Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there is no choice for the West but to prevail over Russia over its aggression against Ukraine.
“We cannot let Ukraine down. They are counting on us,” Mr. Trudeau told the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.
It’s the beginning of a visit by Mr. Trudeau to the Belgian capital - the Prime Minister’s second visit to Europe in a month - that will also see Mr. Trudeau attend a NATO summit and G7 Heads of State and Government Meeting.
The Prime Minister called for continued humanitarian aid, the continued supply of military equipment and lethal aid to Ukraine and further “unprecedented” sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin “and his enablers” in Russia and Belarus. He also said some thought should be given to investing to rebuild Ukraine after the conflict.
“We must ensure that the decision to invade a sovereign, independent country is understood to be a strategic failure that carries with it ruinous costs.”
The Prime Minister said President Putin has thought democracy weak. “He saw our disagreements as weakness. But what he has never understood is that the rigours of debate—that forceful civic engagement—makes us strong. And that democracy, at its best, will always be stronger than authoritarianism.”
At one point, Mr. Trudeau - denouncing “cynical populists” in current anxious times trying to exploit citizen anxieties - referred to recent blockades in Canada to protest pandemic restrictions which ended up leading the government to invoke the Emergencies Act.
“Even in Canada, where 90 per cent of people are vaccinated, and our motto is peace, order and good government, we saw anti-vaccine and anti-government protests devolve into illegal occupations of our communities and blockades of our borders. The leaders of these convoys were effective in turning citizens with real anxieties against the system best suited to allay their concerns.
“But democracy isn’t a game.”
Mr. Trudeau noted that Canada, like many European countries, has made massive investments to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the right thing to do to protect our people, and it was the necessary thing to do to ensure a strong and robust economic recovery. We know that when we invest in people, including the most vulnerable, and when we grow the middle class and make life more affordable, everyone benefits. And democracy benefits.”
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TODAY’S HEADLINES - LIBERAL/NDP DEAL
NDP SUPPORTS HIGHER MILITARY SPENDING - The New Democrats say they won’t stand in the way of higher military spending to confront the Russian threat as long as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approves billions of dollars in new social programs as part of a deal to prop up the minority Liberal government until June, 2025. Story here.
NDP MP EXPECTS ACTION ON PHARMACARE - NDP health critic Don Davies says he expects the Liberal government to make good its renewed promise to deliver national pharmacare, but perhaps not all at once. Story here.
HEALTH-CARE ADVOCATES SUPPORT DEAL - Health care advocates are applauding a Liberal-NDP deal promising dental care for lower- and middle-income Canadians as well as progress toward universal pharmacare, saying the programs are long overdue and could have significant downstream impacts on health care costs and outcomes. Story here.
GLOBE AND MAIL EXPLAINER - What is the Liberal-NDP deal? The suply-and-confidence agreement explained. Check here.
MAIL-IN BALLOTS INSTEAD OF IN-PERSON VOTE FOR KENNEY LEADERSHIP DECISION - The contentious April 9 party vote to determine the fate of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership has been changed from an in-person vote to mail-in ballots, with the president of Alberta’s United Conservative Party linking the shift to the unexpected crush of people signing up to vote in Red Deer to decide whether Mr. Kenney should stay on as party leader. Story here.
QUEBEC BUDGET CUTS DEFICIT, INCREASES SPENDING - Quebec has reduced its deficit while increasing spending and keeping tax rates flat thanks to a strong economic performance during the pandemic, a windfall its government is using to send taxpayers direct cash payments in an election-year budget. Story here.
ALBERTA OPPOSITION MEMBER DEFENDS HACKING GOVERNMENT WEBSITE - An Alberta opposition legislature member under RCMP investigation after admittedly hacking into a government health website using some of Premier Jason Kenney’s personal information says he felt a professional responsibility to do it. Story here.
MANITOBA PCS WIN BYELECTION - Manitoba’s governing Progressive Conservatives held on to one of their long-time strongholds by a narrow margin in a provincial by-election Tuesday.
