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politics briefing

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announces the government's economic update during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Oct. 19, 2017.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Good morning,

It's been an eventful week for Finance Minister Bill Morneau. After the Liberals had received an onslaught of criticism from doctors, family farms and small-business owners, the plan was to announce changes to mollify those groups' concerns. Then came a Globe report at the start of the week that said Mr. Morneau didn't put his substantial personal wealth into a blind trust when assuming public office, a mechanism described by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the gold standard for avoiding conflicts of interest. Here's how the rest of the week went:

On Monday, the Liberals announced a reduction in the small-business tax rate, satisfying a campaign promise. Mr. Trudeau also defended Mr. Morneau, saying he merely did as instructed by Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson.

On Tuesday, Ms. Dawson clarified that she didn't advise Mr. Morneau against establishing a blind trust. Instead, she says, she said it was not necessary to do so and implied that Mr. Morneau made the decision himself.

On Wednesday, the Liberals set a $50,000 a year limit on taxing passive-investment income. The proposal to raise taxes on passive investments held in incorporated businesses had drawn ire from small-business owners. It was also revealed that Mr. Morneau told the company he formerly helmed, human resources firm Morneau Shepell, that he would be using a blind trust.

On Thursday, Mr. Morneau said the Liberals would drop their capital-gains tax proposal amid concerns from farmers that it would hamper the ability to pass on farms to future generations. He also announced that he will sell all of his shares in Morneau Shepell (he said that he owns about one million shares, which would be worth around $20 million at current stock prices) and put his remaining assets in a blind trust but that he followed the rules when entering public life.

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First Nations leaders have stopped partnering with the federal government on environmental policy, arguing that the Liberals' actions are failing to match their rhetoric when it comes to collaborating with Indigenous peoples. In a letter to Mr. Trudeau, members of the Assembly of First Nations say they are being left out of the decision-making process.

The day after Bill 62 passed in Quebec, Ontario's legislature unanimously condemned the law. Premier Kathleen Wynne was joined by her colleagues across the political spectrum and said that although Ontario and Quebec share a close relationship, this is an issue that the two provinces fundamentally disagree on. In Quebec yesterday, Mr. Trudeau said it's not the federal government's responsibility to challenge the bill.

The House's Board of Internal Economy is often talked about as the most secretive committee on Parliament Hill. Things are starting to open up, however, with yesterday featuring the first open meeting of the group that oversees spending in the House. But certain topics will continue to be kept under wraps, such as security, employment, staff relations or tenders.

Mr. Morneau will deliver the annual fall economic update next Tuesday. The new figures are expected to show that Canada's finances are doing better than was initially expected when Budget 2017 was introduced back in March.

Spain said it will suspend Catalonia's autonomy and work to impose direct rule over the region after it threatened to move forward with its declaration of independence. Businesses, including several Canadian companies, are rethinking their presence in Catalonia and around 800 have shifted their registered offices out of the region.

There's a common refrain that in today's society, there's an app for everything. In China, that extends to an app that claps in support of the country's leader Xi Jinping. If you tap the screen it produces a clap. A meter on-screen shows progress as users tap out applause. More than a billion claps have been recorded on the app in support of Mr. Xi. The use of digital media to influence the public is nothing new for the Communist Party, which also exercises extreme control over what citizens can access on the internet. It's made a big push into app development to play an even larger part in the digital sphere., launching dozens of apps to educate youth members and inspire them to take up the party line.

In case you missed it, New Zealand has a new prime minister. Jacinda Ardern, who only became head of the Labour Party in August, will become the country's new leader. Labour will partner with the nationalist New Zealand First Party to form government, putting Ms. Ardern, only 37 years old, in charge of the Oceanic nation. Her youth, progressive bent and message have drawn parallels to the rise of French President Emmanuel Macron as well as Mr. Trudeau.

And one Canadian recently had the opportunity to travel to North Korea. Here's what he saw: "There are things that no one talks about while in North Korea, such as its labour camps, its starving citizens and its corrupt police force. And there are other things that are impossible to drown out, like the ongoing celebration of their military victories during the 1950-53 Korean War, the constant condemnation of the United States as 'imperialist aggressors' that could strike again at any moment and the deification of long-dead Kim Il-sung as the country's 'Eternal President.'"

David Butt (The Globe and Mail) on Bill 62: "Under the mask of pursuing 'social cohesion' the Quebec legislature has passed a bill denying women the right to receive public services while wearing a veil for religious reasons. The law is a blatant violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, an exercise in oppression of a socially vulnerable minority and gender discrimination to boot. Quite a litany of legal lapses in one bill."

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Trudeau's response to Bill 62: "On Wednesday night, Mr. Trudeau told us by Twitter that his views haven't changed. 'My views have always been known, and it's where I'll always be,' he tweeted, along with a link to a video of a 43-minute speech he gave on March 9, 2015, called Canadian Liberty and the Politics of Fear. But that old chestnut, 'my views on this issue are well-known,' is typically a way for a politician to avoid repeating those views too much at an uncomfortable time. In this case, that uncomfortable time is when a federalist Quebec Premier passes a law that clashes with those views – Bill 62 bars people from receiving public services with their face covered – and just before a by-election in Lac-Saint-Jean, Que."

Taylor Owen (The Globe and Mail) on Facebook and democracy: "Efforts such as the Canadian Election Integrity Initiative represent a shift in the public position of Facebook that should, if it goes further, be welcomed. But it must also be viewed as the action of a private corporation that extracts increasing profits from a de facto public space. We are heading into new and immensely challenging public policy terrain, but what is certain is that the easy and politically expedient relationship between Silicon Valley and government must come to an end."

Michaela Pedersen-Macnab (Policy Options) on climate reform in China: "While the global North has contributed to global emissions for much longer, China has been the largest carbon and greenhouse gas emitter for over a decade. Xi's newly articulated commitment to an ineffectual market-based mechanism that has been half-heartedly used by the other industrialized countries for decades is hardly evidence of leadership. It seems that China is not an innovator but rather a defender of the old guard."