Category Archives: Canada

As O’Leary exits race, Canadian Tories focus on a more conventional leadership race

Kevin O’Leary (right) dropped out of the Conservative leadership race last week, but his endorsement of former minister Maxime Bernier (left) doesn’t guarantee Bernier’s victory. (Facebook)

It turns out that Kevin O’Leary wasn’t quite Mr. Wonderful for Canada’s Conservative Party.

Last week, on the brink of the final debate among the candidates to lead the party, the television star and businessman dropped out of the race. Arguing, oddly, that he didn’t think he could win enough votes in the French-speaking province of Quebec, O’Leary immediately endorsed Maxime Bernier.

O’Leary, the closest thing to a frontrunner in the Tory leadership race, has boosted Bernier to quasi-frontrunner status as Conservative party members begin casting ballots that will be counted by the end of May.

That doesn’t mean, however, Bernier has a lock on the leadership. Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer, the former speaker of the House of Commons, has emerged as his leading alternative, though a handful of Ontario-based candidates lingering in third place could ultimately determine the outcome — or emerge as compromise candidates themselves. Continue reading As O’Leary exits race, Canadian Tories focus on a more conventional leadership race

O’Leary, businessman and ‘Shark Tank’ star, wants to be Canada’s Trump

A more polite Donald Trump? Canada’s Kevin O’Leary hopes to make the same leap from business to reality TV to politics. (Facebook)

If Kevin O’Leary has his way, Donald Trump won’t be the only public official who won power as a businessman-turned-reality TV star. 

From the set of ABC’s Shark Tank — produced by Mark Burnett, who also brought Trump to the small screen with The Apprentice — O’Leary hopes to wage a campaign to bring his brusque ‘shark tank’ mindset to Canadian politics, first to the Conservative Party, then by bringing the fight to current prime minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

Unlike Trump, however, O’Leary will at least be able to say that he’s won an Emmy.

After months of consideration, O’Leary three weeks ago entered the crowded race to lead the Tories. So far, he’s a shark who is making a splash.

O’Leary, the son of an Irish father and small businessman, got his big break in business as the founder of Softkey, a Canadian software producer, riding the wave of growth in the personal computer industry that began in the late 1980s and exploded in the 1990s. O’Leary’s financial empire, over the years, grew to include everything from investment management to physical storage services. But his real claim to fame lies as one of the stars of Dragon’s Den, a reality TV show that launched on CBC in 2006. On the show, O’Leary portrayed a no-nonsense venture capitalist judging the projects of various contestants. (Sound familiar?)

Wildly popular in Canada and, indeed, one of the most popular television programs in Canadian history, Burnett picked up the concept for American television in 2009 and turned the series into Shark Tank, where O’Leary continued to hold a leading role and quickly assumed the nickname ‘Mr. Wonderful.’

Conservative Party members increasingly believe that Mr. Wonderful may also be Mr. Right, insofar as they think O’Leary can lead them out of the Trudeau-era wilderness and back into power. They will vote in May to crown the party’s first permanent leader since prime minister Stephen Harper’s defeat in the October 2015 general election. Continue reading O’Leary, businessman and ‘Shark Tank’ star, wants to be Canada’s Trump

Anti-Russia, pro-trade former journalist Freeland is Canada’s new foreign minister

Chrystia Freeland transitioned only four years ago from journalism to politics, but she’s now Canada’s top diplomat. (Facebook)

If there’s a polite Canadian way to let Donald Trump just what Canada’s government thinks of the incoming US president with just over a week before his inauguration, it must certainly be this:

Promoting to the rank of foreign minister — Canada’s chief diplomat and the key official tasked with US relations — a former journalist who has championed free trade, who last year finalized a landmark free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union and whose writings on Ukraine and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea so offended Russian officials that they placed her on a sanctions list and banned her from setting foot on Russian soil.

Meet Chrystia Freeland.

Like prime minister Justin Trudeau, Freeland is technically very new to elective politics, entering the House of Commons after winning a by-election in Toronto only in 2013. But also like Trudeau, she’s spent her entire adult life steeped in Canadian and global politics.

As recently as last week, Freeland held up Canada as country open to both immigration and trade and a bulwark against rising populism and protectionism in the United States and Europe. As Trump prepares to take power to the south, and as a Conservative MP, Kellie Leitch, tries to win her own party’s leadership with an anti-immigrant and anti-elite message, voters haven’t lost faith in Trudeau’s approach. His post-election honeymoon is continuing into its 15th month, as the Liberal Party continues to enjoy a wide double-digit polling lead.
Continue reading Anti-Russia, pro-trade former journalist Freeland is Canada’s new foreign minister

PQ bids adieu to short-lived leader Péladeau

Pierre Karl Péladeau lasted less than a year as the leader of the pro-independence Parti Québécois. (Facebook)
Pierre Karl Péladeau lasted less than a year as the leader of the pro-independence Parti Québécois. (Facebook)

Less than a year into his tenure as the leader of the sovereigntist Parti québécois, Pierre Karl Péladeau abruptly stepped down on Monday, sending political shocks waves throughout Canada’s majority French-speaking province.Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Four months after a sudden split with the wife he married in August, and now facing a custody battle over his children, Péladeau abruptly announced his resignation from the PQ leadership and from the provincial assembly, tearfully explaining that he had chosen to put his family before his ‘political project.’

