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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in an end of session news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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The Liberals’ 2019

Your editorial, A Rocky Year Ahead For The Liberals (Dec. 29), suggested that the Liberal government renegotiated the North American trade agreement with the protectionist U.S. President Donald Trump, and “didn’t give up much in the process.”

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Several USMCA provisions are materially adverse to Canada. We gained no clarity in current disputes involving pipelines, softwood lumber or tariffs on aluminum and steel. Americans gained significant concessions for their traditional industries, including dairy and automotive.

The U.S. weaponized uncertainty by requiring a mandatory six-year review cycle, which chills the investment climate for Canada. The U.S. gained powerful new provisions called “soft law,” which allow it to reach broadly into Canada’s domestic economic management, including our future trade deals, macroeconomic management, and regulatory autonomy, including health care, e-commerce, dairy etc. In several new provisions, including in Chapter 19, the U.S. advanced its intangibles economy with provisions on IP and data in ways that irrevocably weaken the future prospects of Canadian innovators and impact our sovereignty.

Whether Canada’s government did well in a difficult situation is worth debating, but Canada’s economic and sovereignty concessions in USMCA seriously diminish our future, putting Canada on a path of becoming Puerto Rico without a passport.

Jim Balsillie, businessman, philanthropist, Waterloo, Ont.

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From my perspective, your editorialists lean further left with each passing day. They may have crossed the line by stating that Justin Trudeau has had a decent year. Elections, sadly, have evolved into mandates on leaders. Mr. Trudeau won because the country was sick of Stephen Harper. Look for the Liberals to try to run against Mr. Harper again – in the way their Ontario cousins did, comparing Doug Ford to Mike Harris.

Mr. Trudeau’s approval rating plummeted in 2018. Here’s hoping the Liberal strategy works federally as well as it did in Ontario.

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J.C. Henry, Mississauga

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Your editorial offered a lengthy rundown of Liberal Party accomplishments (the economy, NAFTA negotiations, pot legalization), then brought up the pipeline problem – which the Harper government made little attempt to solve – and Justin Trudeau’s ill-advised and minor trip to India.

You criticized Mr. Trudeau’s personality (condescending and vague) for “dividing Canadians into different camps,” as if they were not already divided. Compared to the Liberals’ accomplishments for Canada, the criticisms you raised are much less important for the country.

Your editorial reminds me of your approach just before the last federal election, when you listed all of Stephen Harper’s considerable faults – and then failed to endorse Mr. Trudeau, or Mr. Harper for that matter (The Tories Deserve Another Mandate – Stephen Harper Doesn’t; Oct. 16, 2015).

Reductio ad absurdum.

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Oliver Irwin, Vancouver

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You suggest Justin Trudeau’s visit to India “came across as an ego trip.” If ego was involved, would that be a Canadian ego, with a small “e,” or the capital “E” Ego on display 24/7 in Washington?

H.W. MacFadyen, Canmore, Alta.

Own-goal diplomacy

Re On Foreign Policy, Canada Is Back – Up Against A Wall, That Is (Dec. 31): Lawrence Herman tells us “Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Foreign Minister, is denied entry to [Russia], a situation without precedent.” Ms. Freeland was banned from Russia in 2014. She was named Foreign Minister in 2017. What is “unprecedented” is naming a person to that critical portfolio who isn’t free to travel to one of the most important world capitals. Whatever political message was intended by the Freeland appointment, in practical terms it has been the diplomatic equivalent of an own goal. We need less grandstanding and more diplomacy from our government.

Dieter Neumann, Kemble, Ont.

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Apparently, we don’t see the writing on the wall until our back is to it. Let us hope that this is true, despite the complex and gloomy outlook on Canada’s international challenges outlined by Lawrence Herman.

Jim Sanders, Guelph, Ont.

Peril, opportunity

Re Trump Faces Both Opportunity, Peril In 2019 (Dec. 29): David Shribman says to win re-election, Donald Trump needs to become a “magus of tranquility” vis-á-vis China, global markets, Russia, North Korea, and the Islamic State. “That’s a tall order but not beyond the reach of a deft hand.”

Deft hand? Mr. Trump?

Mr. Shribman also conjures up a scenario whereby gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi may “provide the President with a boost as he cruises toward” re-election.

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This is a perverse fantasy. There will be no “cruising” in 2019.

Ronald Beiner, professor, political science, University of Toronto

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As the Canadian military liaison officer (2014) to the U.S. Army’s deployment to Jordan, I experienced firsthand the emerging conflict and the initial growth and success of IS.

Syria is an unwinnable war, a conflict without a “good” side. Bashar al-Assad, a murderous dictator who has killed upward of one million of his citizens in an effort to maintain power for his family and the Alawite minority, is supported by a Russia that covets a permanent, all-weather Mediterranean port.

Facing Mr. Assad is a highly fragmented opposition composed of dozens of competing groups, each with its own agenda and view of a post-Assad Syria. While a few are pro-democracy and pro-West, most seek to create a Sharia-law-based state.

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If Mr. Assad wins, he will continue his murderous ways. If the opposition wins, Syria will become a Western-hating Islamic nation in the mould of Iran or a Taliban-led Afghanistan.

The U.S. President faces a no-win situation brought on in part by America’s failure to act decisively in 2012, when Mr. Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against fellow Syrians. Withdrawing U.S. troops from this mess is the correct move, saving lives and national treasure.

David Morgan, Lieutenant-Colonel (retired), Ottawa

Conversational brambles

Re Not To Be Discussed (letters, Dec. 31): Contrary to your correspondent, when I was growing up I was taught, by example, to express myself – about anything really – but particularly about the politics of the day. This led to the art of discussion and expression, and acceptance of the opinions of others, as well as the downright joy of lively conversations.

How will you ever get to know someone if you exclude sex, religion, money and politics from conversations? As for the claim these exclusions foster “the art of conversation,” it’s been my experience that people who exclude them tend to stumble around in the conversational brambles of weather, restaurants and movies. Yawn. After all, very few of us can showcase the wit of an Oscar Wilde or a George Bernard Shaw.

Frances Masefield, Toronto

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