Stand for the ‘common person’ Pierre Poilievre tells faithful gathered in Ottawa
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre speaks at a conference in Ottawa, Thursday, March 23, 2023. Pierre Poilievre rallied a room conservative faithful gathered in Ottawa Thursday by calling on them to become “champions” of ordinary people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa
Pierre Poilievre rallied a room of conservative faithful gathered in Ottawa Thursday by calling on them to become “champions” of ordinary people.
It’s a picture the Conservative leader has painted before to his party’s caucus: one in which the “everyday common person” is under attack by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Throughout his address at the Canada Strong and Free Network event, Poilievre evoked images of the single mother, police officer, farmer and general worker whose interests, he said, are not represented in Ottawa.
“More and more, I see them rising up because they feel like they’re losing control over their lives.”
Poilievre’s refrain — a message he believes will open the party up to a coalition of voters needed to defeat the Liberals — was delivered hours after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said conservatives across the country have another challenge to overcome: winning in cities.
With Albertans set to go the polls in a provincial election this year, Smith said her United Conservative Party has more ground to gain in the province’s two largest cities: Calgary and Edmonton. Insiders predict a competitive race with the Alberta NDP.
Smith replaced Jason Kenney as party leader and premier last fall when he resigned after getting only 51 per cent support in a leadership review.
Kenney, who also attended the conference in Ottawa, faced considerable backlash leading up to that vote for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Smith told Thursday’s crowd that the party lost “a lot” of its base.
She ran for its leadership promising to bolster provincial sovereignty and appealing to party members and others who opposed public-health measures like vaccine mandates as an infringement of personal freedoms.
“The good news is that we’re finally united as a conservative movement,” she told Thursday’s crowd. “Now, we just need to gain a little bit more ground in Calgary and in Edmonton.”
She added: “This is a challenge for all conservatives. We have to figure out how to win in big cities because increasingly, people are moving to big cities.”
That belief is shared by the federal Conservatives, with Poilievre spending many of his weekends in Metro Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area — areas where the party has struggled to gain ground in the past several elections.
Since becoming party leader last September, Poilievre — who has long talked about inflation, food prices and cost-of-living issues — has increased his focus on crime, an issue that affects many who live in cities and suburbs.
He has adopted what some say is a controversial policy on drugs, opposing the practice of providing drug users with a safe supply of certain illicit substances, despite a broad consensus from experts who say that is necessary to prevent accidental overdoses arising from an increasingly toxic drug supply.
Pointing to regions such as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Poilievre recently slammed safe supply as a “failed experiment,” saying he would instead focusing on increasing access to recovery and treatment spaces.
On Thursday, Smith said she believes her government’s drug policy — which Poilievre has touted as a model to follow — is supported by people living in cities like Edmonton.
Poilievre is also looking to grow the party’s support in urban ridings by getting more immigrant and visible minority communities to consider voting Conservative.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
Meta will test blocking news on Instagram, Facebook for some Canadians
OTTAWA — Meta is preparing to block news for some Canadians on Facebook and Instagram in a temporary test that is expected to last the majority of the month.
The company says it wants to work out the kinks before permanently blocking news on its platforms when the Liberal government’s online news act becomes law.
The bill, which is being studied in the Senate, will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.
The tech giant says the test will affect up to five per cent of its 24 million Canadian users.
The company says the randomly selected users won’t be able to see some content including news links as well as reels, which are short-form videos, and stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
Meta says it is randomly choosing media organizations that will be notified that some users won’t be able to see or share their news content throughout the test.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.
The Canadian Press
Bill Blair blames CSIS director for not passing along memo warning of threats to MP
Bill Blair is blaming Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault for the fact he didn’t receive a memo warning about threats against Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family by a Chinese diplomat. Blair speaks during an update in Ottawa, on Thursday, June 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby
By David Fraser in Ottawa
Bill Blair is blaming Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault for the fact that he didn’t receive a memo warning about the alleged targeting of Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family by a Chinese diplomat.
“The director determined this was not information the minister needed to know,” Blair said Thursday afternoon.
