Amidst all of the other drama around the Trumpocalypse, talk of NAFTA renegotiations have been ramping up again with the next round of talks in Montreal taking place in a couple of weeks. So far, people seem to be backing away from the ramparts and are sounding out extensions to the talks rather than trying to complete them as soon as possible, given the political deadlines of the Mexican federal election this summer and American mid-term elections this fall. Chrystia Freeland herself went out to say that this was good, that artificial deadlines weren’t necessary, and so far, so good. Cabinet ministers were also back on the charm circuit down in the States, and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is leading his own delegation next week – but not before he took to the Mississauga Board of Trade to blast the government’s handling of the whole thing. According to Scheer’s obvious concern trolling, Trudeau “doesn’t seem to have a plan” (which you would have to be completely blind and inattentive to believe, considering that Trudeau’s plan has been pretty bloody obvious), and we’ve seen plenty of examples in Question Period where the Conservatives insist that the government is fumbling the deal with all of the “unserious” talk of gender and Indigenous chapters. And while I get that Scheer and the Conservatives are supposed to hold government to account, this falls into the same category as their other efforts that rely on disingenuous statements and mendacious framing of issues in order to try and score cheap points. Scheer has also been disingenuous about the state of the lapsed softwood lumber agreement in the waning Obama years, and has tried to frame what happened with the TPP signing as more fumbling from Trudeau when in fact things were communicated to the Japanese, and the Australian media torqued the story to suit their own domestic purposes. And if you’re wondering what the NDP is up to, well, they’re still demanding that everything be out in the open, because that’s totally how you want to negotiate these things.
— Power & Politics (@PnPCBC) January 12, 2018
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) January 11, 2018
As for the government’s charm offensive, it seems to be meeting more with apathy with the Americans than anything, as NAFTA talks are apparently not on their radar while they focus on those tax cuts that Trump promised. That may be why the government decided to play hardball with the WTO challenge against the rash of protectionist measures in the States, such as softwood duties or the Bombardier C-Series tariffs, and Freeland has been musing recently about “creative thinking” to drive the talks forward, so we’ll see what next steps are. But you can’t say that the government doesn’t have a plan. This issue has consumed them for the past year, and they very obviously are doing something about it, which makes Scheer’s assertions all the more ridiculous.
- At the end of the Cabinet retreat in London, Trudeau said he is willing to consider strengthening conflict-of-interest legislation, and defended meeting Joshua Boyle.
- Trudeau also condemned the man who attacked an 11-year-old to try and cut off her hijab.
- Trudeau wouldn’t comment on Trump’s latest comments, but Michaëlle Jean did in her capacity as head of the Franocophonie.
- Economic forecasts of slower growth could mean lower revenue projections in the upcoming budget. Despite this, Morneau remains committed to deficit reduction.
- Next week’s meeting in Vancouver on North Korea will have the additional aim of showing Trump the value of diplomacy. China’s invitation (or not) was an issue.
- Labour minister Patty Hajdu muddied the waters around summer jobs funding for religious institutions by talking about whether their “core mandate” is pro-choice.
- Andrew Scheer is, naturally, making hay of this, saying that the government is “imposing values” on those organisations.
- Hajdu also says that stronger federal workplace anti-harassment legislation will help those staffers who work on Parliament Hill.
- The government says they will consider pardons for those previously convicted of pot possession once legalization happens.
- The CRA won’t say if they have collected any money as a result of the 2016 Panama Papers, and won’t release any information until the 2020s.
- Turns out that some of those problems plaguing the Phoenix pay system were designed that way. You know, by the same public servants it’s affecting.
- Here is a longread that reconstructs the interim supply ship deal and the removal of VADM Mark Norman a year ago over suspicion of leaked cabinet confidences.
- John Geddes examines the way in which Trudeau handles his town halls.
- Supriya Dwivedi calls out politicians who refuse to take a moral stand as they waffle on the calls for a national day against Islamophobia.
- Susan Delacourt looks at how the “Oprah effect” of 1980s public confessional television changed politics.
- My weekend column looks at how the government’s inability to make timely appointments is turning into a slow-moving crisis cutting at their competence.
Odds and ends:
Here is an interview with Senator Serge Joyal about his 20-year Senate career.