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In 1970, when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister and Justin was not yet born, Canada began diplomatic relations with China.

Both countries marked the anniversary today, but there wasn’t a lot of warmth in the celebrations.

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“The world has changed significantly in the past 50 years, and China has changed significantly as well,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at his midday briefing with reporters, when asked where relations were headed.

It’s been nearly two years since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at a Vancouver airport, following an extradition request from the United States where she is wanted for fraud. In retaliation, Chinese police imprisoned two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – and launched various measures, such as bans on agricultural products.

“We will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China’s approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens alongside other citizens of other countries around the world is not viewed as a successful tactic by them,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, as it happens, had their first consular visit in months this past weekend. The visits had stopped because Chinese authorities said they were concerned about spread of the novel coronavirus. Mr. Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, said he was astonished to hear the details of the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the world and said it sounded like something from an apocalyptic zombie move.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by 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.


The federal government ignored concerns for years about the Public Health Agency of Canada and its ability to handle events like a pandemic, two of Canada’s top medical experts say.

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The Liberal government is also planning to press ahead with new laws to allow municipalities to ban handguns, though it will run into some resistance from provinces: Alberta and Ontario say they are not fans of the policy, and Saskatchewan has passed a provincial law to bar cities there from taking part.

The Conservatives say they want to create a special “anti-corruption” parliamentary committee to continue investigating the Liberal government’s cancelled contract with WE Charity. The special committee could replace the work being done by five other committees, including finance. The NDP had already said the contract should continue to be investigated, but the probes should not tie up so many committees.

SNC-Lavalin CEO Ian Edwards says all levels of government need to move quickly on infrastructure if they want to use it as stimulus to help the pandemic-stricken economy. (He acknowledges SNC-Lavalin would also benefit from infrastructure spending.)

Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob says the Ontario government was “excessive” in ordering cinemas closed in the latest round of public-health restrictions.

Hydro-Québec has spent more than US$8-million to influence a referendum in Maine that has to do with building transmission lines from Quebec to the New England power grid. The Canadian utility is facing criticism that its actions are amounting to foreign interference in a U.S. election. It’s not the only one: a Denver-based company owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board recently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to elect pro-fracking Republicans in Colorado.

B.C.'s party leaders are participating in a debate tonight ahead of the province’s election on Oct. 24. BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson was criticized over the weekend for not intervening when a colleague made sexist remarks at a virtual fundraiser last month.

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Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party says it will cut 11,000 jobs at Alberta Health Services in a bid to save money. The provincial government says frontline workers, such as nurses, will be spared, but other jobs will be outsourced.

Senate confirmation hearings continue for Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. President Donald Trump’s new nominee for the Supreme Court. She mostly declined to give her views on topics like abortion and Obamacare.

And the American southwest is a battleground region in this fall’s election, due to shifting demographics and some voters' exasperation with President Trump’s divisive policies. “The state of the country right now is kind of weird,” one voter (who supported Mr. Trump in 2016) told The Globe.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the NDP’s push to raise taxes on the wealthy: “As a money raiser, wealth taxes don’t quite live up to that hype: The NDP’s tax proposals would bring in billions, but not tens of billions, and nothing like the sums needed to cover this year’s $343-billion deficit. Yet the other justification – fairness – has the potential to be a political winner for the NDP. Tax fairness is in the eye of the beholder, and a sizable portion of Canadians feel something is unjust.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on Alberta’s recent announcement on diversifying its economy: “But have no doubt, in tandem with that green-branded plan to become a centre for the repurposing and recycling of old plastic, Alberta also wants to get involved in much more new plastic-making. It wants to leverage its massive natural gas reserves (plastics are almost always made with chemicals derived from fossil fuels) to expand its already significant petrochemical sector.”

William A. Macdonald (The Globe and Mail) on Alberta, Quebec and achieving national unity: “Alberta and Quebec are similar in often being very much unto themselves. Quebec feels strongly about itself for reasons of language, ethnicity and history. Alberta feels distinct – and often alienated – for socio-cultural reasons, and has long complained about the rest of the country taking financial advantage of it.”

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Diane Francis (National Post) on Trump’s next few weeks: “History reveals that as power ebbs desperate leaders undertake desperate actions. Some monarchs have launched wars and Nero watched Rome burn, as the legend goes. And in the most powerful democracy today, there’s rising concern about an erratic President Donald Trump who thrashes around in a worrisome manner as his polling support sags.”

Margaret MacMillan (The Globe and Mail) on our polarized politics and how civil wars erupt: “Civil war is not inevitable even in deeply divided societies, but one danger point is reached when the rhetoric becomes more exaggerated, to claim: ‘We are noble and virtuous; they are base and evil.’ As Yugoslavia started its downward trajectory, the extreme Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats took to calling the Bosnian Muslims Turks to suggest they were strangers in the land. It is easy to dehumanize opponents by calling them vermin, insects or diseases that are poisoning the body politic. We heard such language in Rwanda and are hearing it today used against the Rohingya in Myanmar. Donald Trump calls Mexican migrants rapists or drug dealers, or labels COVID-19 the ‘China virus’ to suggest that it is alien and un-American. And as the language becomes more violent, contemplating violence itself becomes easier.”

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