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Politics briefing newsletter: Republicans win close shave in Georgia

Good morning,

$72.6-million[1] was spent on Canada s 2015 federal election, which lasted 78 days. Roughly $73-million[2] (Canadian) was spent on the special election for Georgia s 6th district, in which more than 60 days passed in between the first and second rounds of voting. After it all, Republican Karen Handel defeated[3] Democrat Jon Ossoff to win the seat 52 per cent to 48. The race had been hyped as a referendum on U.S. President Donald Trump and a bellwether for a 2018 midterm cycle during which Democrats face an uphill battle[4] to regain the House (241-194 Republican) and a daunting[5] task to win back the Senate (52-48 Republican). Democrats have been desperate for a victory at the ballot box in the Trump era but so far have been unable to turn a red seat blue. In four special elections where the seat was vacated by a Republican, Democrats have lost all four races. But the Republican margin in each victory was reduced significantly in each race: From 31 points to 7 in the Kansas 4th, 12 to 6 in Montana s lone seat, 23 to 4 in the Georgia 6th and 20 to 3 in the South Carolina 5th, the other election that was held last night. While there are few moral victories in politics, Democrats are showing strength in Republican strongholds and these results point to a shift that is slowly occurring in the U.S., one that may be exacerbated by a deeply unpopular[6] health-care bill and the steady trickle of news on the Trump-Russia[7] file.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay[8] in Ottawa and Mayaz Alam[9] in Toronto, with James Keller[10] in Vancouver. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here[11]. Let us know

CANADIAN HEADLINES

Members of Parliament are itchy to get back to their ridings for the summer, but they must stay in Ottawa at least one day longer to deal with Senate amendments[13] to the budget bill. Senators voted last night to remove automatic increases from a new tax on alcohol. Separately, Conservative senators have continued to delay[14] a final vote on a bill that seeks to make the national anthem more gender neutral. A major lawsuit challenging Canada s use of solitary confinement will press ahead[15], despite a bill tabled this week by the Liberals to restrict the practice.

The Commons veterans committee says the government should continue looking into the long-term health effects[16] of the antimalarial drug mefloquine, starting with contacting former soldiers who were given the medicine in the 1990s. The former head of Latvia s military says Canada and other NATO allies will have to remain[17] in Eastern Europe indefinitely to guard against future expansionism from Russian President Vladimir Putin. If the economy does well and oil prices go up again, maybe [Mr. Putin] won t need to use an external enemy to calm down internal problems, Retired lieutenant-general Raimonds Graube told The Globe. A major Ottawa think tank — which recently completed a government-commissioned report into the state of the media industry — appears to be leading a campaign[18] to persuade Canadians about a free-trade deal with China. The Public Policy Forum is headed by Edward Greenspon, a former editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail.

The Liberal government will make a wave of new patronage appointments this week as it begins to tackle a backlog of federal government and crown-corporation positions, iPolitics reports[19]. The government began yesterday with the announcement of an advisory council that will vet appointees to the CBC board. The council will be led by[20] retired Global/CTV broadcaster Tom Clark. And former House clerks and some MPs say they are surprised the acting House of Commons clerk didn t get a promotion[21].

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail)[22] on the new national security bill: This is really about new watchers to watch the watchers. Canadian spy agencies aren t really seeing their powers trimmed, not even the new powers they obtained under the Conservative anti-terror law. Mostly, they remain intact. Instead, there are more levels of approvals, a few tighter definitions of the limits, an Intelligence Commissioner to preauthorize surveillance activities and a big new review agency to watch how spy powers are used. (for subscribers)

Wesley Wark (The Globe and Mail)[23] on the same: Why is this big package a big surprise? Well, mostly because it eschews the easy and maybe politically expedient path of tinkering with the existing system. If Canada can make this new system work, it will return the country to the forefront of democracies determined to hold their security and intelligence systems to account, to avoid abuse and illegal activity, and to ensure sufficient public legitimacy. Canada may have restored its place in the world as it pertains to national security review and democratic controls, a place we gave up after 1984.

Natan Obed (The Globe and Mail)[24] on the Inuit language: Canada has dreamed up a myriad of ways to control its fiduciary relationship with Inuit, but at the same time has imagined we as Inuit are not Canadian enough to be worthy of services, supports and infrastructure deemed necessary for all other Canadians to thrive. Yet we have been resilient and work to address these challenges, such as our work to revitalize, maintain and increase the use of Inuktut.

Renu Mandhane (The Globe and Mail)[25] on what should come next for solitary: Under international human-rights law, no prisoners should spend more than 15 consecutive days in solitary confinement and people with mental-health disabilities should never be held for 22-24 hours a day with little or no human interaction. In light of these standards, Bill C-56 should be considered as a floor, not a ceiling. The provinces and territories, including Ontario, can, and should, do better.

