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Trudeau is campaigning to join the UN Security Council — but does Canada stand a chance?

Posted on 29 September 2018 by admin

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in New York this week lobbying to join the United Nations Security Council, even though the vote isn’t until 2021.

Trudeau begins his three-day visit to the UN General Assembly on Monday, where he will schmooze with other nations in order to try and gain a seat on the Security Council for a two-year term starting in 2021.

The members of the General Assembly won’t vote on the candidates until the fall of 2020, but Trudeau is still hoping to secure one of the two open seats, and of course, will have to win another federal election in 2019 if he wants to personally see Canada do it.

It’s been 21 years since Canada’s last stint on the Security Council, the country’s longest absence from it in United Nations’ history. So do we stand a chance now?

Why does Canada want on the Security Council?

The UN Security Council has 15 members, with five permanent seats — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. — and 10 non-permanent rotating ones.

The UN itself consists of 178 other countries that aren’t part of the Security Council, which means they can participate but they don’t get a vote when it comes to making decisions.

Being part of the Security Council means you get to vote on issues such as suspending economic and diplomatic relations between countries, imposing blockades, and authorizing the use of armed force.

Members are also more likely to receive foreign aid and World Bank loans with relatively soft conditions, according to a study from the University of Munich.

“There is also a prestige aspect to it,” Jane Boulden, professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada, said. “It sends an international signal that Canada is back to playing that kind of role, to put us back on the international scene.”

Until 2000, Canada had obtained a seat on the Security Council in each decade of the UN’s existence. Canada has also never lost a bid, until 2010 when Stephen Harper’s government attempted it but lost to Portugal.

After Canada announced its bid for the seat in 2016, Trudeau campaigned on a pledge that “Canada is back” on the world stage.

According to Trudeau, not only do “Canadians benefit when we have time on the Security Council,” but that “the world benefits when Canada has a voice on the Security Council.”

Who is Canada up against?

Canada is up against Ireland and Norway for the 2021 seat.

“It’s tough competition, there is no question about that,” Boulden said. “Ireland and Norway have more recent peacekeeping credentials in the last 10 years. And they have much higher foreign aid contributions.”

According to briefing memos prepared by Global Affairs Canada, Ireland is the competition to look out for.

 “Ireland is currently running for one of two open seats on the UN Security Council for the 2021-22, against Canada and Norway,” reads the December 2017 note.

“Ireland won on the first ballot when it competed against Norway and Italy for a seat for 2001-02, and Irish officials are privately confident that their campaign will be equally successful this time.”

Ireland won its last bid for a seat in 2001 by a landslide.

Ireland also commits more in foreign aid, something scholars have said could influence Security Council membership.

According to data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) using GNI (gross national income) as a benchmark, Irish foreign aid accounts for 0.36 per cent of its annual budget while Canada’s accounts for 0.28 per cent.

That puts Ireland as the 12th largest donor when it comes to foreign aid, and Canada the 14th.

The number of peacekeeping troops a country donates could also be a factor. The study from the University of Munich showed that the more troops a country contributes, the more likely it is to gain Security Council membership.

According to an August 2018 UN report on peacekeepers, Ireland has contributed the most troops, at 521. Canada has contributed 173 peacekeepers and Norway, 67.

What are the costs?

It can cost millions of dollars to put up a bid for the Security Council, which goes towards paying for staff salaries and wining and dining other nations.

“It costs a lot of money to campaign,” Boulden said. “There are certainly add-on costs too. Trudeau would probably not be in New York for three days otherwise. Travelling and liaising add up.”

When Canada campaigned for a seat on the Security Council in 2010, it cost nearly $1 million to fly diplomats around the world — and it was not even a successful bid.

Documents show thousands of dollars were spent entertaining foreign diplomats and U.S. officials, including a visit to a New York Yankees game with Cuban, Thai, Bosnian, Sri Lankan and Cambodian representatives. Canada also picked up tickets to take officials from Oman, Brunei, the Philippines and Italy to see the Cirque du Soleil.

