OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says future reports on terrorist threats to Canada will not refer to Sikh extremism and instead use “extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India.”
Goodale says the language used in his department’s 2018 terror-threat report “unintentionally maligned” certain communities and is not in keeping with Canadian values.
But Goodale isn’t going to change the language in the existing document, which drew ire from Canada’s Sikh community, nor has he provided public evidence backing up the decision to include Sikh extremism in the annual report for the first time.
Balpreet Singh Boparai, the lawyer for the World Sikh Organization in Canada, says admitting the language was wrong and fixing it in the next report is a small step forward, but questioned why the existing report wouldn’t be revised.
He also said Goodale is missing the wider concern that the government has provided no evidence of extremist threats among any Canadians who want to have an independent Sikh state within India, known as Khalistan.
The House of Commons public-safety committee voted this week to summon Goodale to appear sometime before the end of June to discuss the concerns about the report.
The Canadian Press
NDP promise to expand universal health care, starting with national drug plan
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
Alberta energy war room must avoid online morass, preaching to choir: experts
CALGARY — Tzeporah Berman only learned of her cameo appearance at an Alberta government news conference about its so-called energy war room after a flood of nasty messages.
Industry advocate Robbie Picard held a poster calling the prominent environmentalist an “enemy of the oilsands” as he introduced Premier Jason Kenney at the Calgary event.
Berman says dozens of violent, sexist social media messages and a few frightening voicemails followed.
“The idea of putting someone’s face on a poster and holding it up at a government press conference — I’ve never seen that before,” says the longtime opponent of oilsands expansion and international program director at Stand.Earth, a grassroots environmental group.
The Kenney government aims to get its $30-million Calgary-based war room running this summer. The goal, Kenney has said, is to fight against what he calls a foreign-funded “campaign of lies and defamation” that he says has caused economic hardship by landlocking Alberta crude.
Kenney has said one measure of the war room’s success would be improved public opinion about pipelines and resource development. Political observers say that requires crafting messages that resonate outside Alberta while avoiding social media mudslinging or preaching to the choir.
Kenney spokeswoman Christine Myatt says personal threats and abuse are never acceptable and urges those who disagree with Berman to do so respectfully.
Picard, who runs the Oilsands Strong Facebook page, says unleashing abuse was not the intention of singling out Berman, but he added “professional protesters” like her should be held to account at a time when Alberta is struggling.
“There’s people in Alberta who are losing everything.”
Aside from the potential for online vitriol, the war room is problematic because the focus should be on tackling climate change, Berman says.
“He’s wasting precious time,” she says of Kenney.
Many details, including who will lead the war room, remain to be fleshed out. Kenney has said it’s to use a mixture of advertising, publicity and social media and that staff will be able to fire volleys without having to wait hours or days for approval.
The premier feels the soft-power approach of the past has not worked.
“There’s been this notion, amongst many in the Canadian energy industry, that if we just keep our heads down and try not to be noticed and be low-profile and defensive, that somehow those organizations will walk away and focus maybe on Saudi Arabia or Russia or Venezuela,” Kenney said at the news conference.
“The weakness has been an invitation for an increasingly aggressive and increasingly dishonest campaign.”
Mount Royal University political scientist David Taras says the war room, by its very nature, is set up for conflict and that creates pitfalls.
“Give someone a hammer and they’re going to find something to hammer. Sometimes the best policy is not to respond. Sometimes the best policy is to allow someone else to respond. Sometimes the best policy is just to listen to others and watch the debate unfold,” he says.
“You can’t be drawn into the morass of the internet. You have to be able to speak on behalf of Albertans in a way that Albertans can be proud of.”
Pollster Janet Brown says she hopes the war room will do some public opinion research early and tailor its message accordingly.
The focus should be on those not firmly entrenched in either the pro- or anti-oil camps, she says.
“If they take messages that make perfect sense to Albertans and just assume they’re going to make sense to other Canadians … that could be problematic.”
Brown says the war room would be wise to avoid Twitter, where few minds can be changed, and focus its social media resources elsewhere — such as paid YouTube ads.
“If the war room is just spending their time on Twitter being outrageous, it will probably work in the favour of Greenpeace,” Brown says.
Berman says her group has seen more people wanting to donate in recent days, and she and her colleagues are looking to incorporate more compassion into their climate change messaging.
“We have, to a certain extent, been too simplistic or careless about the changes that need to happen. They are going to be hard and it’s not easy,” she says.
“I understand when Albertans don’t want outsiders telling them what to do.”
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
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