Tammy Robert (Maclean s)[26] on the declining popularity of Saskatchewan s governing party: The real problem is simple but undeniable: in a province that has split its political perspective along the dividing line of old and new, there s now an old Brad Wall and a new one. And the Old Brad Wall used to get us and the New Brad Wall doesn t.

Nisa Malli (Policy Options)[27] on the future of the public service: As the public gets more engaged in policy issues, it is more important than ever for public servants to translate what we do and why; to explain the procedural, legal and ethical constraints that bind us; and to show the sweat and tears that go into the making of government. Many in my generation of bureaucrats are trying to figure how to navigate and balance our role in democracy as public servants and private citizens, our professional online presence and our personal one, our day job and our volunteer side projects. It s complicated, and it s critical to the future of our profession.

B.C. UPDATE

The imminent confidence vote that s expect to take down B.C. s Liberal minority government has focused attention on parliamentary rules that are hardly ever talked about, let alone put into practice. And no one s entirely sure how it will unfold. Who will become the Speaker? Will the NDP-Green power alliance survive? Will there be a snap election? To find out what happens next, check out our interactive explainer[28], where we ve mapped out how things are likely to unfold, and the numerous twists that could emerge along the way. And even though they could be days away from defeat, the governing BC Liberals plan to present a Throne Speech on Thursday that s expected to lay out a fresh set of promises designed to atone for the party s poor election result. And they re using the speech to mount what s effectively a second election campaign[29], with Premier Christy Clark making stops across the province to shore up support. The New Democrats and the Greens have staged similar events a tacit acknowledgement that all three parties are bracing for the possibility that the next step for the province is an election rather than an NDP government.

INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES

Queen Elizabeth II spoke in front of the U.K. parliament[30] today as part of the Queen s Speech. (It s the historical predecessor to Throne Speeches in Canada). The speech, which was written by the ruling Conservative Party but read out by the Queen as per parliamentary custom, focused on what the Tories agenda will be moving forward for the next two years and was dominated by Brexit. The speech scaled back on some of the campaign pledges British Prime Minister Theresa May made during an election campaign that saw her majority reduced to a tenuous minority. So shaky is that minority that no deal[31] has been reached to prop up the government between the Conservatives and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party despite more than 10 days of talks. Five feet. That s how far a Russian jet[32] was from a U.S. Air Force plane over the Baltic Sea. It s been several straight days that the U.S. and Russia have faced a close military encounter. On Monday, Russia threatened[33] a U.S. aircraft as part of the coalition in Syria in response to the U.S. shooting down a Syrian warplane[34] on Sunday. Diplomatic ties between the two countries are tense as well, with the U.S. sanctioning[35] 38 Russian individuals and organizations over the annexation of Crimea. Exxon Mobil. Shell. BP. These are just a few of energy powerhouses in the business world that are backing a carbon pricing plan in the U.S. that s being put forth by two Republicans as the most efficient and effective way to combat[36] global warming. While the rest of their party has largely ignored the impacts of human-made climate change, George Shultz and James Baker are putting forth the plan, which is supported by General Motors, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo. The plan is being billed as a tax and dividend piece of legislation that would replace less efficient regulations targeted at cutting emissions and would give a rebate to citizens.

In Brazil, federal police say that investigators have come across evidence that President Michel Temer received bribes[37]. Mr. Temer s support within the electorate is dwindling, with his approval rating now in the single digits. In light of the new evidence, investigators say they have enough to launch a formal investigation of Mr. Temer.

And the U.S. government consistently argued that the trove of classified documents leaked by Chelsea Manning were extremely harmful to national security. According to a Department of Defense report, however, the impact of the leaks did not adversely affect U.S. interests, BuzzFeed reports[38].

Lloyd Axworthy and Paul Heinbecker (The Globe and Mail)[39] on the refugee crisis: It is manifestly in the interests of all states to fix the broken refugee system. What is needed are innovations in public policy, new forms of international co-operation and governance, novel approaches to financing and business development to empower refugees, and new technologies to facilitate solutions for their plights. Political leaders, civil society and business need to unite to change the refugee narrative from one of risk to one of opportunity. No country is better placed than Canada to lead that effort.

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail)[40] on the Canada-U.S. relationship: Try as he might, Mr. Trump won t be able to break the continental ties that bind. Try as it might, Ottawa won t be able to cut them either. They re 150 years in the making. They re too embedded.

Shaista Aziz (The Globe and Mail)[41] on Finsbury Park and extremism: What drove this man to allegedly commit this act of terrorism? In order to answer this question, we need to understand the context behind the attack. It is vital if we really want to confront the roots of extremism. The attack in Finsbury Park took place against the backdrop of a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes, racist violence and an increase in far-right extremist activity in the U.K. We absolutely must not ignore the evidence.