Global Affairs Canada said that the government has spent $532,780 since 2016 on its campaign to land a Security Council seat — well behind the pace of the $1.9 million Canada spent over four years to win its last two-year term in 1999-2000.

Does Canada stand a chance?

Canada’s campaign to win a two-year temporary seat on the Security Council will also be under scrutiny with many questioning whether it is even feasible given the energy being expended to save the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Paul Heinbecker, who was Canada’s UN ambassador during the 2000 stint on the council, said the western group is more competitive than any other, and Canada faces a tough battle, especially in Europe.

Lloyd Axworthy, Canada’s foreign affairs minister in the late 1990s, said Canada has lost standing at the UN over the last decade and needs to work hard to regain it.

He said Trudeau needs to come up with an agenda that shows a commitment to peacekeeping, which Canada has largely abandoned, as well as foreign aid, which has been declining steadily.

“Canada still has a strong reputation in the international community and we are making a real effort, which could help,” Boulden said. “One way that we are different is that we are not a European nation. So we could say pick a Europe nation and Canada in order to regionalize it.”

 

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Bill Blair apologizes, corrects remark saying ‘overwhelming majority’ of asylum seekers have left

Posted on 29 September 2018 by admin

Border Security Minister Bill Blair has apologized and corrected a statement he made last week claiming most asylum seekers who crossed the border in a surge last year have left the country.

In an interview that aired on Sunday with The West Block, Blair was asked about how the government has been working to deal with the surge of more than 32,000 migrants who have walked across the border over the last year and a half to make asylum claims in Canada, and whether the government knows where all of them are now.

Despite data from the Canadian Border Services Agency indicating only 398 of the 32,173 people who crossed the U.S. border irregularly into Canada between April 2017 and August 2018 had actually been deported, Blair stated the opposite.

“I will tell you that we did experience a surge of people last year,” Blair told The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson.

“We found a very small percentage of them were actually eligible to stay, and the overwhelming majority of those people have left.”

First in a tweet Sunday night and then in a formal press release issued Monday afternoon prior to question period, Blair apologized and said he had misspoken.

 “Minister Blair would like to clarify that he was referring to a small cohort of failed claimant asylum seekers,” said press secretary Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux.

Blair’s apology from his tweet was included below that in the press release.

“I clearly misspoke in suggesting the majority who arrived last year have left. They have not. They await disposition of their claim. Sorry for the obvious confusion that I caused,” Blair said.

Global News made repeated attempts to clarify Blair’s comments and ask for the data his team said backed them up.

Cadieux said he was referring to people who had “left the Lacolle facility.”

When asked to provide numbers that demonstrated that, Cadieux quoted numbers from the Canada Border Services Agency saying that the number of irregular migrant removals in 2017/2018 was 240 and the removals in 2018/2019 were 214.

Of those, she said, the irregular/failed claimant removal subset stood at 125 and 127 in those same years.

“Note that not all those who have arrived in recent years have finished their processes that would ultimately lead to a removal,” she wrote in an email.

“This is what the minister is referring to when he says the ‘the overwhelming majority of those people have left.’ The others are still going through the process.”

However, the response and the minister’s remarks prompted a swift backlash from critics online.

The issue of how to handle irregular border crossings has been a lightning rod between Liberals and Conservatives over the past year and a half.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel has repeatedly accused the government of not having a plan to deal with the surge, which has come amid an increasingly anti-immigrant climate in the United States.

Rempel has also called for the government to negotiate with the U.S. to apply the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire border.

That agreement between Canada and the U.S. essentially states that both countries recognize each other as safe countries for people to make asylum claims and as a result, each will not consider claims made from someone who first lands in Canada, for example, but then decides to try to make a claim in the U.S.

However, that agreement only applies to migrants who attempt to cross the border at official checkpoints.

Irregular crossers, once intercepted by RCMP after crossing at unofficial points along the border, can make an asylum claim despite crossing from the U.S.

That loophole has been a major source of criticism since the surge began, and Blair told the House of Commons last week he has made attempts to discuss the matter with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

In late August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was heckled during an event in Quebec by a woman asking him when the federal government would reimburse the provincial government for the costs of dealing with the irregular migrants.

He accused her of “intolerance.”

When she confronted him a second time following the event to ask whether he respects “true stock Quebecois,” he told her, “your racism has no place here.”

Trudeau was unapologetic for his accusations when questioned about them afterwards.

“I will not flinch from highlighting when the politics of division, of fear, of spreading misinformation is actually harming the fabric of this country,” he said.

“The fact is, we have a situation where there are irregular arrivals coming across our border into Canada … People who are trying to make this sound like a crisis are playing exactly the politics of fear and intolerance.”

 

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Premier Ford announces intentions to form special committee to probe Ontario’s fiscal situation

Posted on 29 September 2018 by admin

TORONTO – Calling his predecessor’s handling of Ontario’s books “the biggest government scandal in a generation,” Premier Doug Ford announced plans for a special committee Monday that would dig further into the province’s fiscal situation.

Ford’s vow to hold the previous regime accountable came in a speech to caucus delivered days after his finance minister announced the province was dealing with a recently revised $15 billion deficit as a result of Liberal accounting practices.

“They do not just get to walk away from this,” said Ford, whose Progressive Conservatives won a majority this spring. “We will demand answers about where the money went.”

Ford said the committee will have the power to call witnesses, compel documents and gather evidence for a final report expected in December.

On Friday, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the province will have to make sacrifices as it grapples with a $15 billion projected deficit for 2018-2019.

“Vic you helped shine the spotlight on the biggest government scandal in a generation,” Ford said to Fedeli, who was standing beside him. “We sent a team of experts, an independent commission, to follow the money.”

Ford took no questions on his plans for the committee, which are in addition to the work of the independent commission and a line-by-line audit of government spending that’s expected to be finished in the coming weeks.

The premier instead repeatedly criticized his predecessor, Kathleen Wynne.

“We’re not just going to look the other way,” he said. “We’re not going to let Kathleen Wynne and her cronies walk away from their $15-billion scandal because we can’t let anything like this ever happen again.”

The government said the committee will investigate Liberal accounting practices, decision making and policy objectives. The body will be made up of six government members and three NDP legislators.

“We expect that this committee will leave no stone unturned,” Ford said. “Boy I’d be worried to go in front of them. They’re a tough group.”

Fedeli has explained that the Progressive Conservatives had chosen to adopt accounting practices used by the auditor general and had found greater deficits under the Liberals than had been reported.

The Liberals had disagreed with the auditor general over accounting principles applied to two pensions plans and its Fair Hydro Plan, a situation the fiscal watchdog said meant the province understated its deficit by billions.

Critics have said Fedeli’s message will pave the pave the way for significant cuts to government services.

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Canada’s Armed Forces, struggling to hit diversity goals, turns to new digital recruiting tools

Posted on 19 September 2018 by admin

The Canadian Armed Forces are struggling to hit their own targets to get more women, Indigenous people and visible minorities into uniform, new data obtained by Global News shows.

And, in an attempt to to boost numbers that appear to have been largely stalled for more than three years, the Department of National Defence (DND) will launch a suite of new digital tools — including a smartphone app that, in its functionality, will resemble the matchmaking app Tinder — aimed at convincing more Canadians to consider a life in the Armed Forces.

The Canadian Forces believes a more diverse group is also a more effective group.

“It’s important in that it gives us operational effectiveness,” Brig.-Gen. Virginia Tattersall said in an interview. “If we were all that one sort of vanilla, you won’t get that same range of opinions, those different ways of being able to think about issues, that different approach to how to solve a problem.”

The Canadian Forces says that, as of the most recent fiscal year-end, on March 31, 2018, just 15 per cent of the regular force were women, a ratio that’s hardly budged since 2016 when it was 14.4 per cent. DND’s own target is to push that ratio to 25 per cent by 2026.

One new female recruit, army Capt. Mandy Grewal, joined the Canadian Forces in the spring at the age of 34. She had been a practising private-sector lawyer and had never considered a career in uniform when she was growing up.

“It was never a career that was presented to me growing up as an Indian female,” Grewal said in an interview.

