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The crowd laughed when Trudeau was asked how he'd deal with Putin. That should be devastating

The most telling moment of Monday night's Munk Debate, in my opinion, was the moment moderator Rudyard Griffiths asked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau how he would deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The crowd laughed.

It wasn't like the laugh that followed Conservative leader Stephen Harper's suggestion that he said he had a "great relationship" with U.S. President Barack Obama. Or the collective chortle that met NDP leader Tom Mulcair, when he said his party has a solid record of provincial balanced budgets. The laughter, in those cases, was the audience's way of saying they weren't buying what the men at the podium were selling: Sure, Steve, you and Barack Obama are the best of buddies. Good one - tell another!

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'A break in the three-way stalemate?' Poll puts Tories, Liberals neck and neck in Ontario

Ontario, the most important political battleground in the federal election, could be shaping into a tight fight primarily between the Conservatives and Liberals, a new poll for Postmedia suggests.

The survey by Mainstreet Research finds Stephen Harper's Conservatives are running first, with the support of 38 per cent of voters who have made up their mind or are leaning toward one party.

The Liberals under Justin Trudeau are just four points behind, with 34 per cent of the decided and leaning vote.

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The NDP's anti-Israel grassroots

Part of the Conservative party's strategy against the New Democrats in this election includes the website Meetthendp.ca, which aggregates controversial statements by NDP candidates. Already the site has led to one Nova Scotia New Democrat being relieved of his candidacy - and presumably the Tories are saving their best fodder for later in the long campaign.

A number of the comments posted so far centre on Israel. Some NDP candidates accuse Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and "war crimes" and call for a boycott of the Jewish state. Another talks about how good he felt supporting the murderous First Intifada.

The NDP's response so far - cutting loose the young Nova Scotia candidate - will almost certainly not be the last time their hands are forced in response to oppo research by the Tories.

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Justin Trudeau the big loser in debate

If Canadians had any doubt that the election has become a choice between Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair, Wednesday's leaders debate confirmed it.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau performed so poorly, that - after the halfway mark - he appeared more like an irritant getting in the way of two adults having a conversation than a productive contributor to the conversation.

One of his closing barbs against the Conservative and NDP leaders was "their lack of ambition for our country." Really?

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Calgary Liberal candidate Ala Buzreba pulls out after old offensive Twitter postings surface

A Liberal candidate in Calgary who landed in hot water over a series of offensive Twitter postings she wrote in the past has pulled out of the federal election.

Ala Buzreba, who has been the Liberal standard bearer in Calgary Nose Hill, wrote on her Facebook page that she was stepping down as a candidate while again apologizing "without reservation, for posting comments that do not accurately reflect my views and who I am."

"I have posted a lot of content on social media over the years, and like many teenagers, I did so without really taking the time to think through my words and weigh the implications," she wrote.

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Feds post surprise $1.9B surplus

The federal government posted a surprise $1.9-billion surplus in 2014-15 -- bringing the country's books back into balance a year earlier than expected.

The Finance Department released the year-end figures Monday for a period the government had predicted to instead generate a $2-billion shortfall.

The number ends a streak of six deficits under the Conservatives and is certain to reverberate on the campaign trail.

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Ontario's debt drives Wynne's decisions

Premier Kathleen Wynne's government now says it won't force the board making investments for her new mandatory provincial pension plan to buy into Ontario infrastructure projects.

"They'll invest where they see fit," Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Wednesday in deciding where to put the $3.5 billion a year the plan will take from three million workers and their employers.

That's not what was suggested in Sousa's 2014 budget.

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Mulcair won't fire aide who told pope to go f--- himself

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday that he had no plans to fire his most senior communications aide for tweeting offensive anti-Roman Catholic comments.

At an event in Niagara Falls, Ont., a grim-faced Mulcair stood resolutely by Shawn Dearn, whose two-year-old tweets resurfaced late Tuesday.

"He felt very bad about it and I'm more than willing to move on from that," Mulcair said.

"He's made a mistake and he has apologized for it. For me, that's enough."

The tweets by Dearn, hired in February as Mulcair's director of communications, were quickly circulated on social media.

