Canada could lose up to 7.5 million jobs: Documents raise worries about automation

OTTAWA – Federal officials were warned over the summer that machines are going to replace more jobs in the workforce in the coming years and that will require a rethink of how government helps the unemployed.

Documents prepared for top officials at Employment and Social Development Canada don’t hint at how federal policy will have to adapt to increased automation in the workforce, noting that predicting the future is a risky proposition.

Experts say what’s missing from the documents is any hint of concern that the rise of the machines is an immediate concern that the government must quickly address.

“Many of the trends that may concern us about technology and automation in terms of what their impacts could be on workers are already happening and that’s, I think, the missing piece here,” said Sunil Johal, policy director with the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto.

“People are projecting this into, well, in 10 years we may be in a difficult situation. The reality is many Canadians are already ill-served by government policies when it comes to skills training, when it comes to employment insurance, when it comes to the broader suite of public services to support Canadians.”

Depending on the methodology used, the Canadian economy could lose between 1.5 million and 7.5 million jobs in the coming years due to automation.

The jobs at the most risk are those that require repetitive activities like an automotive assembly line, although even some high-skilled workers, such as financial advisers, are already being replaced by software programs. The documents also note that journalists could see themselves increasingly replaced by robots.

One industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations, said senior government officials acknowledge automation is something they have to deal with, but likely not for decades. The source said that senior officials believe new jobs will be created to keep people working.

The documents say new jobs will be created because that’s just the way the economy works: As technology kills jobs, it also creates new ones. The issue, the documents say, is that no one knows if enough jobs will be created to replace those lost, nor if they will all be as well-paid.

“Predicting the future brings significant risk,” reads part of a presentation released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“We cannot know what future jobs will be created or whether enough of them will be created to offset displaced workers or whether automation will offset the pressures arising from slowing labour force growth.”

The rest of the slide has been blacked out because it contains sensitive advice on future policy paths.

The Liberals are telegraphing that they will make skills training services a focus of Wednesday’s budget. Once the budget puts a dollar figure on the federal contribution to training, negotiations with provinces and territories on the main funding vehicle for the cash — the labour market development agreements — can be finalized.

In a paper he co-wrote last year, Johal argued that the government also needs to look at expanding access to existing training programs, create targeted programs and labour market protections like minimum wage rules for independent contractors and look at introducing emergency lines of credit for people who need a short-term financial boost.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said the government is looking to find a way to help sectors who are short of workers, and guide people into emerging fields.

“Successful economies and countries are ones that can be adaptive and that’s why skills development is so important,” Hajdu said in an interview.

“I’m excited about being able to do that work and help people gain those skills for the shortages that we have in specific sectors and to help support that innovation agenda that really is about fostering creativity and being thoughtful and deliberate about what skills we’re training people for.”

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Canada Headed For Record Number Of Mexican Illegals At Border

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Canada is on track to nab the largest number of Mexican illegals at the border in a single year. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has already detained more illegals originating from Mexico in the first two months of the year than it did in 2016.

As of March 9, the CBSA had arrested 444 Mexicans at the border.

For all of 2016, border guards detained 410 Mexicans.

The largest number of illegals ever detained for an entire year came in 2012, when 667 “migrants” attempted to cross the border.

The increase may be a direct result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision in December to lift its visa requirements for Mexican citizens. It might also be related to Trudeau’s decision to issue a blanket invitation to “refugees” around the world that they should come to Canada.

That invitation came in the form of a Tweet from the prime minister that many saw as a direct repudiation of President Donald Trump’s first temporary travel halt that came into affect that same weekend. Following Trudeau’s Twitter diplomacy, 70 Mexicans arrived at the border claiming to be “refugees.”

Conservative public safety critic Tony Clement recently told The Daily Caller that he believes the social media announcement has been interpreted around the world as government policy.

When the visa restriction was lifted, the Conservatives suggested the change would lead to more illegals arriving at the border claiming refugee status.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent told CBC News, “We anticipated there would be, if not an immediate spike, a surge, and it seems that is what’s happening.”

Canadian Immigration and Refugee Minister Ahmed Hussen has refused to take any action and has not suggested how the Liberal government will view the refugee status of the illegals.

