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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.

Congratulations if you had “Canada’s top civil servant rides to Justin Trudeau‘s rescue against Jody Wilson-Raybould” on your SNC-Lavalin Bingo cards.

Appearing before the justice committee, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick said there was nothing to the idea that when Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s attorney general the PMO tried to pressure her into helping SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution for fraud and corruption.  “At every opportunity, verbally and in writing in December, the prime minister made it clear that this was the decision for the minister of justice to take. She was the decision-maker,” he declared. He blasted the Globe and Mail story that first raised the allegations of political interference, saying it “contains errors, unfounded speculation and, in some cases, is simply defamatory.” And he praised Trudeau and his staff for their integrity: “You may not like their politics or their policies or their tweets but they have always been guided by trying to do the right thing, in their own view, in the right way.” (Canadian Press)

Wernick also used his testimony to go well beyond the question of political interference in the SNC-Lavalin case, warning darkly that “somebody’s going to be shot” during the next Federal election campaign, that “trolling from the vomitorium of social media” was making its way into the “open media arena”, and without naming him he singled out Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk who urged the yellow-vested convoyers who descended on the Hill this week to get in their trucks and “roll over every Liberal left in the country. Because when they’re gone, these bills are gone.” Wernick called the Senator’s words “totally unacceptable,” given the Toronto van attack, and said “I hope that you as parliamentarians are going to condemn that.”

Incidentally, Conservatives who fell into fits earlier this month when Liberal MP Adam Vaughan extended a whack-a-mole analogy to suggest someone should “whack” Ontario Premier Doug Ford—whack being what the mobsters say when they kill someone, in case you didn’t know—have been silent on the Conservative Senator’s call for truckers to drive around the country ploughing down Liberals. Candice Bergen, we’re looking at you.

Also, fun fact: no one has ever used the word “vomitorium” on the Hill before, according to Hansard and the Library of Parliament.

Wernick’s statement was overtly political, coming from a civil servant, which didn’t go unnoticed. “Fine. I’ll just say it. Parts of this performance are why politicians like Stephen Harper can plausibly argue the Canadian Public Service is the Liberal Public Service,” tweeted constitutional scholar Emmett Macfarlane. “Some of the Clerk’s comments today amount to cheerleading for the current government.” (Twitter)

John Geddes parses Wernick’s full testimony, which offered “a glimpse inside the way the powerful interact—and evidently sometimes don’t—around Ottawa”:

Then Wernick made the link to how Canadians might process news of Wilson-Raybould and SNC-Lavalin. “I think Canadians need to be assured,” he said, “that their police and investigators with the powers of the state operate independently, and that the prosecution services—the state charging people with offences—are completely independent.”

He stressed repeatedly that even though SNC-Lavalin had aggressively lobbied the federal government, the company never did manage to get the remediation agreement it so badly wanted. Wernick was eager to put on the record the fact that he personally refused to meet with the company more often than he agreed, and even walked out of a National Arts Centre gala last Oct. 3—an event headlined by pop singer Diana Ross—to avoid proximity to SNC-Lavalin executives. (Maclean’s)

On the question of whether Wilson-Raybould will be able to speak freely next week when she appears before the committee, current Attorney General David Lametti, who also testified Thursday, wouldn’t give an answer. (Global News)

Every time Justin Trudeau has tried to free himself from the SNC-Lavalin affair with a new explanation, Wilson-Raybould has been there to hem him back in, writes Andrew MacDougall:

To date, there have been several ifs, many ands, and one lost (Gerry) Butts —with no end in sight. And the next cut might just be the deepest: on Monday Jody Wilson-Raybould rolls into Justice Committee looking to “speak her truth”.

Trudeau is clearly not in control of events. But somebody is, and that somebody is…Jody Wilson-Raybould. Indeed, when you beam the SNC mess through the Wilson-Raybould lens, everything snaps into focus. As one wag in London said to me the other day: right now, Ottawa has gone all House of Cards because Jody Wilson-Raybould is going all Frank Underwood. (Maclean’s)

Tariffic news: We’re not sure exactly when Canada ceased posing a national security threat to the United States, but apparently we’re a more docile lot now, and the Trump administration is ready to remove the tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum that have mostly served to make things more expensive for Americans. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, said he’s confident the tariffs will be lifted “in the next few weeks” though he hasn’t said why he thinks that. If the tariffs aren’t lifted, Ottawa might just forget to proceed with legislation to implement the USMCA treaty, suggested Transport Minister Marc Garneau: “We will be doing some serious thinking about whether we want to proceed forward with it … you know the situation with respect to steel and aluminum is not yet resolved.” (Global News, CBC News)

Double Dipper departure: Two more NDP MPs have announced they won’t be running in the next election. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Anne Minh-Thu Quach, who both serve ridings in Quebec, bring the total number of New Democrat drop-outs to 11. (Canadian Press)

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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa

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Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa

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In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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City eyes five big themes for Ottawa’s new official plan

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As Ottawa maps out its future for the next 25-plus years, city staff propose focusing on five major areas, including the places we live and the ways we move around the capital.

A staff report to the city’s planning committee lays out five themes for future public consultations, before city council finalizes the plan.

1. Growth Management: City staff say Ottawa should focus on building up, rather than out. Staff also suggest the city provide direction on the type of new housing developments, rather than focusing on the number of units in a development, to encourage a wider variety of housing types.

2. Mobility: Staff say the city should encourage active transportation — like walking and cycling — and transit use by better co-ordinating land use and transportation planning. The report also encourages designing streets to better accomodate pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improving connections to the O-Train and Transitway.

3.  Urban and Community Design: Because Ottawa is a major city and the nation’s capital, staff say the design of our city’s buildings and skyline should be a higher calibre to reflect that status. Staff also suggest the city provide high-level direction for better designed parks and public spaces.

4. Climate, Energy and Public Health: Staff say residents’ health must be foundational to the city’s new official plan, with policies contributing to creating more inclusive, walkable, and sustainable communities.

5. Economic Development: Because much of Ottawa’s employment is knowledge-based, the city suggests those employment spaces could be better integrated into neighbourhoods and along main streets and transit nodes, instead of being isolated in business parks. City staff also suggest the city encourage more business incubation and identify opportunities to increase local food production.

The city’s new official plan will map out the city’s growth to 2046. The five themes and the plan’s high-level policy direction will go before the city’s planning committee, next week.

Public consultation and fine-tuning is expected to happen before city council approves the final version of the new official plan in 2021.

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