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Wynne rushing ORPP to try to help Trudeau

Forget about your pension - it's all about politics.

Premier Kathleen Wynne's great non-event Tuesday was yet another long-winded, BS session aimed at helping their federal kissing cousins get elected Oct. 19.

Justin Trudeau is apparently unable to fight his own election battles, so his provincial counterparts have to do it for him.

Wynne and her Terrible Twins finance ministers, Charles Sousa and Mitzie Hunter, unveiled details of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, to be phased in starting in 2017.

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NDP's Fin Donnelly needs to own up to his mistake

Where's Fin Donnelly? The NDP candidate in Port Moody-Coquitlam is kind of a big deal right now. He's the reason why Canada has had such a bad rap around the world the past few days.

So much so, #WhereIsFin was trending nationally on Twitter all Saturday.

Why? Because Donnelly told a lie. Or got his facts wrong. Or got confused. It's unclear, because Donnelly has yet to publicly explain how the misinformation came to be.

The whole world wept when the horrible, heart-wrenching picture of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi's body washed up on the shores of Turkey. How did this happen?

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Analysis: Trudeau suits up, but doesn't quite look the part

Justin Trudeau showed up with pants on, but his performance in Thursday's leaders' debate still wasn't enough to erase the image Conservatives have skillfully created that he's not ready to replace Stephen Harper as prime minister.

Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke set the bar for the Liberal leader's performance so low earlier this week, it would be impossible to deny he bettered their expectations.

"I think that if he comes on stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations," Teneycke quipped Tuesday.

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NDP's Fin Donnelly needs to own up to his mistake

Where's Fin Donnelly? The NDP candidate in Port Moody-Coquitlam is kind of a big deal right now. He's the reason why Canada has had such a bad rap around the world the past few days.

So much so, #WhereIsFin was trending nationally on Twitter all Saturday.

Why? Because Donnelly told a lie. Or got his facts wrong. Or got confused. It's unclear, because Donnelly has yet to publicly explain how the misinformation came to be.

The whole world wept when the horrible, heart-wrenching picture of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi's body washed up on the shores of Turkey. How did this happen?

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Staff convinced a seething Stephen Harper not to launch full-on public assault on Supreme Court: new book

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has privately fumed to his inner circle that under the leadership of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the Supreme Court of Canada has become a "sociology seminar" that emasculates the power of Parliament, according to a new book.

The biography, titled Stephen Harper, provides a thorough account of Harper's personal life and political career.

It explores his legendary temper and mood swings while also chronicling how Harper turned the once-divided conservative movement into a political success story that allowed him to win three elections, govern for a decade and change the country.

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I don't give a damn whether what Planned Parenthood is doing is legal or not

There was always a risk in the approach taken by the Center for Medical Progress to nail Planned Parenthood to the wall: that is, to prove, using undercover video footage, that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law by illegally profiting from the sale of aborted fetal tissue. The risk was that in emphasizing the question of the legality of Planned Parenthood's practices, attention might be distracted from the far more pressing question of whether what Planned Parenthood is doing is right.

I perfectly understand why CMP took the approach it did, and for all I know it was precisely the best thing to do. The law is (in theory) black and white, and if you can catch Planned Parenthood blatantly breaking the law the consequences are (in theory) also right there in black and white. Besides, almost everybody instinctively abhors a criminal. Even many a pro-choicer, who might otherwise have no moral qualms about harvesting fetal tissue for research, might still decry clear evidence that Planned Parenthood is illegally padding its bottom line and putting women in danger to do so.

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Wynne's hydro policy is insane

To understand the mess Ontario's Liberal government has made of the hydro file, one only needs to look at how electricity was produced in our province on Wednesday, the hottest day of the year to date.

At 4 p.m., there were 21,863 MW (megawatts) of electricity being generated.

Of that, 10,761 MW, or 49%, was being supplied by nuclear power; 5,296 MW or 24% by hydro and 4,715 MW, or 22%, by natural gas.

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Liberal who lost Montreal riding nomination to Trudeau-linked candidate appeals results

Grace Batchoun says she doesn't have a problem with losing. But she does seem to have a problem with pretty near everything else that happened during last Sunday's vote to choose a Liberal candidate for the federal riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville. And that could prove to be a problem for Melanie Joly and, ultimately, Justin Trudeau.