But through some friends who were in the Forces, Grewal learned about life in uniform and found out she could continue practising law and have the chance to work overseas and in different parts of Canada. She believes more women and visible minorities might consider making the same choice she did if they knew more the sorts of trades the military is seeking.

“I think that greater awareness of the career opportunities, of the fact that there are pretty much every trade that you would have in the civilian world, you can practise and you can also learn to do it in the military context,” said Grewal.

Tattersall acknowledged that one barrier to recruiting more women has been the perception that the Armed Forces did not do enough to prevent inappropriate sexual behaviour, that women were putting themselves at risk in a culture that often overlooked that kind of behaviour.

“But the Canadian Armed Forces is working hard to change that culture,” Tattersall said. “We’ve taken [steps] to make that very clear that’s not what the Canadian Armed Forces represents, apologize to those who have suffered and to move forward with a culture we want, which is an inclusive culture.”

Tattersall said the department has spent considerable time thinking about how to convince Canadians to join the forces.

Among the new initiatives set for this fall, the Forces hope to launch a program that lets Canadians sign up on a temporary basis, to get a taste of life in uniform, in the hope that they will enjoy the experience and make a career commitment.

There will soon be a revamped website which will include some virtual reality tours. And there will be a smartphone app that lets potential recruits explore some of the hundreds of different trades or occupations within the Forces by swiping right for those they like and swiping left for those they don’t.

“We are really upping our game so that we are going to approach young people just like any other modern company would think of,” Tattersall said.

DND is closer to hitting its self-imposed targets for visible minorities and Indigenous Canadians although, as with the ratio of female regular Force members, the numbers have not budged much over three successive years.

At the end of fiscal 2018, visible minorities made up 7.2 per cent of the regular Forces versus 6 per cent in 2016. The 2026 target is 11.8 per cent.

The 2026 target for Indigenous Canadians is 3.5 per cent and at the end of fiscal 2018, the regular Forces were at 2.8 per cent versus 2.7 per cent in 2016.

That data was provided to Global News by DND after Global News obtained a briefing note prepared last March for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan that outlined some of the human resources challenges facing the department.

For example, the department would like to lower the attrition rate of the forces. At the end of fiscal 2018, the forces were losing about 4.1 per cent of its members — both regular and reserve — a year. In fiscal 2017, the attrition rate spiked to 7.9 per cent. That spike, according to the briefing note prepared for Sajjan was a result of the clearing of a backlog of medical releases.

There are about 66,000 regular Force members and about 27,000 reserve Force members. The Trudeau government’s goal is to boost that to 71,500 regular Force members and 30,000 reservists. A high attrition rate makes it more difficult for the Forces to achieve those goals.

In fiscal 2018, the department spent $6.575 million on its recruiting advertising campaign which included the purchase of $1.365 million worth of television advertising which ran on CBC in French and in English during the Olympics.

 

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Here’s how Canadian businesses are affected by Canadian retaliatory tariffs

Posted on 19 September 2018 by admin

As the ongoing trade dispute over steel and aluminum rages on, Canadian producers and manufacturers are caught in the middle. As Canada’s largest trade association, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters has more than 2,500 members and it tells Global News every single one is affected.

Global News spoke with a number of steel manufacturers across the country. Here’s what three of them are up against.

How it is affected:  Apollo Machine employs 250 people at three facilities where it offers a wide range of machining services.

It has been hit hardest by counter-tariffs on the steel it needs to source from south of the border. Customers of its subsidiary, Apollo Clad, demand very specific types of steel bars for additive manufacturing that aren’t available in Canada. In some cases, the steel it needs is under an American patent.

It has been trying to source the product outside the U.S., but globally prices have been climbing due to the demand sparked by the trade dispute. And, like many others, it doesn’t want to hurt its longstanding relationship with its American supplier. Apollo Machine buys $9 million in steel annually and estimate counter-tariffs will cost the company $3 million this year if nothing changes.

It says the new Canadian rules are making its business non-competitive — right after it recovered from the oil and gas downturn in Alberta.

