Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Liberals try to give an insider a deal

Picture Ottawa Citizen


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has found himself in yet another scandal.   A Cabinet Minister has resigned.   Gerry Butts - Chief PMO Advisor has had to resign.   The cover-up is now as bad as the original transgression.   They should have admitted all in the beginning, that the PMO had clearly said what they wanted from the Justice Minister, even though in the end she declined.   Harder to explain, is her later demotion in Cabinet, which sounded vindictive. (tough to explain that one). 


The Liberals had tried to make a path for a corporate offender to negotiate their way out of Court by making a deal.   That was a major political miscalculation.   Then trying to fudge the system further to make it happen, was awful.   Finally, dumping the Justice Minister at the first opportunity, was just one too far for most.   Now they have two resignations.   We wait for the Prime Minister to resign, as he has lied inside the House of Commons. 


Problems have been brewing since the sensational story broke about SNC-Lavalin.   From the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO), came inappropriate levels of pressure to the Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, to give SNC-Lavalin (a big financial contributor to the Liberal Party) a break from prosecution, and allow them to bargain their way out of Court consequences for their offenses.   The Quebec company was charged in 2015 with bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 in exchange for construction contracts.  


From the Loyal Opposition view, “Justin Trudeau’s ethical lapses and his handling of this latest scandal have thrown his government into chaos,” said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.   “Justin Trudeau is trying to hide the truth,” he said, adding, “Yesterday, he said that her presence (in cabinet) speaks for itself.   Well today, her resignation speaks for itself.”   The Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed that he also has launched an investigation of the matter, based on the violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.


The Government had recently amended the law to enable an insider deal.   The Liberals introduced “deferred prosecution agreements” in the last budget bill, but in October the director of the public prosecution service told SNC-Lavalin, it would be inappropriate to negotiate such an agreement in this case; the Justice Minister had made a decision.   The company then asked for a judicial review of that decision.   If SNC-Lavalin is convicted in a criminal trial, it could be barred from government contracts in Canada for 10 years.   The Justice Minister reviewed the deal and exercised her independent discretion to say “no”.   Then, instead of taking their lumps and carrying on, at the first opportunity the Prime Minister replaced the Justice Minister.   It also was a signal to other Cabinet Ministers that they better play along with the PMO political game.   Sadly, this is no way to lead a country.  


The SNC-Lavalin affair continues to engulf the government, and it becomes important for the Prime Minister to waive solicitor-client privilege, so Canadians can get answers about the true sequence of events.   I am sure the Minister kept careful notes.   The government’s story keeps changing, and Canadians are no closer to knowing the truth, than they were four days ago when this story broke.   That’s why it’s imperative Mr. Trudeau waive “privilege” and allow the former Justice Minister to speak.   Liberal Committee Members voted down such a motion.


The Justice Committee of Parliament must be allowed to do its work while the Ethics Commissioner investigates, because Canadians deserve answers in full public view.   The matter is more than just an issue of ethics.   There is potential criminality, and there must be multiple investigations to get resolution.   Sadly, the Prime Minister decided to stonewall at the Justice Committee, which has the power to summon and call evidence under oath.   It appears the Liberal coverup is in full force.   The Liberals have the most votes at the Justice Committee.   The Liberal Committee Members were ordered to vote for very limited hearings.   These Members came into the Committee Room with a plan for damage control.   An overt shutdown was calculated as too obvious.   Therefore, the Liberals passed a motion to allow a very limited witness list, to shut down this topic.   First, there is the matter of the political maneuvering to help their miscreant corporate friend, then there is the cover-up of it, which doubles the stink of the affair.   The national political outrage escalates.


On Tuesday, a report in La Presse revealed that Quebec prosecutors are working with the RCMP on new criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin, related to a contract for the refurbishment of the Jacques-Cartier bridge in Montreal.   The political problem of workers in the Lavalin company, possibly not getting government contracts for 10 years, arises from ongoing bad Company behaviour, and is not the problem of the Justice Minister that said “no deal”.

Sources - multiple media files.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Canada Parliament begins 2019