“It would be premature to draw conclusions or to speculate on future policy at this point,” Hussen’s spokeswoman, Camielle Edwards, told Reuters in an email Friday evening.

The CBSA is authorized to detain people who claim refugee status if border guards believe they pose a danger to the public.

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Trudeau government set to table modest budget amid U.S. uncertainty

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government will chart the next segment of its mandate this week in what’s expected to be a modest budget — but the omnipresent economic unknowns in the U.S. could eventually force Ottawa from a steady-as-she-goes course. 

For now, the stronger U.S. economy is benefiting Canada. Finance Minister Bill Morneau will present the country’s budget Wednesday amid a brightening outlook, thanks in large part to the United States.

In recent months, healthier Canadian numbers — from trade, to labour, to housing — have encouraged forecasters to raise their projections for economic growth.

Some believe these improvements will put Ottawa on a path toward smaller annual deficits than what the government had predicted last fall. After a surprisingly robust finish to 2016, Ottawa’s anticipated $25.1-billion shortfall for 2016-17 is widely expected to come in less than projected.

In normal times, the modest momentum would provide a dose of optimism for a government drawing up its budget.

But Canada’s current economic climate is far from typical.

The November election win for U.S. President Donald Trump has led to significant uncertainty in what is by far Canada’s top trading partner.

Even with the recent economic improvements, there are widespread concerns in Canada about U.S. proposals, including discussion about major changes to trade and tax policies.

Many warn the changes, which could include a border adjustment tax, could have severe economic consequences on this side of the border.

For now, with so many unknowns, sources have said Ottawa has no plans to take steps in the budget to directly address the Trump-related economic fears.

It remains to be seen whether Ottawa will have the flexibility to respond to any changes implemented in the U.S. over the course of the year.

“The government is building this year’s budget with not a great deal of clarity about the geopolitical risks that could impact the Canadian economy,” said Craig Alexander, chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada.

“And so, they might want to be sensitive to that and they might want to delay some of the measures they were thinking about until they actually have greater clarity about what’s happening south of the border.”

Indeed, major spending decisions on defence and international aid seem to have been deferred to later this year.

Even before any concrete economic moves by Trump, the U.S. resurgence has had negative effects in Canada.

A research note by TD last week said U.S. rate increases have already started to push up Canadian mortgage rates, creating “significant risk” in an economy with high household debt and soaring real estate prices.

Higher U.S. interest rates since Trump’s victory could also lead to bigger debt payments for Ottawa in the future, though some economists believe the effects will be offset by the benefits for Canada from a growing American economy.

At the same time, Ottawa faces tight fiscal constraints and it’s expected to deliver a slim budget with few big-ticket items.

The Liberals have already committed to major spending increases for investments over the coming years in areas like infrastructure and expanded child benefits, which they argue will help lift the economy over the long haul.

The Trudeau government’s outlook is predicting several years of double-digit deficits.

The Liberals abandoned their election pledge to run annual shortfalls of no more than $10 billion over their mandate and to balance the books in four years.

Instead, Morneau has pledged to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio — also known as the debt burden — below its current level by 2019-20.

But sticking with the vow on the debt-to-GDP ratio means Morneau has very little “wiggle room” when it comes to new spending, says Randall Bartlett, chief economist at a University of Ottawa think tank.

He believes the government should do more to analyze the performance of these investments to ensure Canadians are getting bang for their buck.

“The question is, are we just basically spending money like drunken sailors?” said Bartlett, whose Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy is directed by former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page.

But without accounting for U.S. policy changes — since they remain unknowns — Bartlett believes the stronger economy has put Ottawa on track to shave a few billion dollars off each of its projected deficits from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Questions have been raised by Morneau’s decision to base his upcoming budget’s projections on forecasts he received from private-sector economists in mid-January.

The Finance Department traditionally uses a survey of private-sector forecasters to determine its baseline projections, but those numbers are usually delivered only a few weeks prior to the budget.

Bartlett believes the economy has improved so much since January that the government will have a needlessly pessimistic forecast underlying the budget numbers — which would make it easier for Ottawa to beat these lower fiscal expectations down the road.

Scotiabank chief economist Jean-Francois Perrault, a former assistant deputy minister under Morneau, said he doesn’t believe the economic projections for Canada have improved enough since January to make a big difference.

Perrault is predicting slightly bigger annual deficits over the coming years. He said it’s partly due to higher-than-expected government spending and his expectation the government will reintroduce its $3-billion yearly risk adjustment.

“We have a fiscal path in Canada that has reasonably high deficits for a pretty significant period of time,” said Perrault, who added that the feds are in good fiscal shape and he’s not immediately concerned about the string of shortfalls.

But he noted that when Ottawa does take steps to return to balance it will need “pretty significant” spending cuts and tax increases to make it happen. 

Perrault said it’s technically possible the economy will grow enough before the end of the Liberal mandate to eliminate the deficit on its own — without tax hikes and spending reductions. But he added such a scenario is “far fetched.”

And when it comes to addressing the U.S. uncertainty, Perrault said Canadians could see Ottawa make its big policy moves in the 2017 fall economic statement or even in next year’s budget.

Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Teacher from Canadian Inuit school wins $1m global prize

A teacher from the Canadian Arctic has been named as the winner of the annual Global Teacher Prize.

Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches at a remote village school, spoke at the award ceremony about the problem of youth suicides in the Inuit community.

The winner was announced by a video-link with astronauts on the International Space Station.

She was congratulated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who said she was “shaping the future”.

“You chose to teach at the Ikusik school in Salluit, a remote village in the Canadian Arctic.

“There are no roads to Salluit – it is only accessible by air and it gets cold, really cold, -20c this time of year,” said Mr Trudeau.

“I’d like to say thank you to every teacher out there.”

Ms MacDonnell has worked to improve the health and life chances of an isolated community of young Inuit people who have faced deprivation – and she spoke of the impact on the community of high levels of youth suicides.

She described how it felt to be a teacher after the suicide of a student.

“As a teacher, when I come to school the morning after, there is an empty desk in that classroom. There is stillness and silence,” she told the award ceremony.

Ms MacDonnell said the memory of such deaths haunted her and she wanted the prize to cast light on the problem.

“I didn’t know until I came to Salluit that that was a Canadian reality,” she said.

The $1m (£810,000) prize for teaching excellence was announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

The prize is aimed at raising the status of teaching – with a show-business style ceremony with glamour and famous names.

The adventurer and TV presenter Bear Grylls and Italian singer Andrea Bocelli took part in the prize giving.

A video message from Prince Harry was screened and the ceremony was attended by the vice president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, speaking from the International Space Station, said: “I’d like to be the first person in history to thank all the world’s teachers from space.”

The top 10 finalists included a UK teacher, Raymond Chambers, who teaches computer science at Brooke Weston Academy, Corby, Northamptonshire.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation that organises the prize, said: “I hope Maggie MacDonnell’s story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day.”

Aside from Maggie MacDonnell, the other finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2017 were:

  • Raymond Chambers, computer science teacher from Brooke Weston Academy, Corby, Northamptonshire, UK
  • Salima Begum, head teacher at Elementary College for Women Gilgit, Pakistan
  • David Calle, from Madrid, Spain, the founder and creator of the Unicoos educational website
  • Wemerson da Silva Nogueira, a science teacher at the Escola Antonio dos Santos Neves in Boa Esperanca, Brazil
  • Marie-Christine Ghanbari Jahromi, a physical education, maths and German teacher at Gesamtschule Gescher school, Germany
  • Tracy-Ann Hall, an automotive technology teacher at Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, Jamaica
  • Ken Silburn, a science teacher at Casula High School, south-west Sydney, Australia
  • Yang Boya, a psychology teacher at The Affiliated Middle School of Kunming Teachers College, China
  • Michael Wamaya, a dance teacher from Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya

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Canada Goose shares could fall -Barron's

By Lawrence Delevingne
| NEW YORK, March 19

The stock of cold-weather
apparel company Canada Goose Holdings Inc. looks
over-valued, Barron’s said in an article on Sunday.

The company, which recently went public, suffers from what
the business and investing publication called “fashion risk.”

“The nature of faddish fashions — and Canada Goose — is
that the coats’ cachet isn’t likely to last,” Barron’s wrote.
“The company might have a strong 2017, but its stock discounts
many years of success — and not much risk.”

The article did not specify a price target. The stock now
trades around $17 a share.

