Politics Briefing: Canada to stop Kabul rescue flights ahead of U.S. Aug. 31 deadline – The Globe and Mail

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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada will have to withdraw its special forces soldiers and halt rescue flights at the Kabul airport within days as the August 31 deadline for the pullout of American soldiers is rapidly approaching.

Mr. Sajjan told a media briefing Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has made it clear to Canada and other allies involved in the evaluation mission in Afghanistan that they will have to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport before U.S. forces depart at the end of the month.

“Drawing down takes considerable time. It is not done overnight and comes with significant risk. As the Americans finalize their drawdown to meet their deadline, partners nations including Canada must draw down our troops, assets and aircraft ahead of the Americans,” Mr. Sajjan said.

“These moves are necessary for the U.S. to safely maintain control of the airport until their depart.”

Elsewhere: Canada’s Minister of Women and Gender Equality says her mention of the Taliban as “our brothers” during a press conference Wednesday is a “cultural reference,” after receiving criticism for her choice of language. Story, from CTV News, here.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

CAMPAIGN PROMISES:

TORIES PLEDGE MENTAL HEALTH ACTION – Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole today released his plan to help Canadians grappling with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions – a multi-billion dollar platform pledge to address a problem that has only gotten worse during the pandemic.

LIBERALS WOULD TAX BANKS – The Liberals are targeting big banks and insurance companies as a source of new revenue, pledging to raise their corporate tax rate on all earnings over $1-billion and force these same firms to pay a “Canada Recovery Dividend.”

NDP TARGET HIGH CELLPHONE/INTERNET COSTS – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he would work to lower Canadians’ cellphone and internet bills.

ELSEWHERE TODAY:

SIGNIFICANT LIBERAL SOCIAL-MEDIA SPENDING – In the first week of the federal election campaign, the Liberals have spent more on advertising on Facebook and Instagram than the other four major parties combined. Many of the Liberal ads on Facebook highlight key aspects of the party’s campaign pitches, such as “10 days paid sick leave.”

CANADA’S SHIPBUILDERS CONCERNED ABOUT CHINA CONTRACT – A huge state-owned shipyard in China is building a 1,000-passenger ferry for use by a federal Crown corporation over the objections of Canada’s shipbuilding industry and at a time when two Canadians have spent 989 days in Chinese prisons as victims of what Ottawa has called “hostage diplomacy.”

TWO MICHAELS SUPPORTERS PLAN MARCH – Supporters of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor plan to march through Ottawa on Sept. 5 to mark 1,000 days since the two Canadians were first detained in China.

GREENS NOMINATE CANDIDATE REJECTED BY NDP – The federal Greens have nominated a candidate in Nova Scotia who was turfed by the NDP in the last national campaign after a tweet surfaced in which she had compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

GLOVER RUNNING TO LEAD MANITOBA PCs – Former Conservative MP Shelly Glover, who served as a cabinet minister, has announced she will run to succeed Brian Pallister as leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives, and premier of the province. That makes it a two-person race: Former Manitoba health minister Heather Stefanson is the only other candidate in the race. Story here, from CBC.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:

From Parliamentary Reporter Kristy Kirkup, travelling with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau: “[Mr. Trudeau] was heckled Wednesday by a group gathered outside of an announcement in Surrey, B.C. The hecklers were raising several issues including vaccinations and, also, swearing at Mr. Trudeau. They amplified their remarks with megaphones. As a result, Mr. Trudeau did not get on to his campaign bus parked at the event. Instead, he was ushered into a motorcade by his RCMP security detail. On Tuesday, a separate group of demonstrators gathered outside of a hotel in Vancouver where Mr. Trudeau was to arrive. The RCMP redirected him away from the location citing security concerns.”

ELECTION SPOTLIGHT – QUEBEC

Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada: “When compared to what happened back in 2019, a key story of the federal race in Quebec thus far is actually something that has not happened: critical comments directed at a federal party leader by the ever-popular CAQ Premier François Legault. In 2019, Legault criticized Justin Trudeau over his comments on Quebec’s Bill 21 on secularism, among other things. This situation empowered the Bloc, which sided with Legault in a more successful-than-expected attempt to get support from CAQ voters and win many new seats in Quebec, after a period of internal divisions and electoral decline.

“So far in this campaign, Legault has not voiced strong criticisms towards Trudeau, which is a source of relief for the Liberals and a potential issue for the Bloc, which is still trailing behind the Liberals in the polls. Although Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet stated on the first day of the campaign that his goal was to increase the Bloc seat count from 32 in 2019 to at least 40 (out of 78), he still needs to find stronger arguments to convince more francophone voters his party is (allegedly) the only one that can truly fight for Quebeckers in Ottawa. Last time, Legault helped him, indirectly. What will happen to the Bloc this time around if he doesn’t?

“As for the Conservatives, who only won 10 Quebec seats back in 2019, they hope to make some gains in the province, especially in heavily francophone areas located outside of Montreal. Finally, the NDP is trailing in the polls in Quebec but it hopes to at least keep its only remaining seat in the province, as veteran MP and sole survivor of the 2011 Orange Wave Alexandre Boulerice is a well-known figure in his Montreal riding.”

LEADERS

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet campaigns in Quebec City with events including a press briefing on employment insurance and benefits, and a private meeting with the mayor of Québec City.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole makes an announcement and holds a media availability in Brantford, Ont., and attends an event with supporters in Hamilton.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a press conference in Toronto and canvasses with volunteers.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh campaigns in Windsor, Ont., with events that include an affordability announcement, an announcement with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and a mainstreeting event with candidates in Walkerville.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau meets with a family in Surrey, B.C., to discuss housing, and then makes an announcement and holds a media availability.

PUBLIC OPINION:

Together with CTV and Nanos Research, The Globe and Mail is doing daily surveys to track which party and leader Canadians prefer. Check here for the latest results.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how, if shamelessness is the key to success in politics, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is looking good: “Mr. O’Toole’s talent for double-talk may not make for much coherent policy. But as a survival tactic, its merits are undoubted. The point of a wedge issue is to force a party leader to choose between his base and the broader public. It takes some artful duplicity to wriggle out of this trap: to adopt a position of such bottomless vacuity, impenetrable yet suggestive, as to allow each group to take away from it what they prefer.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the changing political landscape as Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s big risk appears to pay off: “Mr. O’Toole remains less popular as a leader than Mr. Trudeau, and much less popular than NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. As yet, there is no convincing evidence that middle-class voters in suburban cities – especially those surrounding Toronto, where elections are won and lost – are shifting from red to blue. And no one should ever underestimate the skill of the Liberal war room. But the political landscape has changed. A week ago, the question was whether Mr. Trudeau would be able to secure a majority government. Unless and until the dynamic of the campaign shifts back in the Liberals favour, a majority is very much in doubt, because Mr. O’Toole took a big risk that appears to be paying off.”

Hugh Segal (contributor to The Globe and Mail) on how foreign policy failures produced the chaos we’re seeing Afghanistan: “There is no excuse for the party leaders to not address the fallout from this difficult situation. Leaders of all stripes need to be prepared to discuss how their party’s proposed foreign policy would be less affected by potential American caprice and how we might expand the size of our military to ensure our ability to work with European, Asian and other allies on international security, humanitarian relief and, where necessary, combat deterrence of potentially hostile powers such as Russia, China, Iran or North Korea.”

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