Archive | Canadian Politics

A year after Jack Layton’s death, NDP rides high. But for how long?

Posted on 25 August 2012 by admin

By Tobi Cohen

A year after Jack Layton lost his battle with cancer, a white “ghost bike” remains chained to a post outside his formerTorontoconstituency office.

His name emblazoned in NDP orange is still displayed across the brick building, just above a pair of black and yellow “space for rent” signs.

While these remnants of his life will disappear in time, his permanent legacy remains a question.

The federal NDP soared to official Opposition status for the first time in history during the 2011 election, only to see its popular leader die before the fall session of Parliament even started — unleashing an outpouring of support and sympathy for a politician seldom seen in Canada.

As the country marks the one-year anniversary of his death Wednesday [Aug 22], there will be more displays of affection for the former leader as his widow and fellow MP Olivia Chow gather with friends and relatives at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto for a public memorial.

The anniversary also marks a time for some stock-taking for the party.

The NDP’s year involved: coming to grips with its new role as Official Opposition: teaching its large slate of young and inexperienced MPs the ropes: finding a new leader while trying to maintain party unity; and trying to build a more permanent foothold in a province that had, until now,  rejected it.

With a summer’s rest and Tom Mulcair now firmly at the helm, the party will be put to the test when it returns to the House of Commons next month.  What can Canadians expect from the party in the months and years to come?

The answers are mixed.

While some still attribute the NDP’s 2011 electoral feat toQuebecvoter whimsy, a love for its deceased former leader and a rejection of the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, others believe a long-term political shift is at play.

“I think we’re in a transition in this country with respect to our choice of political ideals,” Ipsos Reid pollster John Wright said.

“This is more than simply a casualrelationship with a group of people who didn’t want to find favour with Conservatives or Liberals … it actually is the beginning of something.”

Wright said the NDP has barely wavered since the election in terms of support inQuebec, where the party holds a record 58 seats and continues to lead federally with 40 per cent of the popular vote – while fellow federalists lag with 24-per-cent support for the Liberals and 18 per cent for the Tories.

In the rest ofCanada, the NDP and Conservatives, he added, continue to poll neck and neck.

“One could argue that the inspiration for the NDP’s sizable turn in the last election had to do with Jack Layton. I think Jack Layton made the NDP a comfortable choice for Quebecers,” he said.

“But his legacy is actually much bigger than that. He gave political strength to a movement in theprovinceofQuebecwhich will last, I think, for a considerably long period of time.”

Quebecpundits aren’t quite as optimistic.

Bruce Hicks, aMontrealpolitical scientist who now teaches atCarletonUniversity, believes Mulcair — a well-known Quebecer and former Liberal cabinet minister in the Charest government — was a good choice for leader if the party is serious about maintaining its hold onQuebec.

That said, the party was seen to have been outshone by Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who could “run circles” around the NDP’s interim choice NycoleTurmel. Hicks said the NDP’s House of Commons performance has improved since Mulcair became leader but that the party’s efforts to present itself as a team rather than a one-man-show have fallen short. So too has the party’s stated goal to be the party of “proposition” not just “opposition,” he argued.

“It tends to always be Mulcair who is dominating the stories, as opposed to the team,” Hicks said.

“Because it’s an ideological party and because, for the first time at the federal level in Canadian history we have an ideological government, the two sides are opposed and the reaction on almost any issue is almost visceral. Instead of debating policy in a manner that the public watching it can pick up on nuances of debate and what actually are better or worse policy directions, it’s almost a shouting match between two ideological sides.”

Quebecers, he said, are also more interested in provincial politics and the NDP has no presence at that level to “tap into.”

With the Parti Quebecois ahead in the polls in the provincial election now underway, he added that a win for the sovereigntists could breathe new life into the Bloc Quebecois which lost a lot of its seats to the NDP in the last election.

As rumours swirl about a possible Justin Trudeau run for the Liberal leadership, Hicks said a Trudeau-led federal Liberal party “certainly would do damage to the NDP” as well.

“I think some of the election was an artifact of the time and they won’t be able to tap into that a second time,” Hicks said. “The party has nowhere to go but down.”

McGillUniversitypolitics professor Antonia Maioni attributes the ongoing support for the NDP inQuebecto the “empathy shock vote of support” followingLayton’s death and the “honeymoon bump” post-leadership convention.

“I don’t see any evidence of the NDP being what it should be which is the voice forQuebecin federal politics,” she said, citing the party’s failure to speak up during the recentQuebectuition fee debate and the ongoing provincial election.


NDP national director Chantal Vallerand says it’s been a struggle over the last year, but argues the NDP has made significant headway behind the scenes – growing its base and generating the funds it will need to mount a winning campaign in 2015.

The party signed up about 132,000 members in time for the March leadership vote, about 50,000 more than it counted six months earlier. Meanwhile, membership inQuebechad grown some 750 per cent, surpassing all butOntarioandBritish Columbiain total membership, according to the most recent figures available, released in February.

Vallerand said the party’s large contingent of fundraising staff has also been searching out the four-million-plus Canadians who voted NDP in the last election, by scouring names on petitions, NDP newsletter subscriptions and community event attendance lists in a bid to reach out beyond its base for financial support — a move that appears to be working.

Earlier this month, Elections Canada reports showed the NDP closing in on the Liberals in fundraising, having raised $3.74 million in the first six months of the year compared to the Grits, who raised $4.14 million.

“I have to say that I’m quite proud of the team. We were able to get through a lot in the past year and we still achieved our objectives,” she said.

“This summer finally feels like we’ve come to some sense of stability and we’re able to look forward and plan and really get ready for 2015.”

Brad Lavigne, the NDP’s former campaign director who left the party after the leadership race but still remains a keen observer, argues NDP MPs have “done an amazing job mastering their files” and staying “united” in the face adversity. He believes the party’s growing support is proof Canadians voted for the NDP’s vision on issues such as climate change and health care, not just for its former leader.

Strategically speaking, he said the job now is to replace Stephen Harper and that means maintaining the 102 seats it currently has and adding at least 60 more in 2015. Not onlyQuebecbut the Greater Toronto Area and Southwestern Ontario, he said, are key to that end, as is growth in the prairies andBritish Columbia. Lavigne said the NDP must also build on the youth, urban, ethnic and female vote it attracted in the last election and make “inroads” into suburban ridings and bedroom communities.

Making sure federal riding boundaries are “redrawn in a fair and balanced way” to ensure the “gerrymandering” that occurred a decade ago in Saskatchewan where the NDP was born yet remains shut out is corrected, is also important in the months ahead, Lavigne said.

“That’s certainly the next big piece of our campaign strategy,” he said. “Build in those next tier ridings that will make the difference between governing or not.”

As for theLaytonlegacy, Chow says it’s about more than the NDP breakthrough inQuebecand the party’s new era of official Oppositionhood. She says it’s about sustaining her husband’s dying message of “hope, love and optimism” and a better Canada, and she’s heartened to see those values are still very much alive.

She sees it in her party which continues to be “guided by those same principles” even though some of the “faces have changed.”

“I have to say that I’m quite proud of the team. We were able to get through a lot in the past year and we still achieved our objectives,” she said.

She also sees it in the thousands of messages that have been posted on the website as part of a recent initiative by the Broadbent Institute and Layton’s close friends and relatives, who have asked Canadians to mark the anniversary of his death by posting drawings, video, text and tweets that exemplify their commitment to the ideals Layton put forward.

“I’ve been really comforted by folks that post things on about what kind of impact Jack had on their lives and that they are continuing to make a difference and become involved and engaged in the political process,” she said.

“I think (Jack) would be quite proud of his family and his party and he’d say ‘move on and keep doing that important work.’ ”


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Improving Access to Emergency Care in the Region of Peel

Posted on 15 August 2012 by admin

Ontario is improving access to emergency services by investing in nurses who provide timely care to ambulance patients.

“We’re providing better emergency care by funding new nurses who are dedicated to helping patients arriving by ambulance in our hospitals. This means patients will get the care they need while allowing paramedics and ambulances to respond to other emergency calls,” stated Minister HarinderTakhar, MPP from Mississauga-Erindale.

