The United States government is set to lay out its official objectives for NAFTA renegotiations today, ahead of a process that could dramatically alter the 23-year-old free-trade agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump, who made negotiating -- or even tearing up -- the 23-year-old free-trade agreement a centrepiece of his election campaign, can legally begin renegotiations as of Aug. 16, and Canadian officials say they could start quickly in the following days or weeks. As that process nears, a new opinion poll from Nanos suggests most U.S. businesses think their country’s economy is better off because of free-trade with Canada. Of more than 1,000 businesses and business owners surveyed, 54 per cent said Canadian trade was good for the economy, while 15 per cent said the U.S. is worse off. When asked about NAFTA, which includes Mexico, respondents were less optimistic, with only 45 per cent saying the agreement has left the country in better shape. The NAFTA renegotiations are also expected to loom large over a meeting of Canada’s premiers that begins this week in Edmonton.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by James Keller in Vancouver and Eleanor Davidson and Mayaz Alam in Toronto. 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.
A controversial proposal for a privately run commuter rail network throughout the Ottawa–Gatineau region has a new investor: a Toronto-based condo developer that specializes in attracting Chinese capital. Toronto’s LeMine Investment Group plans to spend $5-million to study the merits of the proposal, which calls for a 400-kilometre regional rail network connecting several small communities in the National Capital District to the downtown core. Moose Consortium Inc. – the group behind the rail plan – expects major international capital will follow if the study goes well.
As First Nations across the country search for ways to stop youth suicides, leaders say broad changes need to be made to how health care is funded and delivered to indigenous communities. Wapekeka First Nations children are five to six times more likely to kill themselves than other Canadian children, and the deaths of young people in several communities recently has increased the urgency of finding a solution. On the Wapekeka First Nation, the suicides of three 12-year-old girls this year has prompted a suicide watch of the community’s young people. More than half a dozen children on the reserve entered into a suicide pact last year, prompting the community to approach Health Canada with a plan to bring in a mental-health team at a cost of about $380,000. But the funding never came. Isadore Day, the Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, says the funding issues that hampered the Wapekeka First Nation are indicative of a system that isn’t able to respond effectively to a youth suicide crisis.
Heritage Canada is spending an extra $9.3-million for some of the federal government’s Canada 150 projects, in part due to lower-than-expected private fundraising. There are 11 “signature” Canada 150 projects — pitched by private companies but funded by Ottawa — still underway that are receiving the additional cash. A spokesman for the heritage minister says the money had already been accounted for. The federal government approved money for a total of 38 signature projects, which represent nearly half of the $200-million Ottawa is spending to recognize the 150th birthday of Confederation.
In B.C., the NDP government of premier-designate John Horgan will be formally sworn in this week, but Mr. Horgan has already made a key appointment that will be crucial to his government’s survival. Donna Sanford will head a taxpayer-funded secretariat in the premier’s office with the sole task of overseeing a power-sharing agreement between the minority New Democrats and third-place Greens. The New Democrats say Ms. Sanford’s job will be to ensure disputes never get to the point of full-blown conflict. The Liberals, who are moving into Opposition after 16 years in government, says the secretariat — whose budget the NDP has not released — is a waste of money.
And the B.C. NDP’s transition into power continues to be overshadowed by a worsening wildfire season, which will require the immediate attention of the new government. Over the weekend, the more than 10,000 residents of Williams Lake were ordered to leave their homes.
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the NAFTA renegotiations: “ Right now, Mr. Trudeau is earning high praise for his skillful handling of the Trump administration. … But if the NAFTA talks fail and the President’s mercantilist moves – currently he’s threatening to impose a tariff on steel imports – bring on or worsen a recession, then Mr. Trudeau will be attacked by the opposition for failing to protect the economy.”
