Cabinet retreat and New Brunswick election: In The News for Sept. 14

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Sept. 14.

What we are watching in Canada ...

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will convene his cabinet ministers for two days of closed-door meetings starting today as a rising number of new COVID-19 cases threatens to pull the Liberals' attention from long-term rebuilding to surviving a second wave.

The past several weeks have seen a resurgence in COVID-19 across Canada, with the trendlines increasing after a summer lull, sparking reminders from the country's top public health officer for Canadians not to let their guards down as colder temperatures come.

"Our challenge now is to guard against the fatigue that can lead us to relax these personal precautions," Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement as provinces reported nearly 500 new cases on Sunday.

It is in this context that the Liberals' two-day cabinet retreat will be held. Originally focused on building a post-pandemic economy, the meeting will now also have to contend with the immediate challenge of limiting the damage from a second wave.

Ministers are expected to hear presentations from Tam and the co-chairs of two federal task forces: one created to advise the government on measures to support developing a COVID-19 vaccine and the other on COVID-19 immunity.

The retreat comes as Parliament is set to resume with a throne speech on Sept. 23, which Trudeau has promised will outline "a detailed vision for the future and a plan to keep Canadians safe while we rebuild a stronger Canada that works for everyone."

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Also this ...

FREDERICTON — Voters in New Brunswick head to the polls today after a brief provincial election campaign notable for the unusual steps candidates had to take to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to health and hygiene rules, there were no handshakes, no kissing of babies, no rallies and no community barbecues.

Much of the low-key campaign was conducted on social media, though there was some door-to-door campaigning — all done at a safe distance.

Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs — who often wore a full face shield while on the hustings — called the election only 21 months into his first term, saying his minority government wasn't stable enough.

He told voters he needed a majority to govern a province initially left reeling by the pandemic.

Anything less, he said, would put the province at risk.

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

OTTAWA — Aline Chretien may have been the most influential political figure Canadians never knew.

She was often seen at political events — a petite, elegant figure standing demurely at the side of her gregarious husband, former prime minister Jean Chretien — but was seldom heard. At least not publicly.

Behind the scenes though, she was Chretien's confidante and most trusted adviser, his "Rock of Gibraltar," as he always called her.

Aline Chretien died surrounded by family Saturday morning at her home in Shawinigan, Que., a family spokesman said Sunday. She was 84. A cause of death was not specified.

Aline was instrumental in all Chretien's seminal political decisions: to stay in the federal arena despite appeals in the 1960s to run for a seat in Quebec's National Assembly; to quit politics in 1986 after losing the Liberal leadership to John Turner; to return to the fray in 1990; and to go for a third consecutive mandate in 2000.

She even arguably saved Chretien's life on Nov. 5, 1995, when a jackknife-wielding, intruder broke into the prime minister's official residence in the middle of the night. After encountering him in the hall outside their bedroom, Aline slammed and locked the door before calling the RCMP guardhouse and waking her husband, who then famously armed himself with a soapstone carving of a loon.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

With crews battling wildfires that have killed at least 35 people, destroyed neighbourhoods and enveloped the West Coast in smoke, another fight has emerged: leaders in the Democratic-led states and President Donald Trump have clashed over the role of climate change ahead of his visit Monday to California.

California, Oregon and Washington state have seen historic wildfires that have burned faster and farther than ever before. Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in the U.S. to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The Democratic governors say the fires are a consequence of climate change, while the Trump administration has blamed poor forest management for the flames that have raced through the region and made the air in places like Portland, Oregon, Seattle and San Francisco some of the worst in the world.

Trump is headed to McClellan Park, a former air base just outside Sacramento, California, White House spokesman Judd Deere said. California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said he would be meeting with Trump.

The governors have been blunt: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday called climate change "a blowtorch over our states in the West."

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Also this...

LAS VEGAS — In open defiance of state regulations and his own administration’s pandemic health guidelines, President Donald Trump hosted his first indoor rally since June, telling a packed, nearly mask-less Nevada crowd that the nation was "making the last turn" in defeating the virus.

Eager to project a sense of normalcy in imagery, Trump soaked up the raucous cheers inside a warehouse Sunday night. Relatively few in the crowd wore masks, with a clear exception: Those in the stands directly behind Trump, whose images would end up on TV, were mandated to wear face coverings.

Not since a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was blamed for a surge of coronavirus infections has he gathered supporters indoors. There was no early mention from the president that the pandemic had killed nearly 200,000 Americans and was still claiming 1,000 lives a day.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

TOKYO — Yoshihide Suga was elected as the new head of Japan’s ruling party on Monday, virtually guaranteeing him parliamentary election as the country’s next prime minister.

Suga received 377 votes in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party election to pick a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced last month that he would resign due to health problems. The other two contenders received a combined 157 votes —former Foreign minister Fumio Kishida got 89 and former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba had 68.

The expected victory in the party vote by Suga, currently the chief Cabinet secretary of Abe’s government, all but guarantees his election in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the majority held by the Liberal Democrats’ ruling coalition.

Suga gained the support of party heavyweights on expectations he would continue Abe’s policies.

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Also this...

JERUSALEM — For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a U.S. president will host a signing ceremony between Israelis and Arabs at the White House, billing it as a "historic breakthrough" in a region long known for its stubborn conflicts.

But while the optics of Tuesday's event will evoke the groundbreaking agreements that ended decades of war between Israel and neighbouring Egypt and Jordan, and that launched the peace process with the Palestinians, the reality is quite different.

The United Arab Emirates will establish diplomatic relations with Israel, a fellow U.S. ally it has never gone to war with, formalizing ties that go back several years. The agreement cements an informal alliance against Iran and could pave the way for the UAE to acquire advanced U.S. weapons, while leaving the far more contentious Israeli-Palestinian conflict as intractable as ever.

That hasn't stopped President Donald Trump from referring to the UAE deal, which was announced last month, as heralding a "previously unthinkable regional transformation."

A similar agreement announced Friday with Bahrain, which welcomed a visiting Israeli Cabinet minister as early as 1994, also formalizes longstanding ties.

The agreement with Bahrain has raised the possibility that Saudi Arabia — the ultimate prize in Israel's normalization drive — could follow suit.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 14, 2020.

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