Report Typo/Error[42]

Follow Chris Hannay on Twitter: @channay[43]

More Related to this Story

References

  1. ^ $72.6-million (www.cbc.ca)
  2. ^ Roughly $73-million (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ defeated (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ uphill battle (www.msnbc.com)
  5. ^ daunting (www.realclearpolitics.com)
  6. ^ deeply unpopular (www.huffingtonpost.ca)
  7. ^ Trump-Russia (www.theglobeandmail.com)
  8. ^ Chris Hannay (twitter.com)
  9. ^ Mayaz Alam (twitter.com)
  10. ^ James Keller (twitter.com)
  11. ^ here (www.theglobeandmail.com)
  12. ^

Liberals table bill to remodel national security services, oversight

OTTAWA Cyberwarfare. Data sets. Terrorist disruption powers. Welcome to a brave new world of Canada s efforts to counterterrorism abroad and at home.

With the National Security Act 2017, the Liberal government wants to empower Canada s ultra-secret electronic spies at the CSE Canada s counterpart to the Americans NSA to operate offensively in foreign cyberspace. But there will be more watchful eyes on the spies here at home.

The sweeping new bill introduced Tuesday proposes a new super-watchdog agency to review all national security and intelligence players, and to put CSE and CSIS under tighter ministerial and judicial control. Overall, the legal and constitutional framework for Canada s national security actors would dramatically change.

The showpiece is a proposal to stand up a big watchdog agency to be called the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency with broad powers and government-wide authority. It would replace two other watchdog offices that until now were more narrowly focused on CSIS and CSE alone.

It would be able to compel testimony and documents from 17 federal agencies and departments who have national security responsibilities, including for the first time the Canada Border Services Agency. It would have responsibility to oversee the cyberspies at the Communications Security Establishment or CSE, the traditional spooks at Canadian Security and Intelligence Service or CSIS, the Mounties, the border guards at CBSA, aviation and transport authorities at Transport Canada, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship as well as the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada or Fintrac.

Only the RCMP s civilian review and complaints commission would remain in place, but the RCMP s national security activities would be reviewed by the new agency, to be known as NSIRA.

However, the bill does not entirely ditch the controversial terrorism disruption powers CSIS got under the last Conservative government. Rather, it proposes to explicitly define and limit those measures that CSIS would be allowed to employ.

With judicial authorization, CSIS agents would be limited to actions such as disrupting or destroying a terror suspect s communications, documents, equipment, financial transactions; or faking documents, interfering with a person s movements, or impersonating an individual other than a police officer.

The key, said Goodale, is that CSIS would have to first see whether another agency like the RCMP is better placed to act; and a court would only approve any CSIS action that infringes on a Charter right if CSIS shows it is a reasonable limit on the right.

The Liberal government was quick to claim it struck just the right balance.

Canadians expect their governments to do two things: protect our communities and uphold our rights and freedoms. Getting that balance right has always been the focus of the Liberal Party, and that s exactly what we re focusing on doing in government, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The proposal for a massive new national security review agency, separate from and in addition to the proposal last year to create a national security committee of parliamentarians, would at long last address criticism by several judicial inquiries and parliamentary committees that the national security apparatus operates in silos.

The stovepipes are gone, said Goodale.

The NSIRA whatever I have to get used to the new acronyms it will have complete jurisdiction to examine activities of CSE, whatever they are, along with other actors in the national security field.

The bill would for the first time enable the CSE, the foreign signals intelligence gathering agency, to act offensively not just defensively, to preventively jam, disrupt or destroy foreign threat actors that are deemed a risk, not just to the government of Canada, but to Canadian interests more broadly defined. That could include defending military personnel or assets abroad in a war zone. Or it could mean attacking foreign websites that seek to radicalize Canadians to terrorism. Such active cyber operations would require the permission of two ministers- of national defence and foreign affairs.

Introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, the bill would establish new rules around the collection and storage of personal data by CSIS. And it sets up an independent Intelligence Commissioner to be a sober second set of eyes on warrants requested by CSIS and the CSE, and approved by ministerial authorization.

It addresses other Liberal promises, such as narrowing the definition of terrorist propaganda to target counseling others to commit an offence; narrowing the information-sharing powers of government departments to disclosure of information that is strictly necessary and related to national security mandates; and improving the appeal process for the no fly list.

But reforms will not go far enough for many.

Michael Vonn, of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the super-watchdog agency is long overdue and urgently needed. But Vonn said the rights advocacy group remains disappointed that so much of the old Conservatives law is intact.

Vonn said the Liberals attempts to rein in intrusive information-sharing provisions of the Conservatives regime are an improvement but they speak to tinkering as opposed to reform. He said too little was done to address the dreadful lack of due process protections in the no-fly scheme.