“These committed nurses give patients the care they need and allow paramedics to quickly get back to serving patients in their community. We are proud to continue this program because it allows us to provide better emergency care for Ontarians,” said Deb Matthews, Minister of Health & Long-term Care.

Region of Peel will receive up to 35,040 dedicated nursing hours in local emergency rooms to care for patients who arrive by ambulance. These nurses will help patients who do not need immediate emergency care. Ambulance patients with life-threatening conditions will continue to be given priority by hospital staff.

Region of Peel is receiving $ 1,752,000 in 2012/13 which is a 82% increase from 2011/12 funding.

Since 2008-09, the McGuinty government has funded 915,113 nursing hours dedicated to providing care for ambulance patients.

More than 15,000 nursing positions have been created in Ontario since 2003.

By providing care to patients who arrive by ambulance, these nurses will help reduce the time paramedics spend in hospital ERs, thus allowing them to respond to other calls in the community resulting in faster ambulance response times.


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Posted on 15 August 2012 by admin

With a $30-billion deficit looming over Ontarians’ heads, the time has come to reconsider every function the government performs, ensuring it focuses on core public services and stops meddling in other areas. The sale and distribution of alcohol needs to be part of that discussion, Ontario PC Finance Critic Peter Shurman said today.

“Our province is in a jobs crisis, but the Liberals would rather produce a glossy magazine on summer cocktails than fix the fiscal mess they’ve created for Ontarians,” Shurman said. “On July 25, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association presented a petition with 112,000 signatures calling for the government to ends its monopoly over the liquor market. Despite the potential economic benefits for Ontarians, Dalton McGuinty shot the idea down right away, refusing to even consider it.”

Currently, the government is responsible for regulating the province’s liquor market, while also providing all retail and distribution services. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) operates more than 620 retail liquor stores and plans to open 70 new stores over the next two years.

“Before rushing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on new liquor stores, why didn’t the government look at what private sector businesses can bring to market?” Shurman said. “The private sector already runs liquor stores all around the world, providing investment capital to open new stores and letting competition drive products and sales. Government coffers still receive revenue, and public funds go towards more important services – like health care and education – or paying down the debt.”

Shurman stated that anytime a monopoly exists in a market, the potential for economic growth declines and higher costs burden consumers. Last year, the Auditor General found the LCBO does not negotiate discounts for high-volume purchases to reduce its costs. The agency could also improve how it selects products, as lackluster ones have stayed on shelves for years despite low customer demand.

“In Quebec and B.C., competition from private retailers has improved service and selection for customers. And look – the sky hasn’t fallen in either province,” Shurman said. “We need to meet consumer demand if we want our liquor market to be as strong as possible. The private sector has made proposals on how we can do this, and it’s the government’s job to consider these ideas.”

With 600,000 Ontarians out of work and an unemployment rate that has lagged behind the national average for 66 straight months, the government must encourage businesses to invest in the province and create jobs, Shurman continued.

“The government needs to stop treating Ontarians like children, and actually engage in the debate about updating our liquor retail system for the 21st century,” Shurman concluded. “It’s time they took action to kick-start Ontario’s economy, instead of getting in the way of economic growth.”


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Friends in High Places

Posted on 15 August 2012 by admin

By Rupinder Kaur


I’m sure there is an old saying somewhere about how great it is to have friends in high places. Well, it appears that if you’re a failed candidate or old political friend of the Conservatives, you get special treatment under the Harper government.

Clearly there is a troubling pattern of Conservative patronage in the recent federal appointments to different government agencies, boards and commissions. For example, the Immigration Refugee Board, Provincial Judicial Advisory Committees, and the Quebec Employment Insurance Board had seen connections between appointees and the Conservative Party.

If you look at some of the failed Conservative candidates from the last election, many have been secured in new jobs with little to no proper qualifications.

The irony is that the Conservatives had spent years criticizing the Liberals when they were the government for doing just that – planting their friends in jobs where the only requirement is that you’re buddies with someone important. Now that the Conservatives are in power, they’re continuing that Liberal legacy.

