
NEW CONSULTATIONS ON CURBING ONLINE HATE - The federal government has launched a new consultation that it says will lead to combatting online hate shared on social media sites – a move that has prompted advocates to say real change isn’t coming fast enough.
EX-SAUDI SPY RAISES COURT CONCERNS - A former Saudi spy chief living in exile in Toronto is asking a Canadian court to throw out an embezzlement lawsuit against him, arguing not only are the allegations unfounded but that the evidence on which they rely was gleaned from human-rights abuses and, likely, torture.
PANDEMIC-AID PROGRAM EXTENDED - Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is extending pandemic aid programs by an extra month beyond the previously planned end date. The decision means that wage and rent subsidies for businesses, and income support for workers out of a job or who need to take time off to care for family or stay home sick, will last until Oct. 23. Story here.
PAYETTE ORDER-OF-CANADA APPOINTMENT UNDER REVIEW - The Advisory Council for the Order of Canada, is thinking of terminating former governor-general Julie Payette’s appointment to the Order of Canada, CBC reports. Story here.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Private meetings in Ottawa.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet - No schedule provided by Mr. Blanchet’s office.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole makes an announcement in Fredericton.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul - No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a media availability in Penticton, B.C., and visits the Regional District Emergency Operations Centre.
The Editorial Board of The Globe and Mail on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just put the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the tab of Canadians: “It also should be noted that a $5.2-billion handout to a province with a population of 520,000 is massive on a per capita basis. In Ontario, its equivalent would be $148-billion; in Alberta, $44-billion. None of this makes any sense, except as an election handout designed to secure Newfoundland’s seven seats in the House of Commons, six currently held by Liberals. Other than that, it’s madness. It would be one thing for Ottawa to step in and help a struggling, sparsely populated province that has a crushing debt burden of $47.3-billion and real financial problems. It’s another altogether to subsidize its citizens’ electricity bills out of the blue. Is that really the help Newfoundland needs?”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on playing politics with the Governor-General’s constitutional role: ”When Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Mary Simon urging her to refuse any request from Justin Trudeau to call an election, the NDP Leader knew perfectly well she would have no choice but to grant the Prime Minister’s request. But such grandstanding is nothing new. It seems to be an unspoken role of the Governor-General to serve as a foil for opportunistic politicians who know that many Canadians don’t really understand what the Queen’s representative can or cannot do.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why It’s time to get tough with vaccine resisters: “I am tired of this gentle persuasion business. People who refuse to get vaccinated are endangering lives. They are stalling a complete return to normal. Why is it that governments have no qualms about mandating mask wearing, but won’t mandate people get the jab? We continue to pander to a group who, in many cases, are simply too lazy to sign up to get a shot. Or, they continue to embrace crackpot conspiracy theories and misinformation being spread on social media. We patiently hope that they will wake up and see the light one day, meantime their recalcitrance affects the rest of us.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the feds talking about abortion suggests an election must be imminent: “Just as white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel signals to the world that the announcement of a new Pope is forthcoming, so too does the word “abortion,” uttered from Liberal lips, tell Canadians that an election will soon be called. Unfortunately for the incumbent Liberal government, the current leader of the Official Opposition doesn’t turtle into his suit when asked about uncomfortable social issues like his predecessor did, nor does he – like the predecessor before that – tout a résumé that includes defunding abortions abroad. Indeed, until Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole provides more ammunition for the Liberals to warn about Canada’s potential descent into Gilead, the party will have to resort to old favourites to remind women of their feminist bona fides ahead of an election.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the many mistakes that have been made around the development of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project: “ Mr. Trudeau did not say which “mistakes” he was referring to. Perhaps that was because there are too many of them to enumerate during a short pre-electoral pit stop in Newfoundland, where the Liberals hold all but one of the province’s seven seats. Or perhaps because it would have raised questions about whether his government is only putting a Band-Aid solution on a systemic problem.”
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