Archive | Canadian Politics

‘Calm … not kill’ is the aim behind changing the rules in Toronto’s housing market rules, Premier Kathleen Wynne says

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Government will continue monitoring impact of changes as real estate industry urges Ontario to wait before intervening further.

Changes to Toronto-area real estate rules were meant to “calm … not kill” the market, says Premier Kathleen Wynne, adding the province will continue to keep an eye on their impact.

“We’re monitoring it closely,” said Wynne, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park. “It was a sophisticated response to an overheating of the market and we’ll see, over the coming months, what the impact has been.

“I’m pretty confident that the range of things that we put in place is having the desired effect, and will continue to.”

While housing sales in Toronto area remain up year-over year, they have nevertheless declined month-to-month since Wynne introduced new housing policies April 20, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers and an expansion of rent controls.

The real estate industry has urged the province and other levels of government to wait for an extensive period before intervening any further.

“Let’s hit the brakes here,” said Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association and former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. “Let’s take a wait-and-see approach before any more demand interventions.”

Toronto realtor David Fleming believes the housing market was already correcting itself before the government changes.

“This is a market that likely would have cooled itself,” said Fleming of Bosley Real Estate. “What they’ve done effectively is just fast-tracked what would have been a natural cooling.”

Wynne spoke to reporters at Queen’s Park on Thursday morning before heading to Rhode Island to meet with U.S. governors to talk trade and promote cross-border economic ties at a national conference.

She called the meeting “a really important moment for Ontario, in the context of Canadian-American relations.

“The trade relationships between Canada and the United States, and Ontario and the United States, is critical to the well-being of both jurisdictions,” said Wynne, who will be joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “That’s really the underpinning of the conversations that I’ll be having with the governors and have been having with governors for the last number of months.”

While the pressure of protectionism is a concern — “we don’t know exactly where that protectionist sentiment is going to lead to” — Wynne said there is “some urgency, (as) we know that sometime in the next week or so there will be more clarity in what the mandate for the renegotiation of NAFTA will look like.”

About 28 states in the U.S. list Ontario as their first- or second-place export market.

Meanwhile, just-released results from the first quarter of this year showed Ontario’s economic growth bested the rest of the country, the United States and G7 countries.

“Ontario is doing very well in that national and international context,” Wynne also said. “That only for me reinforces why we continue to find ways to strengthen and grow the economy.”

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Bombardier admits it may miss 2017 TTC streetcar delivery target

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Company has told the TTC it will be a ‘challenge’ to provide a total of 70 cars by the end of the year.

The TTC’s much-delayed streetcar order could be headed for another setback.

After months of assurances from Bombardier that the company was on track to meet its latest delivery targets, the Quebec-based rail manufacturer warned the transit agency this week that it will be a “challenge” to supply 70 cars by the end of 2017 as scheduled.

TTC CEO Andy Byford revealed the latest snag with the $1-billion vehicle purchase at a meeting of the agency’s board on Wednesday, where commissioners also voted to seek out other potential suppliers for future streetcar orders.

“They (Bombardier) have said to me that the 70 by year-end is still possible, but it’s at risk and that it’s increasingly challenging,” said Byford, who discussed the order Tuesday with Bombardier’s president of transportation for the Americas, Benoît Brossoit.

 “They have not ruled out that 70, I am not letting them off the hook for that 70, but they have flagged that there is a risk that we may fall a few vehicles short.”

Byford said the TTC won’t know “for another couple of months” whether the company will miss the deadline.

As of this week the TTC has 40 of the new streetcars on its property. Under a timetable the two sides agreed to in 2012, the agency was supposed to have about 130 by now. Some of the vehicles that have arrived are experiencing reliability issues, mainly related to their doors.

A Bombardier spokesperson confirmed that the company told the TTC that the latest delivery schedule could slip, but he said the corporation made the disclosure of out a desire to be transparent and he described the potential delay as a “very limited, short-term issue.”

“This does not mean Bombardier will not reach its target for 2017,” wrote Marc-André Lefebvre in an email.

“We are still fully on track to deliver the entire fleet of 204 streetcars by the original contract deadline of 2019.”

Lefebvre said that the company is “deploying extraordinary resources” to meet the year-end goal. Measures the company has taken include extending the work week at its Thunder Bay plant from five to seven days, and adding resources at its other production facilities in Mexico and Europe.

