Politics Briefing

November 20, 2018

Politics Briefing: accusation of breaking election rules
Politics Briefing: accusation of breaking election rules - Also, diplomats speak out, provincial and federal Tories wrap up weekend convention and Middle East realpolitiks

Michael Snider

Good morning, I’m Michael Snider, sitting in today for Chris Hannay, who’s back tomorrow.

It’s been a busy weekend of federal and provincial news, but first we look at a brewing kerfuffle in Ottawa around election campaigning: The Liberals and the NDP are accusing the Conservative Party of using a wealthy Toronto developer to skirt federal election laws by indirectly raising money and recruiting volunteers without having to make any declarations to Elections Canada. The accusation centres around Ted Jiancheng Zhou, a former Liberal Party donor, who has set up 10 non-profit organizations aimed at helping the Conservatives win support within the Chinese-Canadian community.

As Robert Fife, Steven Chase and Xiao Xu report from Ottawa, Liberal MP Marco Mendicino and NDP MP Nathan Cullen said the organizations set up by Mr. Zhou appear to be directly linked to the Conservative Party. They say any funds or recruitment should be considered contributions to political parties.

“Whether we’re talking about this event in particular or what appears to be an emerging pattern, it should be deeply concerning to Canadians that the Conservative Party of Canada appear to be systematically setting up parallel political arms through what appears to be political action committees for the purpose of circumventing our election laws,” Mr. Mendicino said in an interview.

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Canadian political financing rules restrict donations to parties or candidates to $1,575 a year and consider provisions of services or goods without charge to be non-monetary contributions subject to the same limits.

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About a year and a half ago, several staff and family members at the Canadian embassy in Havana, Cuba -- eight adults and four children -- reported experiencing severe concussion symptoms, including gushing nosebleeds, fits of nausea, incapacitating headaches and mental impairment. Around the same time, staff at the U.S. embassy were targeted as well. But while the Americans have been outspoken in speculating that the brain injuries were caused by some mysterious energy-weapon attacks by a foreign power, Canada has kept comparatively quiet. Now, as Doug Saunders reports, members of the diplomatic community are upset and speaking out about how they perceive the Canadian government is dealing with their case. They fear Canada is more concerned with lobbying for a U.N. Security Council seat, to which Cuba is considered a vital influencer, rather than with its own diplomats.

Over the weekend, the provincial Progressive Conservatives gathered for their annual party convention and The Globe’s Laura Stone was there. Ontario Premier Doug Ford used his opening night speech to promise to balance the province’s budget and broadened his attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. On Saturday, federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer kept up with the theme, calling commuters, seniors and hockey moms the “enemy” of Mr. Trudeau’s carbon tax.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be digging in for a fight in the face of mounting international criticism over his alleged role in ordering the assassination of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. While Saudi Arabia continues to exert pressure on Qatar, lead a coalition against Yemeni rebels and battle Iraq for regional supremacy, they’re also threatening to cut oil production as a means to showcase their economic clout by driving up pump prices in the West. Mark MacKinnon has wide-ranging look at Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince and the realpolitik of Middle East relations.

The Liberals are facing pressure to legislate an end to rotating strikes at Canada Post after a weekend of back-and-forth contract proposals failed to end the labour strife. Late Saturday, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers rejected a contract offer, submitted a counter-proposal and called for Ottawa to appoint a new mediator. A spokeswoman for Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday the government “will consider all options" to reach a solution.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister of International Development who oversees Canada’s foreign aid, is struggling over whether to join the growing movement to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Tanzania for its jailing of opposition MPs and its threats to arrest people who are gay. Geoffrey York reports from South Africa, Canada is one of the biggest donors to Tanzania.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Russia will target Canadian voters with cyberattacks and fake news in the 2019 federal election as they step up their efforts to undermine Western democracies. He made the comments at a defence and security conference in Halifax over the weekend. Military experts, officers and politicians from democracies from around the world focused a lot on cyberwarfare.

“Co-operation” may be part of APEC’s name (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) but you wouldn’t have known from the photo promoting the opening of the organization’s annual summit over the weekend, CBC reports. There was China, front and centre and no U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. It highlights the diverging roles of China, driving its agenda, and the increasingly isolated United States.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Congressional ratification of the USMCA: “The step the Canadian government will be eager to complete is the actual signing of the agreement by all three governments. That’s because the side agreements in which the U.S. gives guarantees that it wont apply Section 232 tariffs on the auto industry go into effect when the deal is signed − even if it is not ratified.”

David Shribman (The Globe and Mail) on U.S. political divide: “Americans may have not abandoned their commitment to democracy, but perhaps not since the Great Depression and the rise of the European dictators in the 1930s have they been so vocal with their qualms about its survival. This is a moment – indeed, this is a month – when claims about the gradual destruction of democracy are being flung across the airwaves, in the public prints and in conversations from coast to coast, with unusual ferocity and passion.”

Editorial (The Globe and Mail) on Cash for access: “Politicians never learn from their predecessors' mistakes. Take Ontario Premier Doug Ford. His Progressive Conservative government announced last week that it plans to raise the maximum annual donation to political parties from $1,200 to $1,600 by 2020, and to repeal a law banning MPPs from attending fundraisers. Mr. Ford is effectively bringing back the cash-for-access era of his province’s recent past. Although the final details are not yet known, there is no indication there will be any sort of reporting or other check on a regime that allows parties to trade donations for face-time with cabinet ministers.”

Niall Ferguson (The Globe and Mail) on Brexit: “As I have long argued, the British people’s majority vote in the June, 2016 referendum was a vote for divorce. It more closely resembles King Henry VIII’s decision in 1532 to leave the Roman Catholic fold, with the electorate now in the role of the king.”

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reader comments

From the comments: Readers react to Ottawa’s silence over brain-injured Cuba diplomats -

Today, readers are responding to Doug Saunders' reporting on Canada’s brain-injured Cuba diplomats, who are speaking out about Ottawa’s silence. The diplomats say duty of care for their concussion-like injuries has been trumped by the federal government’s political interests

The Canadian embassy in Havana is seen earlier this year. Canada's brain-injured diplomats and their affected families were removed from Havana between June, 2017, and the summer of 2018

The diplomatic corps have to protected like Veterans. Especially in troubled zones. I get it, Trudeau feels a closeness to Cuba from his family’s friendship with the ruling elite in Havana (the Castros), but the Liberals need to step up. - Sheryl8

“They are afraid of upsetting Cuba because of Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat,” one diplomat said. Canada is in the midst of an intensive lobbying campaign to win a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2021-22. Cuba is considered vital to such UN votes as it holds influence over many African and Latin American UN member states. Justin Trudeau is also friends with the Castro clan and has always held them in high regard as he has said on several occasions. I guess some totalitarian regimes aren't as bad as others. Anything for a UN seat. - outsider22

Instead of complaining about this, we need to find out what the causal factors are. It’s obvious Trudeau is trying to keep this silent for his political reasons, that doesn’t surprise anybody. I just find it hard to believe the Americans and Canadians can’t ascertain the causes and whether the Cubans behind this, and if so why? - Mike5

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