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Maxime Bernier tells party faithful he will make it into the leaders’ debates

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OTTAWA — Maxime Bernier argued to a crowd of flag-waving, cheering candidates and supporters that not inviting him to take part in the official election debates means excluding the only political party leader who has anything different to say.

“It won’t be a real debate if I’m not there,” Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, said in his closing speech to his first national convention in Gatineau, Que., on Sunday, where candidates and campaign teams spent three days learning how to attract and motivate voters.

“It will be a phoney discussion where they attack each other on their superficial differences.”

The Quebec MP, who represented the Conservatives for a dozen years and placed second in its 2017 leadership race, said the Liberals, NDP, Greens, Bloc Quebecois and his former party all share similar views on things like immigration, climate change and supply management in the dairy sector.

He also dismissed those political rivals as espousing varying degrees of left-leaning views.

“While the other parties look at polls and focus groups to decide what they stand for, and pander to every special interest group, we follow our principles,” said Bernier, adding that his party does not do any polling.

Those other parties have all qualified for the debates, to be held Oct. 7 and Oct. 10, under criteria established by the federal government.

Any party wishing to participate had to meet two of three conditions, which include having one sitting MP elected under the party banner, as well as candidates running in 90 per cent of the 338 federal ridings in the Oct. 21 election.

The PPC plans to run a full slate, but Bernier was elected as a Conservative.

The third condition requires a party to have earned either 4 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election, or have candidates with a “legitimate chance” of being elected this fall.

David Johntson, the former governor general who is now heading up the Leaders’ Debates Commission, said the PPC did not, at that time, meet the threshold, but would give the party until Sept. 9 to argue its case.

Bernier said he is confident Johnston will change his mind and allow him to join the others onstage.

He also said he plans to win the election and form government, but suggested he would be satisfied with having enough seats to give him leverage over whichever party forms the government.

“I think if we are not winning, and that is the goal, the worst-case scenario is to have the balance of power,” said Bernier, who ruled out a merger with the Conservative party but otherwise said he did not want to talk about what would happen to his party if he does not win.

Benjamin Dichter, who ran for the Conservatives in downtown Toronto in 2015, pumped up the crowd earlier on Sunday by arguing that Canada is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to how it is dealing with Islamic extremism.

“Canada is ill and suffering and it is suffering from the stench of cultural relativism and political Islam,” said Dichter, a founding member of the group LGBTory.ca, the Rainbow Conservatives of Canada.

He went on to accuse both the Conservatives and Liberals of getting too close to those elements.

When asked whether he agrees with that assessment, Bernier said he is glad Dichter was raising the question.

“I think it’s important to have this debate and have this question,” Bernier told reporters.

He said it connects to his policy on immigration, which would require everyone wishing to immigrate to Canada to undergo an in-person interview about whether their views align with Canadian “societal norms.”

The convention also saw the party unveil another portion of its campaign platform, this time aimed at veterans.

The policy proposal, which was announced with 44 veterans associated with the party on stage, would include reinstating the long-standing disability pension that was replaced with the current system in 2006.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press


Ag Business

What the USMCA Might Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

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Canada, USA, Mexico flags

We welcome guest writers to all of our Todayville platforms. Here’s a submission from Emily Folk.  Emily is passionate about agricultural sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks. In this story, Emily Folk explains the USMCA Impact on Agriculture. 

What Could USMCA Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been in the news a lot lately. The leaders of the respective nations signed the trade agreement on November 30, 2019, and ratification is pending. You can think of the USMCA as an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA after publicly speaking unfavourably about it. The USMCA is the result of that vow. The agreement spans several areas, such as the origin of automobile parts and new labor laws in Mexico that make it easier for workers to unionize. The USMCA also has a “sunset clause” that makes its terms expire after 16 years. Plus, every six years, the leaders of the countries involved must agree on whether to extend the deal.

Some agriculture-specific stipulations also exist within the USMCA. Additionally, the agreement notably mentions biotechnology. Here’s a closer look at how the USMCA might change these two industries.

More Exporting Opportunities for Farmers

One of the key points often mentioned about the USMCA is that parties expect the agreement to cause a $2 billion increase in U.S. agriculture exports, triggering a $65 billion rise in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Canada and Mexico are currently the top two exporting markets for American farmers, supporting more than 325,000 American jobs. In 2018, the food and agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico totaled more than $39.7 billion.

The USMCA also opens exporting opportunities that did not exist before. Now, U.S. dairy farmers will have expanded access to send products such as fluid and powdered milk, cheese and cream to Canadian parties. There will also no longer be U.S. tariffs on whey and margarine. This change is notable, considering the Canadian dairy market produced roughly 17% of the United States’ annual output over the past three years.

In exchange, Canada will give the United States new access to chicken and eggs, plus increased access to turkey. Plus, all other agriculture products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will be under a zero-tariff model.

Moving Forward With Agricultural Biotechnology

Another improvement associated with the USMCA is that it looks at agricultural technology more broadly than other trade agreements have.

For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between 12 nations — only addressed biotechnology regarding recombinant DNA (rDNA). That process involves joining the molecules from two different species, then inserting the product into a host to create new genetic combinations. Instead, the USMCA opens possibilities for all kinds of agricultural technology, including gene editing. Moving ahead with biotechnology could be crucial for addressing pressing matters that affect agriculture, such as water scarcity.

Approximately 700 million people suffer from water scarcity, and that number could double by 2025. Also, the agriculture industry is the greatest user of water. Things must change — both to address the growing water scarcity problem and to give farmers more options for growing things without using so much water.

Biotechnology has already helped, and it seems highly likely to continue spurring progress. In one example, scientists altered the expression of one gene common to all plants. This change led to a 25% increase in the plants’ water-use efficiency without adversely impacting yield or photosynthesis.

As part of the USMCA, Mexico, Canada and the United States agreed to improve information sharing and cooperation about biotechnology matters related to trade. That change could speed new developments, resulting in positive outcomes for all involved groups and the world at large.

Fairer Agricultural Grading Standards

A grading system for agricultural products defines trading procedures. For example, commercial buyers of a product grown in another country refer to the grading standards to set expectations about a product’s quality. The USMCA specifies that Canada will evaluate U.S. imported wheat and assign it a grade no less favourable than it would give Canadian-grown wheat.

Canada will also no longer require country of origin statements associated with inspection certificates or quality grades. The United States and Canada will discuss issues related to seed regulations under the USMCA, too.

Concerning Mexico and the United States, the two countries agreed to non-discriminatory grading standards and services. Moreover, a dialogue will begin between the two countries to flesh out the details for quality standards and grading regarding trade.

A Promising Future

It’s too early to say what the real-life effects will be of the changes outlined here. But, the commitments laid out within the USMCA seem like they’ll represent clear improvements for agriculture professionals, as well as everyone who benefits from their goods.

 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link:   Conservation Folks.

 

 

 

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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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