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Politics Politics Briefing newsletter: B.C. Premier John Horgan confident softwood deal is close

Good morning,

B.C. Premier John Horgan wrapped up a trip to Washington by striking an optimistic tone that a deal to resolve the softwood lumber dispute could be close at hand. Mr. Horgan spent two days in the U.S. capital to press his province's interest, following the Trump administration's imposition of punitive duties against Canadian softwood exports in April. Mr. Horgan says he's confident the Canadian and American negotiators will be able to settle the contentious dispute before NAFTA renegotiations begin next month. He says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are discussing a potential deal that would focus on market share. Such an agreement would cap the amount of Canadian softwood that could be sold into the United States.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Eleanor Davidson in Toronto, and James Keller in Vancouver. If you're reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Let us know what you think.

CANADIAN HEADLINES

A Chinese-Canadian businessman who attended one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial cash-for-access fundraising dinners is fighting allegations from Chinese prosecutors that he played a key role in a massive pyramid scheme. The case involves Edward Gong. According to China's state-controlled news agency, Xinhua News, prosecutors allege Mr. Gong recruited personnel for a pyramid scheme that reaped 1.9 billion yuan, or the equivalent to $350-million (Canadian). Mr. Gong has proclaimed his innocence and vowed to fight the accusations, which he said represent an attack on his businesses. Mr. Gong has been photographed with former prime minister Stephen Harper, and befriended Mr. Trudeau at a now-famous Liberal fundraiser involving Chinese-Canadian business people in Toronto last May.

Justin Trudeau's cabinet is preparing to add a new face to their ranks. The new member will fill the seat that was left vacant when Newfoundland's Judy Foote took an indefinite leave of absence in April. The Globe has learned that two MPs are in the running for the former Minister of Public Works' place  -- Seamus O'Regan and Gudie Hutchings.

A group of civil servants is helping the Liberal government fast-track their plans for a federal infrastructure bank. The officials will pass recommendations along to the government about how to use $35-billion in public funds to pull in private money for the bank's construction. Internal documents suggest the group's goal is to score early wins for the new bank and to avoid delays. Conservative infrastructure critic Diane Watts said the government should have waited for the bank to be operational before appointing bureaucratic advisory groups.

B.C.'s premier is trying to reconcile his party's approach to resource projects — in a province whose economy is dependant on them. When Malaysian energy giant Petronas cancelled an $11.4-billion liquefied natural gas project on B.C.'s northern coast this week, NDP cabinet ministers simultaneously promised to continue courting LNG projects while also vowing to impose strict environmental conditions on them.

New Democrats who are now members of Mr. Horgan's cabinet were highly critical of the previous Liberal government's push for LNG in the past. Mr. Horgan says there's no contradiction, but rather the government is simply fulfilling its obligation to ensure any resource development is good for British Columbians. On another issue, the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the government appeared to rule out using permitting to stall or block the project, after earlier suggesting they'd be considering that as an option.

The Assembly of First Nations is calling for Ottawa to make changes to the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, but it's stopping short of calling for the commissioners to be replaced. The group's chiefs passed a resolution asking the federal government to alter the inquiry's mandate and process. Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan, said another delay in the inquiry would put Indigenous lives at risk, while Chief Matthew Todd Peigan of the Pasqua First Nation said removing the current commissioners would effectively kill the inquiry.

And Conservative MP Maxime Bernier isn't ruling out another run for the leadership of the party. Mr. Bernier, who finished a close second in the recent leadership race, says he can't predict the future, but he noted Brian Mulroney lost his leadership race before returning to win years later. For now, he says he wants to play the crucial role of finance critic in Leader Andrew Scheer's shadow cabinet.

Nader Hasan (The Globe and Mail) on the National Energy Board and First Nations: "Consent is not a 'veto.' It is an acknowledgment that for Indigenous peoples' rights to be meaningful, they must entail corollary obligations on government. Consent will not be required in every case, but where the impact on Indigenous rights is substantial, nothing short of consent will respect those rights or achieve reconciliation."

Nataliya Mykolska (The Globe and Mail) on free-trade with Ukraine: "Ukraine offers Canadian companies the fourth-most educated population in the world, with a strong emphasis on information technology, engineering, aerospace and, of course, agriculture technology (agritech)."

