ontario news watch

‘If you start having public servants releasing … highly classified intelligence, you are trending in the direction of chaos’

OTTAWA — The House of Commons passed the Liberal government’s budget bill today, which seeks to roll out vast new incentives for clean energy and expending dental care  subsidies — despite a Conservative attempt to hold it up.

The bill passed 177 to 146 with the support of Liberals and New Democrats, while the Tories and Bloc Québécois voted against it. 

The bill includes a new anti-flipping tax for residential properties, a doubling of tradespeople’s tools deduction and an enhancement to the Canada workers benefit, a refundable tax credit to help low income workers.

It also codifies sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, and raises tariffs on Russia and Belarus. 

The Conservatives attempted earlier this week to delete much of the bill by introducing amendments eliminating 900 of its clauses, saying they want a plan to balance the budget amid projections that show no end to federal deficits  in sight.

The Senate must also pass the budget bill before it can become law, and senators have already been devoting hours study to its provisions.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries have made a breakthrough in migration talks, sealing agreement on a plan to share out responsibility for migrants entering Europe without authorization, the root of one of the bloc’s longest-running political crises, officials said late Thursday.

After a long day of negotiations in Luxembourg, EU interior ministers endorsed a deal balancing the obligation for countries where most migrants arrive to process and lodge them against the requirement for other members to provide support, whether financial or by hosting refugees.

The pact will form the 27 EU countries’ negotiating stance in talks with the European Parliament, which has a different view of solidarity – one that requires countries to draw up detailed “annual migrant support plans” to help out frontline member states and the mandatory relocation of refugees.

Indeed, given the divergent positions, it’s possible the agreement could unravel during those negotiations.

Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency and brokered the agreement, described the deal as “a historic step and a great success,” but she expressed surprise that the long-held divisions had been overcome.

“To be honest, I didn’t really believe I would be sitting here saying this, but here we are,” she told reporters. She said the contents of the deal form “the main pillars of the reform of the EU asylum system and are key to a good balance between responsibility and solidarity.”

Europe’s asylum system collapsed eight years ago after well over a million people entered — most of them fleeing conflict in Syria — and overwhelmed reception capacities in Greece and Italy, in the process sparking one of the EU’s biggest political crises.

The 27 EU nations have bickered ever since over which countries should take responsibility for people arriving without authorization, and whether other members should be obliged to help them cope.

Not all countries endorsed the plan on Thursday but only a “qualified majority” of support was required – that is roughly two thirds of the member countries accounting for about two thirds of the total EU population of some 450 million people.

The Czech Republic asked to be left out of the migrant “solidarity clause” due to the number of refugees it is already hosting from Ukraine. Malta abstained, but the objections of Italy and Greece – those hardest hit in the past – were overcome in a late round of talks.

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said that she was optimistic about the negotiations with parliament, despite the assembly’s insistence on mandatory relocation.

“We still have some steps to go until we have totally finalized this, but I think it is clear that we have made huge progress when it comes to building trust,” she told reporters.

Stenergard said that Sweden’s proposal for a system under which countries who do not want to take migrants in could pay money instead was endorsed. It would amount to 20,000 euros ($21,400) per migrant.

EU lawmakers have warned that it’s the last chance to solve the conundrum before EU-wide elections in a year, when migration is likely once again to be a hot-button issue, and pressure will mount as next June’s polls draw near.

“If we miss this chance to make it right, I don’t think we will have another,” Spanish Socialist lawmaker Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a leader on migration policy, said in April. “The kind of a message would be: ‘Hey, listen, it’s not going to happen. Not this time. Ever.’


Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

Lorne Cook, The Associated Press

OTTAWA — A battle appears to be brewing between senators and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, as he tries to see the Liberals’ controversial gun legislation passed swiftly into law. 

His office sent a letter to leaders of the different Senate groups and the chair of a committee, saying the minister is “eager” answer senators’ questions about Bill C-21.

The letter comes with less than a month left before the House of Commons and Senate plan to break for summer, with the Liberals branding the legislation as a legislative priority. 

The bill seeks to turn a national handgun freeze into law, combat homemade guns and ban what it calls “assault-style” weapons. 

The government’s attempts to define which weapons are included have led to outrage from Conservatives, Indigenous communities and other firearms owners who say commonly used hunting rifles would fall under the proposed law — which the Liberals say was not the intent.

Conservative Senate leader Don Plett accused Mendicino of having “unmitigated gall” in asking senators to hurry when MPs spent months studying the bill before it passed in the House of Commons last month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published 

The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON — Tourists in the U.S. capital are taking Canada’s prodigious wildfire smoke in stride. 