Péladeau’s departure leaves the province without a full-time opposition leader, and the PQ’s troubles could cause voters to turn to an increasingly crowded field of nationalist alternatives. It’s just the latest setback for a party that’s suffered two tough decades after coming just 55,000 votes shy of winning Québec’s independence in 1995.

Jean Charest, premier for nine years as the leader of the centrist Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ, Liberal Party of Québec), sidelined the separatists for nearly a decade. For a while, the PQ fell to third place after the 2007 elections. The party’s leader at the time, André Boisclair, the first openly gay party leader in Canadian history, spent much of his leadership alienating the party’s rural, unionized base and fending off charges of drug use and financial malfeasance.

When voters finally gave the PQ a shot at governing in 2012, under Pauline Marois, the party immediately launched a needless effort to introduce the ill-named Charte de la laïcité (Québec Charter of Values), which served only to alienate recent immigrants to the province, especially Muslims, by purporting to ban religious headgear.

After Marois called early elections in a disastrous effort to win a majority government, voters instead turned back to the PLQ under its new leader, Philippe Couillard, a former provincial health minister. Marois quickly lost control over the debate when a new star recruit — Péladeau — stood on a campaign platform with Marois and, fist raised, started calling forQuébec’s independence. That forced Marois to respond to hypotheticals about a third referendum, whether an independent Québec would use the Canadian dollar and how borders would work between Canada and an independent Québec. The PQ dropped to its lowest total yet — barely over 25% of the vote.

Meanwhile, its sister party, the Bloc québécois (BQ), won less than 20% of the vote in the 2015 Canadian federal election, and its leader, Gilles Duceppe, resigned (again) after failing to win his own riding. Its 10 seats in Canada’s House of Commons is somewhat better than the four seats it won in the 2011 election, but the days when the BQ dominated the province’s representation in Ottawa now seem long gone.

After a needlessly long internal campaign, Péladeau emerged last spring as the easy winner of the PQ’s leadership election, and he defiantly vowed to make Québec a country. Almost immediately, however, Péladeau’s stumbles seem to outweigh his charms. He indulgently refused to sell the shares to Quebecor the media empire that his father once ran and that Péladeau himself ran until his decision to enter provincial politics.  His business-friendly demeanor met with skepticism from the party’s left-wing members and union activists. Many of them left the PQ for the more stridently leftist and pro-independence Québec solidaire.

Meanwhile, Péladeau was never able to steal votes from the ‘soft’ nationalist, center-right Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), which dominates the vote in and around Québec City. Péladeau’s hardline calls to make Québec a country nearly guaranteed that the PQ would not be the beneficiary of the Couillard government’s growing unpopularity due, on doubt, to two years of spending cuts aimed to achieve a balanced budget. Though the most recent CROP poll from mid-April gave the Liberals just 33% support, the PQ drew just 26%, compared to 25% for the CAQ and 14% for Québec solidaire. 

Having already announced the province’s 2016 budget in March, and basking in a Delta Airlines decision to buy 75 aircraft from local manufacturer Bombardier, it would not be the worst time for Couillard to call an early election.

In one sense, Péladeau’s resignation gives the party a fresh start as the province starts the countdown to new elections, to be held before October 2018. Under a long interim leadership, the PQ might continue to lose right-leaning supporters to the CAQ and left-leaning supporters to Québec solidaire. The next election will be François Legault’s third as the CAQ leader, and it will be Françoise David’s fourth as co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, and both remain incredibly popular.

But there was a sense that Péladeau’s victory last May was the last shot for the péquistes to regroup, with increasingly bilingual young voters and rising numbers of immigrants, in particular, rejecting any abrupt separation with Canada. Demographics just aren’t in the PQ’s favor, and its next leader will have none of the name recognition or star power that  Péladeau, for all his faults, brought to the PQ leadership.

Former BQ leader Gilles Duceppe (left) and former PQ minister Alexandre Cluotier (right) represent the two generational wings of the separatist movement. (Facebook)
Former BQ leader Gilles Duceppe (left) and former PQ minister Alexandre Cluotier (right) represent the two generational wings of the separatist movement. (Facebook)

Alexandre Cloutier, a 38-year-old former minister and currently, shadow education secretary, ran second in last year’s PQ leadership race, and could provide a Trudeau-like appeal to younger voters.

Jean-Martin Aussant, who left the PQ in 2012 to form Option nationale, dedicated to a more impatient brand of Québécois sovereignty, and who flamed out of provincial politics, could return as a 21st century version ofJacques Parizeau, the fiery champion of the independence movement.

Bernard Drainville, who masterminded the Marois government’s push for the Charter of Values, is another possibility, as is Jean-François Lisée, who served as minister of international relations and trade under Marois.

No doubt, old-timers will hope that the 68-year-old Gilles Duceppe, the BQ leader from 1997 to 2011 (and again, briefly, in the leadup to the 2015 election) will attempt one more comeback for the separatist cause.

Even before Péladeau’s resignation, the PQ was already facing an existential problem as a party dedicated to independence in a province where the most separatist generation is literally dying out. In a country where even former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper can call Québec a ‘nation’ without any major blowback, and where its current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, comes from Montréal’s most storied political dynasty, the PQ’s raison d’être seems even more like yesterday’s cause. Neither Péladeau nor his successor is likely to pick a fight with Trudeau, massively popular in Québec just as much as the rest of Canada,  over sovereignty.