The former public safety minister made the comments at a meeting of a parliamentary committee that is investigating allegations that members of Parliament were targeted by foreign interference.
Blair’s appearance follows the release of watchdog David Johnston’s first report, which found there were serious issues with the way the government handles confidential information.
The former governor general’s report concluded that CSIS was aware of indications Chinese officials were contemplating action directed at Canadian MPs, but did not identify negligence at the highest political levels.
Johnston concluded that intelligence about Chinese officials seeking information on Conservative MP Michael Chong didn’t reach the prime minister, the public safety minister or Chong himself until after it was leaked and reported by media.
The prime minister’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas, told MPs at the committee meeting that in 2021, the memo was sent to deputy ministers of Public Safety, Global Affairs and National Defence.
But it effectively went into a “black hole” and wasn’t shared with the appropriate people, she said.
Thomas was the deputy minister of National Defence at the time and was one of the three to receive the memo.
She said she didn’t see it because she was on leave when it was delivered, and the memo would have been destroyed after a certain amount of time for security reasons.
The memo didn’t specifically mention Chong, but Johnston’s report said there was an additional note sent to Blair and his deputy minister indicating there was intelligence the People’s Republic of China intended to target Chong and another, unnamed MP.
The report also said CSIS intended to provide Chong and the other MP with a briefing. Chong said he did receive a briefing but it did not include any details about a threat to his family.
Thomas said the memo about Chong was sent to the Privy Council Office in July 2021 and was provided to her predecessor David Morrison, who is currently the deputy minister of foreign affairs, that August.
But she wouldn’t say why it wasn’t then shared with the prime minister, Chong or other relevant people at the time.
“I’m not going to account for what’s happened with my predecessor,” she told the committee.
Johnston’s report confirmed that CSIS also sent information about the targeting of Chong to the public safety minister and his chief of staff via a top-secret email platform, but they never received it. The public service told Johnston that they don’t have access to the right system.
Thomas said it should have been the responsibility of the security apparatus to ensure the information was provided, arguing that his lack of access to the email system was not the primary reason Blair didn’t see it.
“Minister Blair would have been given a reading package,” she said.
Blair, who was public safety minister at the time, said Thursday afternoon that he, too, first learned about threats against Chong in the media — and that if he had been briefed about threats against an MP, he would have taken action.
“I didn’t have a password to an email account,” he told reporters following his appearance. “That’s not exactly how this works.”
He told MPs on the committee there is no email account where top-secret information is shared with people, but there is a top-secret terminal, and he did not have access to one in his offices.
“If (CSIS) determined that information is not required to be shared with us, and I have no knowledge of that, I would not have the opportunity to act on it,” he said, adding that questions about why the information wasn’t shared with him should be put to Vigneault.
He said that when CSIS did want to share information with him, he was brought to a secure facility and briefed with printed materials.
“I am not suggesting that CSIS purposely withheld information. They make a determination. They make a determination on the credibility and the seriousness of the intelligence that they’ve gathered.”
Thomas said steps have been taken to ensure better information flow since her arrival to the national security adviser position in 2022, and more is now being done to ensure officials are aware of how to consume intelligence.
The Liberal government recently issued a directive that any threats against members of Parliament, their families or their staff must be elevated to the highest political levels, even if CSIS does not deem the threat to be serious or legitimate.
The Liberal government expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in May, accusing him of being involved in a plot to intimidate Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.
Chong’s alleged targeting had come after he successfully sponsored a motion in the House of Commons labelling Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China a genocide.
“We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly wrote in a statement at the time, declaring the Toronto-based diplomat as “persona non grata.”
In response, China’s embassy expelled Canada’s consul in Shanghai and issued a statement accusing Canada of breaching international law and acting based on anti-Chinese sentiment. It said the move has “sabotaged” relations between China and Canada, according to an official English translation provided by the embassy, and promised unspecified retaliatory measures.
Thomas told MPs during her committee appearance that proxies of foreign diplomats in Canada continue to be “working contrary to the interests of the diaspora community.”
She hesitated to put a number on how many people are involved or speak further about what their activities entail, citing national security considerations.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
— With files from Dylan Robertson.
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