The Morning Brief – 11.19.20

By Bruce Carson


Prime Minister Trudeau’s ‘to do’ list (Part 1)

Foreign Affairs:

United States, dealing with President-Elect Biden, China, Trade and Multilateralism; China , Meng extradition, unlawful imprisonment of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, Huawei, trade and human rights abuses in Hong Kong and China

Domestic Affairs:

Healthcare, COVID-19, opioid crisis, long term care homes for the elderly, pharmacare; Economy, fiscal update; Provision of Childcare spaces

It’s Time to make Decisions

It has been written here many times that governments can usually manage one or two issues with little difficulty. Problems arise when the number grows beyond two and in the case of Prime Minister Trudeau issues are mounting to well beyond what even a government with strong, experienced cabinet ministers can cope with.

As National Post’s Matt Gurney points out in his recent article dealing with Minister Monsef’s hot mic gaffe wondering out loud how much money she gets paid, this government suffers from a serious lack of competent ministers. He notes that this is one of the reasons for the meteoric rise of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Freeland.

So the Trudeau government faces issues at home and abroad and of course all of these issues are exacerbated by the continuous and at this point loosing fight against the insidious virus COVID-19.

While there are many issues beyond Canada’s borders, one of the most important is how to approach and deal with the new Biden administration in Washington. So far, it seems that the relationship between Biden and Trudeau forged when Barrack Obama was president still remains intact. The question for Canadians is whether that relationship will give way to the cold reality of governing when the Biden-Harris administration assumes office on January 20, 2021?

There are a number of outstanding issues, some of which have been discussed in previous issues of The Morning Brief. Top of the list, even according to Foreign Affairs Minister Champagne is the survival of the Keystone XL pipeline.

A number of suggestions have been advanced as to how to keep the Trump presidential permit in place. Most of the suggestions deal with Canada being able to demonstrate to the new administration that it is now all on board with the fight against climate change. Also that allowing Keystone XL to continue being built is in the best economic interests of the United States.

The pipeline’s continued construction will provide much needed jobs over a two year period and once built will provide a safe and secure source of heavy crude to feed the U.S. refineries located around the Gulf of Mexico.

In order to convince Biden of Canada’s bona fides regarding the fight against climate change, the Trudeau government should immediately table its proposed Climate Accountability legislation which is said to deal with the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Another major challenge facing Trudeau is trade with the U.S. and specifically the question is  how to obtain a carve out or exemption from the Buy American regime that will be put in place by Biden to spur on economic growth in the United States.

Also on foreign affairs the new administration seems to be keen on reviving America’s leadership or at least participation in multilateralism. It will have to take into account a China much changed, even from the one the Obama-Biden team dealt with four years ago.

Canada needs President Biden to act as an ‘honest broker’ in the Meng, Spavor and Kovrig situation which has lasted for over 700 days without resolution that would lead to the freedom of Spavor and Kovrig.

The closest we have come to a proposal for relief was the letter signed by prominent Canadians of all political stripes suggesting an accord, whereby the extradition proceedings dealing with Ms. Meng would terminate in exchange for the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. This suggestion was rejected out of hand by the Trudeau government.

On Tuesday evening on Power and Politics, Canada’s former ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques suggested that if the United States changed tactics and operated as it usually does in these situations, charging the company, rather than one of its senior executives, that might help break the present logjam, providing all parties with the solution they want.

In addition to the extradition issue, Canada has other issues with China. The eradication of democracy in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in China, but particularly as they affect the Uighur population and what has been referred to as the genocide of this ethnic minority at the hand of Beijing.

Minister Champagne has promised a new ‘eyes wide open’ approach to how Canada will deal with China. The government received a bit of a push yesterday when the House of Commons passed a Conservative Party motion demanding the Liberal government make a decision on Huawei 5G within 30 days and in addition calls on the government to table a plan within 30 days to deal with growing intimidation by China of Canadians within Canada’s borders.

The new approach to China can’t come soon enough, if indeed it is a new approach. Hopefully,   it will deal with Taiwan, Hong Kong and the crushing of democracy as well as China’s human rights abuses but also its trade practices which illustrate China’s contempt of the WTO and Huawei.

Prime Minister Trudeau has often said that Canada is working with its allies to confront the bullying tactics of China on human rights, democracy and trade. Until yesterday there was little evidence of a group of like-minded countries working together to support Canada’s goals concerning China.

However, yesterday the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance demanded that China stop undermining the rights of Hong Kong citizens. China moved to disqualify lawmakers not deemed sufficiently loyal as it tries to stifle dissent.

The U.S. Secretary of State and Foreign Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK expressed “serious concern” over this new China rule in a joint statement. They called on China’s central government to reconsider its actions against Hong Kong’s elected legislature and immediately reinstate the Legislative Council members.

It is almost certain this demand from the ‘Five Eyes’ will be rejected but their initiative will illustrate that China can’t act with impunity without being called out by leading democracies of the world.

Minister Champagne should announce now when he is going to reveal the government’s new policy on China.

On the domestic front, while there are a number of issues on the ‘to do’ list that need to be addressed, none is bigger or more important than the present health crisis posed by COVID-19 as its second wave ravages most of the country.

The Morning Brief will deal with this and the economy, particularly the fall economic update when it returns next week.

To Come

  • The federal government may present its legislation dealing with achieving net zero emissions by 2050
November 20
  • Retail trade numbers for September to be released
November 23
  • Toni Gravelle, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada speaks on the Assessment of risks to the stability of the Canadian Finance System
December 1
  • GDP numbers for September to be released

The Morning Brief returns on Wednesday, November 25.

– BC