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Wilson-Raybould moved to Veterans Affairs, Lametti named justice minister in Trudeau cabinet shuffle

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Montreal MP David Lametti is Canada’s new justice minister, taking over from Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was moved to Veterans Affairs Canada in this morning’s cabinet shuffle.

Lametti is one of two new ministers named in today’s shakeup of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inner circle — likely the last change to Trudeau’s cabinet lineup before Canadians head to the polls later this year.

Lametti, a former law professor at McGill University, previously served as parliamentary secretary to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.

Watch David Lametti react to Jody Wilson-Raybould’s letter on Power & Politics

‘I thought her appointment was a historic one and I agree with her, I think she’s accomplished a great deal,’ says the new Minister of Justice. 0:42

Trudeau denied the suggestion that Wilson-Raybould was being demoted due to underperformance, insisting she has demonstrated she is “extraordinarily capable” through complex files such as medical assistance in dying and reforms to the criminal justice system. The Veterans Affairs portfolio, he said, should not be seen as anything other than a “deep and awesome responsibility.”

“The challenges of continuing to move forward on making sure that our veterans and their families are properly supported, and our capacity to continue to close the seam in terms of working between the Department of National Defence and the Department of Veterans Affairs, will require a deft and steady hand,” Trudeau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains why Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould wasn’t demoted. 1:07

Wilson-Raybould also insisted she was not demoted and defended her record in handling challenging files and appointing judges.

She said she looks forward to working hard for veterans.

Wilson-Raybould moved to Veterans Affairs

“They deserve significant and strong representation, and that’s what I’m committed to doing,” Wilson-Raybould said.

In a lengthy statement released after the shuffle, Wilson-Raybould said serving as justice minister was one of the “greatest privileges” of her life.

“I firmly believe that as a result of our achievements, the state of the justice system in Canada is stronger and better positioned today than when our government took office,” she said. “Most importantly, the ongoing work of protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians has advanced.”

Wilson-Raybould, who is Indigenous, said she will continue to push for “fundamental shifts” in the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples.

Her five-page statement included an annex that lists her legislative and other achievements while she was in the justice portfolio.

Newly-minted Minister of Veterans Affairs Jody Wilson-Raybould doesn’t consider her new job a demotion. 0:31

Jane Philpott was appointed president of the Treasury Board, replacing longtime MP Scott Brison, who announced Thursday he will not seek re-election in order to spend more time with family.

It’s the third portfolio for Philpott since 2015, who was health minister before taking on the new portfolio of Indigenous Services.

She said it’s an “incredible privilege” to have held three interesting portfolios and she will get to work now on hearing from stakeholders and getting briefed on her new mandate priorities.

She’s being replaced in her former post by ​Seamus O’Regan, who leaves Veterans Affairs to take over a department created in 2017 to improve service delivery to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

O’Regan said he will work hard to fill Philpott’s shoes by improving access to clean water, health care and education in Indigenous communities.

He was asked how he would handle some of the more sensitive aspects of his new portfolio, given a past controversy about his choice of words when speaking to veterans. O’Regan recently came under fire from some veterans for suggesting his departure from a career in journalism gave him insight into how members of the Canadian military feel as they take off their uniforms for the last time.

“You have to be yourself. You have to demonstrate empathy where you can. You have to listen intently and you have to let people know you have an open heart,” O’Regan said today. “I don’t want anything at all to distract from the work that I do, and the work that I do is not about me.”

Jane Philpott is the new president of the Treasury Board, a position left vacant when Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison announced last week that he was leaving cabinet. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan was appointed minister of Rural Economic Development, making her the new Atlantic Canadian regional representative in cabinet following Brison’s departure.

According to a news release from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Jordan will be tasked with developing a new rural development strategy to “spur economic growth and create good, middle-class jobs in rural Canada.” She will also work to bring high-speed internet to rural homes and businesses, and work with municipalities, provinces, territories and Indigenous partners to meet the infrastructure needs of rural communities.

Developing rural strategy

The Liberals swept Atlantic Canada in the 2015 election, taking all 32 seats in the region. Jordan rejected the suggestion that the new portfolio was created to stem potential seat losses in the region in this year’s election.

“My role is to help develop a rural economic strategy, to make sure that rural Canada is well-represented, to make sure that rural Canada continues to grow,” she said.

The new portfolio will not have its own department. Instead, it will operate under Infrastructure Canada and Jordan’s work will be supported by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, according to the PMO.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, his party’s finance critic, accused Trudeau of creating the new portfolio in a bid to fix problems in rural Canada that he created himself by imposing a carbon tax and scuttling pipeline projects that would have created jobs.

“I don’t think rural Canadians will be fooled by that,” he said.

Poilievre called Trudeau the “captain of a sinking ship” and compared today’s moves to shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

He suggested O’Regan had to be moved because he was embarrassing the government and harming veterans, but said his transfer may have created more problems.

“In the process he’s created some instability in the office of the justice minister and attorney general, and we’ll be watching very carefully to see how that transition plays out this close to an election,” he said.

Watch the Power Panel analyze the strategy behind the cabinet moves 

Marcella, Yolande, J.P. and Rachel dig into the strategy behind the cabinet moves. 10:40

Several ministers were juggled just six months ago as Trudeau expanded and shifted his cabinet ahead of the 2019 election year.

July’s shuffle brought five new ministers to the table and added new files for seniors, intergovernmental affairs and border security.

A look at who moved where in the federal cabinet Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (CBC News)

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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