No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says


Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole pushed back against attempts to link his party to Trump-style politics on Sunday, saying there is “no place for the far right” in the Tories while accusing the Liberals of divisive dirty tricks.

In a statement Sunday, O’Toole asserted his own views on such issues as abortion, gay rights and reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada while insisting that his party is not beholden to right-wing extremists and hatemongers.

“The Conservatives are a moderate, pragmatic, mainstream party — as old as Confederation — that sits squarely in the centre of Canadian politics,” O’Toole said.

“My singular focus is to get Canada’s economy back on track as quickly as possible to create jobs and secure a strong future for all Canadians. There is no place for the far right in our party.”

The unusual statement follows the riot at the U.S. Capitol, which outgoing President Donald Trump has been accused of inciting and which has since been held up as proof of the dangers posed by right-wing extremists to Western democracy.

It also comes on the heels of a Liberal Party fundraising letter sent to members last week that accused the Conservatives under O’Toole of “continuing a worrisome pattern of divisive politics and catering to the extreme right.”

As one example, it cited the motto used by O’Toole’s leadership campaign: “Take back Canada.”

It also referenced a photo that has been circulating of Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen wearing a hat with Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and a since-deleted Tory website originally posted a few years ago alleging the Liberals wanted to rig the 2019 election.

Conservative spokesperson Cory Hann told CBC News in an email that the webpage was in response to the Liberals’ proposed changes to the Elections Act, while noting the Liberals made similar accusations against the Conservatives before the 2015 election.

O’Toole on Sunday condemned the Capitol Hill attack as “horrifying,” and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism by touting his party’s support for free and fair elections, the peaceful transfer of power and accountable government.

To that end, he lashed out at the Liberals, referencing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to prorogue Parliament last summer as hurting accountability, before turning the tables on the governing party and accusing them of using U.S.-style politics.

“If the Liberals want to label me as ‘far right,’ they are welcome to try,” O’Toole said. “Canadians are smart and they will see this as an attempt to mislead people and import some of the fear and division we have witnessed in the United States.”

Effort to redefine Conservatives, expert suggests 

Former Conservative strategist Tim Powers, who is now chairman of Summa Strategies, believes O’Toole’s team saw a “gathering storm” and felt the need to act to prevent the Liberals from painting the Conservatives as beholden to Trumpism.

Such action was especially important ahead of what could be an extremely divisive week down in the U.S., where there are fears that Trump supporters and far-right actors will respond to Joe Biden’s inauguration as president with violence.

Powers suggested it is also the latest act in O’Toole’s effort to introduce himself to Canadians and redefine the Conservatives ahead of the next federal election, both of which have been made more difficult by COVID-19.

And when Conservatives in caucus make statements or otherwise act counter to his stated positions, Powers said O’Toole will need to “crush them and take them out” to prove his convictions.

Shuvaloy Majumdar, who served as a policy director in Stephen Harper’s government, welcomed O’Toole’s statement while also speaking of the threat that events in the U.S. could pose to the Tories in Canada — particularly if the Liberals try to link them.

O’Toole was accused during last year’s Conservative leadership race of courting social conservatives who oppose abortion, among other issues. That raises questions about the degree to which he may anger the party’s base by taking more progressive positions.

But Majumdar suggested many social conservatives left the Tories for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada and that O’Toole is seeking to appeal to more voters by taking a broader view on social issues while sticking to the party’s core economic positions.

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‘It’s a critical situation:’ Dragon’s Den star Arlene Dickinson on struggle of small business to survive the second lockdown


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A “mind-blowing” third of Ontario businesses are not expected to survive this second lockdown.

Dragon’s Den star and Venture Communications founder Arlene Dickinson talks with Financial Post’s Larysa Harapyn about what small businesses, their communities and the government need to do improve those odds.

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21-year-old Toronto woman who loved solo travel dies on Vancouver-area mountain trail


A 21-year-old Toronto woman who posted online about her love for solo travel has died after getting lost on a mountain trail on Vancouver’s rugged north shore.

