Category Archives: Politics

Freeland Denies Being Pressured Into Making Last-Minute USMCA Deal

Sure, Chrystia. Sure:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says that anyone who thinks the new trilateral North American trade agreement limits Canada’s trade sovereignty is misguided.

Freeland told Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio’s The House, that the section of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that lays out the rules for making pacts with “non-market” countries won’t limit Canada’s attempts to diversify its markets.

“It’s the one element of the modernized NAFTA that has not been fully understood by Canadians,” she said Thursday.

“There is nothing new in this clause and in the new agreement that restricts Canadian sovereignty in any way.”

Section 32.10 of the deal’s text states that a USMCA country must give three months’ notice to the other two parties before negotiating a free trade agreement with any country considered to be “non-market” — and therefore ineligible — by one of the USMCA partners.

Many have taken this to be a direct reference to China, as the U.S. has been engaged in a tariff battle with Beijing for months. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products have been affected, drawing retaliation from China.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken aim at the dumping of foreign steel and aluminum by China. He also imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union back in May, using a little-known U.S. law to declare those metals imports a threat to “national security.”

China has been critical of the new trilateral deal, saying the U.S. is trying to undermine its trade with Canada and Mexico.

 

In other news:

Canada’s embrace of American-style protectionist measures to prop up domestic steelmakers is set to increase costs for consumers and secondary manufacturers — assuming they can even find steel to buy amid current shortages.

It’s also offending key trading partners.

As of next Thursday, a 25 per cent surtax will be applied to all foreign imports of seven specific kinds of steel once they exceed historical average volumes. It’s an emergency tool the federal government’s never used before. Many manufacturers would love to stop it from being used now.

“It is going to kill businesses,” said trade lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak. Her firm, LexSage, represents clients trying to persuade the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to reverse Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s decision at hearings scheduled for January.

“Exactly what we said shouldn’t be done to us, we’ve done to other countries. And, quite frankly, to our own businesses.”

Canada already has 78 different trade remedies (duties) in place for countries like China who’ve been caught dumping steel. This new surtax is part of a push to curb global overproduction and keep cheap steel from sneaking into North American supply chains.

But in the process, Canada’s surtax also hits fairly-traded steel from countries Canada normally counts as allies, including Japan and the European Union.

Companies already finding it hard to source quality, affordable steel are about to see more of their best options taxed.

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Column: “Electoral reform is finally coming to Canada and not a moment too soon”

Monday may in time come to be seen as the day electoral reform came to Canada. A year from now the country that, alone among those still using “first past the post” system of casting and counting votes, does so at every level of government, could have very different systems in place in several jurisdictions, municipal and provincial.

Starting Monday, and continuing until Nov. 30, British Columbians will be asked to vote by mail in a double-barreled referendum on electoral reform. The first question asks whether they wish to replace first past the post with a system of proportional system; the second, which of three “pro rep” systems they prefer.

Unlike the province’s two previous referendums on the subject, the threshold for reform is just 50 per cent: there will be no repeat of the 2005 debacle, when reform was supported by 58 per cent of the voters, including a majority in all but two of the province’s 79 ridings, and yet still somehow failed to pass the convoluted double-super-majority bar the province’s Liberal government had devised.

But B.C. is only part of the story. Monday is also the day voters go to the polls in 444 municipal elections across Ontario, the first since provincial legislation allowing municipalities to change from first past the post, where voters mark an x beside the candidate of their choice, to ranked ballots, familiar from party leadership races, where voters mark their ballots 1, 2, 3…

Of course the differences do not end there: where under first past the post the winner is the candidate with the most votes, no matter how few, under ranked ballots the second (and lower) choices of the last-place candidates after each round of counting are added to the tallies of the remaining contenders until one candidate has more than 50 per cent.

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Whiner Complains About Law That Seizes Iranian Assets

Poor babies:

The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to re-establish relations with Iran is due to its adherence to a “stupid” Canadian law allowing the seizure of Iranian assets, says Canada’s recently expelled ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Dennis Horak, who was expelled from Saudi Arabia in August after its rulers were incensed by a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, offered that blunt assessment as he shed new light on another controversial moment in Canada’s Middle East relations.

