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Politics Politics Briefing: Detained Canadians formally arrested in China

Good morning,

Canada’s already tense relationship with China is in danger of getting worse after two Canadians detained there were formally arrested for state secrets-related crimes.

China says it “officially arrested” Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor after holding them incommunicado for months. The detention of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor has been widely seen as retaliation for the Dec. 1, 2018 arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

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“Canada strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on Dec. 10,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement. “We reiterate our demand that China immediately release Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.”

The two men were arrested “recently,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang. He would not comment on where the men are being held or whether they have been provided access to a lawyer.

He said they have been “accused” of wrongdoing rather than formally indicted. The offences he described are, in the most serious of cases, punishable by death.

“All of the measures we have taken with the two Canadian citizens … are lawful, and the prosecutorial department’s decision to arrest them is also lawful,” Mr. Lu said.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Donald Trump has granted a full pardon to former Canadian media baron Conrad Black, a long-time friend and one-time business partner who has written a biography and numerous columns lauding the U.S. President.

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President Trump signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and giving his government the authority to ban U.S. companies from doing business with foreign telecommunications suppliers that pose a security threat – a measure aimed at China’s Huawei Technologies.

China slammed the decision to put telecom equipment giant Huawei on a blacklist and said it will take steps to protect its companies, in a further test of ties as the economic heavyweights clash over trade.

Canada is closing in on an agreement with the Trump administration to lift American steel and aluminum tariffs and end the countries’ nearly year-old trade war.

The world’s largest social-media companies joined Canada and more than a dozen other countries in signing onto a global pledge to take stronger action to prevent the spread of violent extremism online.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says he supported the chief of defence staff’s decision to suspend Vice-Admiral Mark Norman in 2017, more than a year before he was charged with breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets about military procurement.

Mr. Trump’s Middle East envoy says he welcomes Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s commitment to move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the Israeli capital if elected later this year.

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Federal politicians are condemning a video of an RCMP officer conducting an “abhorrent” interrogation of an Indigenous teen who reported she’d been sexually assaulted.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel have announced the creation of a special appointment process for Quebec judges on the Supreme Court.

Newfoundland and Labrador heads to the polls today to decide whether to give Liberal Dwight Ball a second term or bet on Progressive Conservative Ches Crosbie. It’s been a bad year for incumbents in provincial elections as five provinces have changed governments.

‘A propaganda machine’: How Doug Ford’s government skirts media with Ontario News Now.

B.C.’s Transportation Ministry says there is nothing that would force the province to contract with SNC-Lavalin or Bombardier to build new SkyTrain rapid-transit lines in Metro Vancouver because those companies don’t have any patents on the needed components for the system.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Trudeau and tariffs: “Mr. Trudeau’s government is now close to what it really wants – a deal to lift those tariffs. That would bring a sigh of relief from the industries and nervous workers. It would allow him to claim that he beat back Trump administration tariffs to protect jobs. It’s a gift from Mexico he can take into an election campaign.”

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Minxin Pei (The Globe and Mail) on the U.S. and China: “The latest failure to reach a trade deal suggests that the U.S.-China cold war is escalating to the next stage. Sooner or later, the Trump administration will realize that it actually needs the support of its allies to prevail against the Chinese. When that day comes, it would do well to abandon talk of civilizational conflict and racial rivalry, and instead offer a morally justifiable case for confronting China. The United States is the traditional defender of the liberal order. It needs to start acting like it.”

Andrew Coyne (National Post) on climate, carbon taxes and the fall election: “I say this as a fully paid-up subscriber to the orthodoxy on carbon pricing. For the Tories to win by pretending either nothing need be done on climate change or that nobody needs to pay for it would confirm all of one’s worst suspicions about Canadian politics. But cheap oil was a winning strategy in 1980 and I fear it may well be again in 2019.”

Éric Grenier (CBC News) on the shifting political landscape: “Of course, Canada’s economy is not now in the depths of a Great Depression. Unemployment currently stands at 5.7 per cent, while estimates put unemployment almost as high as 30 per cent during the Depression. But some of the former premiers who have recently become unemployed themselves — Philippe Couillard in Quebec, for example — were canned despite healthy provincial economies. In short, we appear to be living through a Great Disruption in Canadian politics. It might not be over yet.”

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