Monthly Archives:August 2016

Hehr vows ‘relatively timely’ action on homeless veterans strategy

31 Aug 16
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The veterans affairs minister says the government intends to implement a number of recommendations to combat homelessness among veterans and to do so in what he calls a relatively timely fashion.A draft of the government’s proposed strategy to help homeless veterans shows that officials are looking at changing the vets benefits system to make it easier to hand out housing subsidies, an idea that has been shown to have some success in the United States.

Officials are also interested in building affordable housing dedicated to veterans and using current and retired military personnel to help department workers connect with homeless veterans.

A final copy of the strategy has yet to land on the desk of Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr and may not arrive there until later this year once officials finalize the wording, facts, figures and recommendations.

Hehr said the final strategy on housing homeless veterans will feed into the national housing strategy the federal government is set to release before the end of the year.

Until the work is done, he can’t say how much it will cost to reduce veterans homelessness to a point where it is rare and brief when it does occur.

“I am sure there are going to be some changes along the way, but understand that this is deeply important to me, our ministry and the whole government,” Hehr said.

“We are going to move forward on many of these recommendations in a relatively timely fashion to ensure that we are supporting veterans when they struggle.”

That timeline is too long for some groups that help get vets off the street.

The retiring president of the Ontario wing of the Royal Canadian Legion, which founded a nationwide program to house homeless vets, said “veterans can’t wait that long and our veterans shouldn’t have to wait that long” for the government to start housing them or providing them housing benefits.

Dave Gordon said he has spoken to federal officials for years about the need to educate federal support workers about the unique needs of homeless veterans and to build a national strategy based on work his group and others are doing across the country. The previous Conservative government talked about helping and the Liberals have made the same pledge, but little has been done, Gordon said.

“The minister has told us that things are going to move quick. Guess what? They’re not. They’re not moving as quick as they should be.”

Hehr said he wants his department and Employment and Social Development Canada, which has the lead on combating homelessness, to provide help to homeless veterans and fill any cracks in the system that they could fall through.

“We want to ensure minimal overlap, with the maximum amount of resources dedicated to addressing the issue of homelessness among the general, and veterans, population,” Hehr said.

He said Veterans Affairs already runs outreach projects for homeless vets in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Federal researchers estimate that 2,950 veterans use homeless shelters in Canada, although that number is likely to be higher as some shelter users may not disclose their military history to shelter workers, while others avoid shelters entirely because they lack the familiar structure that they had in the military. Other estimates put the number of homeless veterans at over 10,000.

Among those numbers was Cecil, who found himself living in a shelter in Ottawa after a variety of family and personal issues. He spent 14 years in the military before retiring in 1984.

The 64-year-old said that without the help of one volunteer group – Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada – he likely wouldn’t have found an apartment and a job.

“The main thing in my life is to be safe and secure and I have that back,” said Cecil, who didn’t want his real name used over concerns it could affect his employment.

Also on The Globe and Mail

Veteran flies again: Flying Fortress bomber tours Canada
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

New fentanyl test confirms fears at Vancouver’s supervised injection site

31 Aug 16
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The illicit drugs that users take with them to Vancouver’s supervised injection site overwhelmingly contain fentanyl, according to early results from a new test that can quickly detect the drug, bolstering suspicions that the local drug supply is largely contaminated with the deadly synthetic opioid.

The test results were released Wednesday as Health Canada also announced measures to restrict six chemicals used to make fentanyl.

Anxiety about the growing prevalence of illicit fentanyl, and the opioid crisis in general, continues to spread beyond B.C. and Alberta, where the epidemic has been most acute. The crisis prompted more than 70 activist and harm-reduction groups to demand Wednesday that provincial and federal governments go much further to combat the problem.

Vancouver Coastal Health launched a pilot project at Insite in July offering drug users the option of testing their drugs for fentanyl as part of the authority’s response to B.C.’s increase in illicit drug overdose deaths. From July 7 to Aug. 3, 173 tests were performed; 86 per cent of all drugs, and 90 per cent of heroin or heroin mixtures, tested positive for fentanyl.

Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said test results at Insite confirm the suspicion that the local drug supply is “overwhelmingly contaminated with fentanyl.” However, he noted the testing is voluntary, which may skew results: Those who suspect their drugs to be contaminated are more likely to test them.

The test, typically used to test urine samples, takes only seconds to produce results. Users mix a grain of their drugs with water in a cooker and then submerge a test strip into the solution. One line means it contains fentanyl; two lines mean it does not. The test does not detect the presence of any other drug.

Most users who learned that their drugs contained fentanyl used them anyway, Dr. Lysyshyn said. However, knowing that such a potent substance was cut into their drugs meant they knew to start with smaller and relatively safer doses.

B.C. declared a public-health emergency in April due to the rapid increase in fatal overdoses, while the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council sounded the alarm earlier this week about an imminent crisis in that province.

More than 433 people in B.C. have died of illicit drug overdoses so far this year – a 74-per-cent increase from the same period last year. Fentanyl was detected in 62 per cent of these deaths. B.C. health officials have feared the final death toll for the year could be between 600 and 800.

As part of Ottawa’s response to the issue, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced on Wednesday – International Overdose Awareness Day – that her government was proposing new restrictions on six chemicals used to produce fentanyl, a step originally proposed in a bill moved by Senator Vern White.

Sergeant Darin Sheppard of the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime Synthetic Drug Operations said anything Canada can do to help control access to fentanyl is a benefit. However, he noted that the majority of fentanyl intercepted in Canada is being imported already made.

A Globe and Mail found that most of Canada’s illicit fentanyl supply is manufactured in China, purchased online, smuggled into the country and then cut into a range of street drugs. Because of its high potency, only a small quantity is needed to turn a large profit; Canadian border guards cannot open packages weighing less than 30 grams without the consent of the recipient.

Also on Wednesday, activists and researchers from across Canada sent a letter to Ottawa calling for more access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, legislation that would protect from prosecution people who call 911 in the event of an overdose, better access to treatment programs, the suspension of Harper-era rules governing the establishment of supervised injection sites and a national task force on opioid overdoses.

Richard Elliott, the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said the federal government is wrong not to scrap the , a Conservative-imposed exhaustive review process for new supervised injection sites.

“Why would you set the bar so high, particularly if, as the government says, you support having these health services?” he said. “We know that there is a need for them and we know that they save lives.”

Harm-reduction advocates in Toronto, where council is planning to seek permission from the federal government for three new, small-scale supervised injection sites of its own, echoed the calls for change on Wednesday.

In July, Toronto City Council approved the plans for the sites, all slated for existing health clinics, after Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory expressed support for the move. Toronto Public Health officials are now in talks over funding from the province for the clinics, which need $400,000 to be set up and $1.8-million a year to run.

City Councillor Joe Cressy, chair of the city’s drug strategy implementation panel, said if all goes well and both provincial and federal governments approve the plans quickly, the clinics could open next spring.

Mr. Cressy also said governments need to track overdose deaths much more closely; Toronto health officials have been relying on official numbers from the coroner’s office that are two years out of date. In B.C., the coroners service has been releasing updated statistics every month.

“The overdose crisis that is facing our city and our province is devastating,” Mr. Cressy said. “It is killing people in our streets, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours, every week.”

Also on The Globe and Mail

Medical schools expand training to tackle opioid painkiller abuse
(AP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Ottawa sends fact-finding mission to Mali to study peacekeeping operations

31 Aug 16
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The federal government is sending a “reconnaissance mission” to take a closer look at the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Mali.

Officials insist the fact-finding mission, a small group of diplomats, military personnel and RCMP officers, does not mean the government has decided to send Canadian peacekeepers to the west African country.

But one expert says it does suggest that, despite its dangers, Mali is at the top of the list of peacekeeping missions that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could announce as early as mid-September.

The Liberal government said last week that it will make up to 600 troops available for UN peacekeeping operations, including specialized units and equipment such as engineers, medical personnel and military aircraft.

