Politics Briefing: Passport processing disrupted by federal public workers’ strike
Canadians can expect to encounter severe disruptions to passport processing – among other essential services – as a result of a national federal public workers’ strike that began early Wednesday.
More than 100,000 federal public servants represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, including more than 30,000 workers at the Canada Revenue Agency, walked off their jobs after the union and the government failed to make any substantial progress on negotiations for a new collective agreement. Both sides remain at odds over a number of key issues, including wages and remote work.
Passport applications and the subsequent delivery of new or renewed passports will only be processed for Canadians experiencing humanitarian or emergency situations and Canadians residing abroad, as long as the strike continues, according to the government.
The government defines emergency situations as applying to those who depend on travel for their income security, those who have to travel for medical reasons, or those who experience a family illness or death.
Passport processing offices across the country were already experiencing substantial backlogs when pandemic-related restrictions were lifted a year ago, and travel volume began picking up. The government has since hired more than 1,000 new personnel to clear those backlogs.
The strike also takes place ahead of a crucial tax-filing deadline of May 1. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, however, the tax deadline will not be extended given that there will be no delay in the electronic processing of tax filings, which are done automatically. Disruptions can be expected in processing some income tax and benefits returns filed by paper, as well as increased wait times for CRA call centres.
Future of work reporter Vanmala Subramaniam and deputy Ottawa bureau chief Bill Curry report here.
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CANADA CANNOT MEET NATO SPENDING TARGET: PM – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told NATO officials privately that Canada will never meet the military alliance’s defence spending target, according to a leaked secret Pentagon assessment obtained by The Washington Post. Story here, from the Post.
COURTROOM DELAYS QUASH CHARGES AGAINST FORMER SCIENTIST – A Canadian judge has invoked courtroom delays to quash charges against a former Agriculture Canada crop scientist who was accused of secretly receiving payments from a Chinese university. Story here.
ALBERTA DRUG TREATMENT PLAN REBUKED BY EXPERTS – Experts in addictions, law and criminology are rebuking the Alberta government over potential legislation that would force people into drug treatment against their will, calling it “incarceration rebranded.” Story here.
QUEBEC SCRAPPING $6.5-BILLION TUNNEL PLAN – Premier François Legault is abandoning his government’s plan to build a multi-purpose tunnel linking Quebec City to its south shore in favour of one that will be for public transit only. Story here.
GOVERNMENT TO LOCK IN EQUALIZATION PLAN UNTIL 2029 – The federal government is aiming to lock in the equalization formula for payments to provinces until 2029, as part of an omnibus motion in Parliament that seeks to implement budget measures. Story here.
AFGHANS HEADED FOR CANADA STRANDED IN ALBANIA – More than 150 Afghans are stranded in Albania after receiving Canadian travel documents that Ottawa says are inauthentic. One source close to the matter said 163 FIFA-connected Afghans, barred from entering Canada, have spent the past year and a half stranded in an Albanian hotel. Story here.
CHOW PICKS UP ENDORSEMENT IN MAYORAL BID – Former NDP MP Olivia Chow has picked up a high-profile endorsement in her bid to become Toronto mayor. Gil Penalosa, who came a distant second in the last mayoral election says he will back Ms. Chow in her bid after dropping out of the current race. Story here from CP24.
ACCESS REQUEST HIGHLIGHTS REACTION TO FREELAND DISNEY+ COMMENTS – Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attempted to relate to Canadians’ cost-of-living concerns with a personal anecdote about cutting her family’s Disney+ subscription, but e-mails sent to her office and obtained under an access-to-information request show that Freeland’s attempt to connect with Canadians made her a villain to some. Story here from CBC.
MPS BILINGUALISM, QUESTION PERIOD BREVITY IMPRESS SCOTTISH PARLIAMENTARIANS – A delegation of Scottish parliamentarians is so impressed by the seamless bilingualism of Canadian MPs – and their brevity during Question Period – they plan to head home and see if they should emulate them in Edinburgh. Story here.
TORY CBC CONCERNS DO NOT APPLY TO RADIO CANADA: QUEBEC TORY – The federal Conservatives’ top Quebec Tory says the party’s concerns about the CBC do not apply to the broadcaster’s French-language wing, but one of its senators suggests there is a need to look at its mandate. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, April. 19, accessible here.
HARPER WEIGHS IN ON ALBERTA ELECTION – Former prime minister Stephen Harper, who came off the political sidelines to endorse Pierre Poilievre for the federal Conservative leadership last year, is publicly expounding on another race. In a tweet Alberta Premier Danielle Smith posted here, Mr. Harper is endorsing Ms. Smith’s United Conservative Party in the May. 29 provincial election.
SUNWING VACATION FOR OFFICIAL OPPOSITION LEADER – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family vacation last Christmas has been in the spotlight, but federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre opened up Wednesday about his own vacation at the same time. The Official Opposition leader was asking Mr. Trudeau about the probity of he and his family having a vacation last Christmas at the Jamaica home of a wealthy donor to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. (Story here from CBC.) “I had a vacation at the same time,” said Mr. Poilievre. “It was a Sunwing package, and I did stay five hours waiting at the airport.” Mr. Poilievre, who did not say where he went, acknowledged the need for Mr. Trudeau’s security and government aircraft, but is saying Mr. Trudeau should pay back the cost of the trip so he does not owe anything to his hosts.
BERTHIAUME WRITES -30- ON JOURNALISM CAREER – Ottawa political reporter Lee Berthiaume is in his last week at The Canadian Press before he takes up a new unnamed challenge outside journalism. Mr. Berthiaume said, in a social media posting, that he has been in the business for 25 years. “Journalism in Canada is facing a range of challenges, from layoffs and closures to allegations of fake news and misinformation. There is a crisis of faith to go with a crisis of funds,” Mr. Berthiaume wrote in a Twitter thread that begins here. “I don’t know what will happen, but I am reassured when I look around The Canadian Press’s Ottawa bureau and elsewhere, and see the next generation of reporters who are picking up the torch.”