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE PENALTY FACES LEGAL TEST - Canada’s life-without-parole penalty faces the first test of its constitutionality at the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday, in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six Muslim worshippers at a Quebec City mosque in 2017. Story here.
DOCUMENTS SHED LIGHT ON BID TO REMOVE HILL MEMORIAL - The federal government had originally hoped to remove a Parliament Hill memorial dedicated to Indigenous children who died and went missing from residential schools months earlier than actually happened last year, according to newly released documents. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, March 23, is accessible here.
HANN LEAVES CPC - Cory Hann has left his role as director of communications for the Conservative Party of Canada. “It never quite hit me just how long I’ve been in the role until someone recently pointed out to me that our party just marked the 18th year anniversary of its founding…and I’m in my ninth year as its director of communications,” Mr. Hann said in a statement. “So, with a new interim leader firmly in place (the fifth leader to lead this party since I’ve been here), and with the third leadership election I’ve had a front row seat for now off the ground and underway, it feels like an appropriate time to vacate my seat at the party and allow for someone with fresh perspective to take over. While I have no immediate plans for what’s next, I expect I’ll still be watching this all with great interest. Can take the boy out of politics, etc.”
REYNOLDS BACKING BROWN -John Reynolds, a former MP and co-chair of the national Conservative campaign for the 2006 federal election that saw Stephen Harper become prime minister, is backing Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown in his bid to lead the Conservative Party. Mr. Reynolds has been named national campaign co-chair for Mr. Brown. The other co-chair is Alberta MP Michelle Rempel Garner. In a statement issued Wednesday by Mr. Brown’s campaign, Mr. Reynolds said, “Mayor Brown is a true Conservative with a record of achievement in government to prove it. He will restore fiscal sanity in Ottawa, champion religious freedom, and give Justin Trudeau the fight of his life.”
On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Lori Turnbull - the director and an associate professor at the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University - talks about the partnership agreement announced this week between the federal Liberals and NDP, what this deal is really about, how it affects the Liberal, NDP and Conservative parties, and what it means for the future of Parliament. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
The Prime Minister arrived in Brussels, and was scheduled to meet with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, and to deliver an address to the European Parliament. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to meet with Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and to deliver brief remarks, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, at the European Commission headquarters. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to attend a working dinner with President von der Leyen.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attends the NDP national caucus meeting.
No schedule released for other leaders.
FURTHER RUSSIAN INVASION WOULD PROMPT CANADIAN SUPPORT FOR DECLARING WAR ON RUSSIA - Canadians strongly back hitting Russia with more punitive measures for its invasion of Ukraine but are hesitant to go to war over the conflict, which has already killed hundreds of civilians and laid waste to major Ukrainian cities. However, a new Nanos Research poll for The Globe and Mail says a majority of Canadians would support declaring war on Russia, along with NATO, if Moscow were to invade yet another country. Story here.
OPINION - LIBERAL/NDP DEAL
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finding another way to neuter Parliament: “So if it doesn’t guarantee a stable Parliament, and the programs the Liberals and NDP will collaborate on would have happened anyway, what exactly is the purpose of the deal? For that you have to look at the part where the NDP and Liberals will use their combined majority to control parliamentary committees, in order to prevent the Conservatives from using tactics to stall legislation, and so that the committees can “continue their essential work.” It was various committees that brought so much heat on Mr. Trudeau in 2020 that he prorogued Parliament. Now it appears he doesn’t have to worry about that for the next four years. Mr. Trudeau loves to claim that the Conservatives are obstructionist, and have prevented Parliament from doing its job. He did it in January, and he did it again in the text of the deal with the NDP, implicitly accusing the Official Opposition of causing “parliamentary dysfunction.” But there simply isn’t any evidence of that.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Prime Minister Trudeau making a deal to solidify his legacy on the left: “This Prime Minister’s legacy was never going to be about balanced budgets or spending restraint. Even now with a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s not going to be about increasing Canada’s military spending – even if that is to be expected in the next budget. Mr. Trudeau will surely see his potential legacy as revolving around climate-change policy and social programs, in particular the $10-a-day child-care program now being put into place. Those things can be swept away if he loses power in a year, but in 3 1/2 years, they will be harder to uproot. The Liberals didn’t need this deal right now. No one, especially the NDP, is about to trigger an election. But Mr. Trudeau saw the chance for an agreement that promised the time and space to work on that legacy without the threat that he will find himself, say, fighting an election over inflation in 10 months – and he grabbed it.”
john Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the opportunity that lies ahead if Conservatives can get their act together: “The supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP presents a splendid opportunity for the federal Conservatives, if they can let go of their anger. By 2025, if the accord survives that long, many Canadians will be sick of the higher taxes, chronic deficits, federal-provincial squabbling over dental care, ever-worsening housing-crisis and general exhaustion of a Liberal government that will have been in power for a decade. Not to mention Aubergine-gate. More on that later. The Conservatives will have 3 1/2 years to craft a brand and a program suited for government. Right now, however, they are too angry to think clearly. They are too much the party of protesting truckers, of rural resentment, of a knee-jerk populism that seeks to fight battles already lost. The next leader must transform the Conservatives from angry into sensible.”
Brian Topp (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s deal with the Liberals being one big bet: “In avoiding the temptations of oppositionist political populism (which is rotting and marginalizing our convoy-embracing Conservative Party before our eyes), and instead advancing proposals for change and reform, Mr. Singh and the federal NDP are putting themselves forward as a party of government – a party that can get results. Where do they go with that? First, they go to Quebec. This accord gives Mr. Singh and his team a chance to return to the offer Mr. Layton made to progressive Quebeckers, many of whom have once again temporarily parked their votes with an increasingly improbable Bloc Québécois, which frames federal politics as a looting expedition. Quebeckers know their country can’t run that way. They’ve been waiting for a better offer.”
Paul Wells (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s deal with the NDP allowing him to get back to sunny ways: “Not everything can be an outrage. A confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP would be compatible with parliamentary rules. It would have precedent in Ontario, New Brunswick and British Columbia, and in several parliamentary systems abroad. Five of the last seven Canadian federal elections have returned minority governments. It was only a matter of time before this common method of managing minority governments got road-tested in Ottawa. As a bonus, a Liberal-NDP deal calls a bluff. A bunch of Canadians spent 2021 complaining about an unnecessary early election. It would be a bit rich if we spent 2022 complaining about a mechanism for avoiding early elections.”
Sabrina Maddeaux (The National Post) on how the so-called leftist pact could be the best thing to happen to the federal Conservatives: “The deal struck by Singh presents a chance for Conservatives to expose leftist economic hypocrisy and position themselves as the solution. All but eliminating the NDP’s position as a viable option on the left, it could very well accelerate the move of populist-minded young voters to the right. To do that, however, they need to stop ranting about nonexistent socialism that does little to nothing to scare voters under the age of 50 and focus on the very real opportunity they’ve been handed. At his best, Pierre Poilievre may be the best-positioned Conservative leadership candidate to do so with his economic chops and ability to make a political point sting. A couple years as leader may even soften his sometimes too-sharp edges. On the other hand, this longer timeframe likely spells bad news for Jean Charest, who will be rounding his late 60s by the time 2025 comes around and be even less appealing to younger voters.”
Tom Mulcair (CTV News) on how Prime Minister Trudeau’s deal with the NDP is quite a coup: “The important question is: who got what and in exchange for what? On the Liberal side, the answer is easy. They get a full mandate and control 100 per cent of government with less than ⅓ of Canadians’ votes. For the NDP, they get a couple of concrete things they’ll be able to point to at the next election like dental care for kids (promised for this year) and anti-scab legislation in federally-regulated industries. That last one is huge from a labour point of view. Trudeau somehow forgot to mention it during his news conference.”