Appointments used to be a sign of respect and recognition – that you’re someone with the right credentials and reputation to take on the position and serve the Canadian public. The way things are done now lacks both transparency and decisions based on merit.

Recently, fortune smiled on Public Safety Minister Vic Toews who appointed more Conservatives to the Parole Board of Canada and his pals into high places.

Examples include Francois Barron, the spouse of a 2011 Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert Conservative candidate; or how about Michel Lalonde, a policy advisor on Quebec to Stephen Harper from 2004-2006 and then Chief of Staff of the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn (2006-2010). Then there is Marni Larkin, both a provincial Conservative candidate (1995) then a federal canadidate (1997). Larkin is also the owner of Boom Done Next, which did $9,450 worth of business for Vic Toews’ 2011 election campaign.

When the Conservatives give preferential treatment to their friends and choose to live by a different set of rules from those that everyday Canadians follow, it’s one more broken promise of accountability by this Prime Minster.

RupinderKaur is press secretary to New Democratic Party of Canada.


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A Time to Pause and Reflect

Posted on 09 August 2012 by admin

By Rupinder Kaur


Despite the official end to the conflict, there is still concern over the atrocities many Tamils still face inside Sri Lanka today. Various sources cite reports ranging from abductions and torture to the increasing lack of freedom of information.

Two major events in history have made me pause and reflect. Both occurred on July 23.

The first was the forced return to India of the Komagata Maru ship on July 23, 1914. The second is the start of the Sri Lankan conflict on July 23, 1983.

I have no personal connection to either event but the threads of injustice and unfairness are woven throughout both.

The Komagata Maru carried 376 passengers from British colonial India to the shores of Vancouver in 1914. Due to an existing law of the time called the “Continuous Journey,” the ship was prevented from docking and passengers were not allowed to set foot on Canadian soil. The law stipulated that a ship had to make one continuous journey from point A to point B without disruption. But imagine a ship sailing from India to Canada back in 1914 without making any stops for fuel or to restock food and supplies – hard to imagine, right? Of course, it is. That’s because it was nearly impossible to make that trip without stopping at least once.

On this day, 98 years ago, after remaining in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet for two months, while passengers were prevented from landing in Canada and denied basic necessities like food and water, Canadian courts, supported by the military, forced the ship to return. After its arrival back in India, the local police fired on the passengers and 19 people were shot dead. Others were imprisoned and remained in detention.

In pursuit of a better life, those 376 passengers risked everything to come to Canada, and when they arrived on our shores, were turned away, because they were not the kind of immigrant this country wanted.

The passengers were British subjects, just like those living in Canada and calling themselves Canadians. Yet the discriminatory and racist policies prevented them from entering our country.

July 23, 1983 is the day the Sri Lankan government launched a massive assault on its own people. It was orchestrated and deliberate. Tamils refer to it as “Black July” – symbolic of a black mark on the reputation of the country.

In a humanitarian response to the killings, Canada, like many other countries, accepted Tamil refugees and granted them asylum.

Twenty-nine years later, despite the official end to the conflict, there is still concern over the atrocities many Tamils still face inside Sri Lanka today. Various sources cite reports ranging from abductions and torture to the increasing lack of freedom of information.

I pause and reflect on the fact that Canada can and must do more. We need to look forward to what we can do collectively to ensure life is better for those living in conditions of violence and massacres in far off lands. Just the same, as we look ahead, there is a requirement to look back. When an injustice occurs on our very shores, it is something that should be addressed with dignity.

Rupinder Kaur is press secretary to New Democratic Party of Canada.

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250,000 Jobs Left Unfulfilled in 2011 – Minister Finley

Posted on 09 August 2012 by admin

The Government of Canada is launching a new, national Employment Insurance (EI) pilot project starting August 5,2012. The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

“Our government’s top priorities are job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians,” said Minister Finley.

