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Politics Briefing: Canada’s most popular premier steps down

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announces he is retiring from politics during a press conference at the Legislative Building in Regina, Sask., on Thursday, August 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor.

Good morning,

If you're looking for a job, the conservative parties in Western Canada have some openings.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced his retirement from politics on Facebook yesterday. In the video, Mr. Wall said his Saskatchewan Party is ready for a "renewal" but he plans to stay on as premier until his successor is chosen. After years as one of Canada's most popular premiers, Mr. Wall's approval ratings dipped slightly this year. He has been a vocal provincial opponent of the carbon tax and a defender of the Canadian oil and gas industry.

That means the Saskatchewan Party, the province's right-leaning alternative to the NDP, will be looking for a new leader. It joins the B.C. Liberals who are leaderless after Christy Clark stepped down, and the United Conservative Party of Alberta, a new party that merges the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives, which also doesn't yet have a leader.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Eleanor Davidson in Toronto, with Chris Hannay in Ottawa and James Keller 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. Let us know what you think.

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The Prime Minister's Office says Justin Trudeau will offer an apology for residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, which were left out of a 2008 apology given by then-prime-minister Stephen Harper. The office did not say when the apology would come.

Hyeon Soo Lim, a Canadian pastor who was released from North Korean prison this week, appears to be in good health. That suggests his release may have been a political calculation on the part of the North Korean government, which is currently in a war of words with the United States.

B.C.'s NDP government has laid out its plan to push back against Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The new environment minister, George Heyman, says the province will seek to join a sweeping legal challenge set to be heard in the Federal Court of Appeal in October. In the meantime, Mr. Heyman says Kinder Morgan will not be permitted to start construction on public lands. The legal maneuvering sets the stage for a conflict with the federal and Alberta governments, which both maintain B.C. has no right to block an interprovincial pipeline. The government has brought in former MP and former judge Thomas Berger, led an inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and served as a B.C. Supreme Court justice, to provide advice. Read our explainer about the legal case and the issues it will examine.

The federal government and B.C. has launched audits targeting three private health clinics amid allegations of double dipping. The audit will focus on three private clinics — one of several dozen in the province — and examine whether they are billing patients extra for medically necessary care, a violation of the Canada Health Act. A Globe and Mail investigation published in June found significant extra billing by physicians through private doctor-owned clinics, much of it in B.C., where such clinics have led the country in growing the private, for-profit health-care sector.

And a deal between the federal government and local Inuit is leading to more protections for a giant area in Canada's North known as the Serengeti of the Arctic for its incredible biodiversity.

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Brad Wall: "Mr. Wall's departure will have a huge impact on the political dynamics of the West, forces that seem to be constantly shifting. With Alberta's new United Conservative Party far ahead of the governing NDP in every poll, some were imagining a day when former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney was calling the shots in his province, with his ideological soulmate in charge in Saskatchewan – both taking turns tweaking the Liberal Party noses in Ottawa."

Andrew MacDougall (The Globe and Mail) also on Brad Wall: "Mr. Wall has every reason to be proud. Saskatchewan is no longer a place people look to leave; there are more people, working more and in better jobs, and enjoying better services than under previous governments. But after a long stretch of solid growth, Saskatchewan faces significant challenges thanks to a slowing resource sector. A great politician – a description certainly affixed to this Wall – knows when the mood is about to shift and gets ahead of it or, failing that, gets out of the way."

Colby Cosh (National Post) again on Brad Wall: "Wall was the first really talented Saskatchewan politician to be reared outside the NDP greenhouse in generations, and although the Saskatchewan Party now has the advantages of incumbency, it may be a while before it finds another leader of Wall's calibre."

The Globe and Mail editorial board on border preclearance: "In a perfect world, law-abiding travellers would move across the Canada-United States border quickly and seamlessly. But in a perfect world, there would also have been no 9/11, and the threat of terrorism wouldn't exist. Those realities have created a tension between the Canadian desire to speed people across the border with minimal delay, and the American desire to carefully screen every visitor."

Robyn Urback (CBC) on the Alberta MLA who sublet his taxpayer-funded apartment: "The detail that's particularly remarkable about this little episode is that Fildebrandt trotted out the Mike Duffy excuse in defending himself against accusations of double-dipping. Of all the people from whom to borrow a line."


So much for a relaxing holiday. In the midst of his 17-day vacation, U.S. President Donald Trump ratcheted up his fiery rhetoric towards North Korea. This morning, Mr. Trump tweeted "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" Yesterday, he warned that Kim Jong-Un is "not getting away with" his threats to attack Guam or the United States. "He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific… this is a whole new ball game," Mr. Trump wrote. North Korea has issued plans to launch four missiles in mid-August that will land near Guam.

And who exactly is the man with the guts to torment the United States? The New York Times sheds light on North Korea's leader, the "moody young man with a nuclear arsenal."

As North Korea and the U.S. continue to trade threats, China finds itself in a tight spot. The country has traditionally been an ally of North Korea, but an editorial published in Chinese newspaper Global Times weighed a variety of options for China if either the U.S. or North Korea launches a missile. It argued that China's mutual defence treaty with North Korea has been violated by North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. However, it also suggested that if the U.S. were to strike Korea first, then China would "prevent them from doing so."

Smugglers threw over 280 migrants into the sea off the coast of Yemen over the past two days. In two separate incidents, the migrants were forced from their boats as they attempted to make their way to Gulf countries. At least 50 people drowned, and over 30 are missing. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the tragedy stresses how the international community "must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger."

Israel is building a massive new wall surrounding the Gaza Strip. The new wall will be underground, and is designed to cut off tunnels running under the border the Israeli border. The wall is plunge nearly 40 metres underground, and will cost over $1-billion. 

And Wednesday's unusual revelation that American diplomats in Cuba suffered hearing loss caused by an advanced sonic device now has a Canadian connection. At least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba was treated for "unusual symptoms" of hearing loss, Global Affairs spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said yesterday.

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Trump's nuclear rhetoric: "Donald Trump is besieged, crisis-ridden. As presidential history heapingly demonstrates, nothing helps a White House occupant in trouble at home better than engagement in muscle-flexing abroad. There are few faster ways to political recovery than banging the war drums. It shifts the public focus to matters of more consequence. It takes the stakes to the stratosphere. From domestic turmoil, it's the great diversion.

Presidents far more honourable than Mr. Trump, who is no stranger to reckless behaviour and is bent on restoring American supremacy, have played war games to feather their political nests. It will be not in the least surprising if he ominously does the same."

The New York Times editorial board on fading democracy in Myanmar: "There were high hopes when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party delivered a crushing electoral blow to Myanmar's decades-long military dictatorship. But the ensuing year and a half has provided cause for dismay as well as for hope. The army's brutal repression of the Muslim Rohingya minority has only intensified, with quiet acceptance from Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. Ethnic conflicts have increased in the face of her tepid attempts at conciliation."

Video: Flashback: Nuclear drill brings 1951 New York City to a standstill
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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More


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