After a seasonal break, Parliament reconvened for the fist time in the new temporary quarters (for 10 years) while the old Centre Block is refurbished and environmentally updated, with new technology, security, heating and cooling etc.   It was a special day.  After opening prayer, and debates throughout the morning, the usual Question Period allotted time came around.  
Sadly, the Prime Minister was not at his best, but the media didn’t report it, as usual.   The Prime Minister had just been forced to recall John McCallum from his post as Ambassador to China, for his repeated gaffs and undiplomatic behaviour during a time of special sensitivity.   China falsely arrested two Canadians and placed them in jail, and also rigged a Court case, indicating they would execute a Canadian convict who was already serving a lengthy jail sentence in China.   While the world was outraged at China, international observers wondered what was going to happen between China and the USA over their Trade talks.
The Prime Minister appeared to be out of his depth.   Read the transcript, and reflect just how poorly that Canada is served by Justin Trudeau.   This Parliamentary record is only one day.   However, readers can read enough to observe the serious problem Canada has with the present political leadership.  PF
       *       *       *       *       *       *        *
42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION  -  HANSARD • NUMBER 372
Monday, January 28, 2019 ORAL QUESTIONS
Hon. Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Prime Minister's foreign policy is a disaster, and Canadians are paying for his mistakes. Our international partners have no respect for the Prime Minister, and why should they?   After clowning around in India and inviting a convicted terrorist along with him, he then was forced to take concession after concession from Donald Trump.   He even angered our partners in Japan and Australia, and now we have the debacle with China.   Why did the Prime Minister show such weakness and wait so long to fire his (China) ambassador?
Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, I look forward to answering the member's question shortly, but I think before we do, we need to take a moment to recognize and applaud the extraordinary women and men who worked so hard to build this beautiful chamber for us to serve in and to remember that if we who serve Canadians in this place work even half as hard as they worked to build this place for us, we will be very well served as a country indeed.
Hon. Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): 
     Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's foreign policy is a disaster, and Canadians are paying for his mistakes.
    A convicted terrorist was invited to India.   U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum remain in place.   The Prime Minister insulted our allies in Japan and Australia.   Now we have the crisis with China.
    When will the Prime Minister stop making Canadians pay for his mistakes?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, we are acting with integrity and taking decisive action in two key ways.
    First of all, we want to keep Canadians safe, secure the release of the two Canadians arbitrarily detained in China and push for clemency for the third.
    At the same time, we want to ensure that we always stand up for the rule of law and the independence of our judicial system and that we continue engaging with our allies around the world, to send a clear message that Canada will always defend the rule of law.

Hon. Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, money is the least of the Prime Minister's concerns.   He has never had to keep a personal budget, so it comes as no surprise that he thinks budgets balance themselves.
    He is rather good at racking up debt, especially when he is making Canadians pick up the tab.
    When will the Prime Minister finally tell the truth and admit that he plans to raise taxes to pay for his mistakes?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, our plan was to invest in people, the middle class, and our communities. That is why we lowered taxes for the middle class and asked the wealthy to pay more taxes.
    Canadians have created 800,000 jobs over the past three years.   We are seeing strong economic growth and we have the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years.
    We want to keep investing in Canadians and the middle class, but the Conservatives want to give breaks to the wealthy because they think that is the way to create economic growth.   They are wrong.

Hon. Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising the Prime Minister does not worry about Canadians' money. He has never had to worry about money. He has never had to balance a household budget, so he thinks budgets balance themselves. He thinks he can borrow his way out of debt and that others should pay for his mistakes, so it is no wonder the debt has grown three times more than what he promised. Why will he not tell the truth before the next election, that his wasteful spending and runaway deficits will mean higher taxes for Canadians?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise that all we get from the Conservatives are warmed over Stephen Harper attacks and the economic plan that failed Canadians for 10 years. They continue to want to give tax breaks to the wealthiest, where we are focused on growing the middle class by investing in people and in their communities.
    We lowered taxes for the middle class and raised them on the wealthiest one per cent. That has led to not only stronger growth than Stephen Harper ever saw but has led to the creation of 800,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in over 40 years. We are going to continue to invest in Canadians.

Hon. Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, everything the Prime Minister just said is false.   With his changes, the richest Canadians are paying less in tax, and hard-working Canadian families are paying more, and they are going to continue to pay more, because government documents show that the carbon tax will rise six times higher than what the Prime Minister now admits, which means higher gasoline costs and higher home heating costs.   Canadians are already paying for his mistakes, so why is he also covering up the real cost of his carbon tax from Canadians?

Thursday, 15 November 2018

British Columbia Must Make a Decision


Wilkinson   -   Horgan

Why proportional representation is a bad idea.
Premier Horgan and Opposition leader Wilkinson debated on TV, which kickstarted some voter interest in the ballot that has been mailed to BC voters.  How we actually elect Provincial MLAs is on the line. Horgan wants Proportional Representation, and Wilkinson doesn't.   
Proportional representation (PR) is a rigged system that elects members based on the general proportion of total vote that each Party receives.   While no PR system is exactly proportional, the comparison between the vote-share and number of seats won, is rearranged after the election to be closer in number, than under the current first past the post system (FPTP).
Under PR, sometimes even single-issue, or regional Parties, are likely to be elected.   The proliferation of the number of Parties on the ballot, and the number of Parties with some elected seats, makes it difficult for a broadly supported mainstream Party to achieve a working majority.   PR can dilute governance into the lowest common denominator.
Minorities mean that coalitions, working arrangements, and secret deals become the norm.  This is not healthy for wise governance, finding the power to face tough challenges, or hold a government and its Leader politically accountable.   Between 2000 and 2015, only 17 per cent of elections in PR countries achieved a working majority, while governing majorities occurred 85% in countries with FPTP.
In PR, the leading Party must bargain with smaller Parties, and often secretly capitulate on key policy issues.   Therefore, smaller Parties can exert a disproportionate power over government beyond their real public support.   In implementation, PR does not yield equality, for it disproportionately empowers small and even radical fringe Parties, at the expense of the majority of voters.
The evidence, is that the inter-Party deals results in higher spending to placate minority support.   Inevitable higher government spending in PR jurisdictions is financed with harmful deficits (borrowing).   In a balance of power, a small Party can extort through the back door, what the electorate has never supported through the front door of Party Platforms, media criticism, and a direct test at the ballot box.
To make matters worse, in PR, candidates will no longer be directly accountable to their constituents, as they will be proposed by and be more accountable to their Party, over their community.
To add more uncertainty into the British Columbia referendum, the NDP-Green alliance have chosen two proportional representation options that have never been tested anywhere in the world.   They could be a recipe for political disaster.   We must defend our democracy, and stand against experimentation in our electoral system.   The present system is fair, is not broken, and has shown to work best within our Constitutional Westminster model.
Few BCers wanted the referendum, as evidenced by the low voter returns.   The NDP have done this to placate the Greens.   PR would perpetuate, that every election would produce similar weak negotiable results for governance.   Under FPTP, minorities don’t usually happen, and when they rarely do, our system and events resolves them.   
For our situation, when spending and deficits are already on the hurtful rise across Canada, the fiscal and policy consequences of PR should not be taken lightly.   I simply put the question to rest by voting NO to protect our stable democracy.   I hope you will do the same.
Paul Forseth  
Material derived from many public media sources.  

Friday, 12 October 2018

USMCA


USMCA
US-Mexico-Canada Agreement
I like the Dentons analysis better than what is found in the popular media.  It is important for Canadians to understand the situation, as it affects every Canadian job.  The impact of USMCA will gradually emerge, as the speculative guesses for outcomes are somewhat off.  Canada was lucky to escape with the losses that we see in the new deal.  Canada gained nothing, but was spared a disaster. 

We sent amateurs into the negotiations, and they stumbled badly in the beginning.  They learned on the job and managed to salvage a respectable position, in the face of a huge aggressor.  For perspective, Canada’s population and the economy is about equal to the state of California. 

However, in typical Liberal style, the government is trying to put a false-face on negotiator Minister Chrystia Freeland and their team.  In my view, there are no laurels to go around from the deal, just private embarrassment, that Canada survived.  Hindsight analysis reveals the mistakes Canada made.  We have no heroes in this story, despite the Liberal political spin-doctors.  

Moreover, if the Liberals don’t be quiet, the whole thing could unravel, as the deal goes to Congress for a vote.  Canada should routinely get on with voting concurrence in Parliament.  They should be prepared, like any accountable government, to take the criticism in the House of Commons for how Canada’s team conducted themselves.  Nevertheless, the Liberals need to govern, and get on with it, before the USA Congress does their process.  Our government should not make more errors by touting our negotiators, or saying anything else that could derail the new USMCA.  It remains to be seen if Canada can hold its dignity, and not mess up again, before the whole matter is finalized.

********************************************

Overview     (Dentons)

It has been 13 months since US President Donald Trump initiated the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). During that time, officials under Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto have engaged in intensive negotiations, while managing rapidly-evolving political challenges. Despite these challenges, the US and Mexico finalized an Agreement in Principle on August 27, 2018, and just a day before President Trump’s October 1, 2018 deadline, all three countries settled on what is now known as the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).1

We anticipate the three leaders will sign the USMCA at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina (taking place from November 30 to December 1, 2018). While the USMCA is a major milestone that strengthens confidence and integration in the North American market, the legislatures of each country will be required to ratify the deal. Until this time, the possibility that the US withdraws from NAFTA remains a risk.

Ratification of the agreement will not likely begin until 2019 due to the US midterm elections held in early November, which may pose unforeseen challenges should a new Democratic majority in Congress challenge the agreement. Leadership in Canada and Mexico will have to determine their own legislative timetable against the lead of their American counterpart. As this process could take months, the USMCA will likely not come into full force until early 2020.

The USMCA includes a number of significant changes in areas that will affect businesses across North America and beyond. The following brief explores these changes, and provides political perspectives from the US, Canada and Mexico.

This high-level overview will be the first in a series in which Dentons examines how different industries will be impacted by the USMCA. 

The US–Mexico–Canada Agreement: Key takeaways

Sunset clause

US officials signalled early on in the NAFTA negotiations that they wanted to include a ‘sunset clause’ in the modernized agreement, which would require a full renegotiation every five years. Both Mexico and Canada rejected this outright, publically signalling it a ‘red line’ due to concerns that the inclusion of a sunset clause would significantly limit the certainty required for businesses to make mid-to-long-term investment decisions, and that the agreement would fall subject to political machinations of the day.

The compromise agreed upon in the USMCA, with noteworthy support from Mexican negotiators, is a review of the agreement every six years to determine whether it should be extended beyond its now 16-year lifespan.

Autos: Rules of origin

The US opened with a tough posture on autos, seeking a 50 percent US content requirement in all cars; though this demand was later dropped. What was agreed to in the USMCA is higher levels of North American components in cars writ large. The new North American content threshold is now 75 percent, up from 62.5 percent under NAFTA. A 70 percent North American steel and aluminum requirement is now also required for tariff free import. Governments anticipate these changes will further incentivize auto production and auto parts sourcing in North America.

Of significant importance in the USMCA is the new labour value content provision, which requires that 40-45 percent of car manufacturers’ ”labour activities” be undertaken by workers who earn at minimum US$16 per hour. This will significantly affect Mexico, where the average auto-sector salary is reportedly US$2.04 per hour. This move to equalize the wage rate across North America may well serve to disincentives auto / parts manufacturers from moving their facilities to Mexico—a clear win for Southern Ontario and Detroit.