In Economic Action Plan 2012, the Government has introduced a new, national EI pilot project, Working While on Claim. The pilot project increases the incentive for claimants to accept available jobs by allowing them to keep more of what they earn while on EI, as benefits are only reduced by 50 percent of total earnings from working while on claim.

“Our government believes it should always pay to work,” said Minister Finley. “Canadians want to get back to work, and statistics show that those who stay active in, and remain connected to, the labour market find permanent employment faster. Our government is committed to supporting workers and ensuring that EI enables a strong and competitive workforce.”

The Working While on Claim pilot is one of many recent improvements the Government of Canada has made to the EI program.

Minister Finley also noted that in 2011 nearly 250,000 jobs went unfilled across this country.

“We believe that the EI program must encourage and help unemployed Canadians fill those available jobs as effectively as possible..It’s not meant to replace wages for people who choose not to work and it’s certainly not intended to discourage people from trying to get back into the job market.|

More information is available at

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Harper Government Launches Online Consultations on Immigrant Investor Program to Boost Economy

Posted on 09 August 2012 by admin

Harper Government has launched online consultations to engage the public on ways to improve the federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).

“We can no longer be a passive player in the global competition for talent and investment. That is why we need to review our immigration programs to create dynamic opportunities that enable immigrants’ investments to directly benefit the Canadian economy,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is now inviting online submissions from stakeholders and the public on how the department can:

  • Increase the economic benefit that immigrant investment capital brings to Canada;
  • Attract experienced, international investors with the skills and resources needed to ensure they integrate into Canada’s economy; and
  • Develop efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering an investment program.


“I am open to creative ideas and suggestions from the business community on how to maximize the economic benefits of such programs to Canada,” said Minister Kenney.

 The goal of these consultations is to determine how best to target high value global investors and to increase the economic benefit that immigrant investment capital brings to Canada. The current IIP offers permanent residency to individuals who meet specific criteria and are able to make an $800,000, five-year, interest-free loan to provincial and territorial governments for economic development activities.

CIC is also consulting Canadians on whether the government should use its new powers under the amended Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to create short-term programs that could have a far greater impact on Canada’s economy, for example by possibly favouring active use of investment capital to promote economic growth.

CIC implemented a temporary pause on new IIP applications on July 1, 2012, in order to allow for a thorough review of the program. Nonetheless, in 2012, Canada intends to admit 5,500 to 6,000 newcomers under the Federal Business category, which includes investors.

The online consultations are open for input until September 4, 2012. Interested participants can find more information at: CIC is also consulting with provinces and territories on changes to federal immigrant investor programming.

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Auto insurance fraud a serious issue – Minister Duncan

Posted on 02 August 2012 by admin

High insurance auto rates were a sparked issue in the provincial election of 2011. NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh has been highlighting the issue at the Ontario legislature. Legislators point out that the high auto insurance rates are also because of high auto insurance fraud.

“Auto insurance fraud is a serious issue that affects all of Ontario’s nine million drivers, so I thank the task force for its continued hard work and I look forward to receiving final recommendations in the fall. Our government continues to monitor and make changes to the system so that auto insurance remains affordable while providing people with optimal protection,” stated Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan.

Ontario’s Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force identifies a number of potential recommendations:

  • Oversight of health clinics’ auto insurance business practices
  • Regulating the towing industry
  • Expanding investigative authority for the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO)
  • Mandatory disclosure by insurance companies about how they select and supervise their preferred service providers – including independent medical examinations; and
  • Developing a consumer engagement and education strategy.

The task force’s work builds on a series of recent changes the government has made to help address auto insurance fraud, including:

  • Implementing a package of auto insurance reforms in September 2010
  • Starting a pilot project using the Health Claims for Auto Insurance database to detect potential fraudulent activity
  • Introducing new rules to ensure that health care treatments are provided as invoiced
  • Issuing a guideline to prevent insurers from being invoiced for medical devices at a significantly higher than market rate; and
  • Requiring CEOs of auto insurers in Ontario to annually attest that their accident benefit cost controls are effective and that claimants are being treated fairly.

Under the McGuinty government, auto insurance rates have risen at a slower pace than inflation, and Ontario’s accident benefits remain the most generous in Canada when compared to other provinces with similar auto insurance marketplaces.