Doug Saunders (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s ghettos: “Canadians do not generally live in ghettos. Few of us, compared to other countries, spend our lives surrounded only by people of the same income, the same ethnicity or the same religion. Among the few exceptions, one group stands out – a community of people who overwhelmingly tend to live in segregated neighbourhoods; who often withdraw their children from the public school system to educate them in their own schools; who have a high likelihood to hire and work for only people from their closed circle; who tend to marry their own kind and whose children are far more likely than members of other communities to live and work strictly within their group. They are, by some measures, the most ghettoized Canadians. To be specific, they are the approximately 350,000 people in families in which at least one adult earns more than $220,000 a year. That is, they are the top 1 per cent.”
Evan Solomon (Maclean's): "Revelations about the government’s apology and reported payment of $10.5 million to Khadr sparked furious reaction that breaks down along political lines. There are the “Never Pay” Conservatives, the “Had to Pay” Liberals and the “Must Pay” NDP."
An unofficial referendum held by Venezuela’s opposition parties on Sunday was boycotted by the country’s government. The three-question ballot was filled out by Venezuelans across the globe, and asked voters if they support Venezuela’s constitution and a transparent electoral process. With more than 7 million votes cast, 98% rejected the new assembly proposed by President Nicolas Maduro and backed a call for elections before 2019. On Sunday, a woman was killed when gunmen fired into a crowd of people at a polling station. Venezuela has been rocked by violence as President Maduro attempts to consolidate power by rewriting the constitution. The United Nations urged Maduro to allow people to cast their ballots, but voters both in Venezuela and abroad were hesitant to participate, for fear of reprisals from armed militias.
For years, the world’s central banks have been pumping world markets with money in an effort to ensure that the global economy regains its footing following The Great Recession. Now that there are signs of stability, in North America and beyond, central bankers are getting ready to tighten monetary policy and preparing themselves for a tight balancing act. In Canada, this has already begun through interest rate hikes but elsewhere, policymakers will have to roll back quantitative easing and negative interest rates.
The Globe’s U.S. Correspondent Joanna Slater profiled Gary Cohn, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser. A registered Democrat who was most recently president of Goldman Sachs, Mr. Cohn has been thought of by some as a moderating influence in a White House that is often dominated by hardliners. He’s also been nicknamed “Globalist Gary” and “Carbon Tax Cohn” for his general support for free trade and globalization as well as a carbon tax.
And meet Harry Leslie Smith, a 94-year-old Second World War veteran who started a podcast to save democracy. Mr. Smith is convinced that today’s youth can solve the myriad of problems that ail the world and he’s hoping to reach them, one podcast at a time.
Globe and Mail editorial board on the death of Liu Xiaobo: “It is incumbent on Canada’s government to make it abundantly clear how Canadians feel about human rights and the treatment of people like Mr. Liu and his wife Liu Xia, held under house arrest for the crime of being married to a dissident. At minimum, Canada must strongly demand that Ms. Liu be given her freedom. Despite the Chinese government’s efforts to suppress Mr. Liu’s courtroom words, they stood as his Nobel acceptance speech in Oslo; an empty chair was set on the stage to symbolize his imprisonment.”
Joshua Green (The New York Times) on the evolution of conservative American media: “Over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News. The Breitbart mind-set — pugnacious, besieged, paranoid and determined to impose its own framework on current events regardless of facts — has moved from the right-wing fringe to the center of Republican politics.”
Bruce Mabley (Maclean’s) on Syria’s temporary calm: “The ceasefire agreement shows that the Obama administration’s failed Syria policy of “leading from behind” is a thing of the past. More American military personnel, arms and equipment have now been complemented by a show of power in Syria. The ceasefire now provides space for American diplomacy to move in, which could be bad news for Russia and Iran.”
Roland Paris (The Globe and Mail) on beyond the White House: “Whether these efforts will ultimately protect Canada from an unpredictable president remains to be seen, but given the potential costs of any significant disruption in Canada-U.S. economic relations, expanding and activating Canada’s network of influential allies – not just in Washington, but also at the state and local levels – only makes sense. This will be particularly important as NAFTA negotiations get under way later this year.”
Follow us on Twitter: