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April 22, 2014

Canadian former deputy PM Herb Gray dies at age 82

Canadian former deputy PM Herb Gray dies at age 82

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gray in 2008
Image: Christine St. John.

Herb Gray, a Canadian former deputy Prime Minister whose federal political career stretched 39 years, died yesterday. He was 82.

The lawyer from Windsor was undefeated through thirteen consecutive elections, from 1962 to his last in 2000. The Liberal was the third longest serving Parliamentarian of the nation. Nicknamed Gray Herb for his seriousness and The Gray Fog for his ability to deflect questions, Herb was the first Jewish minister in Canada.

Deputy PM Sheila Copps‘s 1997 resignation saw Gray promoted to fill the role. Prior to that he served as interim Liberal leader in 1990.

Despite his professional seriousness he had a love of political satire, collecting editorial cartoons and listening to radio shows such as Royal Canadian Air Farce and Double Exposure. Outside of politics he enjoyed rock music and played classical piano.

Gray survived throat cancer treated with radiation in the 1990s and operations for prostate and heart conditions in 1999 and 2001 respectively.

James Moore, Conservative current Minister for Industry, tweeted about the “marvel” of Gray “swatting away our questions […] when we were in opposition.” Current Liberal head Justin Trudeau said Gray was a “great statesman” who “left behind an immense legacy unmatched by most in Canadian history”.

Copps said he was “an incredible Canadian and a brilliant parliamentarian” and ex-leader of the Liberals Bob Rae said he “served Canada with such distinction and care”. Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Gray “an honourable parliamentarian who served his country well”.

Gray is survived by wife Sharon Sholzberg, who once said she not once witnessed her partner heading “out for a drink with the boys”, and their two children and eight grandchildren.



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December 5, 2008

Canadian Parliament suspended until late January

Canadian Parliament suspended until late January

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Friday, December 5, 2008 The Parliament of Canada has been suspended until January 26, 2009, by Prime Minster Stephen Harper. On Thursday, Harper obtained the consent of the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, to prorogue Parliament, a procedure which suspends the legislature without dissolving it. This prevents the Parliament from overthrowing the government and avoids calling a new election.

Michaëlle Jean, file photo
Image: Agência Brasil.

A coalition of the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party had looked ready to overthrow the Conservative Party of Canada‘s minority government led by Harper.

“The first order of business will be the presentation of a federal budget,” Harper told reporters outside of the Governor’s Rideau Hall residence. “Let’s get on with actually working on a package. That’s what I think Canadians want us to do, is work on the economy and work together, work together in the interest in Canada.”

Stéphane Dion, file photo
Image: ycanada_news.

Stéphane Dion, the leader of the Liberal Party, who was positioned to become the new Prime Minister, said the coalition would still seek to replace Harper barring a “monumental change” in his policies.

“For the first time in the history of Canada, the prime minister of Canada is running away from the Parliament of Canada,” Dion said. He said Harper has “placed partisan politics ahead of the interest of all Canadians.”

“Nothing has changed for us,” added Dion. “We are more committed than ever with the coalition.”

New Democrat leader Jack Layton said it was a “sad day for parliamentary democracy,” and that Harper was trying to “escape accountability.”

“He’s put a lock on the door of the House of Commons and he refuses to face the people of Canada through their elected representatives,” Layton said, addressing press at the House of Commons.

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Harper spoke to Canadians in a televised address.

“The Opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent, and without your vote. This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists; it is the time for Canada’s government to focus on the economy and specifically on measures for the upcoming budget. This is a pivotal moment in our history,” Harper said.



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December 14, 2007

Brian Mulroney testifies before Canadian House of Commons

Brian Mulroney testifies before Canadian House of Commons

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Brian Mulroney in an interview in 2007.
Image: Joshua Sherurcij.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney testified Thursday before an ethics committee in the Canadian House of Commons about the Airbus affair, a case involving alleged bribery at the highest levels of government to secure Airbus sales of aircraft to Air Canada.

In his testimony, Mulroney said that he should not have associated with German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber nor should have he accepted bundles of cash — which he placed in safe deposit boxes in two different countries.

Nonetheless, Mulroney denied accepting kickbacks. He admitted taking about CAD225,000 in cash from Schreiber in 1993 and 1994, which was after his departure from politics. He also said that the money involved promoting Schreiber’s private business dealings.

