Canada opposition picks young social conservative to take on Trudeau

By David Ljunggren and Andrea Hopkins



OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s official opposition Conservatives on Saturday chose a little-known, 38-year-old leader to fight a 2019 election against Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but only after a fierce contest that revealed internal divisions.



On the 13th and final round of balloting, many more than political observers predicted, former House of Commons speaker Andrew Scheer edged out ex-foreign minister and favorite Maxime Bernier by 51 percent to 49 percent.



Scheer is younger and much less well-known than the 45-year-old Trudeau, an avowed feminist who took power in November 2015 promising a more inclusive kind of politics. Polls show the Liberals are still well ahead of opposition parties.



Scheer must now try to heal a rift between the socially conservative wing he represents and others who prefer a more centrist approach.



“We all know what it looks like when conservatives are divided. We will not let that happen again,” Scheer told a televised news conference after the final results were announced in a Toronto convention center.



“Imagine what we will do when we are all working together. We can’t go through another four years of Justin Trudeau.”



The race had moments of Trump-like populism with a reality TV star and a candidate critical of immigration getting early attention. But Scheer and Bernier were more mainstream politicians, suggesting the wave of populism that swept Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency will not extend to Canada.



The right-of-center Conservatives held power for nearly a decade under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the center-left Liberals won in 2015.
  Continued…


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New rules aim to cut methane emissions in Canada’s oil, gas sector

New rules to reduce methane emissions from Canada’s energy sector will cost the industry an estimated $3.3-billion over the next two decades, and will hit conventional oil and natural-gas producers the most dramatically.

But federal officials also say that the value of conserved gas from 2018 to 2035, as a result of the regulatory changes, could total $1.6-billion – alongside billions saved in avoiding costs related to climate-change damage. The draft rules for the oil and gas sector, released on Thursday, are part of Ottawa’s climate-change plan that includes a goal of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025.

The government argues that working to reduce methane emissions from leaky equipment or reducing gas venting is the low-hanging fruit as Canada works to mitigate climate change. It costs less to reduce potent methane emissions compared with other greenhouse gases. And most methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are not subject to the provincial and federal carbon-tax regimes designed to prompt GHG reductions – which is why the government is instead moving to set hard and fast regulations in this area.

“This is a huge opportunity to be more efficient,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna as she announced the new rules at a Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) lab Thursday.

Methane is the colourless, odourless main component of natural gas, used to heat homes and run industrial factories. The oil and gas industry produces about 44 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions – with methane as a whole representing 15 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions. Ottawa is proposing rules regarding equipment leaks, venting, pneumatic devices, compressors and well completions.

Speaking after the announcement on Thursday, Shell Canada president Michael Crothers said the company supports controls on methane emissions, and has long had voluntary leak detection and repair programs in place at its Alberta and B.C. operations. But “maintaining cost competitiveness” remains an issue, he added.

While the Trump administration in the United States continues to move to loosen environmental rules – including those related to methane emissions – Canada is enacting a wide swath of measures to combat climate change. In the industry, there are concerns the differences between the two countries could render the Canadian oil and gas sector less competitive.

Last month, it became clear that the timeline for full implementation of the new methane regulations had been pushed back to 2023, instead of 2020 – mostly in response to industry concerns about competitiveness. But in the end, Ms. McKenna said Thursday, oil and gas producers will still have to enact the changes before the 2025 target.

The minister said the new rules will actually help Canada be more competitive, by encouraging innovation. She said a few U.S. states already have much stricter methane-emission controls.

But Terry Abel, executive vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said Canadian oil and gas firms are already achieving better outcomes than many U.S. counterparts. He added that the Canadian sector was on track through technology and other measures to achieve major methane reductions by 2025. Ottawa’s detailed rules released Thursday are too prescriptive, he said.

“We’re concerned, and we’re interested in further discussion,” Mr. Abel said. “The details that you see today, perhaps we don’t agree they are all necessary to achieve that same reduction.”

The Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, said the rules are important for Canada to meet its international climate-change obligations, including the Paris agreement. It would like to see faster implementation timelines for the regulations.

The new rules will cover more than 95 per cent of oil and gas-industry methane emission sources, according to government officials. At the same time, the government has proposed new regulations to curb the release of volatile organic compounds from oil and gas sites, including petrochemical facilities, refineries and oil-sands upgraders.



