Trump fallout, elections and paying rent: 3 ways politics touched us this week
Private helicopters aside, the week in federal politics was notable for a few concrete developments: dealing with Donald Trump; not dealing with electoral reform; and pending changes for affordable housing.
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OTTAWA — It was the first full week back from Christmas vacation for Justin Trudeau, and the hangover lasted all week long.
Even as the prime minister sought to put a bold new face on his cabinet Tuesday and then set off to shed his image of privilege and meet with regular folks at their local coffee shops, questions about his trip to the Bahamas followed him everywhere.
Details of the Caribbean expedition have seeped out slowly, with Trudeau only reluctantly admitting where he went, who he was with, how he got there, and what they all talked about. He also acknowledges he didn't check with the ethics commissioner beforehand, but the prime minister says he is certain she will eventually give her blessing to the helicopter ride that took him to the Aga Khan's private island.
Conflict of interest allegations aside, the week in federal politics was notable for a few concrete developments: dealing with Donald Trump; not dealing with electoral reform; and pending changes for affordable housing. Here's how politics touched Canadian lives this week.
DEALING WITH THE DONALD
Trudeau had a few goals in shuffling his cabinet — demoting poor performers, beefing up portfolios that embody new priorities. But dealing with the global and Canadian repercussions of Trump is clearly weighing heavily on the entire Liberal government.
Trump's policies are nowhere near being fully fleshed out, but it's obvious they will have deep implications for Canada's export and investment flows, trade policy, foreign and defence policy, our currency and our economic growth.
Chrystia Freeland has been designated the point person to handle the fallout, promoted to the position of foreign affairs minister but also maintaining key parts of her previous portfolio at international trade. She is known as a sharp and strategic minister, and the hope is she will be able to talk down the more egregious elements of Trump's approach.
The appointment of former immigration minister John McCallum to the position of ambassador to China is also key. That's because Trump is signalling he will have an adversarial relationship with China at a time when the Trudeau government has made a point of cosying up. McCallum has the trust of Trudeau to tread carefully.
WALKING BACK ELECTORAL REFORM
The much-repeated, unequivocal Liberal campaign promise to make 2015 the last election under the first-past-the-post voting system is in a lot of trouble.
After months of discord, stagnation and conflict on the file, Trudeau is no longer repeating the promise. Instead, he is reminding the public that he used to favour a ranked ballot system — even though that system has been widely panned by experts and opposition parties.
And he replaced controversial democratic institutions minister Maryam Monsef this week with rookie Karina Gould, without mentioning the need for her to set up a new way of voting.
Gould won't repeat the promise either.
PORTABLE HELP FOR HOUSING
There's word this week that the federal government is contemplating a new type of benefit that would help low-income Canadians pay their rent every month.
The benefit would come in the form of a portable rent supplement, attached to individual people and tied to their income levels.
Traditionally, government help for affordable housing comes in the form of building more homes or subsidizing the rent on certain units. But the affordable housing situation is deteriorating — and government-run building projects are slow, while rent subsidies aren't flexible enough to deal with low-income people who need to move.
A portable rent supplement could nicely complement these efforts but not replace them, advocates warn.
The federal government is in the midst of crafting a long-term national housing strategy and is expected to finish it early this year.