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Race for the next Conservative leader begins as Poilievre announces his bid

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OTTAWA — Pierre Poilievre, the Conservatives’ high-profile finance critic, launched his bid Saturday to become the party’s next leader, with many fellow members of Parliament already endorsing his run.

He is the first candidate to announce his intention to run for the Conservative Party of Canada’s top spot after MPs forced Erin O’Toole out of the position only three days earlier.

In a three minute video released on social media Saturday evening, Poilievre, seated at a desk in front of a bookshelf, doesn’t mention the Conservative party by name or the contest, saying only that he wants the job as prime minister.

Despite his reputation as a fiery performer in Parliament, he calmly delivers his message that he believes government spending is out of control and wants to make “Canadians the freest people on earth.”

As examples, he lists paying lower taxes, raising a family according to one’s own values and “freedom to make your own health and vaccine choices.”

He also mentions needing less regulation for businesses and gives a nod to firearms owners, which comprise a sizable chunk of the party’s base, saying the federal Liberal government is unfairly targeting law-abiding hunters and farmers.

Poilievre throws his hat into the ring ahead of any other prospective candidate and before the race has officially begun, as the party’s election committee doesn’t yet exist and no rules have been released.

As such, he can’t begin fundraising. A document attached to his launch video released Saturday lists one of the options for supporters to choose to help is by purchasing memberships to vote for him.

Other names being tossed around for potential candidates include Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis, who placed third in the 2020 leadership race as well as Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and Peter MacKay, former leader of the Progressive Conservative party and cabinet minister, who finished second behind O’Toole.

Poilievre’s announcement, which was highly anticipated by those in the party, was quickly followed by many MPs pledging their support.

“I’m with Pierre,” tweeted Ontario MP Melissa Lantsman. “No question — Pierre is the right answer to a strong (and) united Conservative Party.”

Longtime Conservative Manitoba MP James Bezan also endorsed Poilievre, saying in a tweet that he has the communication skills, work ethic and “strong conservative values” to defeat Trudeau.

Marilyn Gladu, an Ontario MP who only days earlier mused about another possible leadership run herself, also said Saturday Poilievre could count on her endorsement.

Poilievre also secured the support of John Baird, who served as a cabinet minister in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government along with Poilievre. Together, the pair worked together on the Federal Accountability Act and remain in touch.

Many Conservatives regard Poilievre as a natural front-runner in the race as he is already beloved by many in the grassroots.

At 42, he has spent most of his adult life on Parliament Hill. He ran for his seat at age 24 back in 2004. During Harper’s time in government, Poilievre served as Baird’s parliamentary secretary and was appointed the minister of democratic reform, becoming the face of the debate around the Fair Elections Act.

More recently, Poilievre has thrown his support behind a convoy of truckers and other protesters who, one week after initially parking in downtown Ottawa, are refusing to leave.

Their decision to settle in has prompted police and city officials to call the situation a crisis, as residents have had to listen to days of constant honking and seen some protesters displaying Nazi symbols, including swastikas. Some local businesses have also decided to shut their doors after reports of harassment by protesters and the flouting of COVID-19 public health rules.

Throughout his time in Parliament, Poilievre has developed a reputation as being deeply steeped in conservatism and loyalty to the party.

He enters the race with a considerable social media following and during last year’s election struck out with his own campaign videos and slogan, separate than that of the party’s or leader’s.

This also isn’t the first time he considered a run for party leader.

In 2020, Poilievre began planning to enter the race to replace former leader Andrew Scheer, but decided against doing so, saying at the time campaigning would take away from time spent with his young family.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Health

Liberals planning temporary solution to dental care promise: sources

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Ottawa – Sources close to the government’s proposed $5.3-billion dental-care program say the Liberals are planning a temporary solution that involves giving money directly to patients in order to keep their promise to the NDP while they work on a permanent answer.

The Liberals promised the NDP a new dental-care program for low- and middle-income families in March as part of a supply and confidence agreement to prevent an election before 2025.

The government has until the end of the year to provide some kind of coverage for children under the age of 12 with an annual household income of less than $90,000.

The NDP have vowed to walk away from the deal if the deadline isn’t met.

Four sources with knowledge of the government’s plan, but who are not authorized to speak publicly, say the government is unlikely to meet its deadline, and is planning a stopgap solution until a permanent incarnation of the program is put in place.

Though details are scarce, the sources say the temporary solution would involve giving qualifying families the money directly to fund their dental health services while the government works on a more permanent, expanded program.

In a statement, the health minister’s staff did not confirm or deny the temporary plan but say they are on track to deliver on the dental-care commitment as outlined in the agreement with the New Democrats.

NDP health critic Don Davies did not directly address the temporary plan either, but said in a statement the party has “identified several ways to ensure the target groups can access dental care on the identified timelines.”

The NDP are now focused on pushing the Liberals to introduce dental-care legislation when Parliament resumes in the fall, Davies said.

