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The bug: 29 former MPs among declared candidates for fall election


OTTAWA — Among those vying for seats in the federal election this fall are dozens of candidates who have already held the job.

There are 29 former MPs among the currently nominated candidates for the major parties. Most are members who were defeated in 2015 and are looking to regain their former seats in a new political environment.

Two-thirds of the House alumni running again are Conservatives. Among the varied group are multi-term veterans and former ministers like Leona Aglukkaq from Nunavut and Kerry-Lynne Findlay of Vancouver, as well as one-termers like John Williamson in New Brunswick and Lois Brown from Newmarket-Aurora.

With polls suggesting a tight race for power between the governing Liberals and Opposition Conservatives, former Tory MPs see the chance to retake lost ground.

Some barely left politics at all, like Tory Scott Armstrong, who lost his Nova Scotia riding in 2015 to Bill Casey, a former longtime MP who came out of retirement himself that year to reclaim the seat for the Liberals.

Armstrong was always interested in running again, he says, noting he’s remained active in Conservative parties in Nova Scotia in the last four years by co-chairing the party’s provincial campaign and working for interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Armstrong sees promise in Casey’s impending retirement and a stronger environment for Conservatives in Atlantic Canada, where the Tories were shut out in 2015 by a Liberal sweep.

The main political change this go-around is getting used once more to the responsibility of being the candidate, and the changed dynamic of running for an opposition party.

“You don’t have to defend your record as much at the door,” Armstrong says. “It’s more about what you’re going to do when you get to Ottawa.”

But the biggest changes have been more personal.

“Suddenly, I’m a grandfather,” Armstrong says. His now-grown children have been helping knock doors and make phone calls, a far cry from his first run in 2009 or even from the 2015 campaign.

A handful of other former MPs among the other parties are making their returns to candidacy. There are no former Liberal MPs so far, but New Democrats Jack Harris, Andrew Cash and Malcolm Allen are back on the hustings, as well as a handful of former Bloc Quebecois MPs.

Then there are a few MPs who are running again, but for different parties.

Jean Rousseau, a former NDP MP from southeast Quebec, will be carrying the Green banner into the upcoming campaign.

The largest contingent of ex-MPs running under new colours are three erstwhile Tories who have foregone the blue in favour of People’s Party purple.

Steven Fletcher, a former Manitoba MP and Progressive Conservative provincial representative, says “the plan was to always run federally again,” though he did not initially intend to do so for the People’s Party.

Fletcher clashed publicly with his own government in Manitoba and was eventually expelled from the Tory caucus over his opposition to Premier Brian Pallister’s plan to implement a carbon tax.

Fletcher says when it became clear he would not be welcome as the federal Conservative nominee, he thought he would run as an Independent, but then he was approached by People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier. Both were ministers in Stephen Harper’s Conservative cabinet; both are on the outs with the Tories.

Fletcher says many in his riding are unhappy with the federal Conservatives, the provincial government and the other traditional parties.

And he hopes Bernier’s crusade against corporate welfare will resonate with those in Manitoba who remember the controversy around where to build Canada’s now-aging CF-18 fighter jets.

Fletcher did concede “frustration” that money he had helped to raise for the federal Conservatives while he was part of the riding association will now be used against him this fall.

The two other former Conservative MPs now running for the People’s Party are Gurmant Grewal, who held a Vancouver-area riding, and Corneliu Chisu of Pickering-Scarborough East.

Chisu says the People’s Party is “growing up” as a party, and he is getting good responses from people who remember him from his days as MP between 2011 and 2015. He says he hasn’t changed his behaviour over the years, including since switching parties.

“Once you’re in the public life,” Chisu said, “you’re always in public life.”

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press


151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot



VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.









Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar



A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”






Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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