Yet noticeably absent was any indication of which countries or UN missions the government was considering. Trudeau said the government would discuss the matter with the UN and other nations and decide based on where Canada could best contribute.

Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier would not provide specific details about the reconnaissance mission to Mali, citing security concerns.

But he said the delegation will meet counterparts from the Malian government as well as commanders of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, or MINUSMA, as it is known.

“The purpose of this reconnaissance mission is to develop our knowledge and understanding of MINUSMA in order to provide advice to the government,” Le Bouthillier said in an email. “The overriding objective is to provide appropriate guidance and advice to the government.”

Le Bouthillier said federal departments are working with the UN “to best assess where we can contribute military assets.”

Aside from Mali, the government is also believed to be looking at missions in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited at the beginning of August.

But Walter Dorn, an expert on peacekeeping at the Royal Military College of Canada, said Sajjan’s visit to the DRC was different because it was political.

“This is more operational and planning,” he said. “Sending a recon mission to Mali is a strong indication that Canada is putting it high on a list of possible deployments.”

The government has not said when a decision will be made. However, Dorn is among those who feel the most likely scenario would be when the UN General Assembly opens in New York in mid-September.

Mali has long been seen as among the top candidates for a Canadian mission in Africa. MINUSMA was established in April 2013 after French and African Union forces pushed back rebel and Islamic militant forces that had taken control in the north of the country.

The current peacekeeping force numbers about 13,000 troops and 2,000 police and while it includes contributions from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, most of the contingents are from countries in Africa and South Asia. The mission is extremely complex and includes everything from training local forces to protecting civilians, to counter-insurgency operations.

It is has also become the most dangerous UN peacekeeping mission in the world, with 105 peacekeepers killed over the last four years, including 31 this year alone. One peacekeeper from Chad was killed and four others were wounded when their vehicle hit a mine in northern Mali on Aug. 7.

Those dangers may cause some Canadians to shy away from Mali.

But a UN official in New York pointed out that Canada’s recent experience in complex theatres of operation such as Afghanistan, combined with the Canadian military’s advanced technical and operational capabilities, would prepare their units for deployments into challenging missions such as MINUSMA.

The Canadian military’s francophone skills would also be important in a country such as Mali, the official said.

Also on The Globe and Mail

Canadian army bound for Africa: Gen. Jonathan Vance
(CP Video)

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MP Candice Bergen mulling Conservative leadership bid

31 Aug 16
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Conservative MP Candice Bergen, known for her efforts in ending the long-gun registry, says she is now considering a Tory leadership bid.

Ms. Bergen, who ran for the interim leader job that went to Rona Ambrose, said many of her rural Manitoba constituents are asking her to run and she has spent the summer thinking about it.

“I’m not closing the door,” she said in an interview. “I’m kind of peeking through it and looking at what it would entail and what I would need to do to actually walk through that door.”

If she runs, Ms. Bergen would be the third woman to add her name to the list of contenders to replace Stephen Harper, behind Ontario MP Kellie Leitch and Toronto consultant Adrienne Snow. Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, a former cabinet minister who represents the Greater Toronto Area riding of Milton, is also said to be considering a run and is seen as a serious contender.

Ms. Bergen, her party’s natural resources critic, said she has never seen such “visceral dislike and disgust” in her Portage-Lisgar riding since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected last October.

“I haven’t seen Conservatives as fired up as they are right now,” the three-term MP said.

She listed the Liberals’ $29.4-billion-deficit spending plan, the decision to end air strikes against the Islamic State, spending “scandals” such as Health Minister Jane Philpott’s $1,700-a day limo ride and a fear of higher taxes among residents’ concerns.

So far, only four candidates have officially filed their leadership papers with the party: Ms. Leitch, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier and Ontario MPs Michael Chong and Tony Clement.

Many Conservatives are said to be waiting on former cabinet minister and purported front-runner Peter MacKay to make his decision on whether to run, which is expected soon.

Ms. Bergen, who is anti-abortion and fought fervently to end the long-gun registry in 2011, said she views the new Conservative Party as one that allows a “variety of views” on social issues within its ranks. At the party’s convention in May, delegates voted to remove the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman from its official policy.