“That legislation will deliver the resources needed to help children under 12 see a dentist and care for their teeth this year,” he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed the health minister’s faith about meeting the deadline last week.

“We’re very confident we can achieve that before the end of the year, as our agreement outlines,” Singh said at a news conference last Thursday.

The agreement isn’t prescriptive about how the coverage should be achieved, and the government hasn’t committed to any particular means of administering the program yet.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’s office has said repeatedly the department is looking at several options to meet its commitment and its end-of-year deadline.

The NDP originally envisioned a federal program that functions similarly to the federal health-benefits program run for uninsured First Nations and Inuit people.

The federal government could also offer money to provinces and territories to take it over, since many already offer similar programs and dental care has traditionally fallen within their jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the Liberals put out a formal request for information (RFI) to members of the insurance industry two weeks ago to explore what role private companies could play in administering the program.

In that RFI, the government says if a contract is awarded the winning company would be given six months to get ready before processing claims. That timeline would be impossible to achieve before the end of December.

According to the statement from Duclos’s staff, they’re still consulting on the best way forward.

The Liberals have promised to extend the program to qualifying teens, seniors and persons living with disabilities next year and everyone else in the qualifying family-income bracket by the end of the supply and confidence agreement in 2025.

“It comes as no surprise that the Trudeau government is not living up to a commitment it made to buy the NDP’s support,” Conservative health critic Michael Barrett said in a statement.

Barrett said Canadians should be concerned that the government is not committed to maintaining the current health system, “much less adding a new complex and expensive program to it.”

The government set aside $5.3 billion over five years for the program, but the parliamentary budget officer’s estimate is nearly double that at $9 billion.

Once the program is fully implemented, the Liberals’ 2022 budget predicts it will cost about $1.7 billion per year to run, which is in line with the PBO’s estimate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2022.

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Flight issues? Here’s what you need to know about getting compensation

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Delayed and cancelled flights are a reality this summer amid surging demand for travel, so customers should know whether they can expect compensation from airlines under federal regulations.

The Air Passenger Protection Regulations say ticket holders are entitled to financial compensation if they arrive at their destination at least three hours late, or if their flight was cancelled and the disruption was unrelated to safety issues or outside the airline’s control.

Some airlines have been criticized over their explanations for the disruptions, including both Air Canada and WestJet citing staffing shortages as a safety issue. The Canadian Transportation Agency has disputed lack of staff as valid under compensation rules.

A July 8 ruling by the CTA said the threshold was high for an airline to use staffing shortages as a safety issue and found in that instance that WestJet had not met it, ordering the airline to pay what was owed to the traveller.

The CTA previously looked into the issue of cited reasons for disruptions in 2020 and found there were multiple communication issues leading to passenger frustration, but found no evidence that the airlines deliberately mischaracterized the reasons for delays and cancellation.

To dispute an airline’s decision, customers need to file a request in writing for compensation to the airlines, which then have 30 days to respond.

If a traveller is unsatisfied with the airline’s response they can then file a complaint to the CTA though the agency’s website, but a huge backlog means travellers could have to wait some time to get a response.

The CTA faced a total of 28,673 complaints for the year up to March 31, including 12,158 new complaints and the carry-over of 16,515 reports from the previous fiscal year. Of the total, about half involved flight disruptions, while ticketing and reservations complaints also numbered in the thousands.

The higher numbers come even though many travellers don’t bother to appeal their decision. Up to two-thirds of Canadian claimants give up their claim after an initial rejection by the airline, according to an online YouGov survey in 2019, though awareness of the new rules could have improved since then.

Appealing could well be worthwhile though, as a 2019 study from AirHelp, a German company that helps process claims, found that airlines wrongfully reject more than 50 per cent of valid claims at first.

The potential payouts for customers vary depending on a few factors including how lengthy the delay, how big the airline, and how much notice was given, as well as the question of whether the issue was within the airline’s control and not a safety issue.

If the trip was cancelled within 14 days or less, passengers are owed $1,000 for a cancellation or delay of nine hours or more, and between $400 and $700 for delays of three to nine hours.

For those informed more than two weeks in advance, they are owed alternate travel arrangements or a refund, at the traveller’s choice.

No matter how long the notice, a passenger who opts to reject a rebooking should receive $400 in compensation from large airlines and $125 for small airlines, on top of a refund.

Those denied boarding, such as from overbooking, could see between $900 and $2,400 depending on how much it delays their arrival, while there are also rules on compensation for lost and damaged baggage that can go up to $2,300.

Added rights also come into force on Sept. 8 where even if the cause of the delay is outside the airline’s control, they must rebook the traveller within 48 hours on their or a competitor’s flight or the traveller will be eligible for a refund.

Previously, the passenger rights regime only required refunds for flight disruptions that were within the airline’s control, which excluded situations ranging from weather to war to unscheduled mechanical issues.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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