Labour

New USMCA labour standards seek to ‘level the playing field’ in North America, by ensuring that national laws provide for the rights of workers, including stronger provisions for the establishment of unions (such as freedom of association and collective bargaining), migrant worker rights, protection against gender-based discrimination, and a ban on the importation of goods made using forced labour. These labour and working condition standards will be subject to the dispute settlement regime in the USMCA, which will empower states to address any violations of these standards head on.

Agriculture / Dairy (supply management)

In the end, Canada conceded to increase US market access in the form of tariff quotas for dairy, poultry, and egg products; eliminate milk classes 6 and 7; and monitor / control trade in skim milk powder, milk protein concentrates and infant formula. While politically valuable in both the US and Canada, this concession only accounts for less than a percentage more market share than what was already agreed upon between the US and Canada in the original the Trans-Pacific Partnership under the Obama Administration.

Canada did have some wins in this area, including a modernized and empowered Committee on Agricultural Trade, which will address trade barriers, increased market access for refined sugar and sugar products, and obligations for biotechnology that seek to increase investment, transparency and predictability.

IP protections

Biologics: Patent protection for biologic drugs (drugs manufactured from biological sources, rather than chemical compounds) was extended from eight years in Canada and Mexico to 10 years, reflecting the US patent life. The USMCA states that this and other terms must be implemented within five years of the agreement coming into force. This is a significant win for the manufacturers of biologic drugs.

Copyright: Under the USMCA, copyright protection will be extended by 20 years. This means that current duration of protection (which is the life of the author plus 50 years) will increase to the life of the author plus 70 years.

Digital economy

The USMCA chapter on the digital economy includes significant changes that largely reflect what was previously negotiated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The agreement bans duties on digital products, while maintaining regular taxes. It bars the requirement for states to disclose source code, and algorithms expressed in that source code, unless required for investigations. It includes ‘safe harbour’ rules, which limit the liability of companies that host content from third parties, for which they are not the publisher (modeled after Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). The USMCA also bans ‘data localization’ laws, unless in accordance with Article 14 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. These measures represent a new gold standard for terms of digital trade in multilateral trade deals.

Cultural industries

The exemption related to Canadian cultural industries has been largely preserved, but Canada is undertaking to modify certain CRTC rules regarding retransmission of programming, and provide greater access to US home shopping networks.

Chapter 19

Early in negotiations, the US called for the elimination of Chapter 19, which establishes the independent mechanism to solve trade disputes outside of the courts. Mexico and Canada had deemed this another ‘red line’, as it has—and remains—a vital tool to protect against any illegitimate barriers to trade. Given the arguably protectionist trade posture that the US adopted under the Trump Administration, and the long-standing importance of Chapter 19, it would have been extremely difficult for Canada or Mexico to concede to its elimination from the modernized agreement. Although the level of compliance by the US on rulings by the Chapter 19 dispute resolution panel has historically been low, all parties - but particularly Canada and Mexico - have done well to maintain it.

Government procurement

US negotiators had opened with a hardline position on government procurement, which would have curtailed the ability for Canadian and Mexican firms to bid on lucrative US government projects, including major infrastructure. The US backed away from this position and countries will retain access to each other’s procurement markets in accordance with existing obligations under the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). Government procurement requirements between Canada and Mexico will be covered under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Section 232: US steel and aluminum tariffs / Canadian countervailing tariffs

On May 31, 2018, during the midst of NAFTA negotiations, President Trump issued proclamations under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which reinstated tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada, Mexico and the EU (25 percent duty on steel products and 10 percent duty on aluminum products). Canada responded to these tariffs with its own countervailing measures on US steel, aluminum and a roster of other items worth more than CA$16.7 billion, which is an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar response. Both the US 232 and Canadian countervailing tariffs remain in place outside of the USMCA.

What has been agreed to in a side letter to the USMCA is an exemption from the imposition of any future 232 measures by the US for at least 60 days. It is presumed the US and Canada would negotiate an appropriate path forward during this period. Canada has also secured an exemption on autos and auto parts, which will serve to protect Canada’s sector should the US seek to apply 232 tariffs on autos. Canada has maintained it will continue to respond to any escalation of 232 measures with equal countermeasure.

Non-market economy clause

This provision in the USMCA requires that any of the trilateral partners that seek to engage in free trade talks with a ‘non-market economy’ must provide the other members three months’ notice of these negotiations, as well as the full text of a proposed agreement in advance of final sign-off. Further, this section empowers counterparts to withdraw from the USMCA with only six months’ notice, should they deem the trade agreement is adverse to the terms of the USMCA. Observers correctly note that China is the target of this clause. The US sees this provision as a safeguard to prevent Canada or Mexico from becoming a ‘backdoor’ to the US market. 

Canadian perspective

Canada has done well to land a deal that is better than what many had anticipated, given the hardline strategy employed by the Trump Administration. Canada’s full-court press in Washington D.C., and at the state level, proved effective in directing influential players in the business community, the US Congress and Senate, to compel the White House to close a deal. Canadian advocacy in the US should remain a fixture of its approach throughout the ratification process and beyond.

Despite agreement on the USMCA, the NAFTA 2.0 odyssey is far from over, as the agreement has yet to be approved by Parliament. Canada’s next federal election is slated for October 2019, and while there has generally existed all-party support for the Liberal-led negotiation, partisanship may slightly challenge the ratification process. More pressing is the sword-hanging overhead in the form of the existing 232 actions on steel and aluminum, and the threat of 25 percent auto tariffs by the US. Canada has stated that it will respond to any escalation with a dollar-for-dollar response. This X-factor is a significant liability for the business community, which should well figure into their decision-making and lobbying efforts.

