Canada: Tom Mulcair: Will anyone in Ottawa stand up to Legault?

Adam: McKenna says she won't run for Ottawa mayoralty — but hope springs eternal

  Adam: McKenna says she won't run for Ottawa mayoralty — but hope springs eternal Catherine McKenna has ruled out running for mayor of Ottawa — ever, she says. That’s a real pity because she would be an ideal candidate. In a surprise announcement last week that she was leaving federal politics to spend more time with her family, the Ottawa Centre MP and infrastructure minister also expressed no interest in running for mayor. “Jim Watson, I am not running in the next mayoral election, or ever,” McKenna said , addressing the mayor by name. “Hopefully, that’s definitive. It’s not even possible.” Ottawa has a thin pool of serious, substantive and diverse candidates with great ambition for the city. If, indeed, some are out there, they are hiding.

In the run-up to the election, the federal political parties have been falling over each other trying to be the first in line to kiss François Legault’s ring. That gives the province and its premier an importance they haven’t had in a long time.

Justin Trudeau, François Legault are posing for a picture: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Quebec Premier François Legault before their meeting in Montreal, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Tom Mulcair says the Trudeau government did not mount any real opposition to Bill 21, which discriminates against religious minorities, and has not shown any inclination to get in Legault's way over Quebec's new language legislation, Bill 96, either. © Provided by The Gazette Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Quebec Premier François Legault before their meeting in Montreal, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Tom Mulcair says the Trudeau government did not mount any real opposition to Bill 21, which discriminates against religious minorities, and has not shown any inclination to get in Legault's way over Quebec's new language legislation, Bill 96, either.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals still rule the roost in Greater Montreal, but the Bloc Québécois continues to nip at their heels. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet has to play his own cards wisely because Legault is of two minds about seeing more separatists elected federally.

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Legault is very much aware that a resurgent Bloc would be able to provide support and resources to rival Parti Québécois in the next provincial election. At the same time, Legault’s stratospheric approval numbers probably give him enough confidence to continue to push for as great a vote split as possible, including more Bloc seats, with a view to impeding the Liberals from achieving their goal of regaining their majority.

The current minority status for the Liberals has moved up to the front burner such longtime provincial plans as the NDP childcare program in B.C. and high-frequency trains out of Quebec City. Whether these would ever see the light of day if Trudeau gets a majority is of concern from Victoria to St. John’s.

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The provinces like a federal minority government. The Liberals? Not so much!

One subject that will come back into focus during the campaign and that may help decide whether the Liberals get a majority is their treatment of minorities.

Quebec’s Bill 21, which egregiously discriminates against religious minorities, was already an issue during the 2019 campaign. Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May all refused to take a stand, evidently not wanting to ruffle feathers in Quebec. Scheer got nothing for his efforts and Singh lost virtually all of his Quebec seats anyway. Trudeau mumbled that he might do something, maybe, some day. His attorney-general, the weakest since the Charter was adopted, has refused to intervene in the court challenges, leaving that instead to community groups and individuals.

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Bill 96, now before the National Assembly, would remove minority language rights by amending the Canadian Constitution unilaterally. The Trudeau government has made it amply clear that it is not planning to get in Legault’s way here, either.

Legislative hearings on Bill 96 will be held in Quebec City in September, as the federal campaign is in full swing. It will become an issue.

Keep an eye on which federal party leader might have the courage to finally break away from the pack mentality and take a principled stand for minority rights in Canada.

The Liberals have historically had a lock-grip on the votes of ethno-cultural minorities in Canada’s largest cities.

Watching the moving memorial for the London family killed in what the authorities have said was a terrorist, Islamophobic rampage, one couldn’t help be struck by the especially warm welcome reserved for Jagmeet Singh. He has an ability to speak to the aspirations and the reality of so many who feel left out in Canadian society. The NDP’s current high numbers, on the verge of the campaign, are a source of real concern for the Liberals, as they could wreak havoc for them in the seat-rich Greater Toronto area.

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As we head toward the 40th anniversary of the Charter of Rights, it has never been more openly contested. Quebec’s systematic use of the notwithstanding clause has made us a Rights Free Zone in our country. Even Ontario Premier Doug Ford has recently trundled his way onto that bandwagon. Legault says he prefers collective rights to individual rights. The sad reality is that, thus far, there’s nobody in federal politics willing to argue otherwise, even as rights are being trampled.

Tom Mulcair, a former leader of the federal NDP, served as minister of the environment in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest.

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