Air quality alerts in Washington, D.C., reached “code purple” status today, one notch below the “maroon” levels in neighbouring Baltimore. 

But while the grey haze made making out the Washington Monument and the Capitol difficult from a distance, it was a different story on the ground. 

The usual crowds of visitors jammed the sidewalks along the National Mall, outside the White House and on the Capitol grounds, with only a relative handful opting for face masks. 

One German couple said their day turned out far nicer than what forecasters had suggested — although they’re now worried that flight delays may thwart their plans to get home. 

President Joe Biden says he has promised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau any additional help Canada might need to fight the wildfires ravaging Ontario and Quebec. 

The U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, which has already deployed more than 600 U.S. firefighters, is on standby to assist with Canadian requests for additional personnel and equipment. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

The Canadian Press

It was classic Poilievre — an impressive exhibition of the political dark arts of rhetoric, emotion and reason, comprising reams of facts that often don’t stand up to scrutiny when challenged

OTTAWA — India’s foreign minister is condemning images of a parade said to have occurred in Brampton, Ont., which seemed to portray the 1984 assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.

The Canadian Press has not verified the source of a short video that appears to show a parade float on a suburban street with men in turbans pointing guns at a woman who resembles Gandhi.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar argues the incident shows Ottawa’s lax approach to extremism.

He says the incident “is not good for relationships” and “not good for Canada.”

New Delhi has long argued that Canada’s free-speech approach to Sikh separatists goes too far, with some temples found to be openly venerating people connected with acts of violence like the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight.

Canada’s envoy to India also condemned the parade, saying he was “appalled” by reports that it celebrated the assassination.

“There is no place in Canada for hate or for the glorification of violence. I categorically condemn these activities,” Canada’s high commissioner to India, Cameron MacKay, wrote on Twitter.

At a Thursday press conference in New Delhi, Jaishankar said his government is puzzled that Ottawa gives so much freedom to those advocating for an independent state they call Khalistan.

“It isn’t only one incident, no matter how egregious it may be,” Jaishankar told reporters.

“There is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence,” he said.

“We are at a loss to understand, other than the requirements of vote-buying politics, why anyone would do this.”

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser said India was among the top sources of foreign interference in Canada, a public designation Ottawa has largely limited to authoritarian states.

Federal agencies have indirectly warned in recent years of India exerting improper influence in Canada, but rarely by name and almost always in internal documents.

Jaishankar said he found it hypocritical that Canada would call out India for interference.

“If anybody has a complaint, we have a complaint about Canada; the space that they’re giving to Khalistanis and to violent extremists,” he said.

Last fall, the Liberals highlighted India as part of their Indo-Pacific strategy and as a priority for establishing closer economic and scientific ties. Trudeau is widely expected to visit New Delhi for the G20 leaders’ summit in September.

Indira Gandhi’s 1984 assassination followed the Indian military storming the holiest temple in the Sikh faith, which India argued was necessary to contain the risk of violence by separatists.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin has handed cash-strapped Milwaukee a lifeline to stave off bankruptcy, allowing the city to raise sales taxes without voter approval as part of a larger local government and K-12 schools funding plan, according to a bipartisan deal announced Thursday Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican lawmakers.

Evers called it a “transformative” deal that will rescue Milwaukee from the threat of bankruptcy, “something that would have devastating consequences for communities in every corner of our state and our state economy as a whole.”

As part of the deal, the GOP-controlled Legislature agreed to spending an additional $1 billion on K-12 schools, along with increasing payments to families whose children attend taxpayer-funded private voucher schools. Evers, a former state superintendent of education in the first year of his second term as governor, has made spending more on education a cornerstone of his time in office.

The much-discussed local government funding plan has taken on urgency in the Legislature this year. Milwaukee officials have warned about dire consequences and deep cuts as the city faces bankruptcy by 2025. Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson warned lawmakers of “catastrophic budget cuts” if a deal for more funding wasn’t reached.

Milwaukee, the state’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold, faces an underfunded pension system. Milwaukee has increasingly become reliant on federal pandemic aid to fund its essential services, which city leaders have said cost $150 million more per year to maintain.

The largest sticking point in reaching a new funding deal had been who would determine whether Milwaukee city and county can raise the local sales tax to pay for pension costs and emergency services.

Milwaukee officials, Senate Republicans and Evers wanted the decision to rest with local governing boards. But Assembly Republicans passed a bill last month that would require voters to decide whether to raise sales taxes.