Bombardier has also chartered a large Antonov cargo plane to ship streetcar cabs from Vienna, Austria, instead of sending them by sea. Lefebvre said that the flights cost $750,000 and will save the company a month on shipping time. All additional investments being put into streetcar production will be borne by Bombardier, he stated.

“All cards are on the table. No stone will be left unturned,” Lefebvre said.

Deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who sits on the TTC board, did not appear convinced by Bombardier’s assurances.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that this word ‘challenging’ is used,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“Given their past performance, I think they may be getting ready to give us more bad news about the delivery of streetcars, because we’ve received a lot of bad news in the past.”

Minnan-Wong moved a motion at the meeting to conduct a “market sounding” exercise to seek out other potential streetcar suppliers. The motion, which Minnan-Wong drafted before learning about the latest potential delay, passed unanimously, which the deputy mayor said reflected the agency’s “frustration” with Bombardier.

The TTC has conceded that it is effectively locked into the current Bombardier contract for 204 vehicles, but the agency says it will eventually need an additional 60 cars to meet ridership demand.

The TTC ordered the accessible, low-floor streetcars from Bombardier in 2009 to replace its aging fleet, but Bombardier has failed to meet deadlines and repeatedly revised delivery schedules downwards. The company is currently on its fifth schedule since the order was signed.

The delays to the order prompted the TTC to sue the company in 2015 for liquidated damages. Under the terms of the contract the agency can seek up to $50 million for late delivery.

A Star investigation published in May documented a litany of production problems that have plagued the order, including poor workmanship, design failures, and persistent difficulties the company has had in managing its global supply chain.

Bombardier’s inability to meet even lowered delivery targets despite executives’ public and private assurances contributed to the near complete breakdown in the TTC’s relationship with the company last year. It was only partially restored when Bombardier replaced its head of its Americas transportation division in April 2016.

Around the same time Bombardier launched a “get well plan” aimed at improving production, and it was able to meet the revised schedule of supplying 30 cars by the end of 2016.

It has also met delivery targets for the first six months of this year, but the most vehicles it has delivered in a single month was in May, when it supplied three.

To meet the 70-car target, the company would have to manufacture a total of 40 cars this year, and the schedule calls for a production rate of at least seven cars in each of the last three months of 2017. In the three years since production began, Bombardier has never achieved a production rate that high.

An even more challenging task awaits the company next year. In order to keep the latest schedule on track, Bombardier would have to produce an average of 6.3 vehicles a month throughout 2018, for a total of 76 cars next year. That’s nearly double the number of vehicles it is struggling to supply in 2017.

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Royal Canadian Navy warship returns to Halifax after six-month NATO mission

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

HMCS St. John’s and its 240-member crew have returned home after participating in Operation Reassurance in Europe.

HALIFAX—A Halifax-based navy frigate has returned to its home port after a six-month deployment with NATO forces in Europe.

HMCS St. John’s and its 240-member crew participated in Operation Reassurance, which is aimed at promoting security and stability in central and eastern Europe.

The ship served with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 in the Mediterranean Sea.

During its time at sea, St. John’s took part in four large-scale exercises, while visiting 16 ports in 10 countries.

The vessel travelled more than 37,000 nautical miles during the deployment.

HMCS Charlottetown is to replace St. John’s as part of the NATO operations in early August.

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Canada is America’s biggest and best customer by far, Trudeau tells U.S. governors’ conference

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

In return, there were assurances from governors and the U.S. vice-president that economic ties will remain strong.

The prime minister spoke of Canada’s relentless — but “polite” — push to retain strong trading ties with the United States at a meeting of governors he attended with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne just days before details on NAFTA renegotiations are to be released.

Speaking to the governors on Friday, Trudeau praised the “historic relationship” between the two nations, and cited trade numbers as a reminder that Canada is America’s biggest economic partner, with 9 million U.S. workers “whose jobs depend directly on trade” with our nation and how this country is the top export market for two-thirds of all states.

And — to laughter — he noted Canadians pay $500 million in property tax each year in Florida alone.

“We are repeating those (trade) numbers to U.S. audiences every chance we can get,” he also said. “ … To boil this down to one point, Canada is the United States’ biggest, best customer, by far. We are a bigger customer than China … bigger than Japan or the U.K. No one even comes close.

“ … We are polite in our relentlessness in sharing that message.”

Amid calls for “buy America” provisions as well as upcoming changes to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trudeau noted “free trade has worked, and it is working now” but agreed it’s not perfect.