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John Ivison: Time for parliament to tighten election rules on third parties and foreign money

It may never be known how much influence foreign money, wielded by hostile political advocacy groups, played in the Conservative Party’s defeat in 2015.

A complaint led by defeated Tory MP Joan Crockatt claims that federal election rules were broken by organizations like Leadnow, which used money donated from the U.S. to skew the result.

That may or may not be the case, and the Commissioner of Elections should look closely at the allegation.

But what is clear is that there is a loophole in the Elections Act big enough to drive a bulldozer through — and it is Parliament’s job to close it.

To recap, the Calgary Herald reported this week that Crockatt and others lodged a complaint with Elections Canada alleging foreign money was donated to third-party organizations and then used to influence the 2015 election, potentially in contravention of spending limits.

A total of 114 third parties — people or groups producing election advertising who are not registered candidates, political parties or riding associations — were registered with Elections Canada in 2015, up from 55 in 2011.

According to the complaint, nine of those organizations were funded at least in part by the New York-based Tides Foundation, which donated a total of US $1.5 million.

Leadnow — which organized a 2015 anyone-but-Harper strategic voting campaign which targeted a number of ridings where it considered the Conservatives vulnerable  — is not included on the list of Tides grantees, but the researcher and writer Vivian Krause has claimed the organization is funded indirectly through the Sisu Institute Society, a B.C.-based non-profit which in 2015 received US $795,300, according to the Tides list.

In a statement, a Leadnow spokeswoman said no international money went toward its 2015 campaign. ‎”We have filed and submitted an electoral activity report and campaign audit with Elections Canada. We are in compliance with all laws,” she said. 

But the group has not been shy about the impact of its Defeat Harper campaign on the election result, claiming its 6000 volunteers helped defeat 25 Conservative candidates of the 29 ridings targeted.

Crockatt’s complaint, and another to Elections Commissioner Yves Coté by Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, is focused on whether the third parties complied with the Canada Elections Act.

My suspicion is that they did — because the regulations are so inadequate when it comes to third parties and foreign money.

In the words of Sen. Linda Frum, we have 20th-century rules regulating 21st-century political activities.

As Coté revealed in his testimony before a Senate committee, while Canadians can only donate $1,550 to political parties and candidates, and union and corporate donations are banned completely, the compliance rules for foreign money are much more lax.

As long as the funds are received by a Canadian citizen or resident six months before the election writ is dropped, there is no restriction on the use of money from foreign sources. The third party can then use the money as it wishes.

The funding loophole is not the only area where parliamentary action is required. Provided they act independently from any political party or candidates, third-party activities during an election period are only regulated to the extent they are related to election advertising.

Third parties are limited to spending $150,000 per campaign, or $3000 per riding on advertising, including the cost of production and distribution.

But there are no limits on how much they can spend on polling, holding events or canvassing voters in person or by telephone.

Third parties are increasingly doing these things, thus acting like political parties — and yet they have a completely different compliance regime.

Social media-literate organizations with vast banks of volunteers have been able to outspend political parties, which have to register all of their expenses.

Neither access to foreign funding nor lax spending rules are fair to political parties.

Frum believes Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand should be enforcing the regulations more vigorously. “He could have said the regulations are not adequate,” she told the Post in an interview.

But it is clear that Mayrand has no intention of acting unilaterally.

During his appearance before the Senate committee last year, he said the Elections Act is reviewed periodically. “It was reviewed in 2014 (and) Parliament did not find it appropriate to amend these rules regarding third parties … Parliamentarians should make the decision because the issue is a matter of public policy … Perhaps this public policy should be reviewed in 2019,” he said.

Frum will next week bring forward a private members’ bill that seeks to prohibit the use of foreign funds in political activity in Canada.

The government should adopt and promote it, but that seems unlikely to happen.

The Liberals already have their own legislation to reform the Elections Act, which is at early-stage reading in the House of Commons. While C-33 undoes many of the Conservatives’ Fair Elections Act reforms, such as bringing back the use of vouching for eligible voters, it makes no mention of third-party influence or foreign money.

The government should adopt and promote it, but that seems unlikely to happen

Given the Liberals were the net beneficiaries of advocacy work by Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and Greenpeace Canada, that is no surprise.

But politics is a fickle business. They are perhaps one pipeline away from being a target of Tides’ largesse.

