TORONTO — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney apologized Monday for using the term “little girl” to refer to an Ontario politician who left the Progressive Conservative caucus over cuts to francophone services.
Mulroney appeared Sunday night on Radio Canada’s “Tout le monde en parle,” and defended his daughter Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s attorney general and francophone affairs minister.
“She is the best voice that Ontario francophones could ever have, believe me,” the former prime minister said in French. “The little girl who resigned, she has left. That’s over. But Caroline is still there to defend the interests of Ontario francophones.”
Brian Mulroney apologized the next day, saying he used the French expression “p’tite fille,” translated as little girl, while speaking about Amanda Simard when he should have said “young woman.”
“I had no intention of insulting anyone with this poor choice of words and would like to offer my sincere apologies,” he said in a statement.
Earlier Monday, Simard addressed the comments on Twitter, writing that Mulroney was attempting to defend his daughter, who “completely abandoned Franco-Ontarians.”
“He has done great things for Canada, but his comments belong to another era and have no place in a respectful and egalitarian society,” Simard wrote.
After question period Monday at the Ontario legislature, Simard further said that one positive to emerge from the incident was that people were “overwhelmingly” condemning the remark.
“The fact that so many people are denouncing his comments is encouraging for women in politics,” she said. “I think we need to support women in politics and not retort to those types of name calling.”
Caroline Mulroney did not answer questions after question period.
Simard was elected last year at the age of 29 to represent the largely French-speaking eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
She left the Tory caucus in the wake of the government’s decision to eliminate the independent office of the French-language services commissioner and scrap a planned French-language university.
After an outcry from Franco-Ontarians, the government announced it would create a commissioner position within the office of the provincial ombudsman, establish a Ministry of Francophone Affairs and hire a senior policy adviser on francophone affairs in the premier’s office. But Simard said she was not satisfied by the “partial backtracking” on the cuts.
Premier Doug Ford has said the measures regarding the commissioner and the university were necessary to bring down the province’s deficit, although he has not said how much would be saved.
Brian Mulroney told “Tout le monde en parle” that Ford was elected to trim the deficit and debt.
“So it took cuts, changes of attitude, etcetera, and everyone was affected, including the Franco-Ontarians,” he said. “But it has been barely a year that Caroline is there. You are going to see with time how well she works with her colleagues to mend fences and to rebuild confidence between Ontario’s French minority and the Ford government.”
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Trans Mountain puts contractors on notice to get ready for pipeline restart
OTTAWA — Construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is set to restart in the next month, just in time for the official kick-off of the federal election.
Trans Mountain Corp., the federal crown agency that owns and operates the pipeline, said Wednesday that work on the terminals in Burnaby, B.C. is set to restart immediately, while work laying pipe on the route in parts of Alberta are on track to start within the next month. Construction contractors were told they have 30 days to hire workers, prepare detailed construction plans and mobilize equipment.
“This is a major milestone,” said Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
Getting construction underway likely leaves many Liberals breathing a sigh of relief, including Sohi, whose riding is just a few kilometres from the Edmonton terminal where the pipeline begins. His already shaky re-election prospects would be even tougher if the pipeline remained stalled.
The federal campaign has to begin no later than Sept. 15 for an Oct. 21 vote, but Sohi said getting shovels in the ground on Trans Mountain has nothing to do with politics.
“I know people want to link this to elections,” he said. “I have never linked it to elections. I always tell that we owe it to Albertans, we owe it to Canadians, energy sector workers and communities who rely on middle class jobs that we get the process right.”
Sohi won in 2015 by less than 100 votes, one of only four Liberals elected in Alberta in the last election. All four seats are considered in play in this election, and anger in Alberta about the struggling oil industry is one of the reasons why.
Sohi visited with pipeline workers on site in Sherwood Park, Alta., on Wednesday. He told them that 4,200 people should be working on the project before the end of the year and the new completion date is in 2022. When the pipeline was initially approved in 2016, construction was supposed to be done by the end of this year.
Sohi also said the construction is going ahead “despite the fearmongering of some Conservative politicians to tell Canadians minutes after we approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that the construction will never happen.”