A request for comment emailed to Canada Goose on Sunday was
not immediately returned.

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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Canadian wins $1m Global Teacher Prize for work with Inuit students

Maggie MacDonnell praised for ‘transforming her community’ in village of Salluit, which has a high rate of suicide

Maggie MacDonnell receives the Global Teacher Prize from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.


Maggie MacDonnell receives the Global Teacher Prize from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

A Canadian who teaches at a school in a fly-in-only village in the Arctic has won a $1m (£800,000) Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai.

Maggie MacDonnell, praised for “changing the lives of her students and transforming her community”, was among 10 finalists chosen from 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries.

She has taught for the past six years in the Inuit village of Salluit, Québec, in the Canadian Arctic, which has a high rate of suicide, according to her biography provided by the award organisers.

MacDonnell said she has witnessed over 10 suicides. “As a teacher, when I come to school the morning after there is an empty desk in that classroom. There is stillness and silence,” she said. “Thank you for bringing global attention to them,” she added.

MacDonnell has created a life-skills programme specifically for girls in a region where teenage pregnancies are common, alongside high levels of sexual abuse, according to her biography. Many teachers leave their posts midway through the academic year due to stress and the harsh conditions endured by the indigenous community.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, congratulated MacDonnell in a video message. “We are all proud of you,” he said.

MacDonnell, who has also been a temporary foster parent in the Inuit community, was handed the award at a ceremony on Sunday that opened with a performance by the Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli.

The Nobel-style award was set up three years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. The prize is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.

Last year a Palestinian teacher, Hanan al-Hroub, won the prestigious prize for her innovative approach of using play to counter violent behaviour among her students in the West Bank.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.

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Canadian Arctic teacher wins global prize

A teacher from the Canadian Arctic has been named as the winner of the annual Global Teacher Prize.

Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches at a remote village school, spoke at the award ceremony about the problem of youth suicides in the Inuit community.

The winner was announced by a video-link with astronauts on the International Space Station.

She was congratulated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who said she was “shaping the future”.

“You chose to teach at the Ikusik school in Salluit, a remote village in the Canadian Arctic.

“There are no roads to Salluit – it is only accessible by air and it gets cold, really cold, -20c this time of year,” said Mr Trudeau.

“I’d like to say thank you to every teacher out there.”

Ms MacDonnell has worked to improve the health and life chances of an isolated community of young Inuit people who have faced deprivation – and she spoke of the impact on the community of high levels of youth suicides.

She described how it felt to be a teacher after the suicide of a student.

“As a teacher, when I come to school the morning after, there is an empty desk in that classroom. There is stillness and silence,” she told the award ceremony.

Ms MacDonnell said the memory of such deaths haunted her and she wanted the prize to cast light on the problem.

“I didn’t know until I came to Salluit that that was a Canadian reality,” she said.

The $1m (£810,000) prize for teaching excellence was announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

The prize is aimed at raising the status of teaching – with a show-business style ceremony with glamour and famous names.

The adventurer and TV presenter Bear Grylls and Italian singer Andrea Bocelli took part in the prize giving.

A video message from Prince Harry was screened and the ceremony was attended by the vice president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, speaking from the International Space Station, said: “I’d like to be the first person in history to thank all the world’s teachers from space.”

The top 10 finalists included a UK teacher, Raymond Chambers, who teaches computer science at Brooke Weston Academy, Corby, Northamptonshire.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation that organises the prize, said: “I hope Maggie MacDonnell’s story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day.”

Aside from Maggie MacDonnell, the other finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2017 were:

  • Raymond Chambers, computer science teacher from Brooke Weston Academy, Corby, Northamptonshire, UK
  • Salima Begum, head teacher at Elementary College for Women Gilgit, Pakistan
  • David Calle, from Madrid, Spain, the founder and creator of the Unicoos educational website
  • Wemerson da Silva Nogueira, a science teacher at the Escola Antonio dos Santos Neves in Boa Esperanca, Brazil
  • Marie-Christine Ghanbari Jahromi, a physical education, maths and German teacher at Gesamtschule Gescher school, Germany
  • Tracy-Ann Hall, an automotive technology teacher at Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, Jamaica
  • Ken Silburn, a science teacher at Casula High School, south-west Sydney, Australia
  • Yang Boya, a psychology teacher at The Affiliated Middle School of Kunming Teachers College, China
  • Michael Wamaya, a dance teacher from Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya

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Prospect Colin White unlikely to join Senators this season

MONTREAL — The Senators have a decision to make on Colin White.