The argument has been made — not least by Stephen Harper before the Supreme Court of Canada, when he was head of the National Citizens Coalition — that any checks on third parties are an unwarranted restriction on freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights.

But we have, appropriately, tightened the rules to limit the influence of money in our politics. Should we really be making an exception for foreign money?

• Email: jivison@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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Time for parliament to tighten election rules on third parties and foreign money

It may never be known how much influence foreign money, wielded by hostile political advocacy groups, played in the Conservative Party’s defeat in 2015.

A complaint led by defeated Tory MP Joan Crockatt claims that federal election rules were broken by organizations like Leadnow, which used money donated from the U.S. to skew the result.

That may or may not be the case, and the Commissioner of Elections should look closely at the allegation.

But what is clear is that there is a loophole in the Elections Act big enough to drive a bulldozer through — and it is Parliament’s job to close it.

To recap, the Calgary Herald reported this week that Crockatt and others lodged a complaint with Elections Canada alleging foreign money was donated to third-party organizations and then used to influence the 2015 election, potentially in contravention of spending limits.

A total of 114 third parties — people or groups producing election advertising who are not registered candidates, political parties or riding associations — were registered with Elections Canada in 2015, up from 55 in 2011.

According to the complaint, nine of those organizations were funded at least in part by the New York-based Tides Foundation, which donated a total of US $1.5 million.

Leadnow — which organized a 2015 anyone-but-Harper strategic voting campaign which targeted a number of ridings where it considered the Conservatives vulnerable  — is not included on the list of Tides grantees, but the researcher and writer Vivian Krause has claimed the organization is funded indirectly through the Sisu Institute Society, a B.C.-based non-profit which in 2015 received US $795,300, according to the Tides list.

In a statement, a Leadnow spokeswoman said no international money went toward its 2015 campaign. ‎”We have filed and submitted an electoral activity report and campaign audit with Elections Canada. We are in compliance with all laws,” she said. 

But the group has not been shy about the impact of its Defeat Harper campaign on the election result, claiming its 6000 volunteers helped defeat 25 Conservative candidates of the 29 ridings targeted.

Crockatt’s complaint, and another to Elections Commissioner Yves Coté by Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, is focused on whether the third parties complied with the Canada Elections Act.

My suspicion is that they did — because the regulations are so inadequate when it comes to third parties and foreign money.

In the words of Sen. Linda Frum, we have 20th-century rules regulating 21st-century political activities.

As Coté revealed in his testimony before a Senate committee, while Canadians can only donate $1,550 to political parties and candidates, and union and corporate donations are banned completely, the compliance rules for foreign money are much more lax.

As long as the funds are received by a Canadian citizen or resident six months before the election writ is dropped, there is no restriction on the use of money from foreign sources. The third party can then use the money as it wishes.

The funding loophole is not the only area where parliamentary action is required. Provided they act independently from any political party or candidates, third-party activities during an election period are only regulated to the extent they are related to election advertising.

Third parties are limited to spending $150,000 per campaign, or $3000 per riding on advertising, including the cost of production and distribution.

But there are no limits on how much they can spend on polling, holding events or canvassing voters in person or by telephone.

Third parties are increasingly doing these things, thus acting like political parties — and yet they have a completely different compliance regime.

Social media-literate organizations with vast banks of volunteers have been able to outspend political parties, which have to register all of their expenses.

Neither access to foreign funding nor lax spending rules are fair to political parties.

Frum believes Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand should be enforcing the regulations more vigorously. “He could have said the regulations are not adequate,” she told the Post in an interview.

But it is clear that Mayrand has no intention of acting unilaterally.

During his appearance before the Senate committee last year, he said the Elections Act is reviewed periodically. “It was reviewed in 2014 (and) Parliament did not find it appropriate to amend these rules regarding third parties … Parliamentarians should make the decision because the issue is a matter of public policy … Perhaps this public policy should be reviewed in 2019,” he said.

Frum will next week bring forward a private members’ bill that seeks to prohibit the use of foreign funds in political activity in Canada.

The government should adopt and promote it, but that seems unlikely to happen.

The Liberals already have their own legislation to reform the Elections Act, which is at early-stage reading in the House of Commons. While C-33 undoes many of the Conservatives’ Fair Elections Act reforms, such as bringing back the use of vouching for eligible voters, it makes no mention of third-party influence or foreign money.