Six years ago, the previous Conservative government abruptly severed its diplomatic relations with Iran, shuttering its embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada.

The current Liberal government campaigned in 2015 on re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran but it has been unable to deliver on that foreign policy promise because Iran appears unwilling to re-engage.

Horak, who retired recently, said one obstacle is standing in the way: the passage in 2012 of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorism to sue countries that are listed as supporters of terrorism.

Among other things, the law paved the way for last year’s Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the seizure of US$1.7 billion in private Iranian assets by a group of American plaintiffs whose loved ones were killed in terrorist attacks sponsored by the Iranian regime.

“It was a stupid law. And it’s still a stupid law,” Horak told a meeting of the Canadian International Council in Ottawa this week.

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Can the Tories Win in Quebec?

On the whole, Tories could be accused of being passive, reacting more to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government than promoting Scheer as an alternative. Not so in la belle province, where a vigorous push for support is underway.

“The Bloc Québécois is failing. The NDP, it’s not going well with their new leader. And us, with our new leader, it’s going well,” Maxime Bernier, Scheer’s close rival during last year’s leadership race and arguably the party’s most visible member in Quebec, said Wednesday. “The future for us will be very bright in Quebec.”

Alain Rayes, Scheer’s Quebec deputy and the person in charge of finding candidates for the 2019 election, said he is confident about the party’s strategy and, in particular, the idea of stealing “nationalists” from the BQ who want more for Quebec but do not want to separate from Canada.

“I’m personally profoundly convinced that we will improve our showing,” he said.

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NB Tory Questions Liberal Recruitment Tactics

A Conservative MP says Fredericton Liberal MP Matt DeCourcey may have breached House of Commons rules by seemingly using his taxpayer-funded newsletter to recruit campaign volunteers.

DeCourcey’s spring 2018 newsletter includes photos of a Liberal-organized door-knocking campaign in February and an invitation for people looking to “volunteer with our team” to contact his MP office.

House of Commons rules prevent MPs from using their newsletters, known as “householders,” to make “solicitations of membership to a political party” or “requests for re-election support.”

It’s not clear from the text whether people responding to the newsletter would become Liberal party members or campaign volunteers, but Conservative MP John Brassard asserted that’s likely what would happen.

“It sounds like he’s stepping up to the line, particularly on the aspect of volunteers. One could argue whether that was data mining or not — gaining information from people to help out for partisan activities,” said Brassard, the party’s ethics critic.

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Who Backs Canada’s Politicians?

All political donations are public. They aren’t necessarily easy to access.

To hold politicians to account for gifts large and small, reporter Zane Schwartz chased down over six million records from across the country and developed the first centralized, searchable database of contributions made at both the federal level and in 13 provinces and territories.

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Promises, promises: The Liberals made a lot, maybe too many

Only the naive person views the politician without skepticism. But a politician’s words are still important, not least because what he or she says they will do is generally in line with what they do.

That’s the finding across three studies of campaign promises dating back more than 70 years, though there are differences in methodology. More often than not, federal governments in Canada keep their promises.

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Cambodian Supreme Court Dissolves Opposition Political Party

The last time something like this happened, a bunch of Cambodians died:

Cambodia’s Supreme Court ordered the main opposition party to be dissolved on Thursday, dealing a crushing blow to democratic aspirations in the increasingly oppressive Southeast Asian state. The decision clears the way for the nation’s authoritarian leader to remain in power for years to come.

The verdict, which was widely expected, comes amid a growing push by the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of elections due in July 2018.

Chief Judge Dith Munty, who is a senior ruling party member, announced the nine-member court’s unanimous ruling.

He said 118 opposition party members would also be banned from politics for the next five years.

The government accuses the Cambodia National Rescue Party of plotting a coup and has called for its dissolution for weeks. The opposition staunchly denies the allegations and says they are politically motivated — a position backed by international rights groups and independent analysts who say no credible evidence has emerged to back the claims.