No matter who the PQ chooses as its next leader, he or she will face difficult odds to convince Québec’s youth, its growing immigrant class and anglophones to support it as the chief alternative to Couillard’s Liberals in a political marketplace that’s more crowded with ‘nationalist’ parties than ever. In trying to be all things to all nationalists, the PQ risks its very extinction.

Manitoba gives Canadian conservatives power in 2nd province

Brian Pallister, a former legislator in the House of Commons, will be the first conservative premier of Manitoba since 1999. (Facebook)
Brian Pallister, a former legislator in the House of Commons, will be the first conservative premier of Manitoba since 1999. (Facebook)

No one will remember Brian Pallister’s nearly decade-long career in Ottawa as a backbench Conservative member of the House of Commons as particularly distinguished.Canada Flag Iconmanitoba

Over the course of eight years, Pallister never once served as a minister in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet. His most pivotal moment, until tonight, may have come in 1998 when, as a rising legislator in Manitoba’s provincial assembly, he waged a challenge for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. He lost handily to former prime minister Joe Clark. Pallister eventually transitioned to federal politics as a legislator for the Canadian Alliance, a more socially conservative and western-based alternative to the Progressive Conservatives — and a party that ultimately effected a merger with the Canadian Alliance in 2003 under Harper’s leadership.

Pallister returned to provincial politics in 2012, winning an uncontested leadership bid for Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives, and for the past four years, that’s meant playing the role of inoffensive alternative to Manitoba’s premier, Greg Selinger, who angered even his own party’s caucus when in April 2013 he reversed a campaign pledge and raised the provincial sales tax from 7% to 8%.

Tonight, however, Pallister becomes the first leader of a provincial Conservative or Progressive Conservative party to win power in the era of prime minister Justin Trudeau. He’ll join another small-c conservative, Brad Wall, who two weeks ago won reelection to a third term as premier of Saskatchewan under the banner of the center-right Saskatchewan Party.

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Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives will win over 53% of the vote, more than double that of the NDP and the Liberal Party (long an anemic third force in Manitoba’s politics). The massive defeat of Manitoba’s New Democratic Party (NDP) ends a 17-year stint in government that leaves the NDP, across Canada, in power solely in Alberta, where Rachel Notley won an astounding victory last May. Continue reading Manitoba gives Canadian conservatives power in 2nd province

Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is Canada’s unofficial opposition leader

Brad Wall, Saskatchewan's premier, is likely to win a third term in office on Monday. (Facebook)
Brad Wall, Saskatchewan’s premier, is likely to win a third term in office on Monday. (Facebook)

He’s bespectacled, he’s boring and he certainly fits a stereotype of a practical prairie square, campaigning across his province in a Chevy pickup truck. saskatchewanCanada Flag Icon

In the era of Justin Trudeau selfies, Brad Wall doesn’t even have an Instagram profile. In a world that seems to have polarized into ideological extremes and eschews the ‘establishment,’ he is running on an avowed platform of ‘more of the same.’

With Liberals ascendant at the federal level and Liberal or leftist governments in power in each of Canada’s other provinces, he leads the only conservative government left across his country.

But on Monday, when Saskatchewan voters go to the polls, they are almost certainly reelect Wall and his ‘small-c’ conservative party, the provincial Saskatchewan Party, to a third term — probably by a nearly two-to-one margin over the nearest opponent, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP). Polls give Wall’s party nearly 60% of the vote and with it a chance to retain or even increase its 49-member caucus in Saskatchewan’s 58-member Legislative Assembly.

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RELATED: How Justin Trudeau became
the world’s first Millennial leader

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Wall, who consistently ranks as Canada’s most popular premier, is in some ways a throwback to the pragmatic Progressive Conservative Party of the 20th century, a conservative focused squarely on business-friendly policies with a healthy share of humility about government’s ability to effect sweeping change. In his first term, Wall took pains to acknowledge that Saskatchewan’s boom had more to do with global commodity prices than with his own wizardry. Voters, facing the pinch of low oil and gas prices in a province that depends on natural resources, seem willing to give Wall the benefit of the doubt now that Saskatchewan’s economic fortunes are slumping though.

In his first two terms, Wall, personally and politically the personification of prudence, deployed $2 billion in revenues, on top of his government’s budget surpluses, into the province’s Growth and Financial Security Fund. Under Wall, Saskatchewan has reversed a population decline — so much so that it’s now attracting residents at some of the highest levels in the county. Wall has also been careful to place Saskatchewan’s priorities over ideological concerns, going out of his way to maintain official neutrality in the last federal election, though it must have been clear to anyone that Wall’s views aligned most naturally with then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

Among his peers, Wall is perhaps the most powerful defender of Canada’s oil interests, more so than even oil-rich Alberta’s NDP premier Rachel Notley, elected last May. He’s defended Canada’s projected oil pipeline projects and promoted Canada’s energy economy with such vigour that Maclean’s last month dubbed him ‘Alberta’s other premier,’ acknowledging that Wall has become, and will be for some time, the most powerful and influential voice of the Canadian right in national or provincial government. That’s not to say that Wall is a climate change-denier, and he has even shown that’s he open to small steps toward reducing carbon emissions, if not the sweeping kind of carbon tax that Alberta’s Notley is implementing. (Wall is nonetheless careful to add that any tax measures on the largest carbon emitters should take effect only after Canada’s recession, not today.) Continue reading Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is Canada’s unofficial opposition leader

How Justin Trudeau became the world’s first Millennial leader

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau gets up close and personal with two panda cubs at the Toronto Zoo. (Facebook)
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau gets up close and personal with two panda cubs at the Toronto Zoo. (Facebook)

Technically speaking, Justin Trudeau belongs to Generation X.Canada Flag Icon

But you’d be excused for mistaking him for a Millennial because Trudeau is, in essence, the world’s first Millennial leader.