Canada will continue to support global free trade through a rules-based multilateral order, including through the establishment of the CPTPP. This approach stands somewhat in contrast to Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy, in which a clear willingness to challenge multilateralism and test the contours of American power are being exercised. Given this global shift, North American business must remain expertly informed and stand prepared to act responsively to new trade actions.

Mexican perspective

The USMCA is widely perceived to be a great success for Mexico, which will provide a boost to the economy and government legitimacy. It came just at the moment when Mexico is undergoing one of the most important political changes of its modern history. The USMCA was the result of very hard discussions lead by a team of talented Mexican negotiators with great experience in trade and investment policy dated back to the original 1994 NAFTA talks. After the July 2018 elections, the current team of negotiators were joined by representatives of the new president elect, Lopez Obrador, in what is widely regarded as a very successful strategy.

The challenge was enormous for the administration of current president Enrique Peña Nieto because of the conditions initially expressed by the Trump Administration and the timing of the negotiations, which coincided with the Mexican federal election. The new USMCA will bring new trade and investment opportunities for Mexico in key sectors of the economy, including automobile manufacturing, agriculture and energy. In addition, it introduces new provisions in areas that will certainly represent a challenge, such as labour standards, anticorruption, small- and medium-sized businesses, and e-commerce.

Under the Mexican Constitution, the USMCA will have to be ratified by the Mexican Senate after its signature by the President. While the ratification is still a challenge, it will not represent a problem since the new majority party Morena will certainly support the USMCA. 

US perspective

The USMCA represents a continuation of a Trump campaign promise to “get better deals for America.” Whether or not the USMCA is, in fact, a better deal remains to be seen and will only be fully realized once implemented. As highlighted, implementation is not a forgone conclusion and will depend upon what US legislative timeline is adopted. Assuming the current Congress does not have enough time to consider the new agreement before the new class takes office in January, a fresh cohort of legislators will have an opportunity, if they choose, to deliver President Trump a major defeat by voting down the USMCA.

The primary benefit of the USMCA (even before it is ratified), is that it removes the economic uncertainty associated with the US threat to withdraw from NAFTA. That said, the fact that the US steel and aluminum tariffs, and resulting Canadian countervailing tariffs are unresolved, means that the two governments need to return to the negotiating table. The question becomes “when.” When will the US return to the table with Canada, given President Trump’s desire to escalate its trade confrontation with China?

Closing

The outcome of these intense negotiations launched last year is less a revolution than an incremental modernization of the NAFTA. As a result, the essential principles of free trade on the North American continent have been preserved. If implemented by the three legislatures, the agreement will have varying impacts on different industries. New winners and losers will emerge, and the agreement will have far-reaching effects on commerce and trade policy for years to come. As the impacts emerge, Dentons will continue to work with its clients to help them mitigate the risks, moderate negative impacts and leverage the opportunities.

https://www.dentons.com/en/insights/alerts/2018/october/9/nafta-2-0-the-usmca-more-an-evolution-than-a-revolution

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Trump diplomatically abandons Trudeau

Flag of Saudi Arabia
Aug. 8, 2017

Canada begs for help from the United Arab Emirates and Britain to defuse the nasty dispute with Saudi Arabia, but the United States abandons Canada. 

The Saudi government recalled its ambassador to Ottawa, barred Canada's Ambassador from returning to his post, placed bans on trade, and recalled 12,000 students from Canada, because Canada urged the release of jailed human-rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

Canada sought help from Britain, as that government urged the two nations to show restraint with one another.   The stark surprise was the United States, traditionally Canada's most important friend.   The USA has diplomatically abandoned Canada, and made clear it would not get involved.   President Trump has criticized Prime Minister Trudeau, while Washington has made stronger ties with Riyadh. 

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New York Times

Saudi Arabia’s Ugly Spat With Canada

By expelling the Canadian ambassador, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman undermines the reforms he has made.

By The Editorial Board, New York Times

Saudi Arabia and its crockery-breaking heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are, once again, opening up claims of advancing a more progressive future for the kingdom to doubt.

Faced with criticism from Canada over the treatment of two prominent human rights activists, Saudi rulers on Monday did the kind of thing that backward, insecure despots often do — they lashed out and penalized their critics.

Riyadh expelled the Canadian ambassador and announced a freeze on all new business with Canada, which counts Saudi Arabia as its second-largest export market in the Middle East. The Saudis also said the kingdom would withdraw from Canada the approximately 12,000 Saudi students on government-funded scholarships and family members and transfer them to other countries.

It’s not unusual for countries to balk at external criticism. But this Saudi retribution is unnecessarily aggressive and clearly intended to intimidate critics into silence. It’s the kind of move that, in the past, would have immediately elicited a firm, unified opposition from the West. So far, there’s hardly been even a whimper of protest.

Canada ran afoul of the Saudis when its foreign ministry called for the release of the women’s rights activist Samar Badawi, who was arrested last week, and her brother, Raif Badawi, who is in prison for running a website that criticized Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment.

In 2013, Mr. Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes with a cane, 10 years in prison and a large fine for administering the site. He received the first 50 lashes in 2015, but his punishment was suspended, at least temporarily, after a video of the lashings drew international outrage.

