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New Democratic Party (NDP)

Founded in 1961, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is a social democratic political party that has formed the government in several provinces but never nationally. Its current leader is Jagmeet Singh. In 2011, it enjoyed an historic electoral breakthrough, becoming the Official Opposition in Parliament for the first time. Four years later, despite hopes of winning a federal election, the NDP was returned to a third-place position in the House of Commons. It slipped to fourth place in the 2019 federal election, after a resurgence from the Bloc Québécois.

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Canadian Party System

Political parties are organizations that seek to control government. They participate in public affairs by nominating candidates for elections. ( See also Political Campaigning in Canada.) Since there are typically multiple groups that wish to do this, political parties are best thought of as part of a party system. This system dictates the way political parties conduct themselves in competition with one another. As of 2015, there were 23 registered political parties in Canada. The five major federal parties are the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould Resigns from Cabinet Amid SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had been Justice Minister until a Cabinet shuffle on 14 January, resigned from Cabinet days after news broke that the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly pressured her to help Quebec construction firm SNC-Lavalin avoid facing criminal prosecution. In the wake of the news, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts resigned on 18 February and a federal hearing on the issue was held beginning on 20 February. In her testimony to the hearing on 27 February, Wilson-Raybould claimed that almost a dozen senior government officials made a “sustained effort” to convince her to drop charges against SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau disagreed with her recollection of events and claimed that he and his staff “always acted appropriately and professionally” on the matter.

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Alfonso Gagliano

Alfonso Gagliano, politician (born 1942 in Italy; died 12 December 2020). Alfonso Gagliano was the Member of Parliament for the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Leonard from 1984 until 2002. Following the 1997 election, he served as Minister of Public Works and Government Services in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He was also chair of the electoral commission of the Liberal Party in Quebec. Gagliano resigned from cabinet and the House of Commons to accept a position as ambassador to Denmark. He was fired by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004 for his role in the sponsorship scandal.

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Political Campaigning in Canada

A political campaign is an organized effort to secure the nomination and election of people seeking public office. In a representative democracy, electoral campaigns are the primary means by which voters are informed of a political party’s policy or a candidate’s views. The conduct of campaigns in Canada has evolved gradually over nearly two centuries. It has adapted mostly British and American campaign practices to the needs of a parliamentary federation with two official languages. Campaigns occur at the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels. Federal and provincial campaigns are party contests in which candidates represent political parties. Municipal campaigns — and those of Northwest Territories and Nunavut — are contested by individuals, not by parties.

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Lobbying in Canada

Lobbying is the process through which individuals and groups articulate their interests to federal, provincial or municipal governments to influence public policy or government decision-making. Lobbyists may be paid third parties who communicate on behalf of their clients; or they may be employees of a corporation or organization seeking to influence the government. Because of the possibility for conflict of interest, lobbying is the subject of much public scrutiny. At the federal level, lobbying activities are governed by the Lobbying Act. Provinces and municipalities have their own lobbying laws and by-laws.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney Fires Commissioner Investigating His Party

Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and newly elected premier of Alberta, fired Lorne Gibson, the provincial election commissioner amid an investigation by that commissioner into multiple alleged offences by the UCP. The commissioner had already fined the UCP tens of thousands of dollars for multiple infractions, including accepting illicit campaign donations and obstructing an investigation. Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley denounced the firing as “an attack on Alberta’s democracy.” The watchdog organization Democracy Watch later called on the RCMP to investigate the firing.

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Canadian Senate Expenses Scandal

The Canadian Senate Expenses Scandal (2012–16) involved investigations into the housing and travel allowances claimed by dozens of Conservative and Liberal senators. Conservative senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were suspended during the investigations. Duffy, Brazeau and Liberal senator Mac Harb were also charged with fraud and breach of trust but were either acquitted or the charges dropped. A 2015 audit of senate expenses revealed that 30 senators had been improperly reimbursed for expenses. The scandal dominated public discourse and put pressure on the Senate to establish clearer rules for travel, residency and living expenses.