Using Pride parades as an example, Ms. Bergen said the party should respect all views on the subject. “People who want to attend Pride parades, including my fellow MPs, should be supported and championed and celebrated for attending,” she said.

“And millions of Canadians, including some MPs who don’t attend, shouldn’t be called names for not attending. I think that’s the Conservative way, and I think that in social conservatism there’s so much more tolerance than maybe they’re given credit for.”

When asked if she would be the type of leader to attend, Ms. Bergen said she’s “not sure.”

“I’m pro-life, and I’ve never attended a pro-life rally or march. I’m pro-Israel, I’ve never attended a pro-Israel march. I absolutely support LGBT rights and celebrate diversity, but I’m not sure if I would attend a march,” she said.

“I think that there are millions of Canadians who wouldn’t, but I don’t think they are in any way, shape or form homophobic.”

Possible leadership candidates also include Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai, Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost and Ontario MP Erin O’Toole.

Former Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton is testing the waters, defeated Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux is rounding up supporters and Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer, a former House of Commons Speaker, is considering a run. Winnipeg doctor Dan Lindsay has also declared his intention to run.

TV personality Kevin O’Leary is also considering a bid for leadership – although many feel he won’t succeed because he can’t speak French.

Candidates have until Feb. 24 to officially join the race, and a new leader will be chosen at the Conservative convention on May 27.

Also on The Globe and Mail

Stephen Harper supports Jason Kenney’s united right plan in Alberta
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Minister Jean-Yves Duclos caught in dispute to paint rusted Quebec Bridge

31 Aug 16
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A rusted eyesore, the Quebec Bridge is the political equivalent of quicksand, as rookie Liberal cabinet minister Jean-Yves Duclos rapidly discovered.

A former professor of economy at Laval University, Mr. Duclos was appointed as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development last November.

However, the MP for the downtown riding of Québec was soon ensnared in the long-standing dispute over the $400-million bill to repaint the 99-year-old bridge between Quebec City and Lévis.

Mr. Duclos made his first mistake in December when he said that “all options were on the table” for the federal government, including buying back the bridge that belongs to Canadian National Railway Co.

His office quickly intervened to remove the purchase option from the table, but the misstep fuelled pressure on him to come up with a solution.

A Liberal official said Mr. Duclos confided in colleagues that over the summer, the topic of the Quebec Bridge frequently overshadowed his attempts to promote his other projects, such as the new Canada Child Benefit.

On Wednesday, he emerged from a meeting with local mayors and CN officials to announce that Ottawa could eventually “improve” its offer of $75-million to repaint the bridge.

Mr. Duclos said he has already broken new ground by bringing all actors together for two meetings. The next step, he said, will be seeing if Infrastructure Canada and the Quebec government can pitch in on a long-term deal.

“This framework would take it above $75-million,” Mr. Duclos said in an interview, while refusing to put a new timeline on negotiations.

He acknowledged that the issue has consumed a lot of his energy as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

“I think it’s positive that this issue has garnered so much attention, because it shows this is an important file for us and that it is moving along,” he said.

Still, the Liberals have been heavily criticized in local media on this issue, which plays into the hands of the Conservative Party, which holds five of seven ridings in Quebec City.

“Mr. Duclos is a good guy, but on this file, he has been embarrassingly clumsy,” said Conservative MP Gérard Deltell, who is also from Quebec City.

Opened in 1917, the steel bridge that links Quebec City to the south shore of the St. Lawrence is now a mix of green, brown and orange hues. Still, the link is as solid as could be, so scrapping the rust and repainting the bridge is mostly an issue of aesthetics.

But no one wants to foot the entire bill for the job, especially not CN, which says its sole responsibility is to ensure the safety of the bridge.

The federal government’s offer of a $75-million contribution was initially made under the previous Conservative government. Provincial and municipal governments have added $25-million to the offer, bringing the total package to $100-million, which is well short of the overall cost.

