• By: Dan Donovan

Baird, Poilievre, Trudeau – Ottawa’s cold winter parliament warms up for Ukraine

It’s been a busy season for politics during the deep freeze of winter. Ottawa West- Nepean MP and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has been busy on the home front addressing the needs of his constituents while ensuring he represents Canada with a strong voice internationally. He leveled a stern rebuke to Uganda for its draconian anti-gay laws, continues to provide a robust defence of Canada’s strong support for Israel and has visited Mexico and faraway places like Kazakhstan to enhance relations and build better bilateral ties.

However, Baird has particularly stood out in presenting Canada’s response to Russia’s incursion in the Ukraine. With so many Canadians of Ukrainian descent living in Canada (over 1.3 million) and with many of those living in the capital, it was good to see Canada leading on this issue. Baird took the usual step of visiting Kyiv within days of the collapse of the former corrupt regime of President Viktor Yanukovych to express Canada’s condolences at the deaths of over 80 protestors at the hands of the Yanukovych regime and support for the new democratic government.

Baird had the full support of both Opposition parties for his actions, including Ottawa Centre NDP MP and Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar, which is a rare occurrence. Ottawa Life Magazine interviewed Baird to get his take on events at home and abroad.

The other big issues this past winter have been Senate reform and changes to the Elections Act. Pierre Poilievre, MP for Nepean-Carleton and Minister for Democratic Reform has been at the centre of both these issues as the lead spokesperson for the Harper government. Poilievre announced measures that will fundamentally change the powers at Elections Canada. His bill will see an independent body created to examine any future malfeasance in elections.

The Opposition parties and many union leaders were critical of the bill suggesting it was undemocratic. They maintain it is a continuation of the government strategy to weaken a union’s ability to participate in elections or to collect dues from their members. They say it is the same vein as a previous Poilievre bill, Bill C-377, which was an attempt to stop unions from collecting dues from their members. We asked Mr. Poilievre to submit an article on his new electoral reform bill and we are pleased to present it in this issue.

The other hot topic this cold season has been Senate reform and in particular the decision by Justin Trudeau to boot all Liberal senators out of his caucus without notice. Trudeau’s reasoning was that it would diminish the partisanship of the Senate by releasing senators from the constraint of voting in line with caucus colleagues. We shall see.

Instead, Trudeau suggested that should he be elected Prime Minister he would appoint a committee of distinguished Canadians to vet and recommend a list of potential senators. From this list of candidates, Trudeau would then select and choose one for appointment to the Senate. Trudeau argued that absent any chance of real Senate reform by re-opening the constitutional debates with the provinces, it was important to take some steps, however small, toward reestablishing the Senate as a viable, accountable body of sober thought.

Pierre Poilievre criticized Trudeau’s stance, claiming that appointing an unelected committee to then select unelected senators was worse than the current system. Ouch! One thing they might both agree on is that true Senate reform is not as simple as it might seem.

There’s lots going on in the pages to follow as we continue with our Building a Better Canada and Patient-Centred Healthcare series. We begin a new series on Aboriginal Youth and Education. Finally, this is Ottawa Life Magazine’s 2nd Annual Spaces issue. We once again present Ottawa’s premier homes designer Tanya Collins with her take on good living.