Under the deal announced Thursday, local governing boards in the city and county could approve raising the sales tax with a two-thirds majority vote. Milwaukee is the only city of its size in the country that is not allowed to have its own sales tax.

Roughly $1.6 billion in aid to local governments— known as shared revenue — would be paid for by tapping 20% of the state’s 5-cent sales tax. Aid would then grow along with sales tax revenue.

The plan would increase funding to counties, cities, towns and villages with under 110,000 population by at least 20%. That could only be spent on police and fire protection, emergency medical services, emergency response communications, public works and transportation. The city and county of Milwaukee would see a 10% increase, but could ask voters to raise the local sales tax for more money.

Shared revenue to local governments has remained nearly unchanged for almost 30 years and was cut in 2004, 2010 and 2012.

The bill would also cut aid to communities that reduce the number of police officers and firefighters and ban public health officials from ordering businesses closed for more than 30 days, with the local governing body able to extend that once for another 30 days.

It would also ban local advisory referenda questions on everything except those for certain projects that would be funded with property tax money. The bill would not allow questions on hot-button issues like whether voters support abortion rights or legalizing marijuana.

The agreement also calls for spending $50 million more on reading and literacy programs in schools, increasing special education funding by 33% and spending $30 million on mental health in schools.

The deal was announced a month before the 10th anniversary of Detroit’s filing for bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in December 2014, having restructured or wiped out $7 billion in debt. The city was forced to follow a state-monitored spending plan and has been able to build cash surpluses.

Wisconsin state law does not allow for cities to declare bankruptcy, which means the Legislature would have to vote to allow Milwaukee to take that step if the city were to run out of money.


Associated Press writer Corey Williams contributed to this report from Detroit.

Scott Bauer, The Associated Press

VICTORIA — Bank of Canada deputy governor Paul Beaudry says recent economic data suggests the risk of sticky inflation has gone up, prompting the central bank’s decision to raise interest rates on Wednesday.

Beaudry is delivering a speech today to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, one day after the central bank announced a quarter percentage point rate increase, ending its pause on rate hikes.

The central bank’s key interest rate now sits at 4.75 per cent, the highest it’s been since 2001.

According to prepared remarks, Beaudry says the combination of stronger growth, a tight labour market and a rise in inflation in April suggested the overheated economy has persisted longer than the central bank expected.

Beaudry says the rapid rise in consumer spending took the central bank by surprise, while buyers appear to be returning to the housing market.

Taken together, Beaudry says the central bank acted to ensure inflation, which was sitting at 4.4 per cent in April, doesn’t get stuck above the two per cent target.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled for the family of a nursing home resident with dementia that had sued over his care, declining to use the case to broadly limit the right to sue government workers.

The man’s family went to court alleging that he was given drugs to keep him easier to manage in violation of his rights. The justices had been asked to use his case to limit the ability of people to use a federal law to sue for civil rights violations. That outcome could have left tens of millions of people participating in federal programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, without an avenue to go to court to enforce their rights.

The Supreme Court has previously said that a section of federal law — “Section 1983” — broadly gives people the right to sue state and local governments when their employees violate rights created by any federal statute.

The court by a 7-2 vote reiterated that Thursday, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writing that Section 1983 “can presumptively be used to enforce unambiguously conferred federal individual rights.” Both liberal and conservative justices joined her majority opinion while conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

The court had been asked to say that when Congress creates a federal spending program — giving states money to provide services such as Medicare and Medicaid — they shouldn’t face lawsuits from individuals under Section 1983. The court rejected that invitation.

The specific case the justices heard involves the interaction of Section 1983 and the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act, a 1987 law that outlines requirements for nursing homes that accept federal Medicare and Medicaid funds. The court was being asked to answer whether a person can use Section 1983 to go to court with claims their rights under the nursing home act are violated. The answer is yes, the court said.

The Biden administration had argued to the high court that Congress did not intend to allow Section 1983 lawsuits when it enacted the nursing home legislation.

The case in front of the court involved Gorgi Talevski, who was a resident of Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation, a government nursing home in Indiana. His family said the nursing home found it difficult to care for Talevski, and so gave him powerful drugs to restrain him, then involuntarily transferred him to another facility. The facility says Talevski repeatedly acted violently and in a sexually aggressive manner and that drugs were prescribed by doctors.

Talevski’s family sued under Section 1983, saying his rights had been violated. A trial court dismissed the case, but a federal court of appeals said it could proceed. Talevski died in 2021.

The opinion was one of four the court issued Thursday, including a 5-4 ruling in favor of Black voters in Alabama in a congressional redistricting case. That case had been closely watched for its potential to weaken the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press