Repainting the bridge has been a cause célèbre in Quebec City for years, regularly dominating the local news agenda. Mayor Régis Labeaume, a popular politician who is a master arm-twister, is keeping up the pressure.

Earlier this week, he promised to “keep bugging” the federal government, saying he would use the same tactic that persuaded the Quebec government to pick up half the tab for the city’s new hockey arena.

Mr. Labeaume and his counterpart in Lévis, Gilles Lehouillier, said on Wednesday that they are now hoping for a 10-year deal to repaint the bridge.

Officially, the lead federal cabinet minister on the file has been Transport Minister Marc Garneau, but Mr. Duclos has been the most visible member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s team on the issue.

Mr. Duclos acknowledged that there has been confusion in Quebec City, given that Mr. Trudeau broke with tradition and refused to appoint “regional ministers.”

“I often say that I’m not the minister for Quebec City, but that I’m a minister from Quebec City,” he said.

Mr. Duclos added that he will now bring Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi into the talks on the future of the Quebec Bridge.

“Sometimes my job is to make sure that the machine is well oiled and to see that the preoccupations and interests and ambitions of my community are well heard in Ottawa,” he said.

Also on The Globe and Mail

Justin Trudeau rallies Liberal troops at caucus retreat
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Former Manitoba premier to be adviser for law firm Dentons

31 Aug 16
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Gary Doer, a former Manitoba premier and Canadian ambassador to the United States, is joining the Toronto office of the global law firm Dentons.

The firm says in a release that Doer will be senior business adviser and will work with clients on Canada-U.S. trans-border matters, as well as global public policy initiatives.

Doer was premier of Manitoba from 1999 to 2009 and led the NDP to three consecutive majority governments.

He served as ambassador from October 2009 to March of this year.

Chris Pinnington, CEO of Dentons Canada, says in a statement that Doer’s experience and widely-respected stature in public service, in government and with cross-border diplomatic and business relations in North America, will be “invaluable” to clients.

Doer joins a number of former political figures who now work at Dentons, including former prime minister Jean Chretien, who joined the firm in 2014.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Stingray counters Music Choice’s lawsuit, calls it ‘smear campaign’

31 Aug 16
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Canada’s Stingray Digital Group Inc. is swinging back in response to a lawsuit filed by U.S. rival Music Choice.

Music Choice, which is backed by a group of media giants that include Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc., sued Stingray for patent infringement in June, alleging the Montreal-based music channel provider had used confidential information about its technology after an attempt to acquire the U.S. company in 2013.

On Tuesday, Stingray insisted through a court filing that it has not infringed on these patents, and initiated a counterclaim against Music Choice.

The company said in documents filed in an eastern Texas courthouse that Music Choice has been engaged in “a smear campaign” to discredit Stingray and thwart its growth in the United States since as early as February, 2014. It also argued that the handful of patents at the centre of this dispute are invalid.

A spokesperson for Music Choice said the Pennsylvania-based company is reviewing Stingray’s filing.

Stingray has claimed the timing of the Music Choice lawsuit was no coincidence.

It was filed just after Stingray, which reaches roughly 400 million households in about 152 countries, announced that it would expand its reach into the United States through a new pact with cable provider and Music Choice-backer Comcast.

Through a separate claim also filed on Tuesday in a Texas court, Stingray Music USA Inc. is seeking monetary damages for the harm it allegedly suffered as a result of what it describes as Music Choice’s attempt to damage Stingray’s reputation and impede its business in the United States through the dissemination of misinformation.

“Music Choice’s illegal activity has damaged Stingray’s brand and reputation,” it alleged, “and caused Stingray to lose customers, make concessions in its contracts with customers, expend significant manpower and money in order to address the impact of the lies spread by Music Choice.”

Stingray is pushing to expand its business beyond its home base, mainly through acquisitions. The company generates 43 per cent of its revenue from abroad and aims to increase that share to 70 per cent by 2020, having just opened a new regional headquarters in Singapore.