Is it getting help: The company applied for tariff relief, but all it got in response so far was an email saying the process would take weeks. Research and development manager Doug Hamre has launched a petition sponsored by Conservative MP Mike Lake, calling for Canada to get rid of the surtaxes on materials not produced in Canada, or at the very least, make the application process for duty relief programs easier.

How it is affected: Autotube makes steel and stainless steel tube components like dipsticks and oil tubes that are eventually used by the big three automakers as well as Toyota. It employs 200 people at two facilities.

It has been hit by both American and Canadian-imposed tariffs. First, American suppliers have upped their prices. But at home,  the company is subject to Canadian counter-tariffs which are costing $100,000 a month. It says it can’t get the coiled steel easily in Canada, the Canadian prices are much higher, and in addition, it has a 20-year relationship with its American supplier.

Is it getting help: Autotube has hired a consultant to try and get the product reclassified as an auto part, and if that fails, to try and get some duty relief.

How it is affected: Jem Strapping Systems makes all kinds of strapping used to ship products, but the vast majority is made out of steel. It employs about 30 people in its Brant County, Ont., plant.

About half of the company’s steel comes from Canada and the other half from the U.S., so it is affected by tariffs on both sides of the border. President Paul McGrath estimates his business has lost more than a million dollars so far, and is losing half his revenue to the tariff issue in general. Sales are down and McGrath has lost a lot of his American customers who are afraid of uncertainty.

Is it getting help: After submitting paperwork and undergoing a full-day audit by Canada Border Services Agency, Jem qualified for Canadian duty relief. But he says it’s not coming fast enough and he’s still stuck paying duty on scrap steel he can’t sell back to the U.S. — up to $10,000 a month, plus the cost of a bookkeeper to keep track of his new inventory system — separating U.S. and Canadian product.

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25 Toronto MPs slam Ford for using notwithstanding clause, urge MPPs to defeat bill

Posted on 19 September 2018 by admin

The 25 Liberal MPs who represent ridings in the city of Toronto have unanimously called on Ontario MPPs to “defeat” Premier Doug Ford’s bill to cut the size of Toronto city council because of its “unprecedented use” of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause.

In a statement made public on Thursday, the group of Toronto MPs, which includes several federal cabinet ministers, said they “stand united” against Ford’s decision to use that clause, describing the premier’s move as “heavy-handed and disrespectful.”

The notwithstanding clause allows provincial legislatures and Parliament to pass legislation that overrides provisions enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Before this week, no Ontario government had ever invoked the clause.

“We believe MPPs elected in Toronto have a responsibility to defend the city, its democratic institutions, and the rights of citizens to a free and fair municipal election,” the statement says. “The people of Toronto deserve nothing less.”

“As elected representatives of the City, we want to assure the people of Toronto that we understand and respect the critical role that City Hall and local democracy play in building the communities in which we live.”

Earlier this summer, the Progressive Conservative government tabled and passed a bill seeking to slash the number of seats on Toronto city council seats to 25 from 47.  The reduction came even though a municipal election campaign is already underway. Municipalities throughout Ontario, including Toronto, go to the polls Oct. 22.

The bill was challenged in court and in a ruling issued Monday morning, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found that the move to do away with 22 city wards in the middle of an election campaign substantially interfered with municipal voters’ freedom of expression and the “right to cast a vote that can result in effective representation.”

“It is only when a democratically elected government has clearly crossed the line that the ‘judicial umpire’ should intervene. The Province has clearly crossed the line,” Belobaba wrote in his decision.

Displeased with the ruling, Ford gave notice he would re-table the legislation cutting Toronto city council seats and invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the Ontario court’s ruling. The re-introduced bill had its first reading in the provincial legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking with Global News from Saskatoon, where the Liberal caucus met for the last two days, Spadina-Fort York MP Adam Vaughan argued Ford’s decision to use the clause is “beyond the norm” in Canada and represents “an abuse of power.” That’s why Vaughan said he’s calling on Progressive Conservative MPPs — particularly those in Toronto — to vote against the re-introduced legislation.

“At this stage in the dispute, all we can do is appeal to their conscience and appeal to their principles,” Vaughan said in a phone interview. “I do know a number of them and they should give their heads a shake. They should know better.”

