Scheer, Lyme and lumber: how federal politics touched Canadians this week

OTTAWA – It was an intense week of repudiation on Parliament Hill.

U.S. President Donald Trump entrenched — with gusto, and to Canada’s consternation — his inward-looking approach to global affairs by stridently announcing his intention to pull out of the Paris accord to prevent climate change.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard shattered the back-burner status of constitutional truce by launching national discussions meant to deal with his province’s long-standing concerns about being excluded from the Constitution.

And Liberal hopes to address energy and the environment in tandem — by introducing carbon pricing while also approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline — were thrown into disarray by this week’s pact between the B.C. Greens and the NDP to wrest provincial power from Christy Clark’s Liberals.

Amidst all the moving pieces, there were concrete developments in the dynamics of the House of Commons, in confronting Lyme disease and in dealing with the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.

Here are three ways politics touched us this week:


The new Conservative leader finally took up his post in the House of Commons this week, beginning to better define the political dynamic that will accompany voters into the next election.

Andrew Scheer received a warm welcome from his caucus and even the other parties’ MPs as he took up the mantle of leader of the official Opposition.

He then set down some markers that will undoubtedly return as key themes leading up to the next campaign. He highlighted familiar Conservative policies on balanced budgets and smaller government, and resurrected Stephen Harper’s focus on a “job-killing carbon tax.”

And he added a flavour of his own, calling for a denial of funding to universities that stifle full freedom of speech by shouting down and drowning out unpopular views. He also cited “radical Islamic terrorism” — a politically loaded phrase — and the threat it poses as justification for his call to send Canada’s fighter jets back to the Middle East.


As tales of torrents of ticks swarmed through social media this week, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the government’s intentions to improve research around Lyme disease.

Ottawa will put $4 million towards a better understanding of the disease, setting up a network to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Critics say the pace of government programs is no match for the pace of infected ticks and the complexities of the bacteria they carry.

Lyme-carrying ticks can now be found in most provinces in Canada, and no longer just the southernmost points of Ontario. Experts predict the number of people affected by the disease will grow steadily, from 700 in 2015 to about 10,000 a year by 2020.

Diagnosing and treating Lyme disease is often very tricky; it can sometimes take years to defeat the disease in a single person.


The federal government is papering over the pain of its eternal softwood lumber dispute with the United States, putting up $867 million this week to boost the competitiveness of companies and give new skills to sideswiped workers.

The supports are meant to partially make up for damages caused by the U.S. imposition of duties introduced in April on Canadian lumber sales into the United States.

The package is just one of the ways the federal government is stickhandling through its increasingly antagonistic trade relationship with the United States.

Ottawa is also threatening to end its talks to buy Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing Co., now that the U.S.-based aerospace company is using the American legal system to challenge Canadian government support for rival Bombardier Inc.

And on climate, Ottawa is finding common cause with the rest of the world in sticking steadfastly with the Paris accord to cut emissions while loudly proclaiming its disappointment with the Trump administration for pulling out of the pact.

On NAFTA re-negotiations, however, the federal government is being careful not to make any loud, aggressive moves for now — preferring to watch quietly while Trump sorts out his position.

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