His Boston College Eagles were officially eliminated from the NCAA playoffs Saturday night with a 4-3 loss to UMass Lowell at the TD Garden which means the Senators are free to negotiate with the 20-year-old centre who would like to leave school this spring and turn pro.

Senators assistant GM Randy Lee, who is handling the talks, reached out to White’s camp after the loss and the club is weighing its options to try to determine the best route. White was a standout for Team USA at the world junior championships but that doesn’t mean he’s NHL-ready, which is why Ottawa wants to do what’s best for both sides.

Here are the possibilities:

A) Sign him to an amateur tryout: White would finish the year with the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton and would agree to an entry-level contract in the off-season. The Senators like this road because they don’t lose a year on White for free agency and the cheap contract. He could get plenty of playing time in Binghamton with the club out of the playoff picture. This is Ottawa’s preferred scenario and, if he accepts it, White could be in the lineup Friday at the Canadian Tire Centre against the Marlies.

B) Sign him to an entry-level deal: The Senators could go this route and it would be the preferred option for White. This means burning a year on his contract and the Senators would rather not do that. It will be tough for White to get playing time with Ottawa trying to clinch a playoff spot, especially with the acquisition of forwards Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg.

C) Back to school: It doesn’t sound like either White or the Senators wants this, so somebody will have to compromise to make sure it doesn’t occur. If he goes back to school, he’d have to play two more years before being a UFA and neither side wants that to happen.

ANDY FEELING DANDY

It was no surprise to see goalie Craig Anderson make back-to-back starts in this series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Whatever was bothering him after the club’s 4-2 win over the Avalanche last Saturday in Colorado wasn’t that serious and he just needed a couple of days off the ice to let it settle down.

Anderson said he made good progress in a short period of time and that’s why he was able to start at home on Saturday.

“We were pretty cautious with it just to make sure that this doesn’t end up being something long-term,” Anderson said following the 4-3 shootout loss. “By taking a few days with the rest we need, we can nip it in the bud and go on from here. The long-term goal is getting to the playoffs and be healthy for that.

“We’ve got to get there first. (Mike) Condon has great for us all year long. He played well this week. We just didn’t want to push it unless you have to but we weren’t in a situation where I need to play through pain.”

Boucher said before Sunday’s game in Montreal that there was no need to make a change.

“His health is fine. He’s got tons of energy. He’s missed three months so that’s one of the things we definitely know will be on our side. He’s done it before,” Boucher said.

“It’s always about the circumstances. If you feel your goaltender is healthy and has got energy let’s go. He’s ready to go. If you feel that it’ll be a moment where it’s better to play your other guy then you do. It’s clear when he’s ready to go. I’ve said it every time, when he’s ready to go, he’s going.”

NO BIG DEAL

Yes, these were big games against the Habs, but Boucher doesn’t want anybody to overstate what they mean in the big picture since neither team has reached the playoffs yet.

“Having lived the NHL playoffs, this is exciting but that’s not the NHL playoffs,” he said following Saturday’s loss. “When you make it bigger than what it is, right now, it’s an important game for points. Just like (Sunday) and Boston (on Tuesday) is going to be an important game. It’s not about first place, it’s about get in wherever against whoever and be ready.

“Right now, it’s a such tough fight. You lose two or three and everybody has caught up. It’s about making the playoffs. I know what the playoffs (are) I’ve made it to (Game 7) of the conference final. It’s something else, it’s another gear.”

THE LAST WORDS

Winger Mike Hoffman, who had an assist in the club’s loss to Montreal Saturday, reached the 50-point plateau for the second time in his career. He went into Sunday’s game needing only an assist to tie his career high of 30. Last year, he finished with 29-30-59 points in 58 games … According to Elias Sports, Karlsson, who scored his 14th of the season to tie it up 3-3 and send it to OT in Ottawa, is the first blueliner to score 65 points in four straight years since Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey completed the feat in 1993-94 … Boucher opted not to make any changes Sunday. That meant defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka and forward Chris DiDomenico were scratched.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

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Center-right parties set to merge in Canada's oil-rich Alberta

By Ethan Lou
| CALGARY, Alberta, March 18

A candidate with
plans to merge Alberta’s splintered right-leaning factions has
won the leadership of the province’s Progressive Conservatives
(PC), the party said on Saturday, heralding a political shift in
Canada’s oil heartland.