Saudi Arabia has offered no explanation for why Ms. Badawi, whose activist-lawyer former husband is also in jail, was detained. But she has long campaigned against the kingdom’s guardianship laws, which prevent women from traveling abroad or obtaining certain medical procedures without the consent of a male relative.

The Saudis claim that the Canadian statement is “an overt and blatant interference” in its internal affairs, but that argument is specious. Mr. Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children have political asylum in Canada, and she became a Canadian citizen last month. And countries that care about human and political rights have a long history of speaking out, both individually and collectively, in defense of those principles and values that are enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Saudi Arabia is a signatory of the Charter and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose mission is to strengthen the “promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.” Since ascending to power with his father, King Salman, in 2015, Prince Mohammed has encouraged foreign investment, granted women the right to drive, opened commercial movie theaters for the first time in 30 years and worked to soften the kingdom’s ultraconservative official school of Islam.  But he also has evinced an authoritarian edge, locking up clerics, activists and businessmen.

Under Prince Mohammed, the Saudis have also not been shy about speaking out about, or directly intervening in, the affairs of other countries, including Yemen, Bahrain and Qatar. Saudi Arabian officials lobbied against President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and have spoken out against President Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

On Monday, the White House refused to comment. The only reaction so far has been from a State Department official who spoke on background and equated Canada and Saudi Arabia as “both close allies,” even though only Canada is a member of NATO. The statement did not mention the Badawis by name, referred mushily to “internationally recognized freedoms,” and reported that the Saudi government had been asked to supply more information.

Mr. Trump has previously signaled acquiescence to, if not fondness for, the kingdom’s authoritarian ways. And the American president's own attempts to bully Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, in June may make Prince Mohammed feel bolder about lashing out.

The administration’s passive response also represents a chilling abandonment of two activists whose unjust treatment has been acknowledged by the United States itself: Ms. Badawi received the Department’s Women of Courage Award in 2012 in a ceremony with Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government agency, has a page on its website highlighting Mr. Badawi’s case.

Not even two weeks ago, the State Department held a much-hyped religious freedom conference, headlined by Vice President Mike Pence, that issued a lofty statement advocating the “recognition of universal human rights and human dignity.” It’s hard to take that statement too seriously so long as the White House remains quiet about these recent developments.

New York Times Opinion

A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 7, 2018, on Page A22 of the New York edition

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Harper was right to speak out on Iran

Harper was right to speak out on Iran
The (media) criticism levelled at former prime minister Stephen Harper for speaking to a “Free Iran” rally near Paris last Saturday is unfair. At that rally, Harper thanked the tens of thousands of participants for their “long battle for a free and democratic Iran,” without endorsing any political party.
Harper wasn’t alone at the rally. Canada’s delegation at the event included the former prime minister, Liberal MP Judy Sgro, former Conservative foreign minister John Baird, former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco, former Conservative MP Paul Forseth, Liberal supporter David Matas, Conservative MP Candice Bergen, and me, a former Liberal cabinet minister.  It was entirely appropriate to attend.
The European Union removed the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (or PMOI) from its list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2009, noting that it had been placed on the list purely to appease the mullahs in Iran. In 2010, the European Parliament passed a declaration calling on the United States to remove it from the American list. The resolution became official when more than half the members of the 736-seat chamber signed it, but support was nearly unanimous. The resolution also called on Iraq to cease its blockade of Camp Ashraf, a settlement of more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents near the border between the two countries.
The PMOI had been on the U.S. list since 1997, when the Bill Clinton administration added it, seeking to secure closer cooperation with Tehran. The U.S. finally removed the PMOI in September, 2012. The State Department said its decision had been taken in view of the PMOI’s public renunciation of its former military role and its co-operation in the closure of its paramilitary base in Iraq. 
Following the lead of the U.S. and the European Union, the Harper government in December 2012 dropped the PMOI from Canada’s list.  As co-chair of the NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran, I wrote to then prime minister Harper in 2009: “We are writing to urge you and your government to take a principled stand against the regime in Tehran for its brutal suppression of the Iranian people in their renewed uprising for human dignity, freedom and democracy … Iranians spoke loudly and clearly again when they poured into the streets in Tehran and all major cities across the country in recent days to show the world that they are ready to risk their lives to bring about democratic change in Iran.”
Struan Stevenson, who represented Scotland in the European Parliament for 15 years and is now co-ordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, noted after last week’s Paris event: “The nationwide protests (currently underway) covered all 31 Iranian provinces and 142 cities. The 80 million Iranian citizens, over half of whom are under-30, have made it clear that they are fed up with fundamentalist rule. They are fed up with living in poverty as the venally corrupt mullahs siphon off the country’s wealth to fill their pockets and to finance conflict and terror throughout the Middle East.”
The Iranian regime has earned the title of the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism.   Since the Paris event, an intercepted plot to bomb the hall near the Charles De Gaulle airport where last weekend’s rally was held has been exposed. Three suspects were arrested in France and Germany last weekend. A diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna was also arrested in Germany over the terror threat that was discovered by Belgian authorities.
The Iranian regime has earned the title of the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism.   Staff at the Iranian embassy in Vienna said their ambassador was not immediately available for comment, but a PMOI official alleged the individual arrested in Germany had been station chief of Iran’s ministry of intelligence and security (MOIS) in Vienna since 2014.
The Paris event attracted tens of thousands from across the world to hear National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) president-elect Maryam Rajavi. The NCRI is an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile that seeks an end to Shi’ite Muslim clerical rule in Iran. Rajavi seeks to restore peace, freedom, democracy and human rights, stopping torture and the death penalty and ending foreign meddling.   Maryam Rajavi’s 10-point plan also calls for a new constitution based on gender equality, separation of religion and state, and a non-nuclear Iran.
David Kilgour is the former Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa (1997-2002) and Asia-Pacific (2002-2003) in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He represented south-east Edmonton in the House of Commons from 1979 to 2006. He is co-chair of the NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran.