The government should adopt and promote it, but that seems unlikely to happen

Given the Liberals were the net beneficiaries of advocacy work by Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and Greenpeace Canada, that is no surprise.

But politics is a fickle business. They are perhaps one pipeline away from being a target of Tides’ largesse.

The argument has been made — not least by Stephen Harper before the Supreme Court of Canada, when he was head of the National Citizens Coalition — that any checks on third parties are an unwarranted restriction on freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights.

But we have, appropriately, tightened the rules to limit the influence of money in our politics. Should we really be making an exception for foreign money?

• Email: jivison@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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British Columbia election results unclear after 2 days of recount

By Nicole Mordant

A preliminary tally of votes in the May 9 election showed
that the ruling Liberal Party won 43 out of 87 seats. The
left-leaning opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) won 41 seats
and the Green Party had claimed three.

The Liberals and NDP have spent the past two weeks courting
the tiny Green Party, which would hold the balance of
power in the province if the preliminary results are confirmed.

The Greens could push the pro-business Liberals out of power
by forming a majority government with the NDP. Both the NDP and
Greens oppose large oil and gas projects such as Kinder Morgan’s
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The outcome is likely to be determined by the recount in a
close race in the Courtenay-Comox region on Vancouver Island,
where the initial tally put the NDP ahead of the Liberals by
just nine votes.

A partial count posted on Tuesday evening showed the NDP was
in the lead with 10,481 votes, compared to 10,380 for the
Liberals. The provincial elections office said on Twitter that
it would post its next update on Wednesday morning.

The final results included nearly 180,000 absentee ballots
cast across the province that were not counted in the initial
tally.
(Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Jim
Finkle in Toronto; Editing by Michael Perry)


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Corrupt Canadian Banking Practices

Photo from Public Domain

A recent photo in French daily Liberation hints at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s role in facilitating tax avoidance, which is partly an outgrowth of Canadian banking prowess in the Caribbean and Ottawa’s role in shaping the region’s unsavoury financial sector.

Just before the second round of the French presidential election documents were leaked purporting to show that Emmanuel Macron set up a company in a Caribbean tax haven. The president-elect’s firm is alleged to have had dealings with CIBC FirstCaribbean, a subsidiary of Canada’s fifth biggest bank.

While Macron denies setting up an offshore firm and contests the veracity of the documents, this is immaterial to the broader point. If the documents are a fraudulent political attack, those responsible chose CIBC First Caribbean because it is a major player in the region and has been linked to various tax avoidance schemes.

CIBC registered 632 companies and private foundations in the tax haven of the Bahamas between 1990 and May 2016, according to documents released in the Panama Papers.

CIBC was named 1,347 times in a cache of leaked files concerning secret tax havens released by the Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2013.

FirstCaribbean was implicated in the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal. To avoid an electronic trail of a $250,000 payment to former FIFA official Chuck Blazer, a representative of FirstCaribbean allegedly flew to New York to collect a cheque and deposit it in a Bahamas account.

In 2013 the US Internal Revenue Service sent FirstCaribbean a summons for information on some of its customers who may have been evading US income tax and the CIBC subsidiary was placed on an IRS list of “financial institutions where taxpayers receive a harsher penalty if they are found to have undisclosed accounts.”

CIBC is apparently popular with wealthy, well-placed Africans. Economist Thierry Godefroy and legal expert Pierre Lascoumes write that the “Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is known as the bank of many African dignitaries” while French Africa specialist François-Xavier Verschave called it “the nefarious CIBC, favourite bank of African oil dictators.” In 1997, for instance, the Toronto-based financial institution was the conduit of a $22 million transfer from Geneva to the British Virgin Islands for Kourtas, which was owned by Gabonese dictator Omar Bongo.

CIBC is not only the Canadian bank with operations in a Caribbean financial haven. In fact, Canadian institutions dominate the region’s unsavoury banking sector. In 2013 CIBC, RBC and Scotiabank accounted for more than 60 percent of regional banking assets. In 2008 The Economist reported Canadian banks controlled “the English-speaking Caribbean’s three largest banks, with $42 billion in assets, four times those commanded by its forty-odd remaining locally owned banks.” With their presence in the region dating to the 1830s, Canadian banks have been major players in the Caribbean since the late 1800s.

