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Former PM apologizes for referring to Ontario politician as a ‘little girl’

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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

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Health

NDP promise to expand universal health care, starting with national drug plan

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HAMILTON — The federal NDP says if it is elected this fall it will expand Canada’s health-care system, starting with fast-tracking a universal drug plan to ensure a late 2020 start date.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says if his party forms government after the October federal election, it will inject $10 billion annually into a national pharmacare program.

The NDP proposal would see the pharmacare program start sooner than an expert panel recently recommended.

The panel said a national list of prescription drugs for pharmacare should be established by Jan. 1, 2022, and be expanded no later than Jan. 1, 2027.

The NDP policy comes in a new “commitments document” — dubbed A New Deal for People — unveiled today at the Ontario NDP convention in Hamilton.

In remarks provided to the media in advance of his convention speech Sunday morning, Singh says the plan would save families who already have insurance coverage $550 a year.

“For the first time, every single Canadian can count on this,” he said. “If you need medication, if someone you love needs medication, you can get it — period. Paid for with your health card, not your credit card.”

Singh said the NDP plan would also eventually expand universal coverage to dental, vision and hearing care as well.

The 109-page document also contains promises to create 500,000 more affordable housing units, expand grant programs for post-secondary education and address the cost of cellphone service and high-speed broadband.

The party is pledging to spend a billion dollars in 2020 to enhance child care across the country.

The document also promises to restore door-to-door mail delivery to all communities that have lost it — which would cost $100 million — and to establish a gasoline-price watchdog to monitor fuel prices and prevent “gouging.”

The party says it would raise government revenues to pay for its policies through a number of measures including increasing corporate taxes and by creating a so-called “wealth tax.”

Taxes on the richest Canadians — those with net worth of $20 million or more — would jump by one per cent, generating several billion dollars annually in revenue.

“The Liberals and Conservatives have been working for the people at the very top instead of working for you,” Singh said. “We are going to change that.”

The party would roll back corporate tax cuts provided by previous governments to 2010 levels, an increase from the current 15 to 18 per cent, generating billions more for government coffers a year.

Singh said the party would also institute a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax on residential purchases to prevent housing markets from overheating.

The NDP does not make a specific promise to balance the federal budget.

“In all cases, we will manage debt and deficits responsibly, borrowing when required to defend the services that Canadians and their families rely on, and moving to balance when prudent,” the document says.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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‘I’ve fallen in love’: Paralyzed Bronco player finds passion for water sport

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SASKATOON — Jacob Wassermann spent most of his life on the ice before he fell in love in the water.

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year when the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi truck collided in Saskatchewan. Sixteen people were killed.

Now 19, Wasserman has put hockey behind him and switched to a new sport — adaptive water-skiing.

He’s shown so much promise that he is to compete next month as a prospect with Canada’s adaptive water-ski team at the world championships in Skarnes, Norway.

“I’ve fallen in love with this, that’s for sure,” Wassermann said in a interview with The Canadian Press from his home in Saskatoon.

“Before my accident I had no idea adaptive water-skiing was even a thing to do.”

The sport involves a specially modified wakeboard attached to a ski with a cage that the skier is strapped into. Athletes are expected to compete in three categories: tricks, slalom and jumping.

“I’ve been favouring trick so far,” Wassermann said. “You do lots of spins like slides, 180s, 360s. And once you get better, you can start jumping the wakeboard and doing spins while jumping.” 

Wassermann was turned on to the sport last summer by current national team member Nolan Barnes, who was paralyzed in a car accident nine years ago.

Days after the Broncos crash, Barnes befriended player Ryan Straschnitzki, who was also left paralyzed. Barnes visited Straschnitzki in the same Saskatoon hospital where Wassermann was in a coma. When Wassermann gained consciousness, Barnes also started visiting him.

“I had a lot of support when I was injured and knew how much of a difference that made in my life — having some light at the end of the tunnel,” Barnes, 27, explained.

Straschnitzki hasn’t given up on hockey, and is working to make the national sledge hockey team.

Barnes said he understands Wassermann’s love for the water.

“Getting out of a wheelchair for a second and ripping up and down the lake and feeling the freedom — you don’t really feel disabled sitting out on the ski,” Barnes said.

This year will be the fourth time Barnes has competed at the world championships. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help pay for the cost of the team’s trip to Norway.

Wasserman said he went water-skiing for the first time last summer. He used to be a lifeguard and had no fear of the water, but riding waves on a ski was new.

“I took a couple of pretty hard falls but you’ve gotta fall pretty hard to learn.”

Barnes took him to a competition in April in Florida. And Wasserman did well enough that the national team decided to take him to the worlds.

“They were able to bring me on as a prospect, just to get a feel for it and to see what the adaptive water-ski world is like,” Wassermann said.

“Hopefully in the future I can ski on to the team as an actual member.”

In the meantime, Wasserman plans to start studies at the University of Saskatchewan in the fall and become a nutrionist.

Considering Wasserman was an elite athlete before the bus crash, Barnes said he’s not surprised at his progress in water-skiing in such a short time.

“He’s driven and he wants to do really well. I’m just glad to be part of that journey and hopefully he and I will be sitting on the podium some day.”

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

 

The Canadian Press

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