Canada opposition picks young social conservative to take on Trudeau

By David Ljunggren and Andrea Hopkins

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s official opposition Conservatives on Saturday chose a little-known, 38-year-old leader to fight a 2019 election against Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but only after a fierce contest that revealed internal divisions.

On the 13th and final round of balloting, many more than political observers predicted, former House of Commons speaker Andrew Scheer edged out ex-foreign minister and favorite Maxime Bernier by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Scheer is younger and much less well-known than the 45-year-old Trudeau, an avowed feminist who took power in November 2015 promising a more inclusive kind of politics. Polls show the Liberals are still well ahead of opposition parties.

Scheer must now try to heal a rift between the socially conservative wing he represents and others who prefer a more centrist approach.

“We all know what it looks like when conservatives are divided. We will not let that happen again,” Scheer told a televised news conference after the final results were announced in a Toronto convention center.

“Imagine what we will do when we are all working together. We can’t go through another four years of Justin Trudeau.”

The race had moments of Trump-like populism with a reality TV star and a candidate critical of immigration getting early attention. But Scheer and Bernier were more mainstream politicians, suggesting the wave of populism that swept Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency will not extend to Canada.

The right-of-center Conservatives held power for nearly a decade under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the center-left Liberals won in 2015.

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Canada Tory party choose Scheer as leader

Canada’s Conservatives have chosen a youthful new leader to take them into the next federal election.

Former House of Commons speaker Andrew Scheer, 38, beat 12 other contestants in a razor-thin victory.

He emerged as the winner on the thirteenth ballot in the leadership contest, narrowly defeating his primary rival, former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier, with 51% of the vote.

Mr Scheer will lead the party against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2019.

Speaking on Saturday to party faithful gathered in Toronto, Mr Scheer offered a message of unity to the party built some 14 years ago on a coalition of progressive, populist and social conservatives.

“We all know what it looks like when Conservatives are divided,” he said. “We will not let that happen again. We win when we are united.”

  • Can Trudeau be beaten?

More than 141,000 Conservative party members cast a ballot in the contest.

Unlike in federal elections in Canada where the winner takes all, the Conservative leadership race used preferential ranked ballots, which means that Mr Scheer was not everyone’s first choice.

Still, Mr Scheer was seen as a consensus candidate who received strong support from the party caucus.

Few of the contestants in the crowded race were household names, except for businessman and reality TV star Kevin O’Leary, who unexpectedly dropped out of the contest in April.

Mr O’Leary threw his support behind Mr Bernier but that backing failed to get the Quebec politician, who ran on a free-market, libertarian slate, across the finish line. He ended the night with 49% of the vote.

  • Kevin O’Leary drops out of the leadership race

Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper resigned in 2015 after he was defeated in the federal election by Mr Trudeau’s Liberals.

Mr Harper held together the right-of-centre federal party for a decade, winning three consecutive elections between 2006 and 2011.

He was replaced on an interim basis by Rona Ambrose, a veteran federal politician who recently announced her retirement from federal politics.

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Amid splits, Canada Conservatives elect leader to fight Trudeau

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s official opposition Conservatives on Saturday chose a new leader to take them into a 2019 election against Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but only after a fierce contest that revealed internal divisions.

On the 13th and final round of balloting, many more than political observers had expected, former House of Commons speaker Andrew Scheer edged out ex-foreign minister Maxime Bernier by 51 percent to 49 percent.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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Among ‘good people’ he met on trip, Trump names ‘Justin from Canada’

President Trump took time during comments to the U.S. Naval Air Base in Italy on Saturday to compliment other world leaders, referring for the second time in a month to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “Justin from Canada.”

Speaking about a nearby helicopter, Trump speculated that it might be Japan’s “Prime Minister Abe” or “Justin from Canada,” meaning Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Great people,” he said. “We made a lot of good friends this week, I’ll tell you, a lot of good friends. They’re good people.”

Trump previously referred to Trudeau as “Justin from Canada” in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this month, referring to negotiations on NAFTA.

“I like them both a lot,” Trump said at the time, speaking of the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

Twitter users have since taken to the social media platform to comment on the president’s nickname for his Canadian counterpart. 

Trump was speaking on Saturday to military service members and their families at the U.S. Naval Air Base in Signoella, Italy after the Group of 7 (G7) summit in Italy. The stop was one of Trump’s last during his first trip abroad as president.


In addition to meeting with Trudeau and Abe, Trump met with several other foreign counterparts, including newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, reportedly asking for his cell phone number.

While the president claimed he met with “a lot of good friends” while he was abroad, tensions were apparent among the G7 partners.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters the group had an “intense meeting” regarding the Paris climate accords, where all six other nations “made it clear that we want the U.S. to stick to its commitments.”