In the wake of flooding in Scarborough homes, the similar concern was raised by home owners who were reluctant to call up the home insurance companies as their annual premiums will go up.

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The Death of Evidence

Posted on 02 August 2012 by admin

By Rupinder Kaur


This kind of censorship and bullying is worrisome to me and quite frankly, very unacceptable, especially in the field of science. As a Canadian taxpayer, my money is paying for research carried out by federal scientists and I want their findings to be public, accessible and debated – not hidden or buried if it conflicts with the Conservatives’ agenda or ideology.

I have noticed an increasing number of protests happening against the various actions of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. They included various groups and communities like students and women. A few weeks ago, I saw hundreds of doctors and health-care practitioners arrive on Parliament Hill, demanding the Conservative government reverse its cuts to refugee health care because they felt it’s inhumane to take away basic health care services from vulnerable people fleeing violence from other countries as they seek refuge in Canada.

This week’s protest was organized by Canada’s scientific community, condemning the Conservatives’ attacks against science.

They called their protest the “Death of Evidence” rally and highlighted two major trends – the dramatic cuts to scientific institutions and the muzzling of researchers. It has come to light that since Conservatives came to power, independent scientists are often barred from even talking to the media or general public without obtaining consent from the Prime Minister’s office. I have also heard news reports about how scientists were assigned a staff member from the Prime Minister’s office to shadow and follow them during a conference so they wouldn’t speak to the media without their knowledge or approval.

This kind of censorship and bullying is worrisome to me and quite frankly, very unacceptable, especially in the field of science. As a Canadian taxpayer, my money is paying for research carried out by federal scientists and I want their findings to be public, accessible and debated – not hidden or buried if it conflicts with the Conservatives’ agenda or ideology.

Currently, there are reckless cuts being made to research programs that will impact the environment. Organizations that are being targeted by the Conservatives include Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and National Research Council Canada. These are important groups, conducting important research – slashing their funding is dangerous when we need reliable science and data to combat climate change.

The “Death of Evidence” will force us to make irresponsible decisions without valuable research, examinations and studies. If Stephen Harper and his Conservatives continue to be short-sighted and put their ideologies before reason and logic, we’re in big trouble down the road.

 RupinderKaur is the press secretary of New Democratic Party of Canada.

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Making Lobbying Industry More Accountable

Posted on 02 August 2012 by admin

Ontario is proposing to strengthen its Lobbyists Registration Act to ensure greater transparency and accountability among lobbyists, government and the public.

“Communicating with government is a completely legitimate activity but Ontarians have the right to know who is doing it and for what purpose. Our strong working relationship with the Integrity Commissioner has yielded positive discussions. We are pleased that we’re going to introduce legislation to shine more light on the lobbying industry, promote transparency and accountability in government and ensure that elected officials are held accountable for how they use tax dollars,” stated Minister of Government Services Harinder Takkar.

The existing act already outlines requirements for lobbyists who need to register their activities with the provincial government. Proposed amendments would enhance the existing act by:

§   Giving the Integrity Commissioner more enforcement powers, including the ability to prohibit individuals from lobbying.

§   Giving the Integrity Commissioner new investigative powers, including the ability to compel testimony and obtain key documents.

§   Requiring lobbyists to identify the specific MPP and ministers’ offices they lobby.

§   Preventing lobbyists from accepting additional fees for preferred outcomes.

§   Prohibiting lobbyists from providing paid advice to a ministry and lobbying on the same subject matter.

§   Providing the Integrity Commissioner with the ability to establish a lobbyist code of conduct

§   Incorporating for-profit and not-for-profit organizations under the same category of ‘in-house’ lobbyists, treating both classes of lobbyists the same and capturing more lobbying activity.

 The government will also propose changes to the Cabinet Ministers’ and Opposition Leaders’ Expenses Review and Accountability Act. Cabinet ministers, parliamentary assistants and their staff already post expense information. If passed, these changes would require opposition leaders and their staff to make their expense information available to the public.

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