The Music Choice lawsuit has diverted some of the attention away from Stingray’s performance of late. And although the companies are clashing in a U.S. court, it appears that a marriage between the two is not out of the question – at least according to Stingray.

During a June conference call, Stingray chief executive officer Eric Boyko said these legal proceedings “may put Music Choice in play and provide an opportunity for a future transaction.”

Stingray ()

Close: $7.17, down 3¢

Also on The Globe and Mail

Can this Montreal music broadcaster take on Spotify?
(BNN Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Canada split over top priority for Justin Trudeau’s China visit: poll

30 Aug 16
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Canadians are split on whether trade or human rights should be the priority as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launches his first official visit to China, a new poll has found.

The Globe and Mail/Nanos survey found that 44 per cent of Canadians feel that ensuring Canada has good trade relations with China should be the priority for Canada’s relations with China. On the other hand, 43 per cent of respondents said that China’s human-rights record within its own borders is more important.

Pollster Nik Nanos added that increasing trade with China is a top priority for males (53 per cent), while promoting human rights is more important for women (48 per cent), as well as younger Canadians (49 per cent).

Given that the Liberal Party owes much of its electoral success to women and young voters, he said the government cannot ignore concerns over China’s treatment of minorities and dissidents.

“It’s pretty clear in looking at both of those key parts of the population that human rights is more important than good trade relations,” Mr. Nanos said in an interview. “What I find interesting is that in an era where the economy is fragile, human rights tracks so well.”

The poll results echo Mr. Trudeau’s parallel messaging in the lead-up to his eight-day trip to China, in which he said he would address issues of human rights and democracy even as he tried to boost Canadian exports to China.

“We want to set a very clear and constructive relationship with China that, yes, looks at the potential economic benefits of better trade relationships, while at the same time ensuring that our voice is heard clearly on issues of human rights, labour rights, democracy and environmental stewardship,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters last week.

Mr. Nanos said that with this split in public opinion, Mr. Trudeau now has the power to shape it to suit his government’s priorities for China.

“In a way, when the numbers are like this, there is a lot more flexibility for the Prime Minister in terms of not just what he wants to achieve, but what is realistic in terms of engagement with the Chinese,” he said.

The Nanos survey of 1,000 respondents, which was conducted by telephone and online between Aug. 22 and 25, offers a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Another recent poll commissioned by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada found growing support for the idea of a free-trade agreement with China. The poll, which was conducted by Ekos Research Associates, found 46 per cent of Canadians would support a free-trade agreement with China, up from 36 per cent in the foundation’s 2014 report. Forty-six per cent would oppose such a deal, down from 50 per cent two years ago.

Still, the poll also found fewer Canadians believe the human-rights situation in China is improving, and more than half (51 per cent) would be willing to forgo economic opportunities in Asian countries with human-rights concerns.

Eva Busza, vice-president of research and programs at the foundation, said in some respects Canadians appear to be developing a more positive view of Asia. She said the poll found 48 per cent of Canadians believe Asia should be this country’s foreign-policy priority, up from 37 per cent in 2014. Forty-nine per cent viewed China’s growth as an opportunity, up from 41 per cent.

“I think this poll suggests the Canadian public is taking a more nuanced approach to Asia,” she said in an interview.

The Ekos poll surveyed 3,526 Canadians during a three-week period in June and July and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 per cent.

With a report from Sunny Dhillon

Also on The Globe and Mail

Justin Trudeau departs for China
(CP Video)

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NEB’s missteps make Energy East a political problem for Trudeau

30 Aug 16
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Justin Trudeau promised to make reviews of oil-pipeline projects more credible. Then Jean Charest helped make a mess out of the review of Energy East.

Now, the country’s pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, has little choice but to kick out two of the three panelists who are supposed to review the controversial project.

On Monday, the Energy East hearings moved to Montreal, but lasted minutes. The hearing were suspended after protests. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who had been scheduled to address the panel, called it a “circus.” But you have to suspect the NEB was happy to get a breather.

That’s not because of the protests. Anyone could guess there’d be some kind of protest when the Energy East hearings moved to Montreal. And it’s not because of the opposition, which now counts hundreds of Quebec municipalities, First Nations such as the Mohawks of Kanesatake, and a long list of environmental groups.

