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The centre block of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
The centre block of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Politics Briefing

Parliament’s Centre Block briefly evacuated after incident outside Peace Tower Add to ...

CANADIAN POLITICS

The Chinese government is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to relax controls on high-tech exports. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang used a personal phone call to Mr. Trudeau to deliver the request. The readout of the conversation from the Prime Minister’s Office was scant; Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, released a more thorough report of the conversation between Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Li. Last month the Liberals reversed a Harper-era ruling, allowing a Chinese takeover of a Montreal high-tech firm. National security agencies had warned that such a deal would undermine Canada and its allies' edge in military technology over China.

Prince Charles and Camilla will visit Canada for the country’s 150th birthday this summer. Heritage Minister Melanie Joly says the Queen’s health was not good enough for her to attend.

More than six in 10 Canadians would like to have more ability to fire senators, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll.

The federal, Ontario and municipal governments announced yesterday that they will not be introducing measures that would boost demand for Toronto’s scorching real estate market. The three levels of government agreed to share data on home-buyer trends and hold quarterly meetings to discuss housing issues in the Greater Toronto Area. Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, however, is expected to release a raft of initiatives that will address the housing market as early as Thursday, ahead of next week’s provincial budget.

From United to Air Canada, there have been multiple high-profile cases of passenger bumping on airplanes in recent weeks. The federal government is reiterating that a passengers’ bill of rights will be in place by next year. Transport Minister Marc Garneau wouldn’t elaborate on any details of what proposed legislation might look like.

The Hill Times continues its series on sexual harassment on the Hill, this time looking at political staffers who feel they don’t have the power to speak up.

And as the Conservative leadership race continues, Chatelaine profiles some young Tories. “Rona Ambrose is one of the big reasons I went full CPC. She’s the vision of an empowered, strong woman leader. That’s so important to me. People say the CPC is an old boys club, and for me she is steady and strong and doesn’t back down,” one said.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail): “Whatever the complexities, the fact remains that gay men in Chechnya are being systematically detained, tortured and sometimes killed, simply because of who they are. Ottawa must decide sooner rather than later whether it wishes to offer anything other than a strongly worded communiqué.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail): “Year Two was supposed to be harder for Mr. Trudeau, and in some respects it has been. There have been faux pas aplenty; his popularity has waned. But on major issues there is little slippage. On the big stuff he moves the yardsticks.”

Ivona Hideg (The Globe and Mail): “As a professional career woman with a passion for gender equity − as well as a mother of a two-year-old with another on the way – I’m probably the ideal target audience for the federal government’s recent decision to lengthen parental leave. And while I appreciate Ottawa’s attention – thanks, but no thanks. It may have been intended as ‘woman-friendly,’ but this policy is a bad deal for gender equality.”

Scare on Parliament Hill, by Michelle Zilio:

A man was taken into custody on Parliament Hill Tuesday after dropping a suspicious package in front of the main doors to the Peace Tower. Centre Block, which hosts the House of Commons and Senate, was briefly evacuated.

As of the afternoon, charges were still pending, according to a spokesperson for the Parliamentary Protective Service. Melissa Rusk said the man threw a backpack under the entrance to the Peace Tower Tuesday morning.

“I have heard that it was a backpack and it was during the search of the backpack that there was a substance that was identified and that's when immediately there was a secure perimeter that was established,” Ms. Rusk said.

She could not say what the substance was, adding that the package has since been deemed safe.

B.C. ELECTION

Construction for the Site C dam — an $8-billion hydroelectric project in northeastern B.C. — has already begun, but its future may still depend on the outcome of the May 9 vote. The Liberals are using the project to contrast their “say Yes” approach to the resource industry with the New Democrats, who want a fresh review and have suggested they could kill the dam. Opponents say the dam will devastate the Peace River Valley, which will eventually be flooded.

The BC Liberals are holding an event today to attack the NDP’s platform — specifically, how the party would pay for its promises. The New Democrats say they would tax the rich to pay for promises that include eliminating tolls on two Vancouver-area bridges and subsidies for renters. But some of the money the party is relying on is temporary, and it has not said how it would pay for a $10-per-day daycare system that will eventually cost $1.5-billion per year.

A problem that plagues elections across Canada is getting worse: young people don’t vote. In fact, fewer than half of registered voters in B.C. under the age of 35 voted in 2013. Several campus groups have launched campaigns to change that, arguing that if more young people voted, politicians might spend more time on the issues that matter to them.

Jim Hume (Tyee): “If voting patterns continue on the downward trend continuing since 1986, the thousands of citizens who hold the precious right to vote, but fail to exercise it, will again decide the outcome.”

