A win and a loss for Trudeau
There were a number of important issues that faced the Trudeau Government during this past week. Two of them stood out to me; one of them good, the other bad.
To a large degree, the good news is NAFTA. Now called the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement, (USMCA) a name change enacted primarily to placate President Donald Trump, its eleventh hour resolution allowed many Canadians to release a collective sigh of relief.
For the most part, USMCA is a big win for the Trudeau Government. The conditions under which Canadian negotiators had to operate for more than 14 months were unprecedented and undermined at almost every turn by an egotistical and unpredictable bully who just happens to be the President of the United States. To come out even marginally ahead, with the threat of a 25 per cent tariff on automobiles (which would have had a devastating effect on Canada’s economy) taken off the table, is in itself, a remarkable achievement. Given President Trump’s obsession with Canada’s Dairy industry, Trudeau’s negotiators also managed to keep concessions in that economic sector to a manageable minimum. As well, they were able to retain an impartial arbitration process for disputes, which was essential, given the proclivities of the current U.S. administration. Without it, the agreement would not be worth the paper it was written on.
A great deal of credit for squeezing out a trade deal with the United States goes to Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Freeland is one tough cookie, with degrees from Harvard and Oxford and with fluency in four languages. Watching her stand up to Donald Trump without getting the door slammed in her face, reminded me a little of David and Goliath. We all knew she was getting somewhere when Trump declared she was no friend of his!
There are however, two sticking points with the USMCA deal that must be resolved before the agreement is approved by Parliament. The first is aluminum and steel tariffs imposed on Canada by the U.S that were not removed as a result of the agreement. My guess is that there was a wink, wink, nod, nod moment between Chrystia Freeland and the lead negotiator for the Americans, Robert Lighthizer, where Canada was assured that this matter would be taken care of before the USMCA agreement is ratified. It had better be.
The second issue relates to a report buried in the USMCA agreement, specifically, a clause giving the United States some power of approval or consultation over trade deals entered into by Canada with other countries, especially China. This is a big issue as it reflects directly on Canada’s sovereignty. If true, Prime Minister Trudeau should either insist on a change or tell President Trump it is a deal breaker. Canada should never, under any circumstances, have to account to the United States about its relations with other global partners.
And now, for the boo boo of the week and that is the Prime Minister’s reaction to news that a convicted child killer had been transferred from a maximum security facility to a Saskatchewan Healing Lodge.
Many people still recall the brutal and gruesome rape and murder in 2009 of Victoria Stafford, an eight year old child. Michael Rafferty and his partner Terri-Lynne McClintic were sentenced to life in prison for this heinous crime. In recent weeks McClintic was transferred from a maximum security prison to Okima Ochi Healing lodge, an indigenous facility described by a reporter for the Toronto Sun as being “at the foot of the Cyprus hills, a stunningly beautiful plateau of quivering aspens, towering spruce and small shimmering lakes that rise up from the plains of southwestern Saskatchewan. “The Healing Lodge operates as an “open campus” facility where residents have their own rooms and are free to wander within the property. Some residents are accompanied by their children.
While it is true that governments rarely intervene in the placement of prisoners within the Corrections system and that rehabilitation is an important part of the inmate experience, Prime Minister Trudeau has greatly underestimated the horror, revulsion and anger of many Canadians that this child-killer, barely a quarter of the way through her sentence, is rewarded with what comparably, is a posh and comfortable existence.
Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety told Parliament he had no authority to intervene in a decision by the Department of Corrections. He is wrong. Section 6 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, clearly states that the Commissioner of Corrections is subject to the direction of the Minister. As well, there is no greater bully pulpit in Canada than the Office of the Prime Minister. Trudeau could have used his influence to make all of this go away. He chose not to.
Instead, the Prime Minister accused people who were outraged at the placement of McClintic in a Healing Lodge of “political games”. He effectively mocked those who stood for justice and the Stafford family. His entire caucus voted against a Conservative motion to send the child murderer back to a maximum security prison. Trudeau ducked that vote to rush outside to a media scrum where he labeled the Conservatives as “ambulance chasers”.
All in all, a sad performance from a Prime Minister who many Canadians will believe has enabled an unnecessary miscarriage of justice. It will be interesting to see if he will pay for that.
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