The merger plan by former federal cabinet minister Jason
Kenney will likely go through as the other right-leaning
faction, the Wildrose party, has agreed to it.

But Kenney may not get to shepherd the merged conservative
party, as the head of Wildrose, Brian Jean, has said he would
vie for the new leadership. Wildrose is currently the bigger
party.

Nonetheless, a merger bolsters the pro-business right
against the incumbent left-leaning New Democrats, who have drawn
the ire of conservatives by imposing a carbon tax on the
emissions-heavy energy sector and by what critics says is heavy
government spending despite budget deficits.

The next election has to be called on or before May 31,
2019. A victory by the new merged conservative party will
restore the status quo for the mostly right-voting province and
could bring drastic changes, as both the PC and Wildrose have
opposed most of the NDP’s policies.

The NDP rose to power in 2015 after nearly half a century of
PC rule in Alberta, aided by a divided right and on a pledge to
review oversight of the oil and gas sector. The party
capitalized on voter anger over low oil prices, entitled
politicians and government budget woes.

That election nearly decimated the then-incumbent PC, but
Wildrose made gains and remained the Official Opposition with
the second highest number of seats in the provincial
legislature.

Now in the second year of its mandate, the NDP government
takes credit for federal approvals of two pipeline projects that
would boost the province’s economy by exporting its landlocked
crude. But during the NDP’s term, global oil prices fell even
further, to as low as $26 a barrel, taking a toll on Alberta’s
economy, which is largely dependent on the commodity. The
provincial government projects deficits until 2024.

Representing an Alberta federal electoral district, Kenney
served in multiple portfolios in former Conservative Prime
Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, most recently defense. He
survived the 2015 federal election in which his party lost
power, but resigned his parliamentary seat shortly after to seek
the leadership of the aligned but separate PC party in Alberta.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)


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Merger on table for rightist parties in Canada's oil-rich Alberta

By Ethan Lou
| CALGARY, Alberta

A candidate with plans to merge Alberta’s splintered right-leaning factions has won the leadership of the province’s Progressive Conservatives (PC), the party said on Saturday, heralding a political shift in Canada’s oil heartland.

The merger plan by former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney has a high chance of going through as the other right-leaning faction, the Wildrose party, has agreed to it.

But Kenney may not get to shepherd the merged conservative party, as Brian Jean, the head of the currently bigger Wildrose, has said he would vie for the new leadership. Terms of the merger are also unclear and subject to talks.

Nonetheless, a tie-up would bolster the pro-business right against the incumbent left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which has drawn the ire of conservatives by imposing a carbon tax on the emissions-heavy energy sector and by what critics see as heavy government spending despite budget deficits.

“Today we are sending a message to the NDP … You will be facing a strong, united opposition.” Kenney said after his victory in the province’s largest city of Calgary.

“To our friends and fellow travelers in the Wildrose party … let us reunite the family.”

The next election has to take place on or before May 31, 2019. A victory by the merged conservative party would restore the status quo for the mostly right-voting province and could bring drastic changes, as both the PC and Wildrose have opposed most of the NDP’s policies.

The NDP rose to power in 2015 after nearly half a century of PC rule in Alberta, aided by a divided right and voter anger over low oil prices, entitled politicians and government budget woes.

Now in its second year, the NDP government takes credit for federal approvals of pipeline projects that would boost the province’s economy by exporting its landlocked crude. But low global oil prices have largely persisted, taking a toll on Alberta’s commodity-dependent economy. The provincial government projects deficits until 2024.

Representing an Alberta federal electoral district, Kenney served in multiple portfolios in former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet. He survived the 2015 federal election in which his party lost power, but resigned his parliamentary seat shortly after to seek the leadership of the aligned but separate PC party in Alberta.

NDP leader and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley tweeted her congratulations minutes after Kenney’s victory.

(Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown)


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