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U.S. POLITICS

U.S. President Donald Trump was in Wisconsin yesterday to tout a new executive order that would promote “Buy American, Hire American” policies. In the process, he fired a shot across the 49th parallel to Canada, saying that our supply management of the dairy sector is “very unfair” and that he will press the federal government for changes. For other Canadian sectors, yesterday’s announcement sent a clear message that they face a grim choice: Either shift production to the U.S. or lose the business. Many Canadian companies are being forced to operate under a cloud of uncertainty by either deferring investments or moving production to the U.S. at the expense of Canadian jobs.

With Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and Mr. Trump in the White House, conservatives have been salivating at the prospect of overhauling the tax code. After the failure to reform health care, the Trump administration was hoping to score a win on tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin saying it would be done by the end of the summer. Mr. Mnuchin acknowledged earlier this week that the previous timeline is “not realistic.”  The Trudeau Liberals’ 2017 budget deferred major tax pledges, in part due to the high level of uncertainty in the U.S.

Vice-President Mike Pence has been to South Korea. Senior Adviser Jared Kushner to Iraq. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Russia. Mr. Trump? He’s preferred to stay in Washington, or Mar-a-Lago, as his aides and allies trek the world to foreign hotspots. Prior to his visit to Wisconsin yesterday, he hadn’t even been west of the Mississippi River yet. In comparison, former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had travelled to nine and 23 states, respectively, by mid-April of their first terms. Mr. Obama had taken three trips abroad and Mr. Bush had already visited Canada — a customary stop for a president’s first foreign visit. Mr. Trump’s first trip overseas won’t be to Canada, however, as he’s expected to go to Belgium and Italy for multilateral talks in May.

April 6 was a big day for Ivanka Trump. She and her family sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping for dinner at Mar-a-Lago as part of bilateral talks between the U.S. and China. It was also the day that her company was given the go-ahead from the Chinese government for three new trademarks. The approval gives her company’s bags, spa services and jewelry products monopoly rights to the world’s largest country.

And Democrat Jon Ossoff had Republicans sweating last night in Georgia, when he came within a hair of winning a special election outright in the Atlanta suburbs. He and the Republican with the most votes now head into a two-person runoff.

David French (National Review): “While the causes of war and the incentives for peace are often complex, there is one factor that’s almost always underestimated: memory. Memory is one reason why Europe enjoyed a time of relative peace after the horror of the Napoleonic wars, why the Western powers were desperate to avoid a second world war, and why deterrence worked in the Cold War. When you’ve experienced horror, you tend not to want to experience it again.”

Moira Donegan (The New Republic): “The refrain to ‘take Trump seriously, but not literally,’ is by now a cliché, and one whose usefulness is belied by Trump’s tendency to pursue very literal interpretations of his campaign promises. But Trump himself has always hidden behind some version of the ‘seriously, not literally’ idea, claiming humor, exaggeration, or mere rhetorical flourish when his most incendiary actions backfire — as if the entire public sphere could be reduced to jocular ‘locker room talk.’ By pining for a hidden truth, instead of addressing the one staring us in the face, liberals also buy into this game.”

BRITISH POLITICS

British Prime Minister Theresa May says a snap election now means her country won’t have to be in an election during some of the toughest parts of the Brexit negotiations.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn continues to face tension between his fellow MPs, who don’t support him, and party members who do.

And the Green Party is asking for electoral co-operation with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to “stop” the Conservatives.

Doug Saunders (The Globe and Mail): “The collapse of Europe’s mainstream centre-left opposition parties and the rise of populist movements on the right mean that France and Britain both appear poised to face elections in which none of the major parties support membership in the European Union – raising the risk of creeping isolationism-by-attrition.”

Carl Mortished (The Globe and Mail): “It’s a moot point whether the 48 per cent of Britons who voted ‘remain’ have really changed their minds, but her remarks about Westminster are telling. Ms. May’s real opponents are not Labour MPs run ragged by revolution or Scottish nationalists threatening independence. The Prime Minister’s opponents sit behind her on the Tory benches in Parliament. She has called a general election to declare war against opponents in her own party.”

SECUREDROP

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PLAYOFFS

In sports, the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers will head back to La Belle Province with their series tied at 2-2 after the Rangers eked out a 2-1 victory. The Oilers-Sharks series is now also tied 2-2, after San Jose took a 7-0 bite out of Edmonton last night.

In basketball, Toronto Raptors were able to stave off a late game comeback attempt by the Milwaukee Bucks to draw even in their first round series. The teams move to Milwaukee for Game 3.

And for the folks at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the playoffs have come with an added twist. With the Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs simultaneously for the first time in 15 years, they get to live out a sports marketer’s dream: Staging duelling playoff runs.

Written by Mayaz Alam in Toronto, Chris Hannay in Ottawa and James Keller in Vancouver.

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