Roundup: The downside of leaks

The thing that had everyone’s tongue wagging yesterday was the release of those Trump Transcripts™ detailing calls to Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and the inevitable Canada angle in which Trump says that there’s no problem with Canada, that they don’t even think about us. Some friend and neighbour.

All joking aside, this piece by Andrew MacDougall explaining how readouts of calls with foreign leaders work is crucial reading to understanding why it’s important for diplomacy that world leaders be allowed to have open and frank conversations without these kinds of details leaking out. While yes, these Trump leaks are more about the damage to his domestic agenda, they’re not revealing much about him that we don’t know already, but it remains an issue that it sets a very bad precedent, and that could have bigger and worse repercussions down the road, not only for the ability of politicians to speak freely to one another, but also for the likelihood of there being note takers in the room with Trump in the future, and neither is a good thing.

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QP: Carbon taxes and foreign takeovers

On a sweltering day in Ottawa, things carried on as usual in the House of Commons. Andrew Scheer led off, railing about carbon taxes killing the manufacturing sector, never mind that in his Ontario example, it was a provincial carbon price. Justin Trudeau hit back with jibes that it was good to see that most of the aconservaties believed in the Paris Accords and that carbon pricing was good for the market. Scheer groused that they would meet the targets without a carbon price, before moving onto the Norsat sale and lack of a comprehensive security screening. Trudeau reminded him that they took the advice of national security agencies. Scheer took a second kick, needling that Trudeau admired Chinese dictatorship too much to care about national security, and Trudeau lashed back that partisan jibes like that were unworthy of this place. Denis Lebel was up next, demanding a non-partisan process to appoint parliamentary watchdogs, and Trudeau noted their new appointments and rattled off some of the diversity of the new reports. Lebel tried again in English, and got the same answer. Thomas Mulcair was up next, asking if the Der Spiegel article was true that the government was backing away from climate goals at the G20. Trudeau insisted that they have been climate leaders and pointed to examples. Mulcair pressed, and Trudeau was unequivocal that he did not say what was in the article. Mulcair then turned to the issue of court cases involving First Nations children and dialled up the sanctimony to 11, and Trudeau noted the memorandum of understanding he signed with the AFN this morning about moving forward on steps. Mulcair demanded that the NDP bill on UNDRIP be adopted, but Trudeau insisted they were moving forward in consultation (never mind that said bill is almost certainly of dubious constitutionality).

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QP: Parsing the minister’s answers

A hot Thursday afternoon, and most of the leaders were gone, Thomas Mulcair excepted. Candice Bergen led off for the day, raising the lack of mention of China in Chrystia Freeland’s speech and the sale of a satellite company to China. Navdeep Bains responded that they take national security very seriously and and that the national security review board gave it a pass (and he said national security about twelve times). Bergen wondered why the sale went ahead without a comprehensive security review, and Bains insisted that the comprehensive review under the Investment Canada Act had been undertaken. Bergen insisted this was about appeasing China, and Bains insisted that the Act stipulates that all transactions are subjected to a national security review, and that included this one. Gérard Deltell then took a kick at the same can in French, twice, but Bains gave the very same answer. Thomas Mulcair was up next, and picked apart Bains’ answers, parsing the language particularly between a full review and a standard screening. Bains reiterated that they followed the law and did their due diligence and would take any advice from national security agencies. Mulcair tried again in French, raising a previous sale, and Bains reminded him that the previous process under the previous government had been botched. Mulcair then turned to the nuclear disarmament treaty and parsed the PM’s responses from yesterday. Bains got up again, and to reiterate the PM’s points about getting a fissile materials treaty underway instead. Mulcair tried again, and Bains read the same points that the PM made.

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QP: At last, the exchange of quips

On a rainy Tuesday in Ottawa, it was all hands on deck in the Commons, with all leaders present for a change. Andrew Scheer led off, noting the anniversary of D-Day, and turned it into a question on fighting ISIS. Trudeau noted the contributions that Canada was making to the fight. Scheer tried mocking Trudeau’s television interview responses about positive spaces in this fight, and Trudeau quipped back that Scheer must not be too busy as opposition leader if he was all caught up on his daytime TV. Scheer batted back that it was the only place he could find Trudeau over the past week, and then railed about new taxes on beer and wine. Trudeau responded that they cut taxes to the middle class. Scheer insisted that wasn’t true, and listed a number of penny ante issues like making Uber pay HST and carbon taxes (which are largely provincial), and Trudeau noted the difference in vision that his government offered. Scheer then veered into a question about the public sex offender registry, and Trudeau called Scheer out for politicising the wrong issues, and said that trying to insinuate the Liberals didn’t care about children and families was shameful. Up next was Thomas Mulcair, who brought up the Madeleine Meilleur nomination and stated that she confirmed in the Senate that she discussed the position with Gerald Butts and Katie Telford — which isn’t what she said. Trudeau reminded him of the open nomination process, and when Mulcair tried to insist that one f them were lying, Trudeau didn’t budge from his points. Mulcair then railed about Trudeau slamming the door on Quebec’s face on their request to discuss the constitution, and Trudeau said that he had other priorities. Mulcair gave it a second go, insisting this was a snub at Quebec alone, and Trudeau reminded him that he says the same thing in English and in French and had no interest in getting into a constitutional quagmire.