Yesterday morning, Batchoun, a project manager who was one of three opponents contesting Joly for the nomination, announced that she had filed an appeal of the Sunday's vote. Her challenge is based on several factors, the most worrisome based on simple arithmetic. On Sunday organizers of the vote announced that 2,065 ballots had been cast, including spoiled votes. But according to Batchoun's reading of the list of ballots cast that she says was provided to her by a Liberal Party official, only 1780 people actually showed up to vote. That it appears there were 285 ballots counted in excess of the number of party members who actually participated is troubling enough. But the fact Batchoun lost the nomination by 194 votes pretty well explains why she has asked the Liberal Party to provide her with a final list identifying those who cast a ballot.

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Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

I worked outside Canada for the entire two terms of the Mulroney government, and a couple of years of the Chretien government that followed. Not because I had anything against Mulroney or Chretien, but because I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to work in interesting cities and get paid for doing it.

I never stopped being Canadian and I was always careful to vote. If you’re a Canadian, you consider it your home and you care about it, you vote. Seemed simple.

I can't say I knew what I was voting for, though. There was no Internet at the time, no Facebook, no Twitter, no pads or smartphones that let you live on the other side of the earth and follow Canadian events as easily as you could in Regina or Rimouski. Canada usually only made the international news for one of the Three Big Cliches: Mounties, snow or hockey. It wasn't taken very seriously. In England, where I lived for several years, Canada only made the papers if the Queen or some other Royal paid a visit, and mainly only so Fleet Street could trot out its stock of hackneyed stereotypes.

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Manitoba’s warning: Don't vote NDP!

If Canadian voters are wondering why the federal NDP is not as popular in Manitoba as it is in the rest of the country, they should look at the party's record in government there to figure out why.

As Canadians flirt with electing their first national NDP government, they may want to examine how Manitoba has been governed in recent years to get an idea of how a socialist government operates.

Tom Mulcair's NDP are leading in the polls in many parts of the country. But not Manitoba.

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Stephen Harper now, at least, has a Senate policy for the election

Stephen Harper unveiled his new policy on the Senate Friday: Death by retirement.

The prime minister said he will formalize his de facto moratorium on Senate appointments, which, if the policy takes, will see Patrick Brazeau as the last man snoozing in 2049 (on condition the suspended senator's suspension is lifted).

Long before then, the Red Chamber will have ceased to function, if no new appointments are made. There are currently 22 vacancies in the 105-seat upper house. If Harper wins a majority and follows through with his plan, there will be a further 23 empty seats by the time of the next election in 2019.

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See-no-evil party leaders promise more spending as global conditions collapse

For anyone with a stake in Canada's economy - which would be all 35 million of us - the week started off to ugly, ugly news. The stock market route that took hold last week is continuing. Australia's market lost $60 billion right off the get-go. Investors in China are so enraged at the boss of the metals exchange that they kidnapped him from his hotel. Headlines are rife with words like "panic", "crash,", "collapse", "fear."

In Canada? In Canada we have an election underway, and the candidates plan another week of blithely promising new programs with new spending, while official Ottawa obsesses over which subordinates in the Prime Minister's Office knew Nigel Wright was paying Mike Duffy's bills.

Justin Trudeau is first off the mark with the latest spending promise. Details were conveniently leaked that the Liberal leader will unveil a generous new package for Canadian veterans, including a lifetime pension for the injured, better survivor benefits, a higher burial allowance, a new education benefit and other reforms. Trudeau will also re-open nine veterans offices that were closed for lack of traffic.

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Tories take huge lead in latest poll

No way? Really?

Really.

Stephen Harper's Conservatives have vaulted to a huge lead in voter support thanks, largely, to the distribution of $3-billion worth of benefit cheques to parents earlier this week, a new poll says.

Mainstreet Research, in a survey provided exclusively to Postmedia Network, has Stephen Harper's party enjoying almost the same level of support this week that it got in the general election of 2011 when the party won its first-ever majority government.

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