“This kind of abuse of principle and practice and law is a slippery slope to all laws and all rules and all regulations being disobeyed. And that is not democratic, and that is not an acceptable practice in this day and age in any democracy, let alone Ontario.”

Despite this being a municipal and provincial issue, Vaughan said concerned constituents have been coming to him “by the score.” Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin also told Global News she’s had “a lot” of constituents express worries about the Ontario government’s efforts to reduce the number of elected municipal representatives in Toronto.

“Right now, [Premier Ford] has a right of appeal, he has other mechanisms there for him and that’s what he should be using,” Dabrusin told reporters in Saskatoon.

Ford did say on Monday he would appeal the Superior Court ruling. A majority of Toronto city council on Thursday afternoon voted to head back to court to fight the bill.

In their statement, the Liberal MPs said the issue at hand is not partisan.

Asked about the Toronto MPs’ statement during a press conference in Saskatoon on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expects all Liberal MPs “to be strong voices for their communities in Ottawa.”

Trudeau, however, has indicated he won’t intervene in the controversy, beyond expressing his disappointment in the Ontario government’s decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause.

The prime minister said on Thursday he’s a “staunch believer and defender” of the Charter and takes Ford’s move “very seriously,” but he’s not going to weigh in on “the actual debate over the size of the municipal governments in Ontario (or) Toronto.”

“I don’t think that’s a role the federal government needs to take on,” Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that the Ontario government is well within its legal rights to use the notwithstanding clause in this circumstance.

Scheer, however, did not say whether he thinks it is a good move.

 

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NDP’s Andrea Horwath criticized for mixing politics with Humboldt tragedy

Posted on 19 September 2018 by admin

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is facing online backlash for mixing Ontario politics with the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.

On Wednesday night, Horwath tweeted “Ford chaos in Ontario notwithstanding, my heart is in Humbolt with so many other Canadians from across our country.”

However, it immediately caused several people to respond to the Hamilton Centre MPP with harsh criticism, with some calling the comment “gross”, “tasteless” and “disrespectful.”

Humboldt was also misspelled in the tweet, which has since been deleted.

 

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Ontario minister confident Toronto election date feasible as province pushes to pass bill on council cuts

Posted on 19 September 2018 by admin

TORONTO – Until recently, traffic congestion and lack of affordable housing were expected to dominate Toronto’s fall election, but now some candidates and voters are worried the fierce debate over the council’s size is overshadowing the issues they consider vital for the residents of Canada’s largest city.

The dispute between Toronto and the province, triggered by Premier Doug Ford’s surprise move in late July to reduce Toronto council to 25 seats from 47, has been dominating the campaign – and headlines – for weeks.

It is also the main issue Coun. Mike Layton says his constituents ask about as he campaign for re-election.

 “Somehow our new premier has hijacked the City of Toronto election, not only by changing the rules halfway through but all anyone wants to talk about when you’re at the door is his behaviour,” he said. “They don’t actually want to talk about the issues so you’ve got to start there and then pivot over.”

Franklyn McFadden, 31, said he’s disappointed the debate has shifted away from the issues that affect people’s lives, such as public transit.

“If I’m waiting at bus stop in my neighbourhood at 5 p.m., there’s a good chance I’ll be waiting for at least three buses that are jam-packed full before I can even get my scooter on one of them,” said McFadden, who uses a mobility device. “That’s just one of many, many issues that are being left for the back burner.”

John Sewell, a former Toronto mayor who has criticized the Progressive Conservative government’s unprecedented use of charter’s notwithstanding clause to move slash the size of council in the middle of an election, said the move could have long-lasting consequences.

 “What Ford has done is sucked up all the oxygen,” he said. “It’s made sure that the election is meaningless and that the council that will be produced will have no credibility at all, that’s the problem.”

Sewell, who served as mayor in the late 1970s but remains involved in municipal issues, said the conflict between the two levels of government over the cut underscores another troubling point – the lack of co-operation on key files, many of the same ones that are not being discussed during the campaign.

“You need that co-operation to address the larger questions,” he said.

