Beyond the Morneau morass: how federal politics touched Canadians this week - InfoNews

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Beyond the Morneau morass: how federal politics touched Canadians this week

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 in Ottawa. It was the week the Conservatives finally called on Bill Morneau to resign, to no avail.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
December 02, 2017 - 9:00 PM

OTTAWA - It was the week the Conservatives finally called on Bill Morneau to resign — to no avail.

After months of relentless attacks on the finance minister's credibility — first for his small business tax proposals, then for his lack of accountability around his own personal wealth, then for driving legislation that may help his family's business interests, and finally for the way he sold off his shares — the Opposition cries of incompetence reached a fever pitch on Wednesday.

But despite the frayed nerves and the minister's hoarse voice, the Liberals stood their ground, with the prime minister repeatedly declaring his confidence in Morneau.

Whether that tense stalemate lasts into next week while Justin Trudeau is out of the country in China is another question.

Leaving aside the hollering and the spectacle of an MP being kicked out of question period, the week was notable for a significant acknowledgment of LGBTQ rights, concrete developments on government benefits for vulnerable First Nations children and deep concern about the closure of dozens of community newspapers.

Here are three ways politics mattered this week.

THE APOLOGY

After decades of state-driven discrimination, and a year and a half of Liberal contemplation, the federal government apologized Tuesday for its mistreatment of gay and lesbian civil servants and soldiers.

The emotional event dredged up painful memories that haunted the halls of the House of Commons and the streets around Parliament Hill, driving many — including Trudeau — to tears.

But it was accompanied by legislation to expunge the criminal records of people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners; $110 million to compensate military members and civil servants whose careers were short-changed; money for community projects to combat homophobia; and a commitment that state-sanctioned prejudice never happen again.

All three party leaders fully embraced the apology, and signs of partisanship were minimal. The NDP is pushing for more action on removing restrictions on blood donations from sexually active gay men. And some Conservative MPs have criticized Trudeau for taking the apology too far by supporting children discovering their sexual orientation at a young age.

THE STEPPING AWAY

In another sign of Liberals pushing identity politics this week, the government moved to end a long-standing court challenge of the government delivery of health care services to First Nations children.

Indigenous children's advocates have fought Ottawa for years to ensure First Nations kids receive the same level of benefits as everyone else, and no one falls through the cracks of federal-vs-provincial responsibilities.

Jane Philpott, the newly named Indigenous services minister who was tasked with finding practical solutions and taking First Nations issues out of the courts, said this week she would cancel a court challenge of a human-rights tribunal ordering the government to shape up.

The move defuses a stand-off on one front that has bruised the government's reputation on Indigenous policy. But the congratulations were few and far between, given the list of other challenges.

THE CLOSURES

When Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp. announced this week they would swap dozens of papers, only to shut most of them down and cut almost 300 jobs, the federal response was less than sympathetic.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, who has a stack of recommendations on her desk about how to help save the news industry, emphasized the need for news outlets to go digital. And she called the Postmedia-Torstar move "cynical" and "disappointing" —especially right before Christmas.

But Ottawa has a stake in community news. Amid questions about collusion, the Competition Bureau has said it will review the deal. Some MPs have wondered out loud how they will communicate with their constituents en masse now that their local media have been dramatically curtailed. And unions are ratcheting up the pressure on the federal government to act on some of the recommendations on Joly's desk.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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