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Politics Politics Briefing: Liberal-dominated ethics committee quashes further SNC testimony

Hello,

While the opposition parties successfully joined forces to call a meeting of the House of Commons ethics committee yesterday, the Liberal-dominated body voted down a proposal to hear from Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion and other witnesses to further probe the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The Conservatives and NDP had wanted Mr. Dion to explain findings from his report last week. In the report, Mr. Dion said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had violated the federal conflict-of-interest law, and concluded that Mr. Trudeau improperly put pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was attorney-general to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin criminal case.

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However, even with Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith breaking ranks to vote with the opposition (he said he wanted the Ethics Commissioner to explain how "he got this analysis so completely, completely wrong”), the vote was 5-4 against.

Opposition MPs accused the Liberals of a cover-up. “In all my years of Parliament, I have sat many years on the ethics committee, under the wild and woolly days of Stephen Harper, throughout the years of Justin Trudeau: I have never seen an effort to restrict the ability of an officer of Parliament from reporting to the ethics committee,” NDP MP Charlie Angus said.

From Campbell Clark on why the Liberals want nothing more than to keep the SNC-Lavalin affair off the front pages: “[The Liberals] were governed by a political law about news cycles, and the notion that the longer your scandal stays in them, the worse it is for you. They don’t want more questions.”

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Michael Snider, pinch-hitting today for Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Ottawa this morning for meetings with Mr. Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. The discussions, which are expected to last until approximately 1 p.m., will centre on Canada-U.S. co-operation on a number of domestic and international issues, including China, Hong Kong, Venezuela and ratifying the new North American trade agreement. Mr. Pompeo will take questions from media in the early afternoon, which we will cover. But look for news later this afternoon from The Globe’s Steven Chase, who has a one-on-one with Mr. Pompeo after the press briefing. The visit comes two days before leaders will meet for the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, on Saturday and Sunday.

In a speech yesterday at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Trudeau asserted his government’s will to defend Canadians against an increasingly assertive China just a day after China issued an unusually direct rebuke to Canada about comments related to the Hong Kong protests. China’s admonition singled out Ms. Freeland for a joint statement she made with the European Union last weekend on the mass protests in Hong Kong. Mr. Trudeau said Canada will continue to engage in dialogue with the Asian power, but it won’t stop standing up for fundamental freedoms. "… We must recognize that China is a growing power and increasingly assertive toward its place in the international order. But make no mistake: We will always defend Canadians and Canadian interests,” he said.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced yesterday the federal government is giving $3-million to the WE Charity, which supports young Canadians developing socially conscious businesses though skills building, mentorship and financial support. Mr. Morneau was joined by charity co-founder Craig Kielburger, who said the money will help create 200 “youth-led enterprises” that address social issues at a community level.

Yesterday, the federal and Northwest Territories governments signed an agreement with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, formally establishing the 14,000-square-kilometre Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve and the 12,000-square-kilometre Thaidene Nene territorial protected area, a move the northern First Nation says is an example of the government charting a new path with Indigenous people.

The Ontario government is going to court to prevent the release of Premier Doug Ford’s mandate letters to his cabinet ministers. Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, Brian Beamish, ordered the government to disclose the letters by Aug. 16, arguing the documents don’t reveal any government secrets. The Ford government maintains the mandate letters are cabinet documents and are exempt from disclosure.

South Korea says it will scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, an arrangement designed to share information on the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear activities, in the wake of continuing political and trade disputes between the two countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump is under fire from Asian-Americans after reports surfaced that he mocked the accents of the leaders of South Korea and Japan at a recent fundraiser. Mr. Trump has been accused of using racist rhetoric to fire up his conservative base ahead of the 2020 election. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 11 million Asian-Americans of voting age.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Trump cancelling a state visit to Denmark after its government refused to discuss the sale of Greenland: “As Mr. Trump offends one ally after another after another – calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “weak" and “dishonest” last year because he wouldn’t cave in NAFTA trade negotiations; questioning the importance of NATO; offending the Japanese and South Koreans while cozying up to North Korea – those allies must be wondering how much of this the Western alliance can take before the damage becomes too great.”

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Editorial (The New York Times) on Trump, Greenland and Denmark: “That the President of the United States would demonstrate such willful ignorance of how the world works, that he would treat a territory and its independent people like goods and chattel, that he would so readily damage relations with an old and important ally out of petty pique, is frightening.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Jack Letts is an inconvenient Canadian for Justin Trudeau: “Mr. Trudeau made good on his promise to repeal the law enabling the denaturalization of dual citizens convicted of certain crimes, including terrorism. But since then, his government has tiptoed around the question of what to do about dozens of Canadian nationals who went to Syria to join the Islamic State, some of whom have ended up in Kurdish-run prisons.”

Aurel Braun (The Globe and Mail): on the G7 summit and the dark cloud of Russia: “With a policy of preventing but not provoking, [G7 countries] should make clear to Russia that they present no threat, but are resolute in resisting Russian military adventures or political interference.”

Andrew Coyne (The National Post) on election laws and Elections Canada: “If Elections Canada has been put in this uncomfortable position, it is not the agency’s fault for applying the law as it is written. The fault, rather, lies with the law.”

Barbara Wesel (Deutsche Welle) on how Salvini’s lust for power puts Italy on the brink: “Matteo Salvini is the most shameless and unscrupulous politician Italy has produced in recent decades. He beats Silvio Berlusconi, for whom decency and restraint were also foreign concepts.”

Sonia Sodha (The Guardian) on how Parliament can block a no-deal Brexit – if it can just agree on how: “[Boris] Johnson is wrong that Parliament can’t block no-deal. As much as he might wish it away, we still live in a parliamentary democracy, in which Parliament is sovereign. But we remain stuck in the position that while there’s a majority of MPs who don’t want no-deal to happen, they can’t agree on the constructive action that would be needed to stop it.”

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