It’s because of the thing no one expected: The NEB’s commissioners, under high scrutiny, tripped over their own feet on the way to the hearing, knocking over their own credibility. To be fair, it would never have been quite such a klutzy stumble if it weren’t for Mr. Charest.

The NEB’s job is to provide an impartial review of the Energy East pipeline project, which would transport Alberta oil to Saint John. As pipelines become more controversial, NEB hearings, full of experts talking about routes and engineering and risks, have had to grapple more with dissatisfaction with the “public” part of the public-hearing process. Last year, the NEB decided to embark on a strategy of “engagement,” notably in Quebec. This is where things started to go off the rails.

The NEB, for unfathomable reasons, didn’t just send out the board’s chair, Peter Watson, or ordinary NEB staff. They sent out two of the three board members lined up to sit on the panel reviewing Energy East, Jacques Gauthier and Lyne Mercier.

They contacted notables including Mr. Charest. The problem is that he was on the payroll of TransCanada Corp. as a consultant on the Energy East project. And it was Mr. Gauthier who e-mailed, asking to come by Mr. Charest’s office for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Now, Mr. Charest never told the NEB he had been hired by TransCanada, according to an NEB spokesman. He should have. But the NEB panelist should have made sure there was no potential for conflict.

When the National Observer website initially reported on the meeting, the NEB told its reporter that Energy East was not discussed. But it was. The NEB later apologized and admitted Energy East was part of the discussion. Whoops. That looks bad. That’s how we learned two of the three members of the impartial Energy East panel met with an Energy East consultant to talk about Energy East, behind closed doors.

TransCanada Corp. says it never asked Mr. Charest to raise Energy East with NEB members. The NEB notes its panelists met with pipeline opponents, too. But it doesn’t make a difference. The panelists shouldn’t have been doing that, either.

“When they said two commissioners were there, we said, listen, this is very weird,” said Steven Guilbeault, senior director of environmental organization Equiterre. “They said, ‘Oh, we don’t want to talk about Energy East.’ Guess what we talked about?”

Now it is a problem for the entire review process. And a political problem for Mr. Trudeau.

The Liberal Leader promised he’d make pipeline reviews more credible, to ensure promoters obtain the required “social licence.” The full revamp is still to come, but his government promised an “interim” process for Energy East would be good enough. The NEB’s missteps have raised questions anew. And brought back unpleasant memories.

Mr. Trudeau was forced to dump a senior campaign adviser, Dan Gagnier – a former chief of staff to Mr. Charest – late in the 2015 election campaign when it emerged Mr. Gagnier was advising TransCanada from the campaign plane. After Mr. Trudeau took office, his aides rebuffed efforts by Mr. Charest, though no longer on the TransCanada payroll, to set up a meeting with company officials. Unless the two panelist step aside, the credibility he promised will be in tatters before Energy East hearings even get off the ground in Quebec.

Also on The Globe and Mail

Energy East hearings in Montreal cancelled after protests
(BNN Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Trudeau touches on trade, human rights in call for ‘new era’ with China

30 Aug 16
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Justin Trudeau wants to remake Canada into a bridge between China and the world, a bid to take back the role fashioned by his father more than four decades ago.

Canada is “in a position to help China position itself in a very positive way on the world stage,” Mr. Trudeau said in Beijing, where he arrived on Tuesday afternoon for his fourth visit and first as Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau says China should strengthen trade with Canada
(CP Video)

“How can the relationship between China and Canada set a new tone, and a new era of positive collaboration, that is good for the citizens of both countries?” he asked a group of elite Chinese business leaders in a conversation with Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma.

An Internet livestream of the hour-long conversation attracted more than 9.3 million views.

Mr. Trudeau sought to leaven economic ambition with principle, saying Canada is eager for more trade but also hopeful for greater “opportunities for regular frank dialogue on issues like good governance, human rights and the rule of law.”

