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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Politics Briefing

A rare peek into the expenses of Trudeau’s staff Add to ...

POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay) and Rob Gilroy (@rgilroy)

The Globe Politics is pleased to include a roundup of news and opinion on U.S. politics, through until this year’s election in November. As always, let us know what you think of the newsletter. Sign up here to get it by e-mail each morning.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA

> Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Ottawa today for talks (and dinner) with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I am delighted to be coming today to Canada, the beautiful land of maples,” Mr. Li writes in an opinion piece in The Globe, where he makes the case for tighter ties between Canada and China. A possible extradition treaty is sure to be part of the talks – in the absence of one, it appears that Chinese agents have come to Canada on tourist visas to convince expatriates on the run to return home. Such tactics, already in use in the United States, are part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive and Canada has been identified as a major sanctuary for Chinese fugitives.

> In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, Mr. Trudeau warned politicians against exploiting the anxiety of their citizens.

> As Canada considers a major peacekeeping mission in Africa – possibly to Mali – the Auditor-General is warning of the dangers of poorly-trained reservists.

> Mr. Trudeau will appoint 20 independent senators in the coming weeks, a source tells The Toronto Star.

> The Liberals are expected to scrap the “safe countries” system for screening refugees that was brought in under the previous Conservative government, sources tell The Hill Times.

> The federal government has done little about dangerous contaminants found in marijuana sold at dispensaries, documents show.

> And a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party says those who oppose same-sex marriage – which has been legal in Canada for a decade – are being unfairly treated. “So many social conservatives are now feeling discriminated against, and that’s why I think it’s still an issue that has relevance,” Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost told The Canadian Press.

THE COST OF GOVERNMENT

Thanks to a slew of order paper questions – the process by which any member of Parliament can demand an answer of the government, and (usually) get one – we now have a glimpse into the costs of how the Liberals have been running the government.

The bills range from the large to the small. On the high side, we now know the government – and, by extension, taxpayers – spent about $1.1-million in relocation fees to staff up departments and ministers’ offices after last year’s election. Those costs can include anything from moving, shipment, storage or real estate fees. Two members of the Prime Minister’s Office ringed up especially high relocation bills, at $126,669 and $80,382 each, and someone at Global Affairs billed $119,825. As well, apparently communications staff across departments have charged a total of $2.3-million in overtime in the first seven months of the Liberals, with Global Affairs billing the most, at $348,624.

On the other end, apparently our image-conscious prime minister hasn’t been spending as much taxpayer money on videos as some might have thought. The government spent $27,185.88 to produce and publish dozens of YouTube videos of Mr. Trudeau giving public speeches over his first six months or so in office. Seven civil servants are involved in the productions at some point, though it appears none do so full-time. (And, for what it's worth, apparently it only costs $9,326.26 to change the name of a federal department.)

U.S. ELECTION 2016

> There’s method in the madness: Nate Cohn and the team at Upshot offer up a clever experiment in polling, which goes a long way to explain the variance in the many surveys tracking the U.S. election. They offered the same data to four different pollsters. Not surprisingly, four different numbers. Why? “Because pollsters make a series of decisions when designing their survey, from determining likely voters to adjusting their respondents to match the demographics of the electorate. These decisions are hard. They usually take place behind the scenes, and they can make a huge difference.”

> The future is now: The Washington Post looks at liberals “arguing over the millennial vote – specifically, over whether millennials are to blame for Hillary Clinton’s current electoral troubles.” Greg Sargent says the party brass should be worried that many “seem to be trending towards the minor parties in unexpected numbers” and notes that “there is a major opportunity here to try to lock in millennial support for the Democratic Party for many years to come. And we are talking about a lot of voters.”

> The pity party: Jennifer Rubin in The Post says Donald Trump has turned the GOP into a pity party for white males. “In making these white males (and only them) into victims and encouraging them to blame outsiders or menacing forces beyond their control, Trump does what Republicans used to accuse liberals of doing – pitting one group against another in a zero-sum conception of the economy.”

> Policy and poverty: Remember when politicians would actually discuss policy instead of insults? Hillary Clinton goes all retro in this New York Times op-ed, where she lays out her plan to tackle poverty in America.

> The Bee in Clinton’s bonnet: Ross Douthat of The New York Times calls Trump a “Johnny Rotten” figure, who is likely preventing the ascent of a new social conservatism in America. “When the histories of the Trump era are written from exile in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, they will record that it was none other than Jimmy Fallon who brought down the republic. ... But the Democratic Party’s problem in the age of Trump isn’t really Jimmy Fallon. Its problem is Samantha Bee. ... [or] the entire phenomenon that she embodies: the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.”

> Rhetoric and refugees: Dara Lind at Vox.com reminds readers that the “U.S. has been a world leader in resettling refugees,” but “Donald Trump and his son compare them to snakes and Skittles.” ... In The Times, Jason Horowitz says this is not the first time that Donald Trump Jr. has waded “into the shadowy waters of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, incendiary language and conspiracy theories.”

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): “It’s bad if foreign governments believe [release of Kevin Garratt] is what it looks like – that Ottawa will make concessions to release a Canadian jailed on phony charges. It’s bad if the Chinese think so, too. And it’s possible they don’t know for sure. Some former diplomats think it’s unlikely senior Chinese officials would ever make the quid pro quo explicit. There were gives and asks, and the Chinese tend to suggest steps to build trust that leads to more co-operation – a leader’s visit pushes each side to make concessions. It’s possible Chinese officials think releasing Mr. Garratt helped start extradition talks, even if that wasn’t the Canadian intention.” (for subscribers)

Lawrence Martin (Globe and Mail): “Does our emperor, no fan of shirts, have any other clothes? If the high-flying Liberals are feeling any collywobbles about how all this looks, it doesn’t show. Much of the unsavoury stuff is being crowded out by the magazine-cover Prime Minister, who dominates the news cycle almost daily. He exudes good will, so much a counter to a predecessor who took partisanship to an irrational extreme.”

Tony Keller (Globe and Mail): “In government, sometimes less is more. The Trudeau government thinks it can get more done on greenhouse-gas reduction by doing very little itself – and leaving the heavy lifting to the provinces. In the short run, it’s almost certainly right. In the long run? We’ll see.”

Tim Powers (Hill Times): “New Democrats across the country now have many hard choices to make. Do they sit back, as they have for years, and let things happen at a more organic pace, or do they become more disruptive about their own circumstances to make their lot in life better? From the outside, it looks as if they are still licking their wounds from last year’s loss. They need to suck it up and get past that, because if you feel like a loser you behave like one.”

Aaron Wherry (CBC): “Taken at its most literal, Trudeau’s offer might apply to meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, funding for foreign aid and a new commitment to peacekeeping operations. But then our humble outpost is presently noted for far more than mere contributions to UN activities. Now we have symbolic import. Put on your finest denim jacket, for the world (or its press) is gazing upon us.”

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Follow us on Twitter: @rgilroy, @channay

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