https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/kilgour-harper-was-right-to-speak-out-on-iran

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Conservatives Win


Conservatives win a By-election Monday June 18, 2018. The media did not see it coming at the start, and now are swallowing hard, that Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer is getting stronger in the national polls each week.   It could have been predicted, as the Conservatives have been receiving financial contributions from average voters at a greater rate than the Liberals for quite some time.   Giving money to a political Party, means deep commitment.   This week was a real test at the ballot box.

Conservative candidate Richard Martel captured 52.7 percent of the vote (more than all others combined) in a federal byelection held in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord - Quebec, more than 5,000 votes ahead of Liberal Lina Boivin, who took 29.5 percent.   The New Democrat Party and Bloc Québécois candidates were not in contention, capturing just 8.7 percent and 5.6 percent, while the Green candidate brought 3.1 percent.  The typical By-election turnout was 36 percent.   The byelection was caused by the resignation of Liberal MP Denis Lemieux.   The Conservatives, benefited from the collapse in support for the Bloc and NDP, as they rose from fourth place last time into first.

It seems that Quebecers are tired of the Liberal big-deficit and high-tax agenda.   Conservatives believe in responsible spending and in lowering taxes, to make life more affordable for Canadians.   Chicoutimi-Le Fjord marks the Liberals' first byelection defeat in a riding they held, since Trudeau became Liberal Leader.  

Monday's result is also dismal news for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose efforts to lead his Party has shown to be very lackluster.  It also might not be good for the NDP in the next Quebec by-election, once Tom Mulcair resigns his Montreal seat of Outremont at the end of June.  

The results in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord is a measure of how much public opinion has shifted in Quebec.   Voters recently would shy away from the Conservatives, but this time Quebecers are turning away from the left-wing socialist formula that was previously popular.   The NDP finished a distant third in the riding, that it had won in the Quebec orange surge of the 2011 election.   The separatist Bloc Quebecois came fourth, which is good for everyone.

In frustration, Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau returned to his old formula, of reminding voters of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, trying to counter the current Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.   The Trudeau tactic seemed stale, as a recent Ipsos poll showed that the federal Conservatives could replace the Liberals and form the government, if all Canadians were able to vote last week.   The national political mood is moving toward the Conservatives.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Trudeau Government Fails


The senior annalists in the PCO and specialists within federal ministries must be pulling their hair in exasperation.  These politically neutral professionals can't speak publicly about the Trudeau chaos they live in. 

Canada arrived at nationalization of K-M incrementally through a series of Liberal mistakes, where they ignored the warnings of the experts, whom we all pay for.  Canada has some great talent at the senior levels of the Public Service.  Trudeau seems to be wasting it, otherwise Canada would not have spiralled downward into a $4.5 billion penalty to get a pipeline built. 

Once the decision was made way back when, and the nature of the opposition to K-M was known, they should have delivered the strongest message to the nation, that no matter what, the project was going ahead.  However, they waffled and hid, which emboldened the radicals into thinking that they were winning, rather than just driving up the cost for all citizens. 

Trudeau did not have the courage or wisdom to expend political capital early, by announcing additional investments in federal prosecution services, extra RCMP assignments, and sending a fully engaged legal team to Courts everywhere that there was an issue for hearing.  He should have raised the prospect to use the Army if needed as a last resort, to preserve "peace-order-and good government', as many were publicly urging.  He needed to outline how this national project was not up for veto by anyone.  He should not have abandoned K-M to defend themselves at Court to protect the legal conduct of their business. 

Moreover, instead of playing small-minded politics, by shamelessly trying to blame the Conservatives, he should have worked out a deal with them in Parliament, for both to support additional enabling legislation on the project.  The Conservatives are fully in support.  He could have led the nation with both national parties working together to get it done, thereby giving sufficient confidence and predictability for the private sector to complete their enterprise.  

However, his anemic partisan behaviour didn't work, and the situation descended.   Then as a last gasp, Trudeau had to buy his way out of his blunders.  Now Canada is on the hook with public money to just keep the operation viable, without counting what additional billions are needed to actually build the additional capacity pipeline. 

In summary, if Trudeau had listened with respect to the esteemed Public Service, enlisted the help of the Conservatives, and had led in a strong direction when it really counted, he could have prevented this whole scenario and preserved what the private sector does best, without having to resort to a public bail-out.  The failure to keep "peace-order-and good government", means we all have to pay for the Trudeau style of leadership.