Even his political enemies realize this. Preston Manning, who founded the Reform Party in 1987 (it eventually became the Western anchor of today’s Conservative Party), mocked the new Liberal prime minister and his state visit to Washington, D.C. last week:

In many respects he epitomizes the “it’s all about me” generation and its self-expression and promotion via social media. So let’s like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter – and while we’re at it, why not a selfie?

What the 73-year-old Manning, who once led his party to such a failure that it won fewer seats in the House of Commons than the pro-independence Bloc Québécois, doesn’t realize is that social media fluency in the politics of the 2010s is currency. It’s a feature, not a bug. (Just ask Donald Trump, who might single-handedly be reinvigorating Twitter as a medium for political communication).

While Trudeau, at 44, might be too old to be a Millennial as a technical matter, he certainly mastered the political vocabulary of young voters. Twenty years ago, younger Canadian voters might have viewed the New Democratic Party’s Thomas Mulcair as the kind of prudent, centrist leader that would make a superb prime minister. Not in 2015, when young voters swarmed to Trudeau in record numbers, to the dismay of both the NDP and Conservatives.

In 2014, a year after Trudeau assumed the leadership of the Liberal Party, he was already leading 18-to-29-year-olds by a larger margin than any other age group. Polls in the immediate aftermath of last October’s Liberal landslide showed that young voters supported Trudeau at higher proportions than other age groups.  Continue reading How Justin Trudeau became the world’s first Millennial leader

Liberals sweep Newfoundland and Labrador

Liberal leader Dwight Ball will become the 13th premier of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Liberal leader Dwight Ball will become the 13th premier of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The headline across Newfoundland and Labrador is that it will, once again, have a center-left government after a widely anticipated Liberal rout led by the incoming premier Dwight Ball. newfoundlandCanada Flag Icon

The headline across Canada, however, is that the Liberal Party (or provincial-level Liberal parties, some of which have greater or lesser affiliation with the national party) now controls every provincial government in Canada with two exceptions — Saskatchewan, where premier Brad Wall’s center-right Saskatchewan Party dominates politics and will likely return to a full third term after provincial elections in April; and Alberta, where premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party ousted a 44-year Progressive Conservative Party in May.

The November 30 provincial election leaves no Conservative or Progressive Conservative government in any of Canada’s provinces.

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Ball’s Liberals won 57.2% of the vote to just 30.1% for the Progressive Conservatives, who even narrowly lost in the provincial capital of St. John’s, the Tory stronghold. It was the strongest Liberal victory in the province in 49 years (though not as strong as former premier Danny Williams’s Progressive Conservative rout in 2003), and it marked the most dramatic swing in the province’s electoral history.

In any event, though Newfoundlanders have been expecting a return to Liberal government for a while, it marks something of an apogee for the Canadian left just over a month since the country elected prime minister Justin Trudeau and a majority Liberal government. The most immediate post-election Forum poll from mid-November gave the Liberals a whopping 30-point lead — 55% of voters support Trudeau’s Liberals to just 25% for the Conservative Party and a staggering 12% for Thomas Mulcair’s New Democratic Party.

So the Trudeau honeymoon period is well underway, as he grapples with climate change in Paris with other world leaders and begins to implement a new policy direction for Canada.

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RELATED: The lessons of Newfoundland’s 1948 referendum

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 Ball, a former pharmacist who lost his first attempt to win a seat in the General Assembly in 2003, subsequently won a by-election contest in 2007 by a margin of just 18 votes in the northern electoral district of Humber Valley. After the Liberals failed to win the 2011 provincial election, Ball was appointed as interim leader, and he won the permanent leadership in the December 2013 leadership race. Ball’s platform included a promise to end Davis’s plan to raise the provincial sales tax from 13% to 15%, even though revenues are set to decline with global oil prices and, accordingly, the province’s newly found oil wealth.  Continue reading Liberals sweep Newfoundland and Labrador

A deeper look at Trudeau’s new Liberal cabinet

Canada's 23rd prime minister Justin Trudeau and his new cabinet, all sworn in on November 4 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. (Chris Wattie / Reuters)
Canada’s 23rd prime minister Justin Trudeau and his new cabinet, all sworn in on November 4 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. (Chris Wattie / Reuters)

Among the new faces taking power today in Ottawa, perhaps none is more important to prime minister Justin Trudeau’s success or failure in office than his finance minister, the 53-year-old Bill Morneau, a Bay Street executive who was only just elected to parliament for the first time in 2015.Canada Flag Icon

Morneau’s announcement as finance minister was the most consequential of many key personnel decisions announced this morning when Trudeau was sworn in as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, taking a job that his father, Pierre Trudeau, held from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984.

Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is smaller than the outgoing cabinet and, with 31 members, it is comprised of 16 men and 15 women and includes someone from every province (and the territory of Nunavut).