(Going back further, much of the capital used to establish the current incarnation of CIBC came from supplying the Caribbean slave colonies. The Halifax Banking Company was the first bank in Nova Scotia and the founding unit of today’s CIBC. The Halifax Banking Company’s leading shareholder and initial president, Enos Collins, was a ship owner, who made his wealth by bringing high-protein, salty Atlantic cod to the Caribbean to keep hundreds of thousands of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day.” He was also a privateer, licensed by the state to seize enemy boats during wartime, and according to a biography, likely captured and resold slaves in the region.)

Ottawa shaped post-independence Caribbean banking regulations. Beginning in 1955, a former governor of the Bank of Canada and director of the Royal Bank of Canada, Graham Towers, along with a representative from the Ministry of Finance, helped write the Bank of Jamaica law of 1960 and that country’s Banking Law of 1960. These laws, which became the model for the rest of the newly independent English Caribbean, pleased Canadian banks. In The Banks of Canada in the Commonwealth Caribbean Daniel Jay Baum writes, “the overall and firm impression with which one is left after reading the [Bank] Act is that its drafters did not intend to control the foreign operations of Canadian banks, or that if they intended to, they failed to do so.” More to the point, notes Towers of Gold, feet of clay: The Canadian banks, “West Indian banking laws, when they were written, were written with our help and advice and for our benefit.”

Alain Deneault details the work of Canadian politicians, businessmen and Bank of Canada officials in developing taxation and banking policies in a number of Caribbean financial havens in his 2015 book Canada: A New Tax Haven: How the Country That Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens Is Becoming One Itself. Deneault writes:

Beginning in the 1950s, at the instigation of Canadian financiers, lawyers, and policymakers, these jurisdictions changed to become some of the world’s most frighteningly accommodating jurisdictions. In 1955, a former governor of the Bank of Canada most probably helped make Jamaica into a reduced-taxation country. In the 1960s, as the Bahamas were becoming a tax haven characterized by impenetrable bank secrecy, the Bahamian finance minister was a member of the board of administrators of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). A Calgary lawyer and former Conservative Party honcho drew up the clauses that enabled the Cayman Islands to become an opaque offshore jurisdiction.

Another way Canada has enabled the offshore financial infrastructure is by signing tax treaties and Tax Information Exchange Agreements with Caribbean tax havens. Due to a 2011 Tax Information Exchange Agreement, Deneault writes, “subsidiaries of Canadian companies that record their profits in the Caymans can now transfer them to Canada without paying any taxes.”

While they’ve proliferated in recent years, the first double taxation treaty Canada signed with a Caribbean tax haven dates to Wayne Gretzky’s inaugural season in the NHL. In 1980, Joe Clark’s short-lived Conservative government signed a double taxation treaty with Barbados. This allowed Canadians to park their international profits in Barbados, which taxes companies at between 0.25% and 2.5%, and transfer them here without paying tax in Canada.

Ottawa has actively defended the Caribbean financial system. In response to a push for greater regulation of the offshore world, in 2009 Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty told the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (where Canada represents most members of the Commonwealth Caribbean as well as Ireland):

Some of our Caribbean countries have significant financial sector activities. There is a risk that changes to financial sector regulation in advanced countries could have negative unintended consequences on these activities. In particular, there is a risk that measures taken against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens, could have unintended negative impacts on well-regulated, transparent, financial centres. I believe that this should be avoided. Countries that comply with international standards should be protected from such measures.

Canada has shaped the Caribbean’s opaque financial sector and CIBC seems to be at the centre of international offshore tax avoidance.

Let’s go, Canada! Time to clean up the mess we created in the Caribbean.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.

This article originally appeared on DissidentVoice.org.

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Government of Canada Celebrates Bank Note Marking 150 Years of Confederation and Holds Infrastructure Roundtable

May 23, 2017 – Toronto, Ontario – Department of Finance Canada

The Government of Canada knows that our economy and country are stronger because of our diversity and because of the contributions from fearless, inspiring Canadians.

Today, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance Ginette Petitpas Taylor met with students at Leaside High School to celebrate the new Canada 150 commemorative $10 bank note, which will feature inspiring Canadians Agnes Macphail and James Gladstone or Akay-na-muka, alongside Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, and Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a Father of Confederation. Parliamentary Secretary Petitpas Taylor was joined by the Chief Operating Officer of the Bank of Canada, Filipe Dinis, and Member of Parliament Rob Oliphant.