It “should be updated and modernized as it has been a dozen times over the past quarter century” to benefit workers in all three countries, he said, noting that protectionist policies are “politically tempting shortcuts” that only serve to “kill growth” and hurt workers.

In a telephone interview before flying back to Ontario, Wynne — the only Canadian premier to attend the meeting — said she left feeling optimistic.

 “There is such a strong consensus among all the people that I’ve spoken to here, and I’ve spoken to a big number of governors, there’s such an understanding that we have to work together,” she said.

The mandate for NAFTA renegotiations is due out early next week “so we’ll have a better idea” of what’s to come, she added. “Certainly the Mexican delegates are concerned and they want to make sure that there’s not a real undermining of their position, but there’s such a willingness to work on a tripartite agreement, such an understanding of the supply chain among governors that I spoke to — both Republican and Democrat — I think that’s what is making me feel optimistic.”

She’s now spoken to 20 governors and “we are talking about people who understand that they’ve got thousands of jobs that rely on this connectivity across the continent.”

Wynne next heads to the Council of the Federation on Monday, a meeting of premiers from across the country, where issues like trade, the looming softwood lumber deal and the opioid crisis are expected to be discussed.

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Khadr apology, settlement based on violation of charter rights, Trudeau says

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

Trudeau says the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, “even when it is uncomfortable.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says an apology and reported $10.5-million compensation payment to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr was a basic matter of following Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The settlement is not about the details of Khadr’s case but the fact his rights were violated, Trudeau said.

“The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, every one of us, even when it is uncomfortable,” he said. “When the government violates any Canadian’s charter rights, we all end up paying for it.”

The prime minister made his brief comments in answering a question at the closing press conference following the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg.

The settlement resolves a long-standing lawsuit in which Khadr claimed Canada had violated his rights and was complicit with the United States when he was detained at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba denied access to a lawyer and tortured. Khadr was seeking $20 million in damages.

The Supreme Court of Canada in 2010 ruled Khadr’s rights had been violated.

The apology and payout sparked fresh public debate about Khadr. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer decried the settlement as “disgusting,” saying Khadr’s return to Canada should have been remedy enough.

 “Justin Trudeau should never have agreed to a secret deal that gave a convicted terrorist millions of dollars,” Scheer said.

An online petition by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calling on the Trudeau government to revoke Khadr’s multimillion dollar payout received more than 52,000 signatures in two days.

In an interview on Friday, Khadr lamented the “political circus” his case has created, and said he hopes the settlement would allow him and Canadians to move on.

“I’m not celebrating it. It’s a time for reconciliation and I hope that this chapter is closed,” he said.

In 2010, while in the Guantanamo Bay military prison, Khadr pleaded guilty in exchange for a chance to serve his sentence in Canada. Once released, he told the Star he was not certain whether he threw the grenade that killed U.S. Delta Force soldier Sgt. Christopher Speer, but took the Pentagon plea deal as he believed it was his only way to leave the U.S. prison in Cuba.

He is appealing the conviction in a Washington court.

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Ontario looking for public input on $15 minimum wage

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

The Liberal government’s proposed legislation on labour reforms starts committee hearings Monday that will travel the province.

Ontario’s bid to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — a move that is feared by businesses but has the support of some prominent economists — is being put to the public this week.

The Liberal government’s proposed legislation on labour reforms, which also includes equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave, starts committee hearings Monday that will travel the province.

The bill would boost the minimum wage, which is currently set to rise with inflation from $11.40 an hour to $11.60 in October, up to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 the following year.

Businesses are strongly opposed to the increase, particularly the quick pace of it. A coalition of groups including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Franchise Association are sending Premier Kathleen Wynne a letter Monday, slamming the “arbitrary” increase.

 “Many Ontario employers, especially small businesses, are now considering closing their business because they do not have the capacity to successfully manage such reforms,” they write.

“The business community was wholly aligned with your government’s previous approach, which allowed for increases to the minimum wage that were predictable and protected against arbitrary political decision-making.”

Business groups had been calling for the government to first perform an economic analysis, and have now commissioned their own, which the coalition said will be complete next month.

“To plan effectively and protect jobs, employers need predictability and time to adjust the cost of other inputs where we can,” the coalition writes. “There is no way to absorb and adjust to a 32 per cent hit in less than 18 months.”

Karl Wirtz, the CEO and founder of a packaging company in Brampton, Ont., said he may have to consider bankruptcy.

“This is something that has got me scared out of my mind,” he said.

The minimum wage increase will mean an extra $1 million for WG Pro-Manufacturing’s 200 — soon to be 245 — employees, Wirtz said. About half of them make minimum wage and the rest will have to get commensurate pay bumps, he said.

The company, which does co-packaging for foods and confectionery products, is focused on growth, Wirtz said, and as such is operating within tight margins. He hasn’t budgeted for an extra million dollars a year and is locked into contracts with big customers. The only way he sees out of the pricing structure is bankruptcy.

“I want all of our workers to have a good income and good ability to have a good lifestyle,” Wirtz said. “I respect that. Truthfully, I do. But you have to give businesses an opportunity to phase it into their program. So yes, let’s shoot for $14, let’s shoot for $15, but scale it over the next coming years.”

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said the government is sensitive to the needs of businesses, smaller ones in particular.

“We want to ensure there’s not unintended consequences, because these are complex policies,” he said.

“If there’s more work to be done in terms of the details and potential unintended consequences, that’s something we’re certainly happy to do with our business community.”

A recent study out of Seattle made headlines for concluding that its minimum wage increase was actually detrimental to low-income workers. But its methodology has been criticized and it bucks the trend of similar studies concluding the opposite, noted Canadian economist Lars Osberg.

He is one of 50 economists in Canada who just signed a letter in support of a $15 minimum wage.

“For many years, many in the economics profession were also very concerned about this possibility of disemployment of people with minimum wage jobs,” said Osberg, an economics professor at Dalhousie University.

“A whole raft of new studies in the last 20 years have indicated that disemployment effect is very small…On average you could say it’s small to negligible.”

While businesses’ concerns are understandable, he said, studies show that increasing the minimum wage increases people’s purchasing power, as well as consumption and economic activity in general.

“So in that sense it’s stimulative to the macroeconomy,” he said.

Ontario’s legislative committee will travel this week to Thunder Bay, North Bay, Ottawa, Kingston and Windsor, and next week to London, Kitchener, Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Toronto.

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TTC urged to look elsewhere for new streetcars after Bombardier delay

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

Existing contract with Quebec-based company contains an option for 60 additional cars, but TTC commissioner wants to consider buying from other firms.

Toronto’s deputy mayor wants the TTC to seek out other potential suppliers for the agency’s next streetcar purchase, following repeated production delays to the current order from Bombardier.

In a motion going before the TTC board on Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is also a TTC commissioner, requests that the agency “conduct a market sounding and prequalification process” to determine whether there are other companies interested in bidding on future contracts for light rail vehicles.

The current $1-billion order from Bombardier is for 204 streetcars, with an option to purchase an additional 60 vehicles.

The option is estimated to cost $361 million, and is currently not funded in the TTC’s budget. Under the terms of the Bombardier deal the option is supposed to be exercised by the time the 60th car of the order is delivered, which will happen in November if the Quebec-based company sticks to its latest revised production schedule.

“We may or may not exercise that option. But our current provider, Bombardier, has a less than outstanding record of delivery,” said Minnan-Wong in an interview.

He said seeking out other potential suppliers now “gives us the opportunity to make an informed, educated choice.” He warned that if the TTC doesn’t test the market early, “we could be in a situation where the commission might say, we don’t have time to go out to the marketplace to see if there are other companies out there.”

TTC CEO Andy Byford said he supports Minnan-Wong’s motion. “I think it makes sense to keep our options open,” he said.

Byford said that despite cooling ridership growth, the agency still expects it will need the extra cars to cope with future transit demand. The additional 60 vehicles would increase the capacity of the TTC’s streetcar network by 70 per cent compared to the old vehicle fleet.

The CEO said that the TTC won’t be rushed into any decisions, however, and it’s the agency’s position that it shouldn’t necessarily be bound to exercising the option by the 60th car. He said the option date should be negotiable.

“I don’t think it’s in Bombardier’s interest to be rigid on one element of the deal when they have clearly failed on another element of it,” he said.

Under the terms of the original contract with Bombardier, the company was supposed to have delivered roughly 130 of the new cars by now. Instead the TTC has just 39.

The cars the agency does have are also not yet meeting reliability targets, but the TTC is confident that their performance will improve by the time the order is complete.

Bombardier maintains that it has overcome its production problems, and will meet the original target of delivering all 204 cars by 2019.

“A year ago Bombardier implemented an important turnaround plan of its operations and has since met every quarterly delivery commitment ‎to the TTC,” said spokesperson Marc-Andre Lefebvre in an email.

He said that “Bombardier has an established manufacturing and supplier base geared toward meeting the needs of the TTC” and would “be able to meet any future order from our customer,” including the 60-car option.

According to Byford, there would be some drawbacks to running a mixed fleet made up of vehicles from two different companies, but they would be relatively minor. Operators and mechanics would have to familiarize themselves with two different vehicle types, for instance, and the vehicles would require two sets of spare parts.

Once the favoured supplier of light rail vehicles for the Toronto area, Bombardier signed major contracts with the TTC and Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, at the turn of the decade.

But recently the company has seen its competitors gain ground as its production woes mounted.

In May, Metrolinx announced it had signed a $528-million deal with French-based Alstom for 61 light rail vehicles. The province described the order as a backup to a troubled, $770-million order from Bombardier for 182 cars, which has also been delayed.


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Selling off Hydro One is Wynne’s biggest blunder as premier: Cohn

Posted on 06 July 2017 by admin

Liberals sold off Hydro One despite lack of public support, wrongly counting on the inattention of the last election.

Privatizing Hydro One ranks as the biggest miscalculation of Kathleen Wynne’s time as premier.

It violated fundamental axioms of politics — notably the perils of public opposition and public confusion.

But — and this is important —it didn’t break the basic laws of the land.

An ongoing court challenge, bankrolled by one of Ontario’s biggest unions, seeks to declare the privatization of Hydro One an act of misfeasance. CUPE argues the partial sale was wrongful, illegal conduct by an elected government favouring its financial friends.

On its face, the court case seems doomed to fail, equal parts frivolous and foolish. It makes little sense legally, factually, politically, fiscally.

CUPE’s underlying goal is not so much a courtroom triumph as a victory in the court of public opinion. In reality, publicity stunts make for good politics but bad law.

After a few legal skirmishes this month, Justice P.J. Cavanagh will rule soon whether the case should proceed. It shouldn’t, because the real judgment belongs to voters in next summer’s Ontario election.

As it did in the election of 2014.

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Trudeau touches off firestorm after forgetting Alberta in Canada Day shout-out

Posted on 06 July 2017 by admin

It wasn’t until after he’d left the stage that Trudeau noticed the oversight, when he jumped back on and said, “I love you, Alberta.”

EDMONTON—Manuel Goncalves has a message for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: My Canada includes Alberta, even if your speech didn’t.

Trudeau touched off a Twitter firestorm Saturday during his Canada Day speech on Parliament Hill when he left Alberta out of his coast-to-coast recitation of the provinces and territories.

“We may live in British Columbia, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador,” Trudeau said.

“But we embrace that diversity while knowing in our hearts that we are all Canadians, and that we share a common pride in that red and white flag.”

It wasn’t until after he’d left the stage that Trudeau noticed the oversight, aided no doubt by a check of his Twitter feed and host Sandra Oh giving the province a shout-out. Trudeau jumped on the front of the stage, called out, “I love you, Alberta,” and blew a kiss, before sitting down and shaking his head.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands up as he acknowledges Alberta and Albertans during the Canada Day noon hour show on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday.  (JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

 “Maybe he should remember where the big money comes from for the economy. It’s the province of Alberta,” said Goncalves, who was among several thousand Albertans gathered for Canada Day at the provincial legislature in Edmonton.

“Without our energy, nothing moves, buddy. Nothing goes around,” he said, rubbing his fingers as he spoke. “Simple as that. And for Justin Trudeau, smarten up, boy!”

Moments after the mistake, Trudeau tweeted: “Got too excited somewhere over the Rockies. Sorry, Alberta.”

Yolanda Saunders, who was with her two daughters as they waded in the reflecting pool in front of the legislature, shrugged off the gaffe.

“I think it was just an ‘Oops,’ ” she said.

But it was a political mistake, one Trudeau will likely be hearing about for a while — especially given the fact that Alberta is home to some of his most powerful rivals in the House of Commons, and a place where for many, the Trudeau name has long been a dirty word.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who represents a Calgary riding, wasted little time seizing the moment.

“On the day we celebrate unity, on the day we celebrate the things that make us better because we’re a strong and united country, he forgot our province,” Rempel says a video she posted to Facebook.

“You know what? I don’t care what political stripe you are, I don’t care how you vote. At the end of the day, if we’re going to celebrate the things that unite us, we cannot forget this province.”

In an interesting twist, the two newest Canadian astronauts Trudeau introduced Saturday are both Albertans: Jennifer Sidey of Calgary and Joshua Kutryk of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.

Most of the people at the legislature were in a forgiving mood, chalking up the oversight to an honest mistake.

Michael Viola jokingly wondered if it has something to do with the Liberal government’s new marijuana policy.

“Something’s going to get legalized next year,” he smiled. “Maybe he’s just test-driving something.”

Stephanie Lawrence, a dual Australian-Canadian who was in Edmonton visiting family, suggested the prime minister ought not to make such mistakes, and that Trudeau needs to “pick up the slack.”

“I could understand if he was from the U.S. but Canada doesn’t have that many provinces,” she said.

“It’s not like you have to list 50 of them.”


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Why Canada’s 150th birthday celebration beats Expo 67

Posted on 06 July 2017 by admin

Canada is a country conflicted over its past conflicts. But at 150, we are a better place than ever before.

Measured against the exuberance of Expo 67, today’s birthday feels strangely subdued — as much a day of reflection as celebration.

How very Canadian. A half century after our centenary we are less celebratory and more understated than ever.

But at 150, Canada is not just older and wiser than in 1967, it is immeasurably better. For our centennial year turned out to be the calm before the storm, and we are only now reborn.

My childhood memories of Expo 67 mirrored the emotions of the grown-ups around me: Limitless wonder about our achievements and endless optimism for the future.

But our airy hopes were misplaced, our self-awareness circumscribed in a mostly white, predominantly English nation. We celebrated Expo 67 under the aegis of our last unilingual prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, whose successor, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, would soon propose the assimilation of our Indigenous peoples, before facing separatist and terrorist crises. These days, Trudeau’s son, Justin, presides over a period of calm with Quebec and has struck a tone of accommodation with Indigenous people in Canada.

As a country we are far more rounded, grounded and grown-up. We have reinvented multiculturalism, and begun a belated journey of reconciliation.

But Indigenous dissents and protests have freighted our festivities with a sense of historical hand-wringing this July 1. It is often said that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. Yet it can also be said that those who dwell excessively on the mistakes of history can become prisoners of the past, blinded to future possibilities.

Canada is a country conflicted over its past conflicts. But Canadians — whether of Indigenous or immigrant descent — forget that such tensions and tragedies are universal in a world of human migration, interaction, assimilation and segregation.

Nothing puts Canada’s tensions in perspective quite like witnessing other people’s conflicts abroad, as I did while at the Toronto Star’s bureau in Jerusalem in the late 1990s. Our own historical dialogue reminds me of the dialectic in the Middle East, weighed down by duelling histories — biblical and political — unlike any place on earth.

Israel’s majority Jewish population celebrates the anniversary of their country’s founding as the rebirth of their people in the aftermath of the Holocaust. But many Israeli Arabs, and millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories, mark it as al-Nakba — the Catastrophe.

It is an analogy to our own duality. What we celebrate nationally as Canada Day is seen, notionally, as a day of mourning by many Indigenous people.

It is difficult to undo the past, or right historical wrongs — but worth the effort to understand it. Covering conflict abroad, it often felt liberating that we Canadians were unburdened by historical baggage because we barely knew our own story.

We are a country with a long history, populated by a people with short memories and minimal festivities. Many immigrants like to leave their tortured histories behind when they begin a new one in Canada.

It is easier to unlearn and relearn your history if you never learned much of it in the first place. Perhaps that gives Canadians a head start in the journey of truth and reconciliation.

Indigenous ambivalence on Canada Day forces us to rethink our own celebration. But it should be possible to acknowledge past injustices without denying or decrying all that Canada has achieved along the way — giving sanctuary to Black slaves, embracing diversity, withstanding separatism and pioneering gay marriage. No longer are Jews barred from immigrating, Chinese burdened by a head tax, or ethnic Japanese interned.

No people are perfect. Name any supposed Buddhist paradise and I will show you a purgatory within — be it the Himalayan ideal of Bhutan (which mistreats its ethnic Nepalese), or Burma under Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi (which mistreats its Muslims). Remember that bitter reality as refugees flee war abroad, flocking to our country of peace, order and good government.

Canada has always been light on jingoism, chauvinism and patriotism. But do not mistake the muted enthusiasm of today for a lack of idealism about tomorrow.

At 150, Canada is a far better place, in a far better space than ever before — in a world that grows only worse.


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