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Thanks for reading the Ottawa Playbook. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, with Maura Forrest and Andy Blatchford. We’re still in Edmonton, following the papal visit. But we’re also in Ottawa, keeping our finger on the pulse of contentious parliamentary committees. Plus, the Tory endorsement to end all Tory endorsements dropped Monday evening.
IT’S COMPLICATED — When Playbook met BLAKE DESJARLAIS at a picnic table in Edmonton’s Borden Park on Monday afternoon, the NDP MP had just returned from Maskwacis. Hours earlier, POPE FRANCIS visited the small community to deliver a highly anticipated apology to residential school survivors and their descendants.
Later, Desjarlais planned to visit the Pope’s next stop: Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, the only Indigenous church in Canada, for a service with local parishioners.
It was not an easy day for Desjarlais, a Métis man whose father and grandmother attended residential schools, and whose birth mother was baptized at the church hosting the Pope.
“It was all very surreal, almost like a dream,” said Desjarlais. “You never anticipated this, in the sense that a powerful, large institution like the Roman Catholic Church would see any interest or benefit in apologizing for its atrocities here in North America. Turtle Island.
“I can only attribute that to the tenacity of survivors throughout this experience, and that puts it in perspective for Canadians how deep this wound is.”
— The conflict within: Monday was particularly complex for Indigenous Catholics.
ANGIE CRERAR, a Métis knowledge keeper and residential school survivor, told journalists gathered at the Edmonton Convention Center on Monday that Pope Francis’s apologies — first at the Vatican in April, and then Monday on Treaty 6 territory — gave her peace she sought most of her life.
“With my whole heart and soul, I really believe he is my Pope,” she said.
Desjarlais spoke to the inner turmoil in those communities. “Some of your family members have found refuge from this pain in the church. They’ve found this place where they can heal, or try to heal, from what they experienced within the church,” he said. “And on the other end of things, there are those who are still looking for family members who’ve died.”
Two of Desjarlais’ uncles died while attending residential schools.
— Internal affairs: The papal apology included a pledge to “conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past and to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered.”
Desjarlais rejected the value of any review of church culture that re-victimizes survivors or their descendants. He encouraged the Vatican to instead look in the mirror.
“The church has to look inward and ask itself, ‘Have we been a fair institution to Indigenous people? Where have we gone wrong? What policies uphold our neglect of these people today and how can they change?’ ” he said.
NEXT ON THE AGENDA — Pope Francis will preside over a supersized mass at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in front of tens of thousands of believers.
The pope then travels 60 kilometers northwest of the city on a pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne, where members of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation reside on the western shores. The Cree word for the body of water is Wakamne, which translates to God’s Lake.
The lake’s magnetism as a spiritual center predates European settlement, but it also attracts one of the largest Catholic pilgrimages in western Canada every July.
THE BIG ONE — Former PM STEPHEN HARPER stepped out of the shadows long enough Monday to endorse PIERRE POILIEVRE for Conservative leader.
Harper posted a Facebook video and addressed party members directly. “I haven’t talked to you like this in a while, and much has transpired,” he said, deadpanning an incredible understatement of Tory politics.
He got to the point: Poilievre was a “strong minister” in government and now the “most vocal and effective critic” of the Trudeau Liberals.
— Not a surprise: Harper, um, does not like JEAN CHAREST. At all. It was a whole thing.
— The issues: Harper credited his one-time parliamentary secretary with speaking to priorities that matter most: “slow growth, debt, inflation, lack of job and housing opportunities, and the need to fix the institutions that are failing Canadian families.”
Is that a thumbs up on Poilievre’s pledge to fire Bank of Canada Governor TIFF MACKLEM? Does the economist-turned-PM approve of the seven-term MP’s crypto policy? Alas, Harper didn’t settle in for a line-by-line review of Poilievre’s platform.
Said neutral Edmonton MP MIKE LAKE: “A strong, well-articulated, and positive endorsement for Pierre Poilievre, from a man who knows him and our party very well. I wish more of the communications during this leadership race sounded like this.”
— The last word: Far be it for Playbook to declare a winner while Conservative members are still mailing in their votes, but a Harper endorsement is the closest thing to the word of God outside of, well, a papal apology. Conservatives deeply respect the opinion of their party’s founding leader. This is likely game over.
A POLLING TWIST — Earlier Monday, the Angus Reid Institute published a poll that rejuvenated Charest’s camp and got (some) Tory tongues wagging about what it all means. Angus Reid’s topline numbers gave both Charest and rival Poilievre a lead among all voters, but the regional results were all anyone was talking about.
— Strengths and weaknesses: The underdog Charest and frontrunner Poilievre both netted 34 percent of the vote. But their hypothetical coalitions diverged markedly. The former Quebec premier nabs voters that used to swing Liberal, but gives ground to MAX BERNIER‘s People’s Party. Poilievre courts few Liberals, but stems Bernier’s progress.
