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Ottawa warns: travel to China at your own ‘arbitrary’ risk

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Welcome to a sneak peek of the Maclean’s Politics Insider newsletter. Sign-up at the bottom of the page to get it delivered straight to your inbox.

Don’t expect much in the way of grand achievements from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s newly-shuffled cabinet ministers, writes Paul Wells: “It’s hard to budge the trajectory of state from even a post as exalted as a seat at the federal cabinet table. And harder if the government is, as is becoming increasingly obvious to all observers, chronically stage-managed by a tiny cadre of out-of-their-league staffers.” (Maclean’s)

The most high-profile move Monday—the one that set the other dominos in motion—saw Jane Philpott move from Indigenous Services to the Treasury Board, replacing Scott Brison who resigned last week. As Wells writes, there is little symbolism in Phlipott’s rushed shuffle. The real power will almost certainly continue to reside “in a very small number of unelected staffers, whose advantage is that the PM cannot imagine shuffling them.”

The other dominos fell as follows: Seamus O’Regan left Veterans Affairs to replace Philpott at Indigenous Services, while Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould took over the Veterans file. First time cabinet member David Lametti, a Montreal MP, was appointed Justice Minister while another new face, Bernadette Jordan from Nova Scotia, took the helm of a new position,  Minister of Rural Economic Development.

Trudeau’s decision to move Wilson-Raybould from Justice to Veterans affairs looked like a demotion to a lot of people, especially in contrast to O’Regan who was seen as having failed upwards into his new role. As John Ivison writes in the National Post: “On a day of strange decisions, it was Wilson-Raybould’s unceremonious, and rather ruthless, downgrading that raises most questions.” (National Post)

Speaking to reporters after the announcement Wilson-Raybould dismissed any suggestion her portfolio change signalled a demotion—”I can think of no world in which I would consider working for our veterans in Canada as a demotion“—before embarking on a full-throated defence of her time as Justice Minister and tally of her accomplishments there. (Maclean’s)

For the record, here is what Trudeau had to say after the cabinet swaps.

And then there was one: Organizers of one of the two truck convoys that were scheduled to depart Western Canada for Ottawa next month have cancelled their journey. Canada Action, a federally registered non-profit, said its convoy is “no longer viable” and is returning the $25,000 it raised from donors. That leaves a convoy organized by Canada’s yellow vest movement. (CBC News)

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian to death for drug trafficking Monday, after which Trudeau accused China of “arbitrarily” applying the death penalty in the case. That suggests Ottawa believes the court ruling was in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a Chinese telecom executive on a U.S. warrant last month. (Globe and Mail)

The federal government sharpened its travel advisory for China. Canadians who plan to go to the country should “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” (CTV News)

Rand Paul has compared universal health care to “slavery“, so many critics saw it as rich that the Senator will travel to Thornhill, Ont. later this month for surgery at the Shouldice Hernia Hospital. Rand’s medical visit isn’t as hypocritical as some made it out to be—Shouldice is a private hospital that provides its specialized hernia surgery to both Ontario residents covered by provincial health insurance and paying-clients from around the world (as its FAQ says, foreigners have to pay up front: “All charges are payable on admission by credit card, bank draft or cash.“) But leave it to Eugene Gu, a Tennessee doctor and outspoken Trump critic on social media, to explain the real irony: “[This] has nothing to do with Canadian socialized medicine but everything to do with wealth and privilege,” he tweeted. “Rand Paul’s reason for going to a private hospital in Canada instead of one in America is that Canada does the best Shouldice hernia repair—the gold standard for mesh-free hernia surgery. America spends the most money yet can’t train the best surgeons because of broken politics.” (TwitterCourier Journal)

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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