Nikki Donnelly was “the type of person you’ll only meet once in a lifetime,” longtime friend Dana Morvan told the Star Saturday.

Donnelly went missing on a hike north of Vancouver earlier this week. On Friday, Squamish RCMP said she was removed from a steep gully about five kilometres from the Cypress Mountain ski area on Friday morning after an overnight search.

The Mounties said Donnelly was taken back to the base of North Shore Rescue, a volunteer search-and-rescue team that operates in the area, and medical staff pronounced her dead.

Donnelly documented her travels on an Instagram account that included posts from Mexico, Morocco, the U.S. and several recent images from the backcountry in Western Canada.

“She travelled the world by herself,” said Morvan, who used to work with Donnelly as a lifeguard. “This was just another hike for her,” she said.

Morvan described her friend as the kind of person she could open up to. “She was actually the first person that I came out to,” Morvan said. “I felt so comfortable around her.”

When they no longer worked together, Morvan said they continued spending time together, going to concerts and bonding over travel and triathlons. She said Donnelly was inspired to travel by photos of Morvan in B.C., and reached out for recommendations on places and activities to look out for.

Officials with North Shore Rescue said Donnelly was found about 20 hours after she contacted a friend in Toronto to report she was lost.

That friend reported that the woman called to say she was returning from St. Mark’s Summit and realized she had strayed from the trail.

North Shore Rescue scoured the area using night-vision equipment, but poor weather and snow conditions complicated their efforts.

In a news release, the RCMP they will work with the B.C. Coroners Service to determine all the facts surrounding the death.

North Shore Rescue receives about 130 search-and-rescue calls a year, according to its website, which offers guides to educate hikers planning trips in the mountains near Vancouver.

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RCMP Sgt. Sascha Banks urged anyone heading into the backcountry to research the Sea to Sky area, take the necessary gear, assess their skill level and know the conditions.

“Please know this: if you are in the backcountry and need help, stop and call 911, ourselves and our very experienced search teams will do everything we can to find you.”

With files from The Canadian Press



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Biden to face difficulties in U.S. foreign policy after Trump’s presidency – National


U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to scrap President Donald Trump’s vision of “America First” in favor of “diplomacy first” will depend on whether he’s able to regain the trust of allies and convince them that Trumpism is just a blip in the annals of U.S. foreign policy.

It could be a hard sell. From Europe to the Middle East and Asia, Trump’s brand of transactional diplomacy has alienated friends and foes alike, leaving Biden with a particularly contentious set of national security issues.

Read more:
Inauguration Day is also move in and out day at the White House

Biden, who said last month that “America’s back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” might strive to be the antithesis of Trump on the world stage and reverse some, if not many, of his predecessor’s actions. But Trump’s imprint on America’s place in the world — viewed as good or bad — will not be easily erased.

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U.S. allies aren’t blind to the large constituency of American voters who continue to support Trump’s nationalist tendencies and his belief that the United States should stay out of world conflicts. If Biden’s goal is to restore America’s place in the world, he’ll not only need to gain the trust of foreign allies but also convince voters at home that international diplomacy works better than unilateral tough talk.

Trump has insisted that he’s not against multilateralism, only global institutions that are ineffective. He has pulled out of more than half a dozen international agreements, withdrawn from multiple U.N. groups and trash talked allies and partners.

Biden, on the other hand, says global alliances need to be rebuilt to combat climate change, address the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future epidemics and confront the growing threat posed by China. The national security and foreign policy staff that he has named so far are champions of multilateralism.










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His choices for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and foreign aid chief Samantha Power — all veterans of the Obama administration — underscore his intent to return to a foreign policy space that they believe was abandoned by Trump.

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“Right now, there’s an enormous vacuum,” Biden said. “We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us.”