Upon circulation next week, the commemorative note will mark the first time that a Canadian woman and an Indigenous Canadian are depicted as portrait subjects on a Bank of Canada bank note.

Starting on June 1, the Bank of Canada will issue 40 million of these commemorative bank notes and distribute them through financial institutions to be broadly available across Canada by July 1.

Earlier today, Parliamentary Secretary Petitpas Taylor held a roundtable discussion at the Northern Dancer Pavilion of the Canadian Film Centre on Budget 2017, the Government’s ambitious plan to support middle class Canadians at every stage of their lives, transform our neighbourhoods and communities, and give every Canadian a real and fair chance at success.

Quotes

“As we celebrate Canada 150, we are reminded of what makes us who we are—we are strong because of our diversity and not in spite of it. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I thank Governor Poloz and the Bank of Canada for their contribution to this truly national celebration.
I was also pleased to discuss the Government’s plans to make our cities more dynamic and competitive, and to drive economic growth. Meeting with Canadians during roundtables reaffirms my belief that our plan to strengthen the middle class is having a positive impact and will drive Canada’s economy forward.”

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

“The Bank of Canada is proud to have produced this special note commemorating Canada’s 150th anniversary. We have only ever produced three other such bank notes in our 82-year history. This bank note is unique and reminds us of how much we have to celebrate as Canadians as we look forward to charting our shared future.”

Filipe Dinis, Chief Operating Officer, Bank of Canada

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613-369-5696

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Chrystia Freeland Tells Mexico Canada Committed To Three-Way NAFTA Renegotiation

OTTAWA — The federal government is using a deep mine of digital data to map out what it says are the economic benefits to the United States of its unfettered trade with Canada, says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland told an audience in Mexico City on Tuesday that the government’s trove of data drills down into individual U.S. congressional districts to show the local upside of the trading relationship with Canada.

The data is all part of the Liberal government’s full-court press on the Trump administration to demonstrate the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Donald Trump has savaged NAFTA and threatened to scrap the three-country trade pact if it can’t be renegotiated to his satisfaction.

Canada, in response, has mounted an information campaign on Trump and his cabinet, as well as Congress and state and local governments to underline the mutually beneficial trade between the countries.

chrystia freeland
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland talks with media in Ottawa on May 18, 2017. (Photo: Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press)

The Trudeau government has repeated, almost endlessly, the talking point that 35 U.S. states call Canada their top customer, while nine million Americans depend on Canada for their jobs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also assigned 11 cabinet ministers to key U.S. states to make the case for NAFTA and thinning borders.

Freeland added a new set of numbers to illustrate the government’s work on that front during a day-long conference of politicians and business leaders in Mexico City.

She said that since Trump’s January inauguration, there have been 235 meetings between Canadian and U.S. government officials; 110 Canadian political visits to the U.S; high-level meetings with Trump and 13 of his cabinet secretaries.

Canadians have also met 115 members of Congress and 35 state governors or lieutenant-governors, she added.

“It’s just a matter of common sense. NAFTA can be modernized only with the agreement of the three parties.”

“If you’re an American official or legislator, it’s been hard to avoid a Canadian. Everywhere they turn, we try to be there,” said Freeland.

The message was the same every time, she said: that Canada and the U.S. enjoy a balanced and mutually beneficial relationship.

“We have a lot of numbers to back that up. We’ve broken it down to specific congressional districts,” she said.

Freeland recalled a meeting she had with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, in which she apparently dazzled him with data about his Wisconsin district.

“I told him that his district did a billion dollars of trade with Canada. And he was shocked. He said, ‘just mine? A billion dollars of exports?’

“I said, ‘yes Speaker, that’s right.”‘

Freeland downplays idea of side deal with U.S.

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray said Mexico has been mounting a similar political offensive in Washington that has resulted in “countless” meetings with American counterparts.

But unlike Canada, he said Mexico isn’t actually counting the number of meetings, adding: “that would be a good practice, we should start counting how many.”

Freeland chimed in, saying: “I have a spreadsheet in my office, Luis.”

Despite the emphasis on the U.S., Freeland reassured the Mexicans that Canada is committed to a three-way renegotiation of NAFTA.