— The regions: A Poilievre-led party finished a distant third in Quebec, compared to a strong second from Charest. Poilievre fell behind the Liberals in Atlantic Canada. Charest carried the region. No matter the Tory leader, Ontario appeared to be a three-way dogfight. Charest gained a small edge over Poilievre.
— Told ya so, sorta: Charest’s campaign told Playbook their internal polling has shown similar trends. Their pitch is the same as it ever was: Poilievre can win the party in a leadership race. Charest can win the country in a general election.
DROPPING THE GLOVES — Parliamentarians will today move forward on their own investigation of a scandal that’s rattling the power structure of Canadian hockey.
Sexual assault accusations and the alleged use of reserves to settle such allegations have for months been hammering Hockey Canada, the national body that oversees a sport woven into the country’s cultural fabric.
Key leaders from Canada’s junior hockey community and the federal minister responsible for sport will testify (read: get grilled) by parliamentarians over the next two days.
The first witness will be in the House of Commons heritage committee’s spotlight at 11 a.m. ET.
The details: Hockey’s governing body has been under fire since news spread that it had settled a C$3.55 million lawsuit in May. The woman who launched the suit alleged that eight players sexually assaulted her following Hockey Canada fundraising gala in London, Ontario in 2018. The hockey players have not been named publicly.
Another bombshell: More accusations came to light Friday. Hockey Canada revealed it had learned of another alleged group sexual assault, this time involving members of the 2002-03 national junior team in Halifax.
Police in London announced later Friday that they are reopening their investigation into the 2018 allegations, while Halifax police said they would probe the 2003 accusations.
The goal: Liberal MP HEDY FRY, who chairs the committee, spoke with CityNews’ CORMAC MAC SWEENEY recently about the objective of this week’s hearings.
“(It) is not to find out who did what, allegedly, to whom — who the perpetrators are, who the victim is,” Fry told CityNews in an interview before the 2003 allegations surfaced. “We want to find out how Hockey Canada in 2018 handled this issue. What are the steps they took? What (are) the conversations they had?”
Fry noted that MPs wanted another crack at Hockey Canada witnesses who testified before them about the issue last month.
“We were not happy with our first answers from them,” she said.
Today’s lineup: The committee will hear today from DANIELLE ROBITAILLE, a partner with Henein Hutchison. Hockey Canada hired the prominent law firm in 2018 to conduct a third-party probe of the allegations against members of the 2018 men’s junior hockey team.
MPs will later hear from Deputy Heritage Minister ISABELLE MONDOU and MICHEL RUEST, a senior director with the Sport Canada branch inside the department, at 12 p.m. Mondou and Ruest will stay on the hot seat at 1 p.m. when they will be joined by Sport Minister PASCALE ST-ONGE and EMMANUELLE SAJOUS, an assistant deputy heritage minister.
Tomorrow’s agenda: The committee will hear Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. from several Hockey Canada officials, including president SCOTT SMITH and retired CEO TOM RENNEY. Smith and Renney both appeared at a June 20 hearing before the same committee.
The witness list also includes Canadian Hockey League President DAN MACKENZIE and the commissioners of Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues — GILLES COURTEAU of the Ligue de Hockey Junior Majeur du Québec, DAVID BRANCH of the Ontario Hockey League and RON ROBISON of the Western Hockey League.
BARRY LORENZETTI, founder and head of the BFL Canada insurance company, will be behind the microphone at 2 p.m.
‘Toxic’ culture: On Monday, Hockey Canada released an action plan that it promised will address “toxic” behaviors on and off the ice. The plan will include the creation of a “tracking and reporting system for all complaints of maltreatment, abuse or harassment.”
Hockey Canada promised the results of the system will be published publicly every year as a way to hold the organization accountable.
HACKED — The House of Commons ethics committee is meeting today following a request by four members to study “device investigation tools used by the RCMP.”
Last month, POLITICO reported that the national police force uses spyware to hack mobile devices. The RCMP can use malware to collect a broad range of data, including text messages, emails, photos, videos and financial records. The police can also remotely turn on a device’s camera and microphone.
The RCMP says it only uses such technology in the most serious cases, including national security and organized crime investigations. The force used spyware in 10 investigations between 2018 and 2020.
— Unanswered questions: But the police agency has not been open about its ability to hack phones, and it didn’t consult the federal privacy commissioner before launching the program.
— In response to questions from POLITICO, the RCMP wouldn’t say what companies provide the spyware it uses. The police force would not confirm or deny whether it uses technology from Israeli firm NSO Group, whose Pegasus spyware was the subject of a major media investigation last year, which revealed it had been used to hack smartphones belonging to journalists and human rights activists.
