Hope you’ve had a restful seven weeks, because after an extended winter break the House of Commons is back in session today.
It’s the final sitting of the House before the election scheduled for this fall, so everything that happens over the next five months will be seen through that lens.
The upcoming Liberal budget will have some pre-election goodies (something on affordable housing is a safe bet), and a few bills still need to be passed, but the Liberals say a pair of not-yet-tabled bills on Indigenous issues are what they are looking forward to. The most contentious piece of legislation that still hasn’t passed is C-69, now at committee in the Senate, which overhauls rules for the environmental assessments of big projects.
Opposition motions on the order paper give a strong indication of what the Conservatives will be demanding of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week and beyond: balance the budget; cancel carbon pricing; ban Chinese telecom Huawei from the 5G network; and fire John McCallum. (Mr. Trudeau obliged them on the last point this weekend.)
And for the New Democrats, the biggest action is outside the House: they are staking everything on getting leader Jagmeet Singh a seat in Parliament in next month’s Burnaby South by-election.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. 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.
Mr. Trudeau fired his ambassador to China, former cabinet minister John McCallum, over the weekend. (More on Mr. McCallum here.) The dismissal was the culmination of a difficult time in Canada-China relations in the past two months, which started with the Canadian arrest of a Chinese businesswoman so she could face extradition to the U.S. A senior government official told The Globe the move against Mr. McCallum was done because the ambassador was not being helpful in building a coalition of countries that would back Canada in its dispute with China. Mr. Trudeau has called a number of world leaders in recent weeks to get their support for the plight of two Canadians arrested in China, including the leaders of Spain, France and Germany, as well as discussing the issue with the secretary-general of the United Nations.
The Liberal government seems on track to meet its goal of ending boil-water advisories on reserves, but a Globe and Mail investigation shows that doesn’t mean the water is as safe as it could be.
In a town hall on Friday, Mr. Trudeau accused online giants like Facebook of not doing enough to bolster democracy as they make “extraordinary profits that do not go toward the defence of our democracy by our journalists, but rather in the pockets of big companies that do not see this social responsibility as being primary for them.”
How many Canadians are killed on the job? How many Canadians are getting married or divorced? How often are Canadians evicted from their homes? The answer to all those questions is, surprisingly: We don’t know. Canada has a number of data gaps, information not tracked by the government that would be helpful for businesses and possibly improve our health. The Globe and Mail is running a series on the problem, which kicked off on Saturday.
And in the U.S., the field of candidates to be the Democratic candidate running for president against Donald Trump in 2020 is getting crowded. Kamala Harris, a first-term senator from California and former state attorney-general, launched her campaign on the weekend. “We know what the doubters will say,” she told a crowd in Oakland, Calif. “They’ll say wait your turn. They’ll say the odds are long. They’ll say it can’t be done. But America’s story has always been written by people who can see what can be, unburdened by what has been.” Of course, there is also the Canadian connection: Ms. Harris went to high school in Montreal.
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the firing of ambassador John McCallum: “Typically, an incumbent PM has the advantage of being the one who walks with world leaders. His team gets to contrast him to U.S. President Donald Trump. Mr. Scheer claims Mr. Trudeau caved to Mr. Trump in the renegotiation of NAFTA, but many folks credit the PM with fending off Mr. Trump’s pressure to get a virtual draw. But moments of memorable bumbling undermine that. And last week, the government took a difficult dispute with China and made it worse.”
John Higginbotham, a former Canadian diplomat in China, on the historical relationship: “There was real progress in China’s evolution during the 1980s from a rogue, revolutionary regime facing Soviet invasion to a far more developed and – in some important ways – liberal and market-driven society. But there were warning signs from the very beginning about China’s unique approach to international economic relations, but not enough to blunt the momentum of Canada’s opening. I failed to highlight these risks, as have almost all other so-called China experts working.”
Paul Wells (Maclean’s) on the past few years: “If I’m right that Trudeau and his refreshingly old-fashioned foreign minister Chrystia Freeland have decided that buying peace isn’t always worth the cost, then McCallum really has been misspeaking. If so, it’s not so much that he’s been using the wrong verb tense or adjectival clause, but the wrong year. McCallum went to Beijing at the beginning of 2017. By the end of 2017, many of Trudeau’s fondest hopes about China were no longer tenable, if they ever were.”
Ben Rowswell (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s involvement in Venezuela: “Venezuela is living through a crisis as dramatic as 1958, when it became the first Latin American country to reject military dictatorship. This time, a President who presided over a devastating economic collapse and dismantled its democratic system of government has been handed a verdict by his citizens. Even if Russian and Chinese intervention in Venezuela keeps him in power a while longer, history will remember how profoundly his fellow citizens and the majority of Latin America have denounced him. When democracy returns, Venezuelans will remember the countries that stood by them when the chips were down.”
Chris Selley (National Post) on affordable housing: “Rent or own, though, housing won’t get built in the quantities that cities like Vancouver and Toronto desperately need it until policies way down the chain from Ottawa change significantly. And those debates are often just as incoherent as the one in Ottawa. One of the Ontario Liberal government’s last moves was to extend rent control to every unit in the province — a move that overwhelmingly benefited relatively well-to-do people who live in nice rental condos (your correspondent is one of them), and that could only discourage new rental development. And when Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government decreed all new units would henceforth be free of rent control, which could only encourage rental development, most affordable housing advocates howled.”
Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on healthy eating: “But perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the revised food guide is the advice it dispenses on how we eat. Cook more often. Eat meals with others. Enjoy your food. Be mindful. It might sound simplistic, or like Health Canada is trying to launch its own lifestyle blog with these pearls of wisdom. But there is plenty of science to suggest that these recommendations are just as important to combatting diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity — and more — as the foods we consume.”
John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker (The Globe and Mail) on global population numbers: “In a century when most developed countries will see their populations decline, Canada will continue to grow, robustly. In a world where many populations are aging, Canada’s ages more slowly, because the average age of immigrants is seven years younger than the general population.”