DION TAKES A VOW OF SILENCE – Former federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion is taking a vow of silence. Mr. Dion, who stepped down due to health issues in February after five years in the job that saw him weigh in on the conduct of such high-profile political players as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, declared Wednesday he declined more than 10 interview requests on Tuesday. He wrote here that he has declined such requests since he retired and will do so until a replacement commissioner is named. Without elaborating, Mr. Dion wrote he expects that replacement to be announced in late 2023.
JOLY NAMES SPECIAL INDO-PACIFIC ENVOY – Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has named Ian McKay, Canada’s ambassador to Japan, as Canada’s Special Envoy to the Indo-Pacific, responsible for advising the federal government as well as Canada’s network of diplomatic missions in the Indo-Pacific to ensure co-ordination of a whole-of-government approach on Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. There’s a story on the strategy, released last November, here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, attended the national Liberal caucus meeting, attended Question Period and met with Suzanne Clark, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is visiting Ottawa. Mr. Trudeau also spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet attends Question Period.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, attended the NDP caucus meeting, did a media availability with journalists and attended Question Period.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, the Globe’s U.S. correspondent, Adrian Morrow talks about this moment that has U.S. states targeting drag performances. Last month, Tennessee became the first state to pass-anti drag law and thirteen other U.S. states also have bills looking to ban or restrict drag performances. Plus there is comment from Brian Hernandez, a performer in San Antonio Texas about their experience living in a state that’s trying to ban what they do for a living. The Decibel is here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why Justin Trudeau is sowing confusion about a foreign influence registry: “Asked this week about the need for Ottawa to create a foreign influence registry, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the internment of Japanese-Canadians in the Second World War and warned against the dangers of creating “registries of foreigners in Canada.” The one thing has nothing to do with the other, as we will show. So the question becomes, why is Mr. Trudeau sowing confusion about a registry that exists in the United States and Australia, and which, somehow, has not led to the mass incarceration of citizens in those countries?”
Alex Bozikovic (The Globe and Mail) on how Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s plan to move the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place ruins them both: “Fifty years ago, Ontario built fanciful and lavish sites of knowledge and culture: the sparkling waterfront landscape of Ontario Place, and the concrete caves of the Ontario Science Centre. If you grew up in Southern Ontario, you have magical memories of these places. Now, Premier Doug Ford is preparing to ruin them both. The Ford government announced a plan on Tuesday to move the science centre to the waterfront at Ontario Place. A science museum had been rumoured for years – but rather than the science centre expanding into a second location, its current building will close.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how the real case for defunding the CBC isn’t the one Pierre Poilievre is making: “The case for reforming medicare is not so that we can get even with the doctors. Yet that – reform as vengeance – is essentially the basis of Pierre Poilievre’s campaign to defund the CBC. The CBC says things that conflict with Conservative Party dogma. Therefore, a Conservative government will take away its funding. It isn’t a lot more complicated than that. Hence the performance art of the past few days, in which the putative next prime minister of Canada issued a public appeal to Elon Musk, the Emperor Nero of Twitter, to formally label the CBC as “government-funded media.” That may seem obvious – the CBC receives more than a billion dollars a year from the government – but that is not the sense Mr. Poilievre had in mind.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on Alberta releasing a new climate plan based on the idea that it, not Ottawa, is best-positioned to implement policy: “Alberta is releasing an emissions reduction plan on Wednesday premised on the idea that the province, not Ottawa, is best positioned to implement environmental policies. For the first time, the province as a whole will have a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 – the same aim as major oil sands producers, and the federal commitment for all of Canada. But the province argues unlike Ottawa’s plan for emission reductions, its plan will be grounded in reality – there is a large gap between the federal promised target for reducing the oil and gas industry’s emissions and what an internal analysis, or Alberta, says is achievable by 2030.”
Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on whether Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre will ever move his message beyond anger: “As a nation we tend to shy away from extremes,” said our late great Washington ambassador Allan Gotlieb, “As some wit put it, Canadians are like vichyssoise; we are cold, half-French and difficult to stir.” So why is Pierre Poilievre trying to get us so mad? Why does anger seep from his every pore? Why does the Conservative Leader insist on being – to borrow a phrase from former U.S. vice-president Spiro Agnew – our “nattering nabob of negativism?” Opposition leaders of course are supposed to oppose. But has there ever been a Conservative opposition leader so rabid, so given over to the politics of destruction? Brian Mulroney, Bob Stanfield, Joe Clark weren’t like that. Stephen Harper was bitter but he didn’t engage in character assaults like his understudy, Pierre. John Diefenbaker could wield the hatchet but it was often with glee in his eye. A lot of it was show. With Pierre the Polarizer, there’s only one card in the playbook. The attack card.”
George Melnyk and Crystena Parker-Shandal (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on Roxham Road’s primary lesson: Canada is neither a closed- nor open-door society: “After an amendment last month to Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which extended the STCA across the two countries’ entire shared land border, the Roxham Road story is now behind us. But what lies ahead? Last year, 40,000 irregular migrants crossed the border into Canada at Roxham Road. As part of the new agreement with the U.S., we will now accept 15,000 controlled entrants from the U.S.-Mexico border. That is 25,000 fewer people to process, house, and look after. It’s allowed a breather for Quebec and Ontario, who complained they couldn’t handle any more irregular migration. On the surface, it looks like a good deal. But is it?”
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