Biden intends to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and cooperate again with the World Health Organization. He plans to smooth relations with Europeans and other friends and refrain from blasting fellow members of NATO, and he may return the United States to the Iran nuclear agreement. Still, many Americans will continue to espouse Trump’s “America First” agenda, especially with the U.S. economy struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, civil strife in American streets over racism and the absence of civil political discourse.

“Whether people liked it or not, Trump was elected by Americans in 2016,” said Fiona Hill, who worked in the Trump White House’s National Security Council and now is at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution.

Trump’s election in 2016 and the tens of millions of votes he garnered in 2020 reflect a very divided nation, she says.

“We have to accept that the electoral outcome in 2016 was not a fluke,” Hill said.

Steven Blockmans, research director at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Belgium, said Europeans should not kid themselves into believing transatlantic relations will return to the way they were before Trump.

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“In all but name, the rallying cry of ‘America First’ is here to stay,” he said. “Biden has vowed to prioritize investment in U.S. green energy, child care, education and infrastructure over any new trade deals. He has also called for expanded ‘Buy American’ provisions in federal procurement, which has long been an irritant in trade relations with the European Union.”

Each part of the world holds a different challenge for Biden.

China

Fear of China’s quest for world dominance started to mount before Trump came to office. Early on, Trump sidled up to China’s authoritarian president, Xi Jinping. But after efforts to get more than a first-phase trade deal failed, the president turned up the heat on China and repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more:
Trump impeachment trial a ‘vote of conscience,’ Mitch McConnell says

He sanctioned the Chinese, and in speech after speech, top Trump officials warned about China stealing American technology, conducting cyberattacks, taking aggressive actions in the South China Sea, cracking down on democracy in Hong Kong and abusing the Muslim Uighurs in western China.

Increasingly, Republicans and Democrats alike are worried about a rising economic and geopolitical threat from China, and that concern won’t end when Trump leaves office.

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North Korea

Resetting U.S. relations with Asia allies is instrumental in confronting not only China but also North Korea.
Trump broke new ground on the nuclear standoff with North Korea with his three face-to-face meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But Trump’s efforts yielded no deal to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief and security assurances. In fact, North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear capabilities.

Biden might be forced to deal with North Korea sooner than later as experts say Pyongyang has a history of conducting tests and firing missiles to garner Washington’s attention around U.S. presidential elections.


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Coronavirus: Biden calls out GOP lawmakers for refusing to wear masks during U.S. Capitol riot


Coronavirus: Biden calls out GOP lawmakers for refusing to wear masks during U.S. Capitol riot

Afghanistan

Nearly 20 years after a U.S.-led international coalition toppled the Taliban government that supported al-Qaida, Afghan civilians are still being killed by the thousands. Afghan security forces, in the lead on the battlefield, continue to tally high casualties. Taliban attacks are up outside the cities, and the Islamic State group has orchestrated bombings in the capital, Kabul, including one in November at Kabul University that killed more than 20 people, mostly students.

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The U.S. and the Taliban sat down at the negotiation table in 2018. Those talks, led by Trump envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, eventually led to the U.S.-Taliban deal that was signed in February 2020, providing for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

Set on making good on his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. troops from “endless wars,” Trump cut troops from 8,600 to 4,500, then ordered troop levels to fall to 2,500 by Inauguration Day. The United States has pledged to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, just months after Biden takes office, but it’s unclear if he will.

Middle East

Trump opted to think outside the box when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relations with Arab nations.

The Palestinians rejected the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan, but then Trump coaxed two Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to recognize Israel. This was historic because Arab nations had for decades said they wouldn’t recognize Israel until the Palestinians’ struggle for an independent state was resolved.

Read more:
The House has voted to impeach Trump: What next?

Warming ties between Israel and Arab states that share opposition to Iran helped seal the deal. Morocco and Sudan also later recognized Israel.

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Iran

In 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, in which world powers agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran if it curbed its nuclear program.