Conservative MP Erin O Toole decried the rolling back of some of the former government s measures, saying the burden would be too high on law enforcement and prevent agencies from being effective.

The NDP said it didn t go far enough to address Canadians concerns about the old law s infringement on privacy rights. NDP public safety critic Matthew Dub criticized the failure to bar CSIS collection of associated data of Canadians who are not deemed threats. The promise was to fix the bill, he said.

Canadians have made it very clear that they do not trust the NDP with their safety and they do not trust the Conservatives with their rights, Goodale fired back.

Canadians expect their governments to stay ahead of the myriad complex and evolving threats in the world today, he told reporters. The horrific terror attacks in Manchester and in London and those closer to home demonstrate that challenge.

Goodale pointed to cyberthreats like the global Ransomware virus, espionage and foreign interference as equally complex and active threats. He said rapidly evolving technology, an unstable international political environment and emboldened adversaries mean Canada s national security agencies need a legal and constitutional framework to both operate effectively, protect Canadians rights, and retain their trust and confidence.

Overall, the Liberal government guesses the cost will be $97 million, with about $70 million of that new money and the rest reallocated from existing watchdog agencies.

In a surprise move, the proposed law would repeal the Criminal Code s provision for investigative hearings a post-9/11 measure that was only ever invoked once, in the course of an Air India investigation, but never actually used. The government says that shows it is an unnecessary tool for agencies to retain.

University of Ottawa law professor and national security law expert Craig Forcese posted a series of observations on the bill, saying it bears the hallmarks of careful deliberation, puzzling through problems. Totally different world from hell that was C-51 process.

He said the bill provides huge gains on review with the proposed broad review agency NSIRA eliminating siloed & stovepiped review as well as gains on real-time oversight of national security, through the new Intelligence Commissioner.

People will disagree on different solutions to problems, wrote Forcese, but this is the biggest reform of Canadian national security law since 1984 and creation of CSIS. We ve need this for a while.

Security high as former fugitive Steven Skinner in court on murder charge

As guards escorted former fugitive Steven Skinner from the parking lot into Dartmouth provincial court Monday morning, the mother of Stacey Adams, the man he is accused of killing six years ago, began to yell at him.

“I want him to see me,” said Gloria Adams. “I want him to look at the woman who raised that young man.”

Stacey Adams had just turned 20 when he was shot and killed in the driveway of a home in Lake Echo, N.S., on April 10, 2011. Skinner is charged with second-degree murder in his death and police believe he fled the country soon after the homicide. Monday was Skinner’s first court appearance on the charge after he was finally returned to Nova Scotia from Venezuala. Skinner had been on the run for five years when he was arrested on Margarita Island, Venezuela, in May 2016[1]. He has been in custody ever since and Canadian officials went through a lengthy extradition process.

“I don’t know what his life story is, but I know what my son’s life story is,” said Gloria Adams. “All I want now is for him to be held accountable.

“Let’s get this over with so I can get back my life, because he can’t give me back my son.”

Security High As Former Fugitive Steven Skinner In Court On Murder Charge

Stacey Adams had just turned 20 when he was shot to death in Lake Echo, N.S. (Facebook)

In the courtroom, Gloria Adams sat on a bench in the public gallery as close as she could to Skinner, who was just five metres away during his court appearance. He remains in custody and is scheduled to return to court July 5. About two dozen supporters of Gloria Adams’s family were behind her, many of them wearing shirts with her son’s name on them. While she is glad to finally see Skinner in court, she said the last six years have been the worst of her life.

“I went into a rage that as a human being and as a mother I never thought was capable of having,” said Adams.

Security tight

An extradition decision from a court in Venezuala described how Skinner, a former mixed-martial-arts fighter, allegedly tried to bribe his way out of a Venezuelan prison while he was being held following his arrest[2]. Skinner is named in the decision as a member of an illegal drug organization that police dubbed the Belanger Group. Police allege it was headed by Ryan Belanger, the owner of the house where Adams was killed, and allege the group trafficked drugs in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia, according to the ruling. The group allegedly imported cocaine from Mexico, according to the extradition ruling, and Skinner’s contacts included associates of the Hells Angels.

Dozens of police officers and sheriffs were on hand for Skinner’s arrival at the Dartmouth courthouse. Six sheriffs and four Halifax Regional Police officers were in the courtroom for his brief appearance.

In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Skinner is facing several charges in connection with an incident in Lower Sackville on July 22, 2009, including aggravated assault, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon, uttering threats and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

References

  1. ^ arrested on Margarita Island, Venezuela, in May 2016 (www.cbc.ca)
  2. ^ allegedly tried to bribe his way out of a Venezuelan prison while he was being held following his arrest (www.cbc.ca)
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