The Ford government reintroduced its council-cutting legislation this week after a judge found the original law was unconstitutional. The Tories are also appealing the judge’s decision, and a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Amid the uncertainty, voters are asking a lot of questions about the electoral map, the riding makeup and who the candidates are, said Layton.

“When you have 110,000 doors to knock on you have to make great use of your time,” he said. “When you have to spend the first five minutes talking about the changing rules, and if you’re running in that neighbourhood or not … that’s a significant amount of time.”

Environment Minister Rod Phillips, who once served as former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman’s chief of staff, said those conversations can still take place before the Oct. 22 vote, noting that provincial election campaigns are 30 days long.

“I have a lot of confidence that between the many council candidates and the mayoral candidates that there will be a broad and fulsome discussion of the issues.”

Ford, who is a former city councillor, has said Toronto council is dysfunctional and slashing it nearly in half will streamline decision-making and save taxpayers $25 million. The city has argued many of the challenges Toronto is facing are due to lack of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

Meanwhile, the official in charge of running Toronto’s election has said it’s becoming “virtually impossible” to ensure a fair vote next month.

Legislators will be called back to Queen’s Park on Saturday at 1 p.m. to help speed up debate on the bill, dubbed the Efficient Local Government Act.

The New Democrats and the Liberals have vowed to introduce amendments to the bill that could potentially delay its passage.

The NDP said Thursday it will challenge the bill under rules that preclude legislators from introducing substantially the same bill twice in one session and bar the legislature from debating an item currently before the courts.

 

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Trump attacks union leader days after he stated new NAFTA deal must include Canada

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

President Donald Trump started his Labor Day with an attack on a top union leader, lashing out after criticism from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Trump tweeted Monday that Trumka “represented his union poorly on television this weekend.” He added: “it is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly. A Dem!”

The president’s attack came after Trumka appeared on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend where he said efforts to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement should include Canada. Trumka, whose organization is an umbrella group for most unions, said the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico are “integrated” and “it’s pretty hard to see how that would work without having Canada in the deal.”

Trump said Saturday on Twitter that there was “no political necessity” to keep Canada in NAFTA. But it’s questionable whether Trump can unilaterally exclude Canada from a deal to replace the three-nation NAFTA agreement, without the approval of Congress. Any such move would likely face lengthy legal and congressional challenges.

Trump administration negotiations to keep Canada in the reimagined trade bloc are to resume this week as Washington and Ottawa try to break a deadlock over issues such as Canada’s dairy market and U.S. efforts to shield drug companies from generic competition.

Trump wants to get a trade deal finalized by Dec. 1.

Trumka also said of Trump: “the things that he’s done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers,” arguing that Trump has not come through with an infrastructure program and has overturned regulations that “will hurt us on the job.”

Asked about the low unemployment rate and economic growth, Trumka said “those are good, but wages have been down since the first of the year. Gas prices have been up since the first of the year. So, overall, workers aren’t doing as well.”

On Monday, Trump touted the economy, saying “Our country is doing better than ever before with unemployment setting record lows.” He added, “The Worker in America is doing better than ever before. Celebrate Labor Day!”

The unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is not at the best point ever — it is near the lowest in 18 years.

 

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The end of NAFTA? What the U.S.-Mexico trade deal means for Canada

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

There was a time when Mexico was seeking reassurances from Canada about not being excluded from the NAFTA renegotiations prompted by the United States.

On Monday, though, it was the U.S. and Mexico that announced a deal to change the 25-year old trade pact, with Canada pressured to sign on by Friday.

And the message to Ottawa from U.S. President Donald Trump was clear: Take it or leave it.

“We’re starting negotiations with Canada pretty much immediately,” Trump said. However, he added, the Canadian economy is “a smaller segment, Mexico is a very large trading partner.”

Throughout the press conference, the U.S. president portrayed the new agreement as a bilateral trade deal, in which Canada might or might not be included.

“They used to call it NAFTA. We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement. We’ll get rid of the name NAFTA,” Trump told reporters, adding that the name had a “bad connotation.”

The White House is telling Canada to “sign on the dotted line,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets, told Global News.