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Political Participation in Canada

Canadians participate in the political system any time they voluntarily try to influence the outcome of an election, or a government or party policy. This can be done in various ways, from voting to campaigning for a political cause to running for political office. The highest turnout rate for a federal election was 79.4 per cent in 1958. Voter turnout in Canada declined in the 1990s and 2000s, reaching 58.8 per cent in 2008. The numbers then began trending upwards, reaching 68.3 per cent in 2015 and 67 per cent in 2019. Women, who gained the right to vote federally in 1918, vote at slightly higher rates than men. Older citizens are more politically active than younger ones, although voting among people age 18 to 34 increased sharply between 2011 and 2019.

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Political Party Financing in Canada

The financial activities of political parties in Canada were largely unregulated until the Election Expenses Act was passed in 1974. Canada now has an extensive regime regulating federal political party financing; both during and outside of election periods. Such regulation encourages greater transparency of political party activities. It also ensures a fair electoral arena that limits the advantages of those with more money. Political parties and candidates are funded both privately and publicly. Election finance laws govern how parties and candidates are funded; as well as the ways in which they can spend money. (See also Canadian Electoral System.)

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BC Legislature Resumes After Spending Scandal

Speaker Daryl Plekas delivered the throne speech that reopened the BC Legislature following a spending scandal that rocked all three parties. After declaring in November 2018 that he had “established processes in the legislative assembly that are essentially bulletproof,” Legislative Clerk Craig James, along with sergeant-at-arms Gary Lens, were found to have approved thousands of dollars of inapporpriate spending on items ranging from liquor to a wood-chipper. James and Lens were suspended amid a police investigation and an impeding report by Plekas.

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Bob Rae

Robert Keith (Bob) Rae, CCOOntPC, lawyer, politician (born 2 August 1948 at OttawaOntario). A prominent lawyer, community activist and author, Rae has served as a federal (1978-82; 2008-2013) and provincial politician (1982-96), premier of Ontario (1990-1995), interim leader of the federal Liberal Party (2011-2013), and as a government-appointed official. In July of 2020, Rae was named Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. Rae's family had substantial ties to Ottawa; his father Saul had been a senior diplomat, while his brother John was a long-time advisor to former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

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Liberal Party

The Liberal Party has dominated federal politics for much of Canada’s history, using the formula for success of straddling the political center developed under the leadership of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Liberals have formed numerous governments and provided Canada with 10 prime ministers, but the party has also experienced defeat and internal divisions. In the election of October 2015, the party rose from third to first place in the House of Commons, winning a majority government under leader Justin Trudeau. The Liberals won a minority government in the 2019 election.

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Sir John Abbott

John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, PC, QC, KCMG, lawyer, professor, businessman, politician and prime minister (born 12 March 1821 in St. Andrews East, Lower Canada [now Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, QC]; died 30 October 1893 in Montreal). Abbott was a leading authority on commercial law, a strong advocate of English Quebec’s business elite and an influential figure in many corporate and social organizations. He was the first Canadian-born prime minister, as well as the first to hold the position from the Senate rather than the House of Commons. He served as prime minister from 16 June 1891 to 24 November 1892.

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Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May, OC, politician, environmental activist, lawyer, author, leader of the Green Party of Canada 2006–19 (born 9 June 1954 in Hartford, Connecticut). May served as a policy advisor (1986–88) to the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and in 1989 became the founding executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada. In 2011, she became the first Green Party member elected to the House of Commons. May resigned as party leader in November 2019.

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Chrystia Freeland

Christina Alexandra “Chrystia” Freeland, politician, journalist, editor and writer, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, 2019–present (born 2 August 1968 in Peace River, Alberta). Chrystia Freeland is the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for University-Rosedale and currently serves as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. She is the first woman in Canada to hold the latter position. She has also served as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade. Notably, she handled the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as well as complicated diplomatic situations involving Ukraine, Russia, Saudi Arabia and China. Freeland is an award-winning journalist, editor and author of such books as Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (2012).

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Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, prime minister of Canada 1896–1911, lawyer, journalist, politician (born 20 November 1841 in St-Lin, Canada East; died 17 February 1919 in Ottawa, ON ). As leader of the Liberal Party 1887–1919 and prime minister 1896–1911, Laurier was the dominant political figure of his era.

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