Finance Minister Bill Morneau

Bill Morneau, a former Toronto executive, will be Canada's new finance minister. (Facebook)
Bill Morneau, a former Toronto executive, will be Canada’s new finance minister. (Facebook)

A rookie MP elected for the first time on October 19 from the Toronto Centre riding, Morneau comes to the finance ministry as the former head of Morneau Shepell, Canada’s largest human resources firm (and a firm founded by Morneau’s father) and as the former chair of the C.D. Howe Institute, a relatively centrist economics think tank based in Toronto. In 2014, he was part of a panel appointed by Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s Liberal premier, to examine her plan to introduce an Ontario-based pension plan that supplements the federal pension plan.

Trudeau, whose Liberals were languishing in third place in most polls all summer long, gained traction among voters when he pledged in September that, in he face of a recession across the country, his government would pursue a more expansionary fiscal policy to develop infrastructure and boost demand for jobs — including taking on $25 billion in debt for three years before a return to balanced budgets in 2019-20. For a country where fiscal restraint has been gospel, not only for the past nine years of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s government, but throughout the preceding 13 years of Liberal rule under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, promising to engage openly in deficit spending might have been a risky move.

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RELATED: Nine things to watch as Canada’s next Trudeau era begins

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Instead, it galvanized centrist and left-of-center voters that had previously been split between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP). With NDP leader Thomas Mulcair pledging balanced budgets in what would have been Canada’s first NDP-led government, Trudeau’s bold policy stand in favor of deficit spending convinced voters that the Liberals represented the more convincing agents of change. Trudeau, earlier in the campaign, promised to implement a modest tax increase on Canadians who earn more than $200,000 annually and a modest tax cut for middle-class Canadians.

Morneau’s most important task as finance minister will be finding a way to translate Trudeau’s plan into an actionable budget. But as a former businessmen with ties to Bay Street, Morneau is a natural choice to assuage the fears of Canada’s business community, and his status as a novice politician brings an element of new blood to a cabinet that has both old and new faces.

Morneau’s selection is also a victory for Wynne, who was a vocal supporter of the federal Liberal Party and of Trudeau’s campaign. Wynne often clashed with Harper, who essentially instructed his government in Ottawa not to cooperate with the pension supplement plan that Wynne pushed through Ontario’s legislative assembly last year.

He joins a growing group of rookie finance minster with more experience in the private sector than in parliamentary or governmental circles, including Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis, the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babiš and Israel’s Yair Lapid.

Morneau will also have a hand in several hot-button issues that will affect the Canadian economy, including relations with the United States, a decision about whether the trans-Canadian Energy East pipeline should proceed and finalizing the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country free trade pact linking North America, South America and East Asia.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison

Scott Brison, the Liberal finance critic since 2010, is a longtime Nova Scotia MP, a former Progressive Conservative who will now head the Treasury Board. (Facebook)
Scott Brison, the Liberal finance critic since 2010, is a longtime Nova Scotia MP, a former Progressive Conservative who will now head the Treasury Board. (Facebook)

One of those is Scott Brison, who will be the next president of the Treasury Board. In that role, Brison will work very closely with Morneau as a behind-the-scenes official in charge of running much of the Canadian government. If Morneau is tasked with selling the Trudeau government’s economic policy, it will be Brison who is largely responsible for carrying it all out– and then some.

Brison, born and raised in Nova Scotia, has been an MP since 1997, is openly gay, began his career as an investment banker, and he started off in politics as a rising star in the center-right Progressive Conservative Party.  He’s only 48 years old, is known to be a close personal friend of Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of Canada who, in 2013, became the governor of the Bank of England.

Brison was one of five candidates in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership race, though he was eliminated on the second ballot when Jim Prentice (a short-lived Alberta premier, former environmental minister and Harper consigliere) outpaced him by three votes. Just days after the Progressive Conservatives voted to merge themselves into Harper’s more dominant, western-based Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada, Brison switched parties. Within months, then-prime minister Paul Martin had already appointed Brison to the cabinet as public works minister. Brison, who ran for and lost the Liberal leadership election in 2006, has served as the Liberal’s chief finance critic, a role he’s often used to attack Conservative budgets with caustic energy, and he heartily supported Trudeau’s near-coronation to the leadership in 2013.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion

Stephane Dion is sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)
Stephane Dion is sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Stéphane Dion, who authored the Clarity Act in 2000 that sets forth the terms of any future secession referendum in Canada, and who garnered international headlines as Canada’s activist environmental minister (who once named his dog Kyoto), led the Liberals to disastrous result in the 2008 election after a merciless campaign that saw his professorial manner dismissed as not “prime ministerial enough” and his English language skills savaged in the media.

But Dion is a serious parliamentarian who has much to offer the next government and, as a former leader, he follows in the footsteps of former British Conservative leader William Hague, former French prime minister Alain Juppé and even US secretary of state John Kerry as a foreign affairs minister. His first test will come later this month at the Paris climate change conference, where he will join a Canadian government now much more engaged than the previous Harper government on climate change. Dion is suited like a glove for the event, but he will also bring thoughtful and diligent experience of nearly 20 years of government service to Trudeau’s cabinet.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

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Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s new defence minister, campaigns with Jean Chrétien earlier this year. (Facebook)

Harjit Sajjan, the newly elected MP for Vancouver South is, like Morneau, a newcomer to the House of Commons, to say nothing of ministerial service. But the Punjab-born Sajjan, who moved to Canada as a five-year-old, will serve as Canada’s first Sikh defence minister after three tours of duty in Afghanistan and a military career as a highly decorated veteran.