China would be well served to “ask for advice and take suggestions about how to be better for its citizens,” he said.

It was a sunny view of the role Canada might play in nudging Beijing – one hard to square with a country that under President Xi Jinping has intensified an internal crackdown on dissidents and spurned international opposition with a newly assertive foreign policy. It was only this June that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a Canadian reporter that she had “no right” to ask about China’s treatment of its people.

And a day before Mr. Trudeau arrived, China broadened its campaign against foreign influence, with a new guideline demanding that entertainment news not “express overt admiration for Western lifestyles.” Meanwhile, state media have recently warned about “foreign and hostile forces,” language used in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, new research from the University of Hong Kong has found.

However, Mr. Trudeau has made it his goal to “reset” the relationship with China on his weeklong trip.

It was his father who led Canada into restarting diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1970, a recognition that helped to ease China into a more integrated role in the global system – a role for which Pierre Trudeau remains fondly remembered.

On Tuesday, Mr. Ma, perhaps China’s best-known business figure, offered “special thanks” to the elder Mr. Trudeau. “Our task today is not to establish friendship and trust. Pierre Trudeau and his generation has already established this,” he said.

On Chinese social media, however, it was images of a youthful Mr. Trudeau walking onto a red carpet-draped tarmac in Beijing – dressed in a red tie, next to wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau in a vermilion dress – that caused a stir. “I thought for a second Tom Cruise became president,” one person wrote.

Celebrity will get Mr. Trudeau only so far in a country whose ambitions often clash with Canada’s, such as the desire by China’s business establishment to further integrate Canada into its economic orbit.

That conflict quickly rose to the surface as executives peppered the Prime Minister with questions about whether he would welcome their money in sensitive Canadian industries such as culture and agriculture – the latter from a company with negotiators currently in Canada trying to buy pig farms.

One even suggested making Chinese an official language in Canada. Do that, and “you will certainly be bigger than your father to a lot of Chinese people,” the man said.

Mr. Trudeau demurred. Improve the relationship, and there will be more avenues to invest in Canada, he said. But he was more interested in selling Canadian food and agri-food technology to China.

However, he did say Canada is “looking very favourably” at joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a China-led institution that has challenged the primacy of the World Bank. An announcement could come as soon as Wednesday.

As his father before him, Mr. Trudeau said, he was hoping to pass along a friendship and “openness toward China,” both to a new generation of Canadians and his daughter, Ella-Grace, who is accompanying him on the trip.

The contrast between the two leaders’ first official trips to China underscores the degree to which China has changed. In 1973, Pierre Trudeau walked off the plane and into meetings with Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier and Mao Zedong’s right-hand man.

Justin Trudeau counterparts were Mr. Ma and the members of the China Entrepreneur Club, which may be the most exclusive of its kind anywhere. It is populated by the top ranks of the country’s billionaires, many of them totems of Chinese private enterprise success. Combined gross revenue at their 49 companies last year exceeded $550-billion, equivalent to nearly one-third the Canadian gross domestic product.

Meeting them gave Mr. Trudeau a chance to promote Canada before a crowd with significant economic power.

Still, it’s unclear how much the Prime Minister can achieve. With an increasingly skeptical population at home, including a business community not certain that free trade with China is in their best interests, expectations are low for a dramatic economic breakthrough during his week in the country.

The visit’s political agenda kicked off on Tuesday evening at a private dinner with Premier Li Keqiang inside Beijing’s Forbidden City, an unusually warm gesture. On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau also expects to meet Mr. Xi.

He is expected to press China to release missionary Kevin Garratt, who is accused of spying, and allow Canadian canola exports – a victory that, if it comes, would merely mean achieving the status quo.

Ottawa has signalled that it will also seek regular high-level meetings between the two countries, as well as an agreement to open new paths for large numbers of additional Chinese students and workers to come to Canada.

On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry suggested talks were going down to the wire.

“As we speak, the two sides are in close communication on preparatory work of this visit,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

China expects the Trudeau “visit will inject new impetus to the development of China-Canada strategic partnership,” Ms. Hua said.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail