‘We’ve got to grow this thing’

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Canada has put more sanctions in place against individual Russians, including billionaire Roman Abramovich. The latest round also bars 32 Russian companies and government entities from receiving defence equipment or supplies from Canada.

That was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s parting gift in Warsaw as he wrapped up a week in Europe. He said that the Canadian operations of Russian steelmaker Evraz, of which Abramovich is the largest shareholder, will not be affected by the move.

Also today, Speaker Anthony Rota approved a request by House leaders to host Volodymyr Zelenskyy next week. The Ukrainian president will address the House virtually starting at 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday. The list of speakers includes: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Zelenskyy, Senate Speaker George Furey, Rota, Conservative House leader John Brassard, Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien, NDP House leader Peter Julian, and Green Party MP Elizabeth May.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Anita Anand speak with Canadian troops deployed on Operation Reassurance as he visits the Adazi Military base in Adazi, Latvia on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/ The Canadian Press)

Defence Minister Anita Anand told the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence today that given the “clear and present” danger to the rules-based international order, the Canadian Forces is facing an urgent need to add to its ranks. “We’ve got to grow this thing. And I’m going to do everything I can with General (Wayne) Eyre and the broader defence team to make sure that happens,” she said, noting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has her and others thinking about Canada’s defence strategy.

The defence minister spoke about Russia’s ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and how the events of the past two weeks have triggered reflections about how Canada should re-envision its defence strategy. “We are facing the greatest threat to international peace and stability since the end of the Second World War,” she said. “What can a country like ours, an incredible country like ours, bring to the table?”

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre told the same conference yesterday that “the world is getting more dangerous every day and we need to be ready for it.” Building on that, in an interview with CBC News, he said the readiness of the Canadian forces in the face of what’s happening in the world “is one of the things that keeps me awake at night.” He added: As we re-constitute the force for the future, the future is here now. So how do we ensure we’re ready to fight tonight?”

As we mark the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s describing COVID-19 as a pandemic, experts are reminding us that it’s still not over, and when it is, we’re not going back to whatever we once considered normal.

Canada added 337,000 jobs last month, completely recovering the losses in January when provinces brought in stricter COVID-19 measures. The increase brought the country’s unemployment rate to 5.5 per cent, thereby tightening the labour market, according to the labour-force survey Statistics Canada released today. The lowest unemployment rate on record was 5.4 per cent in May 2019. Canada lost 200,000 jobs in January after provinces tightened health measures to fight the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Jeff Labine has the details.

Candidate Michael Chong speaks during the opening night of the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on May 26, 2017. (Fred Thornhill/ The Canadian Press)

Turning to the Conservative Leadership race, MP Michael Chong, who ran for the party helm in 2017, said he’s not running this time around, but hasn’t ruled out another run in the future. In a Twitter post, the foreign affairs critic said “now is not the time.” For now, his focus will remain on Canada’s foreign policy, but he will help elect a Conservative leader who is “ready for the serious challenges of our times.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is expected to enter the race on Sunday, and last night former Quebec Premier Jean Charest kicked off his campaign in Calgary. “I know how to win,” he told his audience gathered in the Wild Rose craft brewery. He said he chose Calgary because “I wanted to make a point. Alberta has to be at the table. There is no other way.” Kevin Dougherty has more details on that.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is now interviewing candidates to sit on the Ottawa Police Services Board, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said today. Only three of the board’s seven spots are filled, and there are no provincially-appointed members after three resigned en masse hours after QP Briefing reported one attended the “Freedom Convoy” protests in Ottawa. None of Ottawa’s police board’s members predate the occupation of Ottawa. All non-provincially appointed members were either voted off the board or resigned about three weeks into the protests, after Ottawa’s police chief, Peter Sloly, quit. Charlie Pinkerton reports.

The Rebel to Rabble Review: Canada’s hypocrisy; a scary Ignatieff

Net Zero: Oil from N.L. could power Europe, says Furey

The Sprout: U.S. to block imports of Russian seafood and vodka

In Other Headlines:


“We will win.” That was the defiant message today from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he vowed not to give a “single piece” of land to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a speech on Instagram, he said it’s impossible to predict when Ukraine will win, but the fact that they will is a given.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)

“We have already reached a strategic turning point. We are already moving towards our goal, our victory,” he said. “We need time, patience, our wisdom, energy, we need to do our job to the best of our abilities. We need time, patience, our wisdom, energy, we need to do our job to the best of our abilities.”

On the other side, more than two weeks in, Russia also showed no sign of letting up. Instead, its forces widened its Ukrainian offensive, striking airfields, a psychiatric hospital and a major industrial city. As for the huge convoy that has stretched for miles and been stalled outside of Kyiv for more than a week, satellite images show it has fanned into forests and towns in an effort to close in on the capital and circle the city.

In the southeastern city of Melitopol, there were reports that Russian forces had abducted the mayor, prompting accusations of violation of international law.

With some speculation that Russian escalation might lead to an American response, today U.S. President Joe Biden was clear that the U.S. and NATO allies would not fight Russia in Ukraine. “We’re going to continue to stand together with our allies in Europe and send an unmistakable message. We will defend every single inch of NATO territory with the full might of the united and galvanized NATO,” Biden said after announcing additional sanctions on Russia. “We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III, something we must strive to prevent.”

Meanwhile, at the UN Security Council, member countries called Russia’s claim that Ukraine had a biological weapons program  “a lie” and “utter nonsense.” At the meeting called by Russia, the UN said it had no evidence of that, while Washington said the allegation amounts to a false flag effort and a possible prelude to launching its own biological or chemical attacks. Reuters reports.

In an interview with Global News, former Latvian president and Canadian scholar Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who also has a PhD in psychology, didn’t mince words in her assessment of Putin. “He’s a narcissist and a psychopath, with no conscience whatsoever,” she said. “And he’s a megalomaniac. He is definitely a megalomaniac with very strong, paranoid tendencies.”

In Other International Headlines:

In Opinion:

Michael Coren: Sensitive soul Leslyn Lewis should be challenged for her beliefs

Aurel Braun and David Matas: The nuclear perils of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The Kicker:

Finally, we leave the last word to Canada’s Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae and his mostly sensible chat with 22 Minutes this week.

Have a great weekend.

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