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Good morning and happy Friday,

The auto industry has long been a sticking point in NAFTA talks. But a breakthrough could be coming soon. The U.S. is nearing a deal with Mexico to raise wages in the sector, in hopes of pushing more auto manufacturing jobs north of the border. Mexico is close to accepting a U.S. demand that 40 to 45 per cent of the content of all vehicles built in the NAFTA zone must come from factories that pay at least $US16 an hour, a sharp uptick from the roughly US$4 an hour that auto workers in Mexico currently earn. Mexico has asked for a 10-year phase-in for this provision but may ultimately agree to a five-year grace period. The potential agreement on auto wages has come with Canada away from the negotiating table as the U.S. and Mexico work through issues that primarily affect them. Once the points of contention between the U.S. and Mexico are resolved, Canadian officials expect to be brought in to address trilateral matters. Renegotiation of the trade deal has gone on for nearly a year but analysts are hopeful that a resolution could be coming soon, with one former trade negotiator based in Mexico City even seeing “the possibility of having an agreement done before the end of the month.”

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Even though the diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and Canada continues to persist, the kingdom’s Energy Minister says that oil sales to Canadians won’t be disrupted, signalling that there are limits to how far Riyadh will go in the dispute. Khalid al-Falih said “the kingdom’s petroleum supplies to countries around the world are not to be impacted by political considerations.” Fifteen per cent of Canada’s oil imports in 2017 were from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has taken several measures since Canada criticized the regime’s human-rights abuses, including expelling the Canadian ambassador, freezing new trade and investment in Canada and withdrawing students as well as medical patients.

Canada’s border agency is preparing to educate the public about the risks of travelling after marijuana is legal – but that won’t include questions about crossing into the United States. Immigration lawyers have warned that Canadians crossing the border who work in the cannabis industry or admit to ever having consumed marijuana could be facing permanent restrictions on travel to the United States. But documents obtained through Access to Information legislation show the Canada Border Services Agency will focus solely on travellers coming into Canada and warning travellers not to take cannabis across the border.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear a case involving the anonymous sources who blew the lid open on Quebec’s corruption scandal, which ultimately led to fraud charges against the province’s former deputy premier. Canada’s highest court will rule on the case between Radio-Canada reporter Marie-Maude Denis vs. Marc-Yvan Côté, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, in the first test of Ottawa’s 2017 Journalistic Sources Protection Act.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he opposes a handgun ban in Toronto but pledged $25-million over four years to tackle gun violence in Canada’s most populous city. Federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair is considering a handgun ban after Toronto’s City Council voted to urge Ottawa to ban their sale. Mr. Blair, who used to be the city’s police chief, has called gun violence a “significant concern for Canadians,” and said that the government will look at “any measure which will be effective,” to curb it.

Ontario’s government will introduce a greenhouse gas emission reduction plan but says that it can’t commit to meeting Canada’s targets under the Paris climate accord. The Progressive Conservatives are scrapping the cap-and-trade regime developed by the previous Liberal government and will be instituting regulations that will curb emissions instead.

Parents of LGBTQ students in Ontario will launch a human-rights challenge against the provincial government’s plan to roll back the sex-ed curriculum developed three years ago in favour of one created in 1998.

A Statistics Canada survey has found one in seven Canadians admit to driving after consuming marijuana, adding pressure on the federal government to beef up drug-impaired driving enforcement and educate the public ahead of legalization. The numbers show the rates are higher than drunk driving, which has seen historic lows after decades of public messaging about the dangers of hitting the road after drinking.

B.C. is overhauling how its publicly owned auto insurer sets premiums, targetting high-risk drivers with significant premium increases. The reforms at the Insurance Corp. of B.C. come as the government tries to rein in massive losses at the Crown corporation, caused largely by skyrocketing accident claims, though the changes to premium rates are revenue neutral.

Victoria’s city council has easily passed a motion to remove a statue of John A. Macdonald from outside city hall, in response to First Nations who argued the monument was a painful reminder of the former prime minister’s treatment of Indigenous people. A lone councillor objected, saying it’s wrong to judge the first prime minister by today’s standards.

The federal government will sell the Crown-owned Ridley Terminals on B.C.’s northern coast, with First Nations emerging as potential buyers. Ottawa says it’s seeking Indigenous input on the sale of the coal terminal in Prince Rupert, which could see First Nations become part owners.

Hundreds of civil servants in Manitoba say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a new study. Most did not report it, prompting Premier Brian Pallister to say that “we really take seriously the need to change the culture because people should not be afraid to report instances of harassment, they should not fear reprisal.”

The U.S. is setting a goal of creating a Space Force, which would become the sixth branch of the military, by 2020. The idea is said to be facing criticism within the Pentagon.

Russia denounced a new round of U.S. sanctions as illegal and is mulling retaliation. The State Department said the new sanctions would come by the end of the month because of the Kremlin’s role in the nerve agent attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K. Russia denies being responsibility for the attack, which both Britain and its allies have determined was carried out at the behest of Moscow.

Moqtada al-Sadr, a populist Shi’ite cleric, retained his election victory in Iraq, following a recount that showed no major changes. He is expected to play a pivotal role in forming the next government.

And Viktor and Amalija Knavs were sworn in as U.S. citizens yesterday after completing a path to citizenship that has been described by the U.S. president as “chain migration.” They were sponsored by their daughter, First Lady Melania Trump.

Laura Dawson (The Globe and Mail) on Canada-Mexico trade: “While both Mexico and Canada are committed to blocking the U.S. proposal for a sunset clause to the agreement, on other issues, such as rules of origin for autos or dairy protections, each side will be tempted by the United States to break their alliance. This would be a mistake because while such deals would provide national gains in the short term, Canada and Mexico would lose the collective leverage needed to finish a deal with a U.S. Trade Representative eager to exploit any weakness.” (for subscribers)

Linda Nazareth (The Globe and Mail) on the world of work: “We are part way to a new model of work and apparently part way to a new model of the human lifespan. Inevitably, that is going to necessitate rethinking the conventional approach to education-work-retirement as well. We can be put off by the suggestion of such radical change, or we can accept that it is happening and figure out how to make the best transition into the new world.”

Doug Saunders (The Globe and Mail) on the rift with Saudi Arabia: “Though they would never say so out loud, on some level Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland must regard Saudi Arabia’s imposition of sanctions and punishments on Canada as a gift..”

Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Churchill, Manitoba’s port and railway: “If Ottawa is unable to facilitate a private sale, as federal officials say they are still attempting behind the scenes, it should consider taking an ownership stake itself – for the sake of both short-term needs and long-term interests.”

Robert Patman and David Welch (The Globe and Mail) on Brexit: “Britain’s friends should make every possible effort, both publicly and privately, to keep Britain from driving over the proverbial cliff.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on the midterms: “The Democrats need only a majority in one chamber to make life exceedingly more difficult for Mr. Trump – and happier for Canadians.”

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