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Financial Portfolios Still A “Man’s World” Laments Fruitcake

 

Oh, dear:

Women remain underrepresented in economic and finance ministers’ offices, a political sphere that former cabinet staff say continues to be an “old boys’ club” and especially unavailable to women at the senior level.

Long before and after Michele Austin worked as a chief of staff to Conservative minister Rona Ambrose, she noticed women weren’t in finance files.

“Prime ministers, no matter what their party, turn a blind eye to putting women in charge of economic portfolios federally,” she said. “Women’s perspectives on the economy and the bottom line are incredibly important. If you think of who makes purchasing decisions in households, it’s predominantly women, so they need to have a voice at the cabinet table.”

 

Like the genius of Climate Barbie or the crying acumen of Chrystia Freeland?

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Column: “Don’t trust the Liberals to run their own promise tracker”

Well, obviously:

The government’s launch of its own online promise tracker on Tuesday tells us that either the Liberals are incredibly naive or they think that of us. It’s hard to know which is worse.

 

The Liberals are performing like four different kinds of crap.

That is the assessment of someone who isn’t a Liberal.

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Provincial Finances Are Much Worse Than Reported

Oh, joy:

The official balance sheets of provinces across the country mask billions of dollars in debt related to a series of megaproject follies being pursued by provincial governments and government-owned power utilities. While their debt doesn’t officially appear on provincial balance sheets, taxpayers will be left footing the bill when the electricity rates needed to pay them off become so economically crippling and politically unpalatable that they will require a bailout.

A chorus of auditors general and ratings agencies have questioned this trend of masking liabilities, but have seen their warnings ignored by political leaders determined to bury the risk of pet megaprojects.

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Why Did Trudeau Skip A TPP Meeting?

Even a Liberal water-carrier has trouble defending Trudeau:

The irritation of the other delegations — “the Canadians screwed everybody” was one of the kinder remarks — was widely reported, and if it is now maintained that Canada was never going to sign last week and everyone should have known that, it remains unclear how they could have been led to believe otherwise.

Diplomats generally do their utmost to make meetings between leaders as dull as possible: any disagreements are worked out ahead of time, behind closed doors, with a view to ensuring there are no unpleasant surprises on the day. Yet that does not appear to have been the case here.

 

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The Russian collusion narrative is falling apart. There will be many embarrassed politicians in the near future

Well, it seems that things are falling apart, the center is not holding.  There are those on the left who will not abandon the “dossier” fiasco.  As late as Oct. 7, 2017 the Guardian described it as “one of the most explosive documents in modern political history.”  This “dossier” was an obvious fraud and no one in the intelligence community believed otherwise.  People who claimed it might possibly have value were deceiving the public. They did this because it was the only thing they had to justify an investigation of the Donald Trump campaign.

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“Canada pushed for Airbus deal as Bombardier courted China”

Anything for Bombardier:

The Canadian government encouraged Bombardier to make a deal with Airbus SE for its CSeries planes to thwart a potential venture with Chinese investors, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

It signaled its preference for Airbus after Bombardier failed to reach an agreement with Boeing Co earlier this year that would have given the U.S. company a stake in the CSeries jetliners, according to the sources. The Canadian government’s role has not been previously reported.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration took a calculated risk in steering Bombardier toward Airbus, according to the sources. It helped save a key product for Bombardier and likely resolved a brewing trade dispute with the United States, but potentially set back efforts to improve trade and economic ties with China.

The deal with Airbus came at a critical time for Bombardier. Its $6 billion CSeries program, already losing money, had become the subject of a trade dispute in which Boeing charged in a complaint to U.S. authorities that the jetliners benefited from Canadian government subsidies and unfair pricing.

Bombardier had considered a Chinese partnership as early as 2015, after talks about a possible merger with Airbus became public and fell apart. This year, as negotiations with Boeing over a CSeries partnership faltered and concerns about the future of the program mounted, Bombardier’s interest in a deal with China intensified, two sources said.

The prospect of such a deal raised concern within the Canadian government, two of the sources said, where officials believed jobs or technology could be “siphoned away” to China. They also expressed uneasiness about what some saw as inadequate Chinese safeguards against intellectual property theft.

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