Click to play video 'Iran defends right to resume 20% uranium enrichment, EU aims to save nuclear accord'







Iran defends right to resume 20% uranium enrichment, EU aims to save nuclear accord


Iran defends right to resume 20% uranium enrichment, EU aims to save nuclear accord – Jan 5, 2021

Trump said the deal was one-sided, didn’t prevent Iran from eventually getting a nuclear weapon and allowed it to receive billions of dollars in frozen assets that it has been accused of using to bankroll terror proxies destabilizing the Mideast.

Biden says exiting the deal was reckless and complains that Iran now has stockpiled more enriched uranium than is allowed under the deal, which is still in force between Iran and Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany.




© 2021 The Canadian Press



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Thousands share Indigenous ribbon skirt photos in solidarity with Sask. girl


TORONTO —
Thousands of Indigenous women around the world are sharing photos on social media in solidarity with a 10-year-old Canadian girl who was ridiculed for wearing a traditional ribbon skirt to school last month.

Isabella Kulak from the Cote First Nation attended a “formal day” at Kamsack Comprehensive Institute in Saskatchewan on the final day of class before the holidays. Other girls at the school were wearing what looked like store-bought dresses, she and her parents recounted on CTV News Channel Friday, but Isabella chose to wear one of her traditional, handmade ribbon skirts.

The Indigenous attire, which are often vibrantly coloured and feature ribbon-like patterns, mean many things to different women and are worn on a variety of occasions.

For Isabella, the skirts holds much power. “It represents strength, resilience, cultural identity and womanhood,” she told CTV News Channel on Friday. 

But in one moment that day, that power was taken from her, when a teaching assistant told Isabella that her skirt didn’t match her dress and wasn’t appropriate for a formal day. They pointed to another girl at the school in a dress suggesting Isabella wear something different next time. The school has since apologized to Isabella and her family.

When she went home that day, Isabella’s parents Lana and Chris noticed she seemed sad. Later that evening, she opened up to her mother about what happened.

“It really broke my heart and it brought back all kinds of emotions from when I was a little girl,” Lana told CTV News Channel. “I couldn’t believe that it was happening in this day and age to one of my children now. It was very heartbreaking.”

A Facebook group in support of Isabella has grown to more than 5,500 members since Dec. 30. In thousands of images posted to the page, Indigenous women and girls from across Canada and around the globe — from California to England — are seen showing off a variety of ribbon skirts. Some are simple designs, others intricate and floral. Some are playful. One woman posted a photo of her wearing an Edmonton Oilers skirt. Another young girl shared an image of her holding a baby Yoda doll in a matching ribbon skirt.

The incident has inspired a push for a “ribbon skirt day” later this month in the area. Isabella’s parents hope that the difficult moment for the family can turn into a positive lesson for others.

“These old mindsets and these old ways of thinking … people think there’s been a bunch of progress and maybe there has been, but not enough. We can always strive to do better,” said Chris. “I hope that all the support and showing of interest in this story will get people talking in a positive way about what happened and not a negative way so that we can change the course of this discussion that’s been happening for a very long time.”

The outpouring of support has already been a positive step.

“It felt very nice to know that I have lots of people supporting me around the world,” said Isabella, who has been getting personal messages of encouragement.​ 

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6 EU countries urge bloc to address Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine delays, as Canada also flags supply issues — RT World News



Six EU governments have written to the bloc’s executive to call for action as deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech are being delayed, while supply issues have also been reported in Canada.

The health ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia called on the EU Commission to ensure the “stability and transparency of timely deliveries” of the Pfizer jab in a letter on Friday.

“This situation is unacceptable. Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process,” the letter reads, according to Reuters.

Pfizer will also temporarily reduce shipments of the vaccine to Canada while the company expands production at its manufacturing facility in the Puurs area of Belgium, Canadian Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Friday.

Speaking during a news briefing, the minister added that Pfizer’s production strategy was “reducing deliveries to all countries” and that Canada’s vaccination targets should be back on track by March, without going into further detail.



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Pfizer reducing Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to Europe while it steps up production, Norway says


Earlier on Friday, Norwegian health authorities issued a similar statement, explaining that their expected shipment of 43,875 Pfizer vaccine doses next week would be cut to 36,075.

Ireland will also experience delays of three to four weeks due to Pfizer’s plans, the chief of the country’s Covid-19 vaccine taskforce, Brian MacCraith, said on Friday, adding that authorities had “planned for this sort of eventuality.

A Pfizer spokesperson said that the company was “working hard to deliver more doses than originally forecasted this year,” while stating its goal is to increase capacity from 1.3 billion doses to two billion in 2021.

MEPs are to debate the “need for more clarity and transparency concerning vaccine contracts” at the EU’s first plenary session of the year on Tuesday.

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Public health officials provide new projections on COVID-19 cases, deaths


Federal public health officials will provide new modelling figures today on the number of projected COVID-19 infections and deaths in Canada.

The briefing will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET and CBCNews.ca will carry it live.

It comes as the number of cases continues to climb across the country, threatening to overwhelm more health systems and critical care units.

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Trudeau says he still has ‘a lot to do,’ and wants to serve for ‘number of more years’


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, giving a rare insight into his future plans, said he wanted to serve Canadians for a number of years to come, and shied away from saying who he thought should succeed him.

Trudeau, speaking at the Reuters Next conference, also said he was opposed to the idea of obliging people to carry digital proof that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Trudeau’s ruling Liberals, now in their second term, only have a minority in the House of Commons, which means he relies on the opposition to govern and can be brought down at any time.

Trudeau, 49, has three school-age children. He first took over as prime minister in November 2015 and has at times appeared tired amid the relentless COVID-19 crisis. He admitted dealing with the pandemic had been hard, but made clear he had no plans to quit soon.

“I’ve still got a lot to do in terms of serving this country, so I’m looking forward to a number of more years of serving Canadians,” he said in an interview aired on Thursday.

The comments were the clearest signal he has given that his political ambitions are far from exhausted.

Trudeau came to power promising to focus on causes such as feminism and the environment. But he quickly found himself having to deal with issues such as how to handle U.S. President Donald Trump and then the pandemic.

He has come to rely heavily on Chrystia Freeland, a close ally, who now occupies the positions of both finance minister and deputy prime minister. Liberal insiders say this would give her an advantage in a future leadership race.

Asked whether Freeland might one day become Liberal leader, Trudeau replied: “My responsibility is to bring around me the best possible team I can to serve Canadians … I won’t speculate on what could happen years down the road.”

Vaccine passports

The Liberal government has spent more than $200 billion in direct aid to help people and businesses survive the pandemic. Trudeau reiterated Ottawa planned to spend another $100 billion over the next few years to kickstart an economic recovery.

But he made clear he opposed a vaccine passport for people who had received inoculations, an idea already being developed in Denmark, saying it was fraught with challenges.

“I think the indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to be vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country,” he said.

 

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CRTC holds hearings on CBC licence renewal



Canada’s telecommunications regulator holds multi-day review today of the CBC’s broadcasting licences.

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Postmedia posts first-quarter net earnings of $52.8 million amid pandemic headwinds


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Postmedia Network Canada Corp. continued to feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in its fiscal first quarter, but nonetheless posted net earnings of $52.8 million for the three months ended Nov. 30, 2020, up from a loss of $3 million in the same period a year earlier.

The swing was largely due to a number of items unique to the quarter, including a non-cash settlement gain related to employee benefit plans of $63.1 million, and gains on derivative financial instruments and foreign exchange.

Revenue in the quarter declined by 25.4 per cent to $116.9 million, as advertisers responded to government-mandated shutdowns to try to control the spread of COVID-19.

“With the effects of the global pandemic continuing to weigh on our communities and our people, our focus remains on the safety of our teams, preserving liquidity, constraining costs, maximizing revenue and pursuing government support,” said Andrew MacLeod, president and chief executive of Postmedia.

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