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Trudeau taps two rookies, moves three ministers in cabinet shakeup

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shuffled three minsters into new roles, and appointed two rookies — David Lametti and Bernadette Jordan — to the front bench in a federal cabinet shakeup on Monday at Rideau Hall. 

The changes were in the prime minister’s mind, an “opportunity to put strong performers in important files and continue to demonstrate our capacity to deliver on a broad range of priorities for Canadians,” Trudeau said speaking to reporters after unveiling his changes to the ministerial roster.

The shuffle puts the size of the federal cabinet at 36 members, including Trudeau. This is the largest number of seats around the cabinet table during this government’s term in office. The gender balance is retained with today’s changes.

Trudeau moved minister Jane Philpott into the newly-vacated role as president of the Treasury Board and minister of digital government. This spot needed filling after long-time MP Scott Brison announced last week that he was resigning from cabinet because he will not be seeing re-election in 2019. The main priority of this position is overseeing the federal public service and intergovernmental spending.

Philpott, an Ontario MP, has been seen as a strong performer in cabinet. Trudeau called her a “natural choice” for the new job given her experience as vice-chair of the Treasury Board cabinet committee.

Speaking to reporters outside Rideau Hall, Philpott said that she had enjoyed learning in each new portfolio she’s held. This is now her third cabinet post, starting as the health minister in 2015.

Part of her job will be working on the incoming new public service pay system to replace the problem-plagued Phoenix software. She said she’ll devote considerable attention to this file.

Philpott’s new job meant there was a vacancy in the role as Indigenous services minister, a cabinet post created in 2017 as part of an effort to reset the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people.

That job has been given to Newfoundland MP Seamus O’Regan, who is being shuffled out of the Veterans Affairs portfolio, a job he’s had since joining cabinet in that same 2017 shuffle.

He’ll be continuing the work on delivering programs to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, including education and housing, as well as chipping away at clearing the drinking water advisories in First Nation communities.

Asked to comment on why O’Regan was moving, Trudeau said that both his past role and his new one are centred around direct delivery from the government to citizens, and that is something that needs to be done right.

O’Regan said his predecessor did a great job and he has big shoes to fill, when it comes to maintaining the relationships and trust she was developing with Indigenous people. He has vowed not to lose any of the momentum of Philpott’s tenure.

In hot water in recent months, over what some saw as problematic comments comparing his experience to that of veterans, O’Regan said he doesn’t want anything he says to serve as a distraction.

“I will listen,” O’Regan said, when asked what his message is to Indigenous people in Canada.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is out as justice minister, a job she’s had since 2015, and has been shuffled into the Veterans Affairs job.

Trudeau, responding to why British Columbia MP Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of justice, said that serving veterans affairs requires a steady hand and she has navigated big files during her years on the file. He called her “extraordinarily capable,” and shot down that it’s a demotion.

“I would caution anyone who thinks that serving our veterans and making sure they get the care to which they are so justly entitled from any Canadian government is anything other than a deep and awesome responsibility,” Trudeau said.

Wilson-Raybould also downplayed any suggestion that her move is a demotion, saying that she is “incredibly proud” of the work she did during her three years in the role. She said she feels she accomplished most of her mandate letter tasks, from legalizing cannabis and putting in a new regime for physician-assisted dying, to advancing legislation to reform the criminal justice system.

Newcomers take justice, new rural development role

Replacing Wilson-Raybould as Canada’s new justice minister and attorney general is Quebec MP David Lametti, who had been serving as a parliamentary secretary for innovation.

Lametti, who in his new position will have the final decision on the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou, said he wouldn’t comment on the case given his potential involvement in the future, but asserted that Canada is a rule of law country and he will respect that.

More broadly, the former law professor said he hopes the experience he’s had working as a parliamentary secretary for various ministers since being elected in 2015 will rub off, but he’s not sure how much law-making he’ll be able to accomplish before the end of this Parliament in June.

Keeping in mind regional representation, Trudeau has promoted Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan to cabinet in a new role, as minister of rural economic development. She had been serving as a parliamentary secretary for democratic institutions.

In this newly created cabinet position Jordan will be responsible for overseeing a new rural jobs strategy, implementing high-speed internet to more rural areas, and handling the infrastructure needs of these communities.

She also becomes the first female to represent a Nova Scotia riding in cabinet. She had previously been chair of the Atlantic Liberal caucus. Prior to being elected in 2015, she was a development officer for the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore in Nova Scotia.

“Since 2015 Bernadette has been a strong voice … She will be a great addition to our team. Now, the Minister of rural Economic Development is a new cabinet position and it will play a major role in the lives of rural Canadians and their families,” Trudeau said, adding that rural issues are often heard by members of the government as they travel the country.

Jordan said that she is “extremely proud” and “honoured” to have this new position.

She said the creation of this position is a reflection of the government acknowledging that the reality for rural Canadians is often different than those who live in urban areas.

Pending further unanticipated departures, many see this as likely the last shuffle before the next federal election, meaning that this lineup will likely be the roster of ministers that Trudeau wants to have in place for the 2019 campaign.

Speaking to how the coming election factored in to today’s changes, Trudeau said the shuffle is “an illustration of the depth of bench strength” that his majority caucus holds. “We’re very excited about being able to show how we step up as a team,” he said.

 

 

 

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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