·         *   *   *  

Kinder Morgan says: We are one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America. We own an interest in or operate approximately 85,000 miles of pipelines and 152 terminals. Our pipelines transport natural gas, refined petroleum products, crude oil, carbon dioxide (CO2) and more. Our terminals store and handle petroleum products, chemicals and other products.

We are a market leader in each of our businesses – Natural Gas Pipelines, Products Pipelines, CO2, Terminals and Kinder Morgan Canada. We have an unparalleled, large footprint of diversified and strategically located assets that are core to North American energy infrastructure and help deliver needed energy products to high-demand markets. For example, Kinder Morgan is the:

Largest natural gas network with approximately 70,000 miles of natural gas pipelines. We are connected to every important U.S. natural gas resource play, including the Eagle Ford, Marcellus, Utica, Uinta, Haynesville, Fayetteville and Barnett. We move about 40 percent of the natural gas consumed in America.

Largest independent transporter of petroleum products, transporting about 2.1 million barrels of product per day. We move gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, crude, natural gas liquids and more.

Largest transporter of carbon dioxide (CO2), transporting about 1.3 billion cubic feet per day. Most of the CO2 is used in enhanced oil recovery projects in the Permian Basin of West Texas.

Largest independent terminal operator. Our liquids terminals store refined petroleum products, chemicals, ethanol and more, and have a capacity of 152 million barrels. Our dry bulk terminals store and handle such materials as coal, petroleum coke and steel, and we handle over 53 million tons per year. We also have a strong Jones Act shipping position with twelve vessels in service and four more to be delivered in 2017.

Only oilsands pipeline serving the West Coast. We currently transport 300,000 barrels per day to Vancouver/Washington State and our proposed expansion will increase that capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.

Our customers include major oil companies, energy producers and shippers, local distribution companies and businesses across many industries. In most of our businesses, we operate like a giant toll road and receive a fee for our services, generally avoiding commodity price risk. In our CO2 business, where exposure to commodity prices does exist, we employ a hedging strategy to partially mitigate that risk. For 2017, approximately 91 percent of our cash flows are fee-based and 97 percent of our cash flows are fee-based or hedged.

The revolutionary shale plays across the United States are creating a tremendous need for more energy infrastructure, which bodes well for us. We invest billions of dollars each year to grow the company by building new and expanding existing assets to help ensure that a variety of energy products get delivered into the marketplace.

Kinder Morgan strives for financial and operational excellence, and we are committed to being a good corporate citizen and conducting ourselves in an ethical and responsible manner. In addition to delivering value to our shareholders and meeting our customers' needs, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on integrity management and maintenance programs to operate our assets safely and to protect the public, our employees, contractors and the environment.

We pride ourselves on being a different kind of energy company. What makes us different? It starts at the top with Executive Chairman Rich Kinder, who earns a salary of $1 per year and does not receive a bonus, stock options or restricted stock grants. President and CEO Steve Kean also receives an annual salary of $1. We work hard to align managements’ and shareholders’ incentives by eliminating unnecessary expenses such as corporate aircraft, sports tickets and executive perks. In addition, we tie financial incentives for our employees directly to the performance of the company and their own personal performances.

Kinder Morgan has been conducting its business transparently long before it became a corporate buzz word. We are one of the only S&P 500 companies that publishes its annual budget on its web site, which enables investors and others to follow our progress throughout the year. We also post our operational performance on our website and continue to perform better than our industry peers relative to environmental, health and safety measures.

We do not have a Political Action Committee. Any political contributions made by executives or employees are made individually as private citizens with their own personal money.

Kinder Morgan has approximately 11,000 employees and is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

USA Embassy Jerusalem

The USA moved its Embassy to Israel’s capital Jerusalem from TelAviv.  In response, the people in Gaza started violent demonstrations, and crashing the no-go barriers at the Israel border.  This planned provocation had predictable deadly consequences.
Prime Minister Trudeau failed to acknowledge that it is Hamas - not Israel - that is responsible for the violence on the Gaza-Israel border.   It’s unacceptable.
It also contradicts Canada’s long-stated position, that as an ally and fellow liberal democracy, Israel could count on Canada’s support when security was threatened.
It is painful to see yet more suffering in Gaza.  Every human being is valuable and of equal worth.   The situation in Gaza is grim and cannot be ignored.   Sadly, the world knows that Hamas' goal is not to improve life in Gaza, but instead to make life more miserable for Israelis - even if it hurts and even murders Gazans in a deadly political agenda. 
The Canadian Government should have said the truth.  Instead, they ignored the grave threat these terrorists pose to Israel, making no mention of the detailed instructions Hamas makes to kidnappers and murderers, or their weapons carried by terrorists attempting to breach the border.  Trudeau completely overlooked the Palestinian leadership's cynical strategy that includes using human shields, forcing school children to the frontline, and blocking aid from entering the Gaza Strip.
“The arguments about the President’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem have already been made. They are by now well known. The decision was in accordance to U.S. law dating back to 1995, and its position has been repeatedly endorsed by the American people ever since. The decision does not prejudge any final status issues, including Jerusalem’s boundaries. The decision does not preclude a two-state solution, if the parties agree to that. The decision does nothing to harm peace efforts. Rather, the President’s decision reflects the will of the American people and our right as a nation to choose the location of our embassy.  America will put our embassy in Jerusalem.  That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do.  No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.”   Nikki Haley’s Speech to UN
Based on CIJA files.