Sajjan defeated Conservative incumbent Wai Young to take the riding in October, a riding once held by former British Columbia premier Ujjal Dosanjh and home to one of the largest immigration populations in the country, including many Indian Canadians and Chinese Canadians. After his military career, where he reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel, Sajjan served as a Vancouver police officer.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau

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Marc Garneau, a Montreal-based MP since 2008, was once himself considered leadership material, and he waged his own campaign in 2013 (stepped down as Trudeau’s inevitability became apparent). The first canadian in outerspace, Garneau served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 to 2006 before turning to politics. As transport minister, he will face more policy issues about trains and highways than about space shuttles, but with infrastructure spending tops on the Trudeau agenda, Garneau could play an important role in choosing the projects to prioritize and administering those projects.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale

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Ralph Goodale, who last served as Liberal finance minister in Paul Martin’s government between 2003 and 2006, was first elected as prime minister in 1974 when Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister. He lost his bid for reelection in 1989 and turned to provincial politics as the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, a venture that saw little success. Returning to parliament in 1993, he served as one of the Liberal’s most prominent westerners in government as agriculture minister, natural resources minister and public works minister before his elevation to the finance ministry. At age 66, Goodale joins Dion as one of the most experienced members of the Trudeau cabinet. LIke Garneau, the incoming public works minister will work to identity and administer the infrastructure spending that Trudeau wants to use to juice the Canadian economy back out of recession.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland

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A writer, former deputy editor of The Globe and Mail and a former managing director and editor of Thomson Reuters, Chrystia Freeland returned from a promising journalistic career in New York to run in a by-election in Toronto to replace Bob Rae two years ago, the retiring interim leader of the Liberal Party. Freeland, who easily won reelection in October, is a proponent of free trade and, presumably, as minister of international trade, will work with Trudeau to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership just weeks after Harper’s government signed the landmark trade accord. Though Trudeau hasn’t fully endorsed the TPP, he made it very clear throughout the campaign that the Liberal government would be friendly to free-trade accords.

Environmental Minister Catherine McKenna

Mélanie Joly (Canada's new heritage minister) joins Catherine McKenna, Canada's new environment minister, on the campaign trail earlier this year. (Twitter)
Mélanie Joly (Canada’s new heritage minister) joins Catherine McKenna, Canada’s new environment minister, on the campaign trail earlier this year. (Twitter)

Nowhere does Liberal policy shift more fully from the Harper era than on the environment and climate change. Beyond the Paris conference, the next Canadian government will have a handful of decisions to make about a handful of energy pipelines, including the transcontinental Energy East pipeline. The 44-year-old McKenna, with a career as a human rights attorney, is also a newcomer to parliament, winning her riding in Ottawa Centre for the first time last month.

House of Commons Leader Dominic LeBlanc

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Dominic LeBlanc, who has represented the Beauséjour riding from New Brunswick since 2000, is only three years older than McKenna, but he might be among the most knowledgeable Liberal ministers about how to navigate government. The son of former senator and governor-general Roméo LeBlanc, Canada’s new leader of the House has been friends with Trudeau since childhood, and he has long been a key adviser to the new prime minister. Though he’ll be one of the highest-ranking cabinet officials from Atlantic Canada, he is also very much Trudeau’s man in the House of Commons.

Photos of the day: a tale of two Trudeaus

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Earlier this morning, Justin Trudeau was sworn in as the 23rd prime minister of Canada.Canada Flag Icon

But in April 1968, another Trudeau was being sworn in for the first time — Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current prime minister. Justin, who wasn’t born until 1971, wasn’t even alive at the time.

Standing to the immediate right of Pierre Trudeau is John Turner, who would ultimately succeeded Trudeau as prime minister in the mid-1980s. Standing next to Justin Trudeau’s immediate right today is top adviser Dominic LeBlanc, a childhood friend who grew up with Trudeau. The New Brunswick MP will join Trudeau’s cabinet as Leader of the House of Commons.

As for Justin, he attended his father’s swearing-in in 1980 after a brief stint out of the prime minister’s office. Seated on the left with his brother and sister, young Justin didn’t appear to be so excited about the event:

Justin (at left) joins brother Michel, and sister Alexandre at father Pierre Trudeau swearing in ceremony in 1980. (Ron Poling / CP Photo)
Justin (at left) joins brother Michel, and sister Alexandre at father Pierre Trudeau swearing in ceremony in 1980. (Ron Poling / CP Photo)

Rempel’s amazing Twitterstorm kicks off Conservative leadership race

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Michelle Rempel, an outgoing junior minister from Calgary, welcomed herself to the Conservative leadership sweepstakes with a late-night, girl-power Twitter rant.

So far, the race to succeed Stephen Harper as the next leader of Canada’s Conservative Party has been notable for the level of disinterest it’s drawn — not a single candidate has yet announced a campaign for the leadership.Canada Flag Icon

Despite wild speculation about who might want to take the reins of Canada’s soon-to-be opposition, some of the most well-known potential contenders have already ruled themselves out of contention — former Québec premier Jean Charest (himself a one-time leader of the old Progressive Conservative Party), former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, Saskatchewan’s wildly popular two-term premier Brad Wall, former foreign minister John Baird.

But there’s one potential candidate who isn’t being coy about her intentions.

It’s Michelle Rempel, a 35-year-old MP from Calgary who’s been in office only since 2011. Born in Winnipeg and of partial French Canadian ancestry, she worked in development at the University of Calgary before jumping to politics, winning the by-election when Jim Prentice left federal politics for the private sector (and before Prentice returned to provincial politics for a disastrous run leading Alberta’s government). She quickly made a splash in the House of Commons and in 2013, Harper recognized her talents by appointing her as a junior minister for western economic diversification.

In an odd — and at turns, confident, caustic and compelling — Twitter rant in the middle of the night on October 22, Rempel made the case for her potential leadership, sometimes making the case against casual misogyny in everyday politics that would make Hillary Rodham Clinton proud.

It’s worth reading in full: Continue reading Rempel’s amazing Twitterstorm kicks off Conservative leadership race

Harper’s legacy is the birth of a modern 21st century Canadian conservatism

Outgoing prime minister Stephen Harper is the only leader that Canada’s modern Conservative Party has ever known. (Facebook)

Next week, for the first time since 2002, Stephen Harper will neither be Canada’s prime minister nor opposition leader. Canada Flag Icon

At the same time that Stephen Harper was on stage conceding defeat to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, he announced (via a statement) that he would indeed be stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party, a position that he has held since 2003 when the party first came into being.

In the days ahead, the Conservative Party will decide how to appoint a caretaker interim leader pending a full leadership election to choose the party’s second leader.

Harper leaves behind a mixed legacy, like any prime minister.

For Canada’s conservatives, Harper wasn’t just a three-term prime minister, though his nine-year tenure will be longer than all but five prime ministers in Canadian history. He’s the tribune who led the Canadian right out of the wilderness of opposition and the man who brought the Canadian west back into the national conversation that had focused too long on Toronto commercial matters, constitutional crises, bilingualism and appeasing the Quebeckers.

In retrospect, it’s amazing that it took just three years for Harper to take power after engineering the December 2003 merger between his Canadian Alliance, the upstart prairie and western movement that brought a more full-throated, US-style, socially conservative attitude to national politics, and the more troubled Progressive Conservative Party. By the 2000s, the PCs were a relic of the eastern elite, and the party never fully recovered from the 1993 election, when it lost all but two seats in the House of Commons.

Incredibly, as the Conservative Party looks to choose Harper’s successor in the weeks and months ahead, he is the only leader that the current Conservative Party has known — not counting, of course, the two living former Tory prime ministers Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, neither of whom ever completely warmed to the Calgarian warrior from the west.

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RELATED: Live-blogging Canada’s election results

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At just 56 years old, Harper certainly didn’t look or act like a leader (or prime minister) in a hurry for retirement. He looked mostly like someone who believed, until too late, that leftist and moderate voters would split between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), giving the Conservatives yet another path to government by plurality vote. To his misfortune (and to the NDP’s), that didn’t happen.

Post-election reports reveal that Harper was considering a pledge not to seek a fifth term after 2015. But having only won his first majority government in 2011, Harper might have easily stuck around to run for a fifth mandate if he’d survived October 19. But in shooting for a fourth consecutive term, Harper knew well that he was facing long odds attempting to repeat what only Conservative John Macdonald and Liberal Wilfrid Laurier accomplished before.

Coupled with the onset of a mild economic recession, it was always an uphill fight for Harper. He can walk away from the election result with his head held high, having remade Canadian conservatism and nudged Canada toward greater fiscal responsibility, more enthusiasm for free trade and presided over a generally more unified Canadian entity.  Continue reading Harper’s legacy is the birth of a modern 21st century Canadian conservatism

Nine things to watch as Canada’s next Trudeau era begins

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Defying expectations in August that pitted the Liberal Party in third place at the beginning of the election campaign in August, Justin Trudeau has now won a clear majority government and a mandate for change in Canada’s 42nd federal election.Canada Flag Icon

So what does that mean for Canada, for US-Canadian relations and for Canada’s role in the world in the weeks and months ahead?

Here are nine policy areas to keep an eye on as Trudeau begins the rapid transition to 24 Sussex Drive, appoints a cabinet and tackles a full agenda of issues that could dominate what will likely be a full four-year term with the kind of parliamentary mandate that should make it much more easier than Trudeau ever expected to enact his policy preferences.

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Climate change. As the Paris summit on climate change approaches in November, Canada’s government will go from being one of the most skeptical participants at the conference to one of the most enthusiastic supporters of action to reduce carbon emissions. Keep an eye on Stéphane Dion, the former Liberal leader from 2006 and 2008 and a former environmental minister, to play a vocal and supportive role. Nevertheless, global climate change policy is mostly set by the G-2 — i.e., the United States and China. So Trudeau’s role at the summit, while productive, will be more about style than any actual substance. Joyce Murray, a popular left-wing MP and British Columbia’s former environmental minister, who was the runner-up to Trudeau in the 2013 Liberal contest, is also a rising star to watch on environmental matters.