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QP: The Trudeau/Scheer damp squib

A new week, and Justin Trudeau was back in the Commons after a morning at Niagara Falls to do a guest spot on US television, and before his meeting with the visiting president of Chile. After a moment of silence for the victims of the London Bridge attack, Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, asking for an update and reaction to the attack. Trudeau gave condolences to the family of the Canadian woman who died in the attack, and noted that an hour before, he had spoken to Theresa May about the issue an hour before, and then offered his well wishes to Scheer as new leader of the Opposition. Scheer then turned to the Infrastructure Bank, and concerns that it would assume all risks with future projects. Trudeau didn’t really answer, but talked about the need for more infrastructure investments across the country. Scheer insisted it was all about rich friends of the PM, but Trudeau reminded him that they raised taxes on the wealthy to lower taxes on the middle class. Scheer then changed topics to ask about the politicised nomination of Madeleine Meilleur as Language Commissioner and demanded that it be cancelled. Trudeau said that it was important to get the right people for the job, regardless of their political history — a new talking point. Scheer tried again in English, and Trudeau dug in a little more this time, pointing out how politicised the previous government’s appointment process was whereas the current government had created a new process. Alexandre Boulerice led for the NDP, railing that the Infrastructure Bank would necessitate user fees, and Trudeau stuck to points about the need to invest in infrastructure. Daniel Blaikie repeated the question in English, and Trudeau noted that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was applauding the decision to unlock more capital in that way. Blaikie then turned to the Meilleur nomination, and Trudeau repeated his points about merit-based appointments. Boulerice repeated Blaikie’s question in French, and Trudeau repeated his answer.

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QP: A singular focus on CETA

While Justin Trudeau returned from the APEC summit somewhere around 5:30 this morning, it was not a real surprise that he wasn’t present in QP as a result. Then again, none of the other major leaders were present either. Denis Lebel led off, railing about the lack of new trade agreements signed and wondered if the government would fumble other agreements. Chrystia Freeland assured him that they ensured that CETA got signed, and when Lebel repeated the question in English, Freeland didn’t stick to her notes, but reminded Lebel that it was her government that got CETA signed for real. Lebel tried to switch to softwood lumber, but Freeland stuck to chastising him about CETA. Gerry Ritz tried to move the topic to the TPP, but because he mentioned CETA, Freeland stuck to those points with a reminder that they were still consulting on TPP. Ritz tried to press on TPP, and Freeland reminded him that there was a two-year consultation period on TPP, which they were pursuing. Tracey Ramsey led off for the NDP, railing about the flaws in CETA, and Freeland hammered on the progressive credentials of the agreement and the fact that socialist governments in Europe supported it. Ramsey pounded on the effect that CETA would have on drug prices, but Freeland stuck to her points about CETA’s progressive credentials. Ruth Ellen Brosseau then rose on a pair of questions decrying the inadequate compensation for dairy producers under CETA, but Lawrence MacAulay assured her that they sat down with the producers and designed a programme based on that, and that they were protecting supply management.

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QP: Everything is overwrought

Thursday before a long weekend, and not a single leader was present in the Commons for QP. Denis Lebel led off for the Conservatives and he lamented the imposition of a carbon tax on the costs on groceries. Jim Carr answer for the government, praising the ratification of the Paris Agreement. Lebel asked again in English, prompting Carr to chide Michelle Rempel for her attacks on those job creators for their support for carbon pricing. After another round of the same in French, Candice Bergen railed about how uncaring the government was about Canadians suffering under the carbon tax, for which Jean-Yves Duclos reminded her that they had programs to help poor Canadians. Bergen went on a second overwrought round, and a Marc Garneau noted that the minister of infrastructure was at this moment meeting with municipal leaders in Alberta regarding infrastructure commitments. Brigitte Sansoucy led off for the NDP, railing about the imposition of health transfers on the provinces, to which Jane Philpott reminded her that they were still discussing with provincial and territorial counterparts on priorities and funding. After a second of the same, Don Davies asked the same again in English, falsely calling changed escalators a cut, and Philpott reminded him that more money was not the answer, but priority investments were.