OPEN WIDE — Health Canada is looking for industry feedback about how to best administer a national dental care plan, suggesting the federal government may opt to deliver the program itself.
The Liberals have promised to provide dental care to the estimated 7 to 9 million Canadians who currently don’t have coverage due to the cost. The pledge is a pillar of the Liberal government’s deal with the NDP to guarantee their support until 2025.
— The details: The Liberals have promised to provide coverage this year for children under 12 years, with the program expanding to cover those under 18 years, seniors and people with disabilities in 2023, and everyone else by 2025. Families with an income under C$90,000 will be eligible.
Ottawa has budgeted C$5.3 billion over five years for the program.
— Outstanding questions: But the government has not yet said what model the dental care program will take — for example, whether it will be administered by the provinces, by Ottawa or by a private company.
A request for information released Monday by Health Canada says Ottawa is looking for advice about the “viability and timing of a federal direct delivery,” suggesting the government could opt for a standalone federal program.
— The ask: Ottawa is looking for insurance companies to provide information about whether they could design a plan for the government, including whether they could have it up and running in six months.
Health Canada is also looking to know what services are common to basic dental plans, how to coordinate benefits with other insurance plans, and whether Ottawa would be better to procure “an existing ‘off-the-shelf’ insurance plan” from a private company.
The government is looking for industry feedback by Aug. 22.
— Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU is back in the National Capital Region today. On his agenda: “Private meetings.”
9:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m. ADT) Transport Minister OMAR ALGHABRA will announce funding under the Oceans Protection Plan in Port Hawkesbury, N.S.
12 p.m. (10 a.m. MDT) Crown–Indigenous Relations Minister MARC MILLER will make a “Budget 2022 echo announcement” with Metis Settlements General Council President HERB LEHR in Edmonton.
12 p.m. The House ethics committee meets after four MPs requested a meeting to discuss a potential new study to probe the RCMP’s use of spyware.
1 p.m. Sport Minister PASCALE ST-ONGE is at the House heritage committee to answer questions about allegations of sexual assaults against Hockey Canada. The meeting begins at 11 a.m. with testimony from DANIELLE ROBITAILLE, a partner at law firm Henein Hutchison.
TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW — What are you hearing that you need Playbook to know? Send it all our way.
FROM THE TENDERS — TeleFilm Canada is looking for a contractor to build pavilions at four major festivals in France, including a component of the Cannes Festival.
— Natural Resources Canada is keen to learn more about recovering and converting lithium from battery waste into battery-grade lithium carbonate (a key component of EVs).
— Finance Canada is dipping its toes into a review of the digitization of money, including central bank digital currencies (we’re counting down the seconds until PIERRE POILIEVRE notices).
— RAHIM MOHAMED at The Hub: How Canada’s Conservatives can look more like Britain’s Tories
— OLEKSII MAKEIEV, Ukraine’s special envoy on sanctions, told POLITICO EU that Berlin and Ottawa were wrong to give a special exemption to Nord Stream turbines.
— The Canadian Press reports on National Defense Minister ANITA ANAND’s response to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier being draped with a U.S.-Canada flag.
— U.S. prosecutors are chasing a life sentence for a Canadian who they say is a “formidable figure within ISIS.” Global News’ STEWART BELL has the details from court documents.
— “TAMMY BALDWIN is about halfway to her goal of getting 10 Republicans to filibuster-proof a same-sex marriage bill,” writes POLITICO’s BURGESS EVERETT of the Wisconsin senator. “Finding the final five will be harder.”
Birthdays: HBD to GARY MAR, CEO of the Canada West Foundation.
Movers and shakers: McMillan Vantage welcomed back TAUSHA MICHAUD, former chief of staff to ERIN O’TOOLE and senior adviser to DOUG FORD‘s re-election campaign. Michaud is now a VP at her old/new firm. “This is the #cdnpoli version of Kawhi coming back to the Raptors!” joked GR guy TOMMY GOODWIN.
SCOTT ROSS is now the permanent executive director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture … JEAN CHAREST and LESLYN LEWIS were the only CPC leadership contenders who responded to the Western Canadian Wheat Growers’ questionnaire.
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Monday’s answer: The Bloc Québécois officially launched on July 25, 1990.
Props to GUY SKIPWORTH, DEAN VALENTINO, NANCI WAUGH, JOHN ECKER, PIERRE JURY, NICK MASCIANTONIO, JOANNA PLATER, AMY BOUGHNER, JOHN DILLON, and ROBERT MCDOUGALL.
McDougall reminds us the BQ wasn’t a legal entity until June 15, 1991, and was only formally registered as a political party on Sept. 11, 1993 — three days after the election call. (The Canadian Encyclopedia has all the details.)
Tuesday’s question: How long has Governor General MARY SIMON had her gig?
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