While Trump has yet to make a decision on his official stance on the climate deal, the president refused to take part in a pledge supporting the deal along with the other G7 nations.

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London to commemorate Canada 150 with five-day ‘Sesquifest’ festival

With Canada’s 150th birthday on the way, the city of London is throwing a big celebration like never before.

Sesquifest is a free five-day-long festival taking place from June 29-July 3 commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation.

The event will span across downtown London from Budweiser Gardens from Richmond to Ridout and King to Carling streets.

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“It’s a full five days right in the downtown of animation, food, live music, fun family events, and much more,” said Canada 150 London co-ordinator Lia Karidas.

“It gets its name [Sesquifest] from the word sesquicentennial which means 150 years, but another interesting parallel is the sequestial dome.”

Labatt 150 hits shelves ahead of Canada’s big celebration

The dome offers Londoners a 360-degree virtual reality tour of all of Canada, and the environment around you.

“London is one of six cities experiencing the dome across Canada on Canada Day, making it a truly unique experience for the community to experience,” said Karidas.

Patriotism in peril as complaint could see Canadian flags pulled from quiet London street

Each of the five days of Sesquifest will be programmed around a different theme, expressing an essential element of Canadian identity.

The first day kicks off with Canadian indie rock band Hollerado set to headline the stage. The Juno-nominated group released their latest album Born Yesterday in April. More information about the festival is set to be released as we inch closer to Canada Day. For more information, you can visit

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Canada’s Conservatives to elect new leader to take on Trudeau

By Andrea Hopkins

May 27 Canada’s official opposition
Conservative Party is set to elect a new leader on Saturday,
seeking to regroup and rebrand as it gears up for the 2019
election race against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s
still-popular Liberals.

The race has had moments of Trump-like populism with a
reality TV star and a candidate critical of immigration getting
early attention. But three mainstream politicians have emerged
as front-runners, suggesting the wave of populism that swept
Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in November will not extend
to Canada.

The race between 13 candidates is too close to call but the
winner faces an uphill battle to re-unite the right-of-center
party that held power for nearly a decade under former Prime
Minister Stephen Harper before the center-left Liberals won a
shock majority in 2015.

“The challenge will be to attack Justin Trudeau’s
weaknesses, but also to bring Conservatives who have left the
party back into the fold,” said Queen’s University political
science professor Jonathan Rose.

Libertarian former Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, former
House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer and former Veterans
Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole are leading in polls, fundraising
and endorsements. But analysts have been wary about predicting
how preferences will shake out on multiple ballot counts
required for one candidate to win a majority of votes.

Bernier was bolstered in late April when front-runner Kevin
O’Leary, a reality TV star and businessman, withdrew from the
race and threw his support behind him. Bernier might be best
known to the wider public for resigning from Harper’s cabinet
after leaving confidential documents at the house of a
girlfriend with links to organized crime.

Like Trudeau, Bernier is from Quebec, the predominantly
French-speaking province which holds 78 of the 338 seats in the
House of Commons and is vital to a party’s prospects.

None of the candidates have the high profile of Trudeau,
whose approval ratings have faltered after nearly two years in
office but remain higher than any opponent on the left or right,
despite rising dissatisfaction with the economy and a series of
spending and entitlement controversies.

“For Conservatives, it is really all about the economy,”
said Darrell Bricker, pollster with Ipsos Public Affairs. “If
the Conservative Party doesn’t have a strong lead over the
Liberals on the question of which party has the best economic
plan, it will struggle.”

According to a Nanos poll, Trudeau is the preferred choice
as prime minister among 46.3 percent of Canadians, far ahead of
other Canadian party leaders.

To win, Bricker said the new leader must rebuild strength
in rural and Western Canada as well as the vote-rich suburbs in
Ontario. And he argues they don’t need a leader with the
charisma of Trudeau.

“The left needs to love. They need to believe that their
vote is a statement about hope for the future. Trudeau,
therefore, is perfect for them,” said Bricker. “Tories prefer
their leaders to get things done, not to inspire them … and
electing a less inspirational leader is not a problem for them.”
(Additional reporting by David Ljunngren; Editing by Amran
Abocar and Mary Milliken)

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Canada posts C$21.85 billion deficit in 2016-17

OTTAWA May 26 (Reuters) – Canada posted a preliminary budgetary deficit of C$21.85 billion ($16.3 billion) for the 2016-17 fiscal year, largely in line with what the government had projected, the Finance Department said on Friday.

The deficit for the fiscal year that ended in March was significantly wider than the C$1.96 billion deficit the government ran in the previous fiscal year as program expenses jumped, partly due to a revamped children’s benefit.

While the deficit for 2016-17 was slightly smaller than the C$23.0 billion gap the government projected in its most recent budget, final results for the year will reflect end of year adjustments that are made as data becomes available, the Finance Department said.

Taking those adjustments into account, the figures are “broadly in line” with the government’s forecast, the department said.

The ruling Liberals ran a successful 2015 election campaign on a pledge to run deficits in order to boost spending and stimulate the economy.

For the month of March, the government ran a deficit of C$10.39 billion, wider than the C$9.44 billion it posted the year before as program expenses exceeded revenue.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr, editing by Andrea Hopkins)

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Conservatives choose a new leader; NDP hears from all six leadership candidates

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Canada’s Conservatives will choose a new leader this weekend. When not preoccupied with Trump’s peregrinations and the terror attack in Manchester, the Canadian media have been paying considerable attention to the Conservatives’ choice. They have been much less interested in the next big event on the New Democrats’ leadership calendar: a debate, on Sunday, in Sudbury, that will involve all six candidates, including two new ones: Jagmeet Singh and Pat Stogran.

As for the party that now forms the Official Opposition in Ottawa, those who might have taken comfort from the departure of one narcissistic, bullying leadership candidate should take a good look at the remaining 13 and what they stand for. When the narcissist — Kevin O’Leary, by name — dropped out, he threw his support behind former Harper cabinet minister and MP for Quebec’s Beauce region, Maxime Bernier. Bernier is now considered the front-runner, and while he has a more agreeable personality than the nausea-inducing O’Leary, his proposals are, arguably, more extreme.

There may be some solid economic motives for abolishing Canada’s supply management system for agriculture, one of Bernier’s signature pledges. Reasonable analysts have pointed out that the net effect of supply management has been that all Canadians, including the poor, pay relatively high prices for eggs and dairy products. What, however, would be the economic, or any other, justification for getting the federal government out of the health-care funding business? Or for abolishing the CBC? That is the sort of fundamentalist, free-marketeer ideology Bernier expounds. It is born of dogma and ideology, not evidence or analysis.

If the Conservatives choose this front-runner, they will not be getting their own version of Donald Trump. But they will be getting something almost as disquieting: their very own Ted Cruz, minus the over-the-top-religiosity. Bernier is a classic government-is-best-which-governs-least neo-conservative. If he ever got into power, watch out. The scorching conflagration Maxime Bernier ignites will make Stephen Harper’s slashing and burning seem like a Boy Scout campfire.

Other Conservative leadership options include: Kellie Leitch, a medical doctor who shares many of Donald Trump’s ideas on diversity, and who also adamantly wants to get rid of the CBC (a bit of a Conservative hobby horse); a couple of hard-line social conservatives; and a former diplomat, who, as Jason Kenney’s successor at the immigration ministry, fully imbibed the Harper Kool-Aid on immigrants and refugees.

There is the sole Red Tory candidate, Michael Chong, who has had the guts to propose a carbon tax to a Conservative Party that walked away from the Kyoto Accord. Chong is also a thoughtful democratic reformer, embraces Canadian diversity, and is fluently bilingual. A number of prominent Conservatives, including a onetime press secretary to Stephen Harper, support Chong. Some environmental activists have even taken out Conservative memberships in order to support him. Still, few political handicappers give Michael Chong a chance.

Lisa Raitt, who was one of the least partisan of Harper’s cabinet ministers, sounds like a pragmatic centrist; but, like Chong, does not seem to have much of a chance.

Hard-line neo-cons versus vacuous pragmatists

The two candidates who represent the notionally pragmatic wing of the party whom experts believe are very much in the running are former House Speaker Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, a veteran who rescued the Veterans’ Affairs ministry after the crotchety ex-police chief Julian Fantino bombed badly.

Scheer’s suite of policy proposals steers clear of anything overtly preposterous. On refugees, for instance, he would return to the Harper-era approach of shunning refugees now in United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camps and, in the Middle East, handpick Christians and members of other minority groups. It is a mean-spirited idea that ignores the fact that the vast majority of those seeking refuge in that region are Muslims, but, at least, it would not mean totally slamming the door on refugees.

Scheer would balance the budget in two years, which seems fanciful right now — but, after all, even the NDP proposed balancing the budget during the last election campaign. Scheer wants freer trade, an open door for foreign ownership of Canadian airlines, and an end to “corporate welfare,” i.e. industrial subsidies. On the other hand, without irony, he proposes government subsidies for parents who send their kids to independent schools or who home school them.

Like most other Conservatives, Scheer would scrap the Liberal carbon tax, while returning to the Harper strategy of a sector-by-sector approach, in lock step with the Americans. It is a hypocritical, fig leaf of a strategy, quite deliberately designed to achieve nothing. The Trump regime is more honest on its climate change policy. It says, simply, there is no such thing as human-caused global warming. 

Unlike most other Conservative leadership candidates, Scheer has something to say about First Nations. He would restore the Harper government practice of publicly publishing the financial statements of First Nations bands. That’s it. Not a word on health, education, natural resources, mega-projects, missing and murdered women and girls, or any of the other issues important to Indigenous Canadians.

Erin O’Toole has a very similar list of proposals to Scheer’s, except his tend to be far more vague and platitudinous. To take just example, O’Toole suggests an idea he calls “True North Strong.” “From Diefenbaker to Mulroney to Harper,” he says. “It has only been Conservative governments that have built, supported and protected our North and its people.” That’s it. Words to live by. 

Elsewhere, O’Toole evokes “igniting the Indigenous economy” (with no further detail); bringing in something he calls the Great Country Initiative (without saying what he means by that); dragging Canadian health care into the 21st century (again, without a single detail); developing our natural resources; and implementing an entirely undefined prosperity agenda. His whole platform is, indeed, a packet of generalities and rhetorical clichés. His single concrete engagement is to negotiate a free trade agreement with Australia, the U.K. and New Zealand. 

There you have it.  

Conservatives can choose between hard-line neo-conservative ideologues, some of whom indulge in a bit of currently fashionable anti-diversity populism, or apostles of vague and vacuous nostrums, who promise nothing more than to pick up where Harper left off. Good luck with all that.

NDP has an identity challenge with Trudeau at the helm of Liberals

After the Official Opposition chooses its new leader on Saturday, the NDP will showcase its complete roster of candidates on Sunday. The danger for New Democrats is that, to many Canadians who consider themselves progressive, almost any new Conservative leader will likely make Justin Trudeau look good in comparison.

The NDP has been drifting upward in the polls of late, both nationally and in some provinces such as Saskatchewan, and might yet get to form a government in British Columbia. That should be good news for the party.

There is a big challenge for all of the NDP’s leadership aspirants, however, and that is to provide a compelling reason for Canadians to choose one of them over a still-popular, young Liberal prime minister. One option for New Democrats would be to offer a number of hard-edged and specific policy proposals on such matters as taxes, child care, pharmacare, and the environment. If you want voters to choose you and your party you should be as clear as possible about what you would do once in power. 

The unavoidable fact is that the task of establishing a distinct identity and role for the NDP will not be as easy today, with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in power, as it was when the Conservatives — or even the budget-slashing Chrétien and Martin Liberals — ran the show.

Screenshot from 2017 Conservative leadership debate in Toronto/CPAC

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Yahoo hacking suspect appeals denial of bail in Canada

A Canadian suspected of involvement in a massive 2014 breach of Yahoo email accounts linked to Russia is appealing a decision to hold him in custody pending an extradition hearing, the man’s lawyer said on Friday.

A bail appeal hearing for Karim Baratov is scheduled for June 5, attorney Amedeo DiCarlo said. Authorities will meet on June 16 to set a date for his hearing to determine if Baratov will be extradited to the United States.

Baratov was arrested in March and denied bail in April by a Canadian judge on grounds he was a flight risk.

U.S. prosecutors say Baratov, a Canadian citizen who was born in Kazakhstan, worked with Russian intelligence agents who paid him to break into at least 80 email accounts, including those of specific targets with non-Yahoo accounts. The scheme was part of a theft of some 500 million Yahoo email accounts.

DiCarlo said he has not yet received documents from U.S. prosecutors that lay out their case against Baratov.

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Bill Trott)

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Canadian dollar strengthens as oil rebounds; bearish bets hit record

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar strengthened on Friday against its U.S. counterpart, adding to this week’s gains as oil recovered some lost ground, while data showed that bearish bets on the loonie rose to a fresh record high.

U.S. crude CLc1 prices settled 90 cents higher at $49.80 a barrel. They had plunged on Thursday following an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-led decision to extend current production curbs that investors gauged did not go far enough to reduce a global supply glut. [O/R]

“It’s all about oil,” said Michael Goshko, Corporate Risk Manager at Western Union Business Solutions.

Oil is one of Canada’s major exports.

Speculators increased net short positions in the Canadian dollar to 99,109 contracts as of May 23 from 98,000 a week earlier, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Reuters calculations showed.

Those investors who had been selling the loonie “got squeezed big time,” Goshko said.

The currency got a boost on Wednesday when the Bank of Canada was more upbeat than investors had expected as it left interest rates unchanged at 0.5 percent.

At 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT), the Canadian dollar CAD=D4 was trading at C$1.3460 to the greenback, or 74.29 U.S. cents, up 0.2 percent. For the week, it rose 0.4 percent.

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