The Toronto Star editorial board on racism in Thunder Bay: "Seven Indigenous children and one Indigenous man have been found dead in waterways in Thunder Bay since 2000. The occurrence of such tragedies in the northern Ontario city is grossly disproportionate. Indigenous people make up only 10 per cent of the city's population, yet 'it's only our First Nations kids that end up in the waterways,' according to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation."

Michael Coren (iPolitics) on Canada's shifting right wing: "Kellie Leitch may have won minimal support for her bid to become federal leader but the very fact that her repugnant notions were taken seriously says a great deal. So does the 15 per cent support given to arch social conservatives at the leadership conference, and the elevation of Andrew Scheer — who, in spite of audacious denials, is very much a product of the religious Right."

Raymond J. De Souza (National Post) on Alberta's Conservative merger: "Spare a thought, but not a tear, for the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, the greatest behemoth in Canadian political history, which administered a long-overdue self-execution last Saturday in Alberta. The political hygiene of my home province is improved by its disappearance, alas delayed by the haplessness of its proper heir, the Wildrose Party, which also ended its existence on Saturday."

INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES

In a stinging blow to President Donald Trump, U.S. Senate Republicans failed on Friday to dismantle Obamacare, falling short on a major campaign promise and perhaps ending a seven-year quest by their party to gut the health-care law. Voting in the early hours, three Republican senators, John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, crossed party lines to join Democrats in a dramatic 49-to-51 vote to reject a "skinny repeal" bill that would have killed some parts of Obamacare.

Russia told the United States on Friday that some of its diplomats had to leave the country in just over a month and said it was seizing some U.S. diplomatic property as retaliation for what it said were proposed illegal U.S. sanctions. Russia's response, announced by the Foreign Ministry, came a day after the U.S. Senate voted to slap new sanctions on Russia, putting President Donald Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation and anger his own Republican Party.

A five-judge panel of Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday disqualified thrice-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding office over allegations of corruption against him and his family. The court in a unanimous decision said Sharif was disqualified for not remaining "truthful and honest" after considering evidence against him. It also ruled Sharif could no longer serve as a member of the National Assembly, a powerful lower house of the parliament. General elections are to be held in Pakistan next year and the Supreme Court ruling ensures he won't be in the running.

After two weeks of tensions over new security measures at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, the last metal detectors and CCTV cameras were removed on Thursday. In response, thousands of worshipers surged into the mosque. Israeli police used stun grenades in an attempt to control the crowd, leaving 113 people injured. The security devices were installed in response to the killing of two Israeli policemen at the mosque on July 14. Protests over the new devices led to diplomatic intervention by the Jordanian king, the United Nations and U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy.

After months of protests and in the middle of a 48-hour nationwide strike, Venezuela's government has banned protests that would "disturb" the upcoming election. Scheduled for Sunday, the election would create a new constituent assembly to rival the National Assembly, which is currently held by the opposition. Anger over the proposed move, which would allow President Nicolás Maduro's government to rewrite the constitution, has drawn international sanctions and sparked violence across Venezuela. Ahead of a mass protest scheduled for today, Interior Minister Néstor Reversol said protesters could receive prison terms of up to 10 years.

And, just like the rest of us, Donald Trump needs a holiday. The Globe's David Shribman explains the importance of a presidential vacation.

The Globe and Mail editorial board on Turkey's pending dictatorship: "Mr. Erdogan is now the supreme and untouchable ruler of Turkey. Turks were reminded of his omnipotence in Orwellian fashion on July 15 of this year, when mobile phone users trying to make a call were first obliged to listen to a recorded message from him marking the anniversary of the attempted coup d'état."

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Jeff Sessions: " Mr. Sessions exits the Trump cabinet, it is a good thing. On the policy side, he is one of the most retrograde at the Trump table. From a Canadian point of view, he represents beliefs that are anathema to the Trudeau government and about 90 per cent of the population."

Sarah Kendzior (The Globe and Mail) on Trump's transgender ban: "Like all autocrats, Mr. Trump targets vulnerable minorities, presenting them not as victims but as a threat to the majority – despite the fact that in this case, transgender soldiers are willing to lay their lives on the line to protect that majority's safety. By announcing his policy on Twitter without consulting the Pentagon, Mr. Trump showed yet again his complete disregard for process, protocol and serving the public."

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