But it isn’t entirely clear, yet, what Ottawa would be agreeing to.

 “I think the reality is that we’re still likely to end up with a three-way deal,” Shenfeld told Global News.

And that means there would still be a North American free trade agreement, whatever the U.S. president wants to call it.

Details on what the U.S.-Mexican deal contains are scant, but media leaks indicate the two have agreed to raise the threshold for North American auto content in NAFTA vehicles to 75 per cent, up from the current level of 62.5 per cent. Also, the new pact would require 40 per cent to 45 per cent of auto content to be made by workers earning at least US$16 per hour, something that would reduce Mexico’s ability to attract manufacturers based on US$4 an-hour wages.

For Ottawa, “it will either be a tariff on cars or a negotiated deal,” Trump said. The White House has previously threatened to impose tariffs of 25 per cent on imports of cars, trucks and auto parts from foreign countries, including Canada.

But the auto sector is unlikely to be a sticking point for Canada, which wouldn’t be affected by the wage provisions and appeared open to higher auto content rules in the past, Shenfeld said.

The U.S.-Mexico pact is also said to include a compromise on what had been a key point of friction between Ottawa and Washington: The U.S. demand for a sunset clause that would force the renegotiation of the deal every five years.

Instead, the deal will come up for review every six years, with the potential for expiration after 16 years.

Less is known, however, about what the U.S.-Mexico pact says on a number of other issues that have proven to be “poison pills” for the Canada-U.S. negotiations, said Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

These include U.S. demands to curtail Canada’s and Mexico’s ability to bid for U.S. government contracts and to scrap dispute-resolution provisions. Mexico agreed to eliminate dispute settlement panels for certain anti-dumping cases, a move that could complicate talks with Canada.

However, it is Ottawa’s treatment of dairy products that will likely be the biggest issue for Canadian and U.S. negotiators, Sands predicted.

Canada’s supply management system, which sets production quotas and prices for domestic dairy products while imposing steep tariffs on imports, was very much on President Trump’s mind on Monday.

“You know, they have the tariffs of almost 300 per cent on some of our dairy products,” Trump said referring to Canada.

At the start of the negotiations, “the U.S. assumed, wrongly, that because [former Prime Minister Stephen] Harper was willing to make concessions on [supply management] for the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] TPP talks, this government would be willing to do the same,” Sands said.

But supply management is a much bigger issue for Trudeau’s political base, Sands added.

Still, Canada could perhaps get a deal and preserve supply management if it is willing to accept the rest of the U.S.-Mexico pact, he noted.

If Canada doesn’t add its signature to the agreement inked by Washington and Mexico City, it will likely negotiate a separate bilateral deal with the U.S., Sands said.

This now appears a concrete possibility, as the U.S. administration has been signalling since April that is has a strong preference for bilateral over multilateral deals. Negotiating one-on-one with other countries gives the U.S. greater leverage, Sands noted.

The end result could be one U.S.-Mexico deal, one Canada-U.S. deal and one agreement between Canada and Mexico that would be based on whatever is left on NAFTA, Sands said. This could considerably complicate the trade rules governing North American trade and possibly create an incentive for some businesses to relocate to the U.S., he added.

“The more complex and North America-based your supply chain, the more you are vulnerable,” Sands said.

Manufacturing companies in the auto sector and aerospace industry would likely be among those feeling the biggest impact, he noted.

The U.S. has said it hopes to conclude negotiations with Canada by Friday in order to give the U.S. Congress the required 90 days to review the deal and allow outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign it before leaving office on Dec. 1.

The text of the pact itself won’t be made publicly available until 30 days from today, Sands said, another element that puts the Trudeau government in a tough negotiating spot.

But Ottawa might be able to extend its negotiating window and still sign on to a three-way deal with a little help from Mexico, Sands said.

Speaking with President Trump’s speakerphone in the Oval Office, President Pena Nieto repeatedly stressed the importance of keeping Canada in the pact.

If his successor, president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is equally keen on including Ottawa in the deal, he might be able to keep the window open for Canada a little longer, Sands said.

It’s Canada’s turn now, it seems, to seek reassurances from Mexico.

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