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Bernier says abortion, gender identity not on People’s Party of Canada platform

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OTTAWA — People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier says his party’s policies will not include anything to do with abortion or gender identity, despite the fact its first candidate besides him is a vocal social conservative.
Bernier is defendi…


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  • OTTAWA — People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier says his party’s policies will not include anything to do with abortion or gender identity, despite the fact its first candidate besides him is a vocal social conservative.

    Bernier is defending the appointment of former Christian talk-show host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson to be the Burnaby South byelection candidate for the party he founded after parting ways with the Conservative party in August.

    In an interview, Tyler Thompson said her foray into politics began in 2017 when she learned about a B.C. government policy to teach sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools. She campaigned hard against the policy, running for the local school board in Burnaby last fall with that as her main issue.

    She finished 11th out of 13 candidates but said she got enough votes to convince her she was speaking for a “silent majority” who stay quiet so they aren’t called bigots but feel the way she does about not exposing children to an ideology at school.

    “I got 15,622 votes,” she said. “The other side was extremely surprised.”

    Bernier said any of his candidates is free to speak out against abortion or gender identity but their views will not be the party’s policy.

    “That’s all personal belief but it is not part of our campaign,” he said. “She understands that she will fight for our platform and being sure we will be able to implement our bold reform.”

    That platform is the same one he used to campaign for the Conservative leadership in 2017, including phasing out supply management for food products, reducing the number of immigrants Canada accepts and stopping all government subsidies and handouts to businesses in favour of cutting their taxes.

    Bernier has marched in pride parades and is also known to be pro-choice. In 2016 he voted in favour of Bill C-16, which added gender identity and expression to be protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

    Thursday, he would not say where he stands on the issue of teaching gender identity in schools because that is a provincial issue.

    “I don’t have to have a stance on that,” he said.

    Tyler Thompson said she isn’t against anybody who says they are transgender or gay or lesbian but she feels strongly that nothing on those subjects should be taught in schools. When she said so publicly, she said, she was attacked and that is what motivates her now to campaign for the freedom to express her beliefs.

    “I was having a good life and having a lot of lattes and living the dream and then I became the target,” she said. “But I’m not a bigot. I’m not a homophobe. I’m not a transphobe.”

    Tyler Thompson herself has called fighting the curriculum her “hill to die on” but said she doesn’t feel she has to bring that fight to the federal party because there are others who are now taking up that cause, including in Alberta and Ontario.

    Bernier’s new political adventure ramped up quickly, going from an idea in August to an officially registered party with Elections Canada in November to having riding associations in all 338 federal electoral districts by the end of December.

    Bernier said the next goal is to find candidates in at least 90 per cent of those ridings, which will make him eligible to participate in leaders’ debates.

    The party’s candidates for other February byelections in Ontario and Quebec are likely to be named next week. A fourth candidate, Jennifer Clarke, is named to run in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, recently vacated by NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, but there is no byelection there yet.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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    National

    Canadian Press NewsAlert: Canadian citizen killed in Honduras plane crash

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    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.
    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.
    Stefano Maron says consular offic…


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  • TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.

    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.

    Stefano Maron says consular officials in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the victim’s family.

    Local media report that all five people who died in yesterday’s crash were foreigners.

    More coming.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    ‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

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    EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.
    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people …


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  • EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.

    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people who follow this closely are going to look at this as amateur hour,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.

    “Chasing environmentalists might play well politically, but it’s not actually relevant to the discussion that Alberta and Canada need to be having,” added Simon Dyer of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute.

    Both groups have been singled out by Kenney as examples of ones distorting the truth about the impact of the oilsands. The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies.

    Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

    “Stay tuned,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Tuesday. “We’ll have something to talk about next week.”

    Environmental groups have already been discussing informally what the United Conservative government might have in mind and how they should react.

    “We’ve been contacted,” said Devon Page of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm. “We’ve been saying to the groups, ‘We’re here. We’ll respond and represent you as we have in the past.’

    “What we’re trying hard not to do is to do what I think the Kenney government wants, which is to get distracted.”

    Dyer and Stewart said their groups are about 85 per cent funded by Canadians. The Pembina Institute was founded in Drayton Valley, Alta., and its headquarters remain in Calgary.

    Both called the war room political posturing aimed at the party’s base.

    “A lot of the rhetoric around our work and our contribution to Alberta has been based on complete misinformation,” said Dyer, who pointed out Pembina has worked with virtually every major energy company in the province.

    Stewart called the threats a rerun of the 2012 campaign against environmental groups fuelled by the right-wing The Rebel media group and led by Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives.

    “We learned to play rope-a-dope,” said Stewart. “Stephen Harper was our best recruiter.

    “We had people contacting us saying, ‘How do I lie down in front of a bulldozer?’ We don’t usually get a lot of those calls but we were getting a lot of those calls.”

    Each group is confident in the accuracy of the facts it cites. Dyer said Pembina research has been used by investors, academics and governments.

    Stewart said the issue isn’t facts, but how they are understood. 

    “Often what it is is a disagreement over which fact is important. Industry will say, ‘We’re reducing emissions per barrel.’ We’ll say, ‘Emissions are going up.’ Both statements are true and it depends which you think is more important.”

    Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the Kenney government must tread carefully. It’s OK to defend your position, but not to threaten, she said.

    “If we’re talking about initiating lawsuits against individuals or organizations on the basis of speaking out on issues of public importance, then that raises serious problems,” she said. “Then we have a much more obvious impact and potential violation on freedom of expression.”

    The province could possibly expose itself to legal action if its statements harm a group or individual — say, by putting them at the centre of a Twitter firestorm, said an Edmonton lawyer.

    “There’s certainly some kind of moral responsibility in terms of understanding that kind of highly charged rhetoric,” said Sean Ward, who practises media law. “You have to understand the consequences that are likely to follow.”

    Ward said any cases the government funds would also be tough to win. 

    “There are a lot of available defences. It’s difficult to see that this sort of general debate they’re going to be able to shut down with defamation law.”

    Environmentalists say their response will be to avoid distraction and carry on.

    “The vast majority active in this place don’t want to go back to a high conflict, polarizing environment,” Dyer said. “We’re not interested in polarizing this debate.”

    Bob Weber, The Canadian Press




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