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Politics Politics Briefing: Ford goes ahead with cuts to public health programs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced this morning that the provincial Progressive Conservative government would move ahead with cuts to funding of public health and childcare programs.

Mr. Ford said in a speech that he recognized his government moved too quickly earlier this year when cuts were first announced. He said they listened to critics and are postponing the changes until Jan. 1, 2020.

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Next year, municipalities in the province will have to cover 30 per cent of the budget of public health programs. Currently, the provincial government covers 100 per cent of the cost of many of the programs, and 25 per cent of some of them. Mr. Ford also said the province would fund less of the costs of daycare spaces than previously announced.

Mr. Ford said the changes are necessary as part of his government’s attempts to reduce the provincial deficit.

Jamie McGarvey, the mayor of Parry Sound and president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said he understood the challenges, but was not supportive of these cuts.

“If the goal is saving money, improving services for people, and showing greater respect for taxpayers, we wouldn’t start with public health or paramedic services,” he said.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Opposition MPs are hoping to get Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to testify at the ethics committee on Wednesday about his report into the SNC-Lavalin affair. Mr. Dion’s predecessor, Mary Dawson, testified at the committee in 2018 about her report that was critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his vacation on a private island owned by the Aga Khan.

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Lenore Zann, a Nova Scotia MLA who quit the NDP earlier this year to run for the Liberals federally, says the SNC-Lavalin affair exposed some of the age-old problems in politics. “That’s the way the boys play the game. And it’s still a boys’ club,” she told The Globe.

Mr. Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May marched in the Montreal Pride Parade on the weekend.

Environmental charities say they are being warned by Elections Canada that saying climate change is real could be counted as a partisan activity in the election.

The federal government says it is not impressed with Britain for stripping British citizenship from Jack Letts, an alleged terrorist who had been a dual British-Canadian citizen and is currently in Syria. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said the British government offloaded its responsibilities by making Mr. Letts a problem for Canada to solve on their own – not that they are inclined to act, on his behalf or that of others in his situation. “There is no legal obligation to facilitate their return. We will not expose our consular officials to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world,” a statement from Mr. Goodale’s office said.

And the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests show no sign of slowing down. Another major demonstration on the weekend had 1.7-million people in attendance, organizer said. (Although police pegged the figure at 128,000.) “We have the people’s support,” said Bonnie Leung, vice-convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front.

Colin Robertson (The Globe and Mail) on the international response to the Hong Kong protests: “The joint statement on Hong Kong by the Canadian and European Union foreign ministers calling for restraint, engagement and preservation of fundamental freedoms is a start. As a next step, why not create an eminent persons’ group to keep tabs on Hong Kong and make regular, public reports to G7 leaders?”

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John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Justin Trudeau’s responses to SNC-Lavalin: “On three occasions, Justin Trudeau or people around him made statements that the Ethics Commissioner’s report shows were untrue. It is remarkable that a prime minister and his most trusted advisers would make statements that were not borne out by the facts.”

Anne Kingston (Maclean’s) on Mr. Trudeau’s choice of words: “It even brings to mind his father’s defiant ‘Just watch me!’ line during the 1970 October Crisis. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was responding at the time to a reporter’s question about how he planned to restore order in Quebec. Days later, Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, leading to a police crack-down against dissidents—and a national controversy.”

Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on how Liberals feel about SNC-Lavalin: “From this point, their plan seems to involve having Mr. Trudeau continue answering questions about the affair (however unsatisfactorily) rather than putting him inside a bubble, in hope of exhausting reporters’ and others’ interest. Then they’ll try to drive each day’s agenda, either through policy announcements of their own or attacks on their opponents, even more than they otherwise might heading into a national campaign.”

Gloria Galloway (Ottawa Citizen) on the political fallout of the SNC-Lavalin affair: “For his part, Trudeau will have to do what he can to convince voters they were not bamboozled when he sold himself as a likeable guy who would govern by consensus. Accepting responsibility for what happened, as he did after the release of [ethics commissioner Mario] Dion’s report, will help that. Pointing out his disagreements with Dion, which he also did, will not.”

Wayne MacKay (The Globe and Mail) on the post-retirement activities of judges: “Retired judges are no longer bound by the principles that apply to sitting judges, such as abstention from political activities. Indeed, a retired judge would be legally eligible to be appointed to the Canadian Senate or exercise their constitutional right to run for public office. Nonetheless, we tend to find it jarring when retired judges are actively involved in high-profile political issues such as the SNC-Lavalin affair.”

Dale Smith (The Globe and Mail) on the politics of cutting legislators’ salaries: “But there is no more hollow political gesture than offering to cut one’s own salaries in times of fiscal difficulty. It’s symbolic, a message that politicians ‘feel your pain,’ but while it’s sold as fiscally prudent, the real cumulative impact is ultimately a drop in the bucket. And most importantly, such a move panders to the kind of populist sentiment that feeds the intoxicating myth that elected officials are fat cats, living high on the public dime, getting money for nothing. When this sentiment grows dominant, as it has in Alberta, it becomes a kind of virtue-signalling that inevitably weakens their own stature and affirms this noxious myth.”

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