Economic policy. At the start of the campaign, the traditionally more centrist Liberals advanced a tax policy to the left of the New Democratic Party (NDP) by promising a middle-class tax cut to be paid for by slightly higher taxes on those who earn roughly more $200,000 annually. During the campaign, as Canada officially slipped into a shallow recession, Trudeau doubled-down by pledging to engage in deficit spending over the next three years to stabilize Canada’s economy, protect jobs and boost infrastructure. It was this move, again outflanking the NDP (whose leader Thomas Mulcair promised to maintain the Conservative Party’s devotion to balanced budgets), that may have convinced voters that Trudeau, and not Mulcair, represented the most striking contrast with Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

Ralph Goodale, a former finance minister under Paul Martin; Bill Morneau, a 52-year-old newcomer first elected last night from the Toronto’s business world and Scott Brison, a former Progressive Conservative MP who defected to the Liberals over a decade ago, could all be leading contenders for finance minister. Continue reading Nine things to watch as Canada’s next Trudeau era begins

Live-blogging Canada’s election results

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Will Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party win a majority government or a minority government? Will prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives emerge with the largest number of seats? How far could the New Democratic Party fall? Canada Flag Icon

Join Suffragio at 8 p.m. ET for live analysis of the 42nd Canadian federal election.

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1:25 am. It’s time to wrap things up here on the East Coast. Some of the final numbers might yet change, but the live blog will end with the latest numbers — both in terms of vote share and the seats of the House of Commons.

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1:15 am. Another Liberal grandee worth watching is Stéphane Dion (pictured above), who unexpectedly won the Liberal leadership in 2006 after Paul Martin’s election defeat. Dion, a former environmental minister and intergovernmental affairs minister, easily won reelection in his Montreal-based riding. He’s one of the few remaining links not only to the Martin frontbench but to the Chrétien frontbench. It’s nearly certain that he will play some high-profile role, at least initially, in the Trudeau government — especially with the high-stakes climate change summit in Paris approaching next month.

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1:01 am. Ironically, Bloc hardliner Mario Beaulieu (pictured above), whose year-long leadership proved so disastrous, was elected from his La Pointe-de-l’Île riding tonight, pushing the NDP into a narrow third place.

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12:51 am. One of the people to watch in the next Liberal government is Joyce Murray, the runner-up to Trudeau in the 2013 election. An MP from Vancouver, Murray has taken a much more conciliatory approach to the NDP and the Green Party.

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12:43 am. Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark (pictured above), who defeated Pierre Trudeau in the 1979 election, is discussing the two Trudeaus on CBC:

‘I have to say, his performance in the campaign has been extraordinary… he demonstrated who he was.  His father had clearly proven his essence and strength. Justin Trudeau has done the same thing. They are very different people, but one of the things they have in common is they reflected their age, they reflected the generation they were elected to led. Both of them, as Justin Trudeau indicated tonight, were optimists, I think the son a little more enthusiastically than the father.’

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12:41 am. CBC has now called the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence in Toronto for Marco Mendicino, who will defeat the outgoing Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver (pictured above). That removes yet another potential leadership contender and a potential interim leader.

12:35 am. Not to take anything away from the massively impressive Liberal victory, but this isn’t the best speech I’ve ever heard, even from Trudeau. It’s rambling, and phrases like ‘a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’ do not project the kind of gravitas that he will need to demonstrate in the two-week transition to 24 Sussex Drive.

12:32 am. Trudeau talking about meeting a woman in a hijab, who said she was voting Liberal ‘to make sure her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life and the government will protect those rights.’

But note that the niqab wasn’t a complete loser for Harper, especially in Quebec, where the Conservatives will double their seats to 10 and where the Bloc will also make gains. I fear that this story isn’t over yet.

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12:14 am. Trudeau takes a victory lap against the sometimes harsh personal campaign that his opponents ran against him: ‘This is what positive politics can do, this is what a positive, hopeful vision and a platform and a team together can make happen.’ It’s sort of spiking the ball against Harper and even Mulcair for the patronizing attitude that they took against Trudeau’s inexperience. Trudeau has been an MP only since 2008, and he won the Liberal leadership just five years later. The Conservatives ran ads openly asking whether Trudeau was up to the job, and Mulcair often criticized ‘Justin’ in patronizing terms, at times, in the campaign’s leadership debates.

12:11 am. Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new prime minister, is set to take the stage for his victory speech. Continue reading Live-blogging Canada’s election results

A region-by-region guide to Canada’s election

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who declined to run for reelection last year, showed up at an Etobicoke rally for prime minister Stephen Harper last week. (CBC)
Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who declined to run for reelection last year, showed up at an Etobicoke rally for prime minister Stephen Harper last week. (CBC)

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to predict the results of tonight’s federal election in Canada is the diversity of political views across a country that contains 10 provinces and three territories across over 3.85 million square miles. Canada Flag Icon

By the time the last polls close at 7 p.m. Pacific time, we may already have a good idea of who will lead Canada’s next government. Or we may be waiting into the wee hours of the morning as results from several hotly contested British Columbia ridings.

With plenty of three-way races pitting the Conservative Party of prime minister Stephen Harper against both the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau and the New Democratic Party (NDP) of opposition leader Thomas Mulcair, there’s room for plenty of fluidity on a riding-by-riding basis. The contest is even less predictable because it’s the first election to feature an expanded House of Commons that will grow from 308 to 338 seats.

All of this means that as returns come in, it’s important to know what to expect from each region of Canada, where political views vary widely.

The state of play after the last federal election in 2011. (Wikipedia)
The state of play after the last federal election in 2011. (Wikipedia)


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Ontario

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Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne hosted a large rally for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in August. (Facebook)

The most important battleground of them all, governments are won and lost in the country’s most populous province. Since the 2011 election, Canada has added 30 seats to the House of Commons, and 15 of those new seats are in Ontario, giving the province 121 of the 338 ridings across the country.  Continue reading A region-by-region guide to Canada’s election