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Politics Briefing: B.C. sues opioid makers for role in crisis while calling on other provinces to join

Good morning,

British Columbia’s government is laying the opioid crisis at the foot of a collection of drug makers, distributors and markets, who the government alleges spent 20 years deceiving the public about the true harms of their products.

The province has filed a lawsuit that targets not only drug manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, but it also takes aim at retail giants that sold the drugs. The goal is to recover public-health costs associated with an opioid epidemic that has killed thousands of Canadians.

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The lawsuit is the first of its kind by a government in Canada and B.C. is asking other provinces to join. The legal strategy is modelled after similar cases filed against tobacco companies, a technique also pioneered by B.C.

When it comes to Purdue, whose OxyContin has been implicated in triggering the opioid crisis, the province is pointing to a settlement the company reached in the United states in 2007. Purdue and three top executives paid US$634.5-million to settle criminal and civil charges.

Purdue’s Canadian operation has not made a similar admission of wrongdoing in this country and the allegations in the lawsuit haven’t been tested in court. The company issued a statement yesterday that said it’s “deeply concerned about the opioid crisis, in British Columbia, and right across Canada.”

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa 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. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

The Federal Court of Appeal is set to issue a pivotal ruling this morning that could determine the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. More than a dozen cases from First Nations, environmental groups and local governments were combined into a single lawsuit challenging the federal government’s approval of the project. The ruling could hinge on a range of issues including Indigenous consultation, oil spill preventing, and the impact on threatened killer whales.

Canadian officials say there is a very real possibility that North American free-trade agreement talks could finally wrap up by Friday. The negotiations were kicked off after U.S. President Donald Trump came to office more than a year and a half ago. Canadian officials tell The Globe one of the major sticking points is still Chapter 19, a dispute resolution process. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland are scheduled to hold a conference call with Canada’s premiers this afternoon to update them on the talks.

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Calls are growing for Parliament to revoke the honorary citizenship it granted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of her regime’s brutal treatment of the Rohingya people. The government says revocation wouldn’t make its diplomatic efforts to help the crisis any easier.

And Facebook says it will finally start collecting sales tax for some Canadian companies that advertise on its social-media platforms.

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on NAFTA and Mexico: “To say that Canada has been out-negotiated up to this point is an understatement. But Mexico’s ability to strike a deal shows that, from the outset, it understood much better than Canada what the Trump administration needed in any new agreement.” (subscribers)

Martha Hall Findlay (The Globe and Mail) on NAFTA and supply management: “Canada has a chance, right now, to fix a big problem, and finally do what is right – not because Donald Trump says so – but because it’s the right thing to do for Canada. The immediate opportunity is that if, in the process, we can play off Mr. Trump’s concerns about dairy to obtain much-needed leverage for other sectors – such as autos, steel, aluminum, softwood – then it is a win-win for Canada.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on NAFTA and Mike Pence: “But despite his low profile Mr. Pence is a more powerful figure than people give him credit for. For starters, it’s important to have him on board because, given the instability of the Trump presidency, there’s a good chance he might end up occupying the White House.”

Michael Adams (The Globe and Mail) on Maxime Bernier’s new party: “The calculus for knitting together a critical mass of seats for a meaningful presence in Parliament is difficult to see.”

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Veldon Coburn (Maclean’s) on economics for Indigenous communities: “The fundamental laws of economics, after all, do not apply in the relations between the colonizer and the colonized. The poverty of Indigenous communities is contrived by the colonial state, not the neat market-clearing results expected from neoclassical economic theory.”

Andrew Coyne (National Post) on citizenship: “We talk a lot of white privilege or male privilege, but the biggest single advantage anyone can have, the advantage we all share, is to live in Canada. The worst-off among us has a better shot at a decent life than all but a minority of the population in many countries. Yet this crucial determinant of life chances is itself allotted more or less by chance — The Birthright Lottery, to quote the title of University of Toronto law professor Ayelet Shachar’s 2009 book. Born here: you’re in, as of right. Arrive here the day after you’re born: tough beans. Join the queue with the rest.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on John McCain: “Rather, it was his approach to politics – his rejection of cynicism, his straightforward love of country and his refusal to think along tribal lines – that made him a beacon.”

Help The Globe monitor political ads on Facebook: During an election campaign, you can expect to see a lot of political ads. But Facebook ads, unlike traditional media, can be targeted to specific users and only be seen by certain subsets of users, making the ads almost impossible to track. The Globe and Mail wants to report on how these ads are used, but we need to see the same ads Facebook users are seeing. Here is how you can help.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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