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QP: A (mostly) serious, grown-up day

There we no major leaders present for Question Period yet again, and with an increasing number of empty desks, the time of year is getting increasingly obvious. After an emotional tribute by Nathan Cullen to UK MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in her home riding earlier today, there was a moment of silence in the Commons. Jason Kenney started off, demanding that ISIS be considered a genocide. Stéphane Dion assured him that because of the UN report on genocidal activities, they were asking the UN Security Council to make a declaration. Kenney insisted that Dion was late to the party and named off other affected local populations, and Dion reminded him that Canada’s policy was the same as our allies and we were taking the lead in getting the Security Council to Act and it was why we tripled our contribution to the allied forces in the region. A third round from Kenney got the same answer. Michelle Rempel was up next, and demanded action on resettling Yazidis to Canada. John McCallum noted that several families were on the way to Winnipeg in a few weeks under private sponsorship, and noted that the Immigration Committee had just adopted a motion to study it. Rempel quoted the act that lets McCallum take action immediately, and he reminded her that the situation was more complicated than that. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet led off for the NDP, demanding parliamentary oversight for weapons exports. Dion stated that he controls export permits and does so with rigour and transparency. Boutin-Sweet then demanded a public inquiry into Afghan detainees, and John McKay listed off past and ongoing investigations. Murray Rankin was up next, and demanded that parliament pass Bill C-14 as amended. Jody Wilson-Raybould insisted that the bill as tabled was already constitutional and that it was the right approach. Rankin demanded the bill be referred to the Supreme Court, but Wilson-Raybould was not moved.

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QP: Shifting focus to fighter jets

After the big “family photo” on the steps of the building this morning, and a speech marking the 150th anniversary of the legislature of Canada meeting on Parliament Hill, we got into the business of the day. While Trudeau was on the Hill in the morning, he was on his way to Toronto and absent from QP today. Rona Ambrose led off, mini-lectern on neighbouring desk, and asked about measures to bring Yazidi girls to Canada as refugees. John McCallum noted that refugees are prioritised based on need as determined by the UN, and that he was proud of their record. Ambrose turned to the question of fighter jets, and wondered why they would get new jets if they didn’t use the ones we have to fight ISIS. Harjit Sajjan noted that that he had received a briefing on the mission in Iraq, but didn’t really answer. Ambrose listed off the sins of Liberal procurement past, and wondered how this time would be different. Sajjan retorted that the previous government cut $3 billion from the defence budget. Denis Lebel was concerned about pulling out of the the F-35 programme and how that would affect the aerospace industry in Montreal, and Sajjan noted that no decision had been made. When Lebel tried to press about the other allies who had adopted the F-35, Sajjan noted that they were not fully operational and they were taking the time to make the right choice. Thomas Mulcair led off for the NDP, asking about a statement that Senator Pratte made about the need to pass C-10 quickly. Marc Garneau said there was no deal, but this was about avoiding future litigation. Mulcair wanted assurances that there was no deal, and Garneau plainly stated there wasn’t one. Mulcair turned to tax havens by KPMG, and Diane Lebouthillier noted that there were investigations and court cases ongoing. Mulcair said that if it was in the courts it would be public, but pivoted to the Super Hornets and sole-sourcing. Sajjan repeated that no decision was made.

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QP: Scripts vs Saccharine 

The galleries full of Sikh delegates in advance of the Komagata Maru apology, the benches were similarly full on the floor of the Commons. Rona Ambrose, mini-lectern on neighbouring desk, led off by railing about the government’s proposed motion to control the parliamentary calendar. Trudeau noted that they were trying to give MPs time to speak and that this was about putting forward the agenda that Canadians voted on. Ambrose dropped a reference to Trudeau’s admiration for the “basic dictatorship” of China before asking again in French, and Trudeau gave the same response. Ambrose moved onto the topic of an electoral reform referendum, and Trudeau used the “Unfair Elections Act” as his excuse for his preferred consultative process. Denis Lebel took over in French, asked Ambrose’s second question again and got the same answer, and his second question was the referendum question in French, prompting Trudeau to drop the “60 percent of Canadians voted to change the electoral system” talking point. Thomas Mulcair was up next, his mini-lectern making a return, and he first thundered about the government shutting down democracy, then asked about the Alberta Court of Appeal ruling around doctor-assisted dying before demanding that C-14 be referred to the Supreme Court. Mulcair asked again in French, got the same answer, and then changed to the issue of home mail delivery. Trudeau gave his standard response about the promise to consult, and for his final question, Mulcair demanded that the government stop taking veterans to court. Trudeau insisted that they were working with veterans to get results for them.

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