To the committee Muroney said: “When I look back on it today, I realize I made a serious error of judgment in receiving a payment in cash for this assignment even though it was decidedly not illegal to do so. That mistake in judgment was mine alone. I apologize and I accept full responsibility for it. … I should have declined the offer. I should have insisted that payment be in a more transparent or more accountable manner. By not doing so I inadvertently created an impression of impropriety on the high office I was privileged to hold.”

“Do you realize, Mr. Mulroney, that the way in which you acted in this matter did not make it appear that it were a legitimate transaction,” said MP Serge Ménard of Bloc Québécois.

Two days earlier, Schreiber testified before the same committee, alleging that Mulroney agreed to accept CAD300,000 to promote a light armored vehicle factory and benefited from the purchase of 34 Airbus aircraft by Air Canada.

“I never received a cent from anyone for services rendered to anyone in connection with the purchase by Air Canada from Airbus of 34 aircraft,” Mulroney said, refuting Schreiber.

Mulroney also attacked Schreiber’s credibility, pointing out that the German could be extradited to his home country where he faces charges. “He succeeded. He got what he wanted … he’s sitting in his mansion over in Rockcliffe,” Mulroney said. “I think he seriously misled every member of this House … with this false affidavit.”

The committee’s investigation will resume in late January, when it is expected to call dozens of witnesses.



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December 14, 2006

Canadians may elect Senate

Canadians may elect Senate – Wikinews, the free news source

Canadians may elect Senate

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada and MP for Calgary Southwest, Alberta.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed a bill that would allow Canadians to vote for Senators. Such a change requires an amendment the constitution, however, the government believes that Harper’s proposal bypasses the need for constitutional change.

Traditionally, the Prime Minister advised the Governor General on who to appoint to the upper house. The Senate reform bill, however, would allow citizens in a province or territory to vote in a preferential ballot which would advise the Prime Minister on whom to recommend for appointment to the Senate.

Senators would campaign like any other politician. Voters in their province that has a Senate vacancy would cast ballots for their favorite candidate at the same time as a vote in a general election.

The only provinces that actually has had Senate elections are Alberta and British Columbia. In 1989, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Stan Waters to the Senate after he was elected in an Alberta-wide vote to fill a vacancy in the upper house.

Alberta Premier designate Ed Stelmach says he agrees with Harper’s proposal.

“I believe what Prime Minister Harper is doing is opening up consultation in terms of how to bring about Senate reform and we’re going to work with him,” said Stelmach in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. “We have been supportive of Senate reform for many, many years and will continue to do so. I’m awaiting the details of his proposals.”

“This bill will allow us to move to a new era in Canadian democracy,” Harper told the Conservative Party at their last meeting before Christmas break, which was held publicly.

“For the first time, it will let the prime minister give Canadians the decision on who represents them in the upper house.”

“Imagine that. After a century and a half, democracy will finally come to the Senate of Canada,” Harper said in a speech to members of the Conservative Party. “If need be, we’ll use a plurality (first-past-the-post) voting system at first, and then move to a preferential system of proportional representation,” Harper said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Harper has already introduced a bill which will attempt to limit the terms of senators to eight years. The 105-member Senate is currently dominated by the Liberals.

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“Many Albertans I’m sure will share my view that it will not be good for the province to have an elected Senate as long as we don’t have a constitutional change on the number of senators by province,” Liberal leader Stephane Dion said.

If the bill fails, Harper is expected to campaign on the issue in the next federal election, which is expected next year.

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November 28, 2006

Canadian House of Commons passes Quebecois nation motion

Canadian House of Commons passes Quebecois nation motion

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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The Canadian House of Commons approved a motion recognizing the Québécois [the people of Quebec] as a nation within Canada, Monday night, by a margin of 266 to 16. The government motion was supported by the opposition Liberal, New Democratic and Bloc Québécois parties although 15 Liberal MPs voted against it along with Independent MP Garth Turner. Several Conservative MPs abstained from the vote including Michael Chong who resigned earlier in the day as Intergovernmental Affairs minister due to his opposition to the motion. While the dissenting Liberal MPs do not face censure by their party, Conservative backbenchers who opposed the resolution could only go as far as abstaining if they wished to remain in the Tory caucus, according to Mr. Chong.

The surprise motion was introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on November 22 in response to a motion by the separatist Bloc Québécois that the House recognize Quebec as a nation. The government resolution substituted the word Québécois for Quebeckers and added the words “within a united Canada”. The motion reads: “That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.”

The government has stated that they have no intention to amend the Constitution of Canada to recognize Quebec’s national status although several political analysts have argued that such an attempt is now inevitable.

Recognizing Quebec as a nation is a concept that has divided the Liberal Party of Canada in the period leading to its leadership convention this weekend with leadership contender Michael Ignatieff proposing that idea earlier this fall. Leadership candidates Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe voted against the House of Commons resolution and contender Gerard Kennedy also expressed his opposition while Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion, who have both been critical of Ignatieff’s call for a constitutional amendment have expressed their support for the House of Commons resolution.

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November 22, 2006

State funeral approved by Canadian House of Commons

State funeral approved by Canadian House of Commons

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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The House of Commons approved a state funeral for the last standing World War I veteran Tuesday. Three of them are still alive, Percy Wilson, who is 105 years old, Lloyd Clemett and John Babcock, both 106. They are the last three living veterans among the 619,636 Canadians who served between 1914 and 1918.

The motion, introduced by the New Democratic Party, was favored by all party leaders. The motion was prompted by an online petition by the Dominion Institute, a national organization which promotes Canadian history.

State funerals in Canada, by tradition, are reserved for prime ministers and governors general. This bill, which is now in affect in Canada, means that state funerals are not only for prime ministers but for people who have served the country.

“We want to thank the tens of thousands of Canadians who signed our petition in support of state funeral,” said Rudyard Griffiths, the director of the Dominion Institute. “By passing a motion to offer a full state funeral today the Parliament of Canada will allow a grateful nation to pay proper tribute to our last Great War veteran on his passing and honour the over 600,000 Canadians he served with under arms from 1914-1918.”

Australia, also held a state funeral for the final veteran of the Battle of Gallipoli. A State Funeral was offered for Steve Irwin in September 2006, but the offer was declined by his family’s wishes. Canada is the fourth country to have a funeral honoring the last war veteran that served in any war.

“We won’t be able to look them in the eyes anymore and thank them for their service the way we should for everyone who is willing to serve our country the way they did and our armed forces personnel still do,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said.

Since November 6, around 100,000 Canadians had signed the online petition.

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June 28, 2005

Canadian House of Commons approves same-sex marriage

Canadian House of Commons approves same-sex marriage

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

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In a 158 to 133 vote of the House of Commons held Tuesday night, Canadian MPs have approved the legalization of same-sex weddings in Canada. Assuming the Senate passes Bill C-38 and the Governor General gives royal assent, Canada will become the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex weddings after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. The bill presented to the House of Commons by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin has passed mainly because of support by the left-wing New Democratic Party of Jack Layton and the support of the separatist Bloc Québécois, which enabled it to overcome the staunch opposition of the Conservative Party.

Votes in House of Commons on Bill C-38
Group For Against Absentees Total
Liberal cabinet 36 0 1 37
Liberal backbench 59 32 3 95
Conservatives 3 93 2 98
Bloc Québécois 43 5 6 54
NDP 17 1 1 19
Independents 0 2 2 4
Totals 158 133 16 307

While this vote is historic, gay weddings had already been legalized by the Supreme Courts of most Canadian provinces. The C-38 bill now extends these rulings to the rest of Canada, namely to the provinces of Alberta, Prince Edward Island, and the territory of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

The adoption of this bill ends a longstanding political and judicial debate in Canada, with the House of Commons referring the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada last year, only to have it handed back to them by the judges. If the debate has just been closed in a political sense, gay rights continue to create tensions between Canadians, since support for gay weddings comes mainly from Quebec and Ontario and parts of British Columbia while the Maritimes and Prairie provinces are mostly against them.

Those tensions have also been felt in the House of Commons itself, when Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said on Monday, anticipating that the C-38 bill would be adopted, that the vote would “lack in legitimacy” since the bill would pass because of an unnatural alliance between the federalist Liberals and the separatist Bloc Québécois. This partisan view of gay rights has been strongly condemned, especially by Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe who said that MPs from his party were democratically elected and as legitimate as any in parliament. Others called Harper a hypocrite, pouncing on the fact that he never raised any such objections allying with the Bloc in the previous month’s confidence votes. Prior to the vote, Joe Comuzzi announced his resignation from the Liberal cabinet because of his opposition to gay weddings and the fact that Liberal cabinet members were required to vote the party line in this case.

Related news

  • Canadian PM vows to push ahead with same-sex marriage bill
  • Court legalizes same-sex marriage in New Brunswick

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