She downplayed any suggestion the NAFTA renegotiation might lead Canada to do a side deal with a hard-bargaining Trump administration — something Mexico doesn’t want.

She said it is simply common sense that the 23-year-old agreement is “modernized” by all three members.

“We don’t even feel this is a contentious issue. It’s just a matter of common sense. NAFTA can be modernized only with the agreement of the three parties.”

Some groups, such as the Canadian American Business Council, have said that if the going gets too tough between Mexico and the U.S., Canada should consider going it alone on a separate deal with the U.S.

Last week, the U.S. officially served notice of its intention to renegotiate NAFTA, triggering a 90-day consultation before the start of formal talks later this summer.

Videgaray said Freeland’s presence in Mexico City sends a strong signal.

“Thank you for being in Mexico. It says a lot that you are here.”

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Canada dives deep into digital data to make case to U.S. on NAFTA: Freeland

The federal government is using a deep mine of digital data to map out what it says are the economic benefits to the United States of its unfettered trade with Canada, says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland told an audience in Mexico City on Tuesday that the government’s trove of data drills down into individual U.S. congressional districts to show the local upside of the trading relationship with Canada.

The data is all part of the Liberal government’s full-court press on the Trump administration to demonstrate the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Donald Trump has savaged NAFTA and threatened to scrap the three-country trade pact if it can’t be renegotiated to his satisfaction.

Canada, in response, has mounted an information campaign on Trump and his cabinet, as well as Congress, state and local governments to underline the mutually beneficial trade between the countries.

The Trudeau government has repeated the talking point that 35 U.S. states call Canada their top customer, while nine million Americans depend on Canada for their jobs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also assigned 11 cabinet ministers to key U.S. states to make the case for NAFTA and thinning borders.

Freeland added a new set of numbers to illustrate the government’s work on that front during a day-long conference of politicians and business leaders in Mexico City.

She said that since Trump’s January inauguration, there have been 235 meetings between Canadian and U.S. government officials; 110 Canadian political visits to the U.S; high-level meetings with Trump and 13 of his cabinet secretaries.

Canadians have also met 115 members of Congress and 35 state governors or lieutenant-governors, she added.

“If you’re an American official or legislator, it’s been hard to avoid a Canadian. Everywhere they turn, we try to be there,” said Freeland.

The message was the same every time, she said: that Canada and the U.S. enjoy a balanced and mutually beneficial relationship.

“We have a lot of numbers to back that up. We’ve broken it down to specific congressional districts,” she said.

Freeland recalled a meeting she had with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, in which she apparently dazzled him with data about his Wisconsin district.

“I told him that his district did a billion dollars of trade with Canada. And he was shocked. He said, ‘just mine? A billion dollars of exports?’

“I said, ‘yes Speaker, that’s right.“’

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray said Mexico has been mounting a similar political offensive in Washington that has resulted in “countless” meetings with American counterparts.

But unlike Canada, he said Mexico isn’t actually counting the number of meetings, adding: “that would be a good practice, we should start counting how many.”

Freeland chimed in, saying: “I have a spreadsheet in my office, Luis.”

Despite the emphasis on the U.S., Freeland reassured the Mexicans that Canada is committed to a three-way renegotiation of NAFTA.

She downplayed any suggestion the NAFTA renegotiation might lead Canada to do a side deal with a hard-bargaining Trump administration — something Mexico doesn’t want.

She said it is simply common sense that the 23-year-old agreement is “modernized” by all three members.

“We don’t even feel this is a contentious issue. It’s just a matter of common sense. NAFTA can be modernized only with the agreement of the three parties.”

Some groups, such as the Canadian American Business Council, have said that if the going gets too tough between Mexico and the U.S., Canada should consider going it alone on a separate deal with the U.S.

Last week, the U.S. officially served notice of its intention to renegotiate NAFTA, triggering a 90-day consultation before the start of formal talks later this summer.

Videgaray said Freeland’s presence in Mexico City sends a strong signal.

“Thank you for being in Mexico,” he said. “It says a lot that you are here.”

Freeland told reporters after the conference that with the U.S. starting its 90-day clock, Canada’s consultations would become more structured and formal, building on previous meetings with business, indigenous groups, unions and the provinces.

Freeland offered little hint of what Canada’s negotiating strategy would be, but said one principle would be to “do no harm” to a pact that has already proven its worth.



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