Edmonton Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux was not impressed with the news.
“Canadians have heard time and time again that Justin Trudeau wants to get pipelines built, yet in four years he has done the exact opposite,” Jeneroux said in an emailed statement.
The Conservatives say the Liberals have killed other pipelines and now have a new environmental assessment process coming in that will ensure no more pipelines are ever approved going forward.
“These decisions are all part of Justin Trudeau’s plan to phase out Canada’s oil and gas sector,” Jeneroux said.
The federal Liberals approved the Trans Mountain expansion in 2016, but the pressure to bring the project to fruition heightened in May 2018 when the government decided to buy the pipeline for $4.5 billion when Kinder Morgan Canada backed away under the uncertainty of numerous legal challenges and political fighting. The Liberals said the government would buy the pipeline, build the expansion and sell it back to a private investor.
The court decision three months later to rip up approval threw all those plans in jeopardy.
After another round of Indigenous consultations and a new review of the project’s impact on marine life off the coast of Vancouver, cabinet green-lighted the expansion for a second time in June.
Six British Columbia First Nations and at least two environment groups have filed new court challenges against the approval.
The Canadian Press
Huawei executive’s defence team alleges Canadians were ‘agents’ of the FBI
VANCOUVER — A defence team for a Chinese telecom executive is alleging Canadian officials acted as “agents” of American law enforcement while she was detained at Vancouver’s airport for three hours ahead of her arrest.
In court documents released this week, defence lawyers for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou point to handwritten notes by Canadian officers indicating Meng’s electronics were collected in anticipation of a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.
The notes show the RCMP asked the FBI if the U.S. was interested in Meng’s luggage and that a Canada Border Services Agency officer wrote down Meng’s passcodes, while another questioned her about Huawei’s alleged business in Iran.
This happened before she was informed of her arrest, the defence says.
“The RCMP and/or CBSA were acting as agents of the FBI for the purpose of obtaining and preserving evidence,” alleges a memorandum of fact and law filed by the defence.
“The question that remains is to what extent and how the FBI were involved in this scheme.”
The materials collected by the defence were released ahead of an eight-day hearing scheduled for September, in which the defence is expected to argue for access to more documentation ahead of Meng’s extradition trial.
The Attorney General of Canada has yet to file a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.
Meng’s arrest at Vancouver airport has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and China and drawn international scrutiny of Canadian extradition laws.
She was arrested at the behest of the U.S., which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges in violation of sanctions with Iran.
Both Meng and Huawei have denied any wrongdoing. Meng is free on bail and is living in one of her multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver.
The RCMP and CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the documents but have said in a response to a civil claim that border officials only examined Meng and her luggage for immigration and customs purposes.
Meng extradition trial won’t begin until Jan. 20, but the court documents shed light on her defence team’s planned arguments that her arrest was unlawful and for the benefit of the United States.
“These are allegations of a purposeful violation of a court order and the abuse of important Canadian legal norms for improper purposes, namely, to further the objectives of the requesting state,” the defence says.
They plan to argue that the U.S. committed an abuse of process by using the extradition proceedings for political and economic gain. Parts of the defence are comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that he would intervene in Meng’s case “if necessary.”
The seizure of electronics and questioning of Meng by border officials in Canada also follows a pattern of how Huawei employees have been treated at U.S. ports of entry.
“This targeting has included the apparent abuse of customs and immigration powers to search and question Huawei employees at various U.S. ports of entry,” the documents say.
The defence accuses officers of intentionally poor note keeping that obscures what exactly happened, including why the arrest plan apparently changed.
The documents suggest that Canadian officials initially planned to arrest Meng “immediately” after she landed, by boarding the plane before she got off. Instead, three CBSA officers immediately detained Meng when she disembarked the plane while two RCMP officers stood nearby and watched, despite their knowledge of the warrant calling for her “immediate” arrest, the defence says.
The defence argues spotty notes kept by the CBSA officers constitute a “strategic omission.”
“When assessed together, a clear pattern emerges from these materials: the CBSA and the RCMP have strategically drafted these documents to subvert the applicant’s ability to learn the truth regarding her detention,” the defence says.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
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