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Justin Trudeau ‘shocked’ by video of indigenous chief being punched by police in Canada



Justin Trudeau has called for an independent investigation after a “shocking” video showing the arrest of an indigenous chief by federal police in Canada.

The video, filmed and released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, shows an officer rushing at Chief Allan Adam on March 10 during an encounter over an expired licence plate. The officer tackles Mr Adam and punches him in the face.

“We’ve all now seen the shocking video of Chief Adam’s arrest and we must get to the bottom of this,” the Canadian Prime Minister told a daily briefing.

“Like many people I have serious questions about what happened,” Mr Trudeau said. “The independent investigation must be transparent and be carried out so that we get answers.”

In the dashcam video (below) broadcast by several Canadian media, Mr Adam has a heated exchange with a police officer outside a casino in the province of Alberta.



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GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau must choose between climate pledge and Alberta’s economy


The dilemma for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on climate change and energy policy comes down to this.

If he wants to meet the promises he’s made about reducing Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions, he has to gut our oil and gas sector.

He also has to do it quickly and the consequences for Alberta’s economy, as well as Saskatchewan’s and Canada’s, will be severe.

Trudeau and his cabinet would have to reject the $20.6 billion Teck Frontier oilsands megaproject in Alberta, now up for approval after getting the go-ahead from federal regulators.

But even if the Liberals cancel that project, that wouldn’t reduce current emissions, just slow the increase of future ones.

To meet his 2030 target of cutting Canada’s current emissions to 30% below 2005 levels, Trudeau will have to eliminate the equivalent of 50 Teck oilsands megaprojects over the next decade, or five Teck megaprojects every year, for 10 years.

Even using the Trudeau government’s own projections of what emission levels will be in 2030, including projects it hasn’t started, it would still have to cut current emissions by the equivalent of 19 Teck-like megaprojects over 10 years, or almost two every year, for a decade.

To achieve his election promise of cutting Canada’s emissions to net zero by 2050, Trudeau would have to cut Canada’s emissions by the equivalent of 175 Teck-like megaprojects over the next 30 years — almost six Teck-like megaprojects annually, for three decades.

Canada has seven economic sectors that generate significant industrial emissions, but oil and gas has been the fastest-growing since 1990 and the largest since 2012.

Today, these emissions total 195 megatonnes annually, an 84% increase since 1990.

The second-largest is the transportation sector at 174 megatonnes of emissions annually, a 43% rise since 1990, but with stable emissions since 2012.

Emissions in the electricity, heavy industry and waste sectors have gone down since 1990, while emissions in the agriculture and building sectors haven’t grown significantly since 2005.

Technology in the oil and gas sector is constantly improving, reducing the carbon intensity of its emissions, meaning the energy required to produce a barrel of oil generates fewer emissions over time, but not enough to come close to meeting Trudeau’s 2030 and 2050 targets.

For that, Trudeau will have to slash current oil and gas production.

Trudeau’s dilemma is that while he has never acknowledged the severe economic consequences to the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Canadian economies of fulfilling his climate change promises, he also doesn’t have enough money — our money — to subsidize an industry his climate policies are designed to kill.

Last week we learned the price tag on completing the Trans Mountain pipeline the Trudeau government bought two years ago has increased to $12.6 billion, 70% higher than its original forecast.

A report by Reuters news said Trudeau and his cabinet are considering federal aid to Alberta if they decide to reject the Teck megaproject, with the Liberals divided on what to do when they announce their decision later this month.

Vetoing Teck would be widely seen in Alberta as a deliberate, possibly fatal blow to the province’s beleaguered economy by a vindictive Liberal government that no longer has a single seat there or in Saskatchewan.

Approving it would be viewed as a betrayal by those who supported the Liberals in last year’s election because of Trudeau’s promise to meaningfully address climate change.

Now, Trudeau has to pick a lane.

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‘Not looking for a Trudeau handout’: Alberta spurns notion of bailout in lieu of Frontier mine approval


OTTAWA — Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon flatly rejected any suggestion that Ottawa could placate the province with an aid package if it turns down the $20-billion Frontier oilsands mine.

“Albertans are not looking for a Justin Trudeau handout,” Nixon said in a press conference Friday. “We’re not interested in that. We want Justin Trudeau and the federal government to get out of Albertans’ way, to let hard-working Albertans do what they do best, which is create prosperity for this province and create prosperity for this country.”

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, reported Thursday that if the Frontier mine plan was rejected by cabinet, federal officials were preparing various streams of funding for Alberta, including cash to help clean up thousands of abandoned wells spread across the province.

Nixon said the province has not been approached by Ottawa for a potential deal. “The Frontier mine is not a political gift,” he said.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told an audience at the Canada Institute in Washington, “It’s hard to overstate the response of Albertans, not just our government, but Albertans broadly, if this project were to be rejected.”

Teck has already spent $1 billion during the past decade to clear a series of regulatory hurdles, invest in technology designed to lighten the mine’s carbon footprint and forge agreements with First Nations groups, Kenney said. A rejection from Ottawa now would signal to investors that despite such efforts, projects can ultimately be scuttled by an “arbitrary political decision” made without any transparency, he said.

“I think that would be a devastating message to send in terms of investor confidence at a time when we are struggling to attract foreign direct investment to the Canadian economy,” he said, speaking alongside Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. “So the response would be very challenging.”

Demand for crude oil will continue during the coming decades even as energy transitions away from fossil fuels, Kenney added, and it’s better that the last barrel of oil come from “a stable reliable democracy with the highest environmental and human rights labour standards on earth. Teck represents a pathway to that.”

Teck Resources’ proposed $20.6-billion Frontier project could produce 260,000 barrels per day of bitumen in northern Alberta, making it one of the largest in the oilsands.

Teck Resources’ proposed $20.6-billion Frontier project could produce 260,000 barrels per day of bitumen in northern Alberta, making it one of the largest in the oilsands.

Norm Betts/Bloomberg files

The Liberal cabinet’s decision on Frontier, proposed by Vancouver-based Teck Resources, will be released by end of month.

Environmental groups and others have called on the prime minister to reject the proposal, saying it conflicts with the Liberal pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The project would emit around four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, over a 40-year period.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau downplayed the Reuters report, saying efforts by federal officials were unrelated to the approval or rejection of the oilsands mine.

Nixon on Friday joined other Conservative voices who have called on the Liberals to support the project “on its merits,” claiming that a rejection would undermine Canada’s regulatory process and further sour intergovernmental relations.

“For the prime minster and the government to come in at the last minute and change the rules will create significant instability within our province,” he said.

“We have been clear with the federal government that we do have a unity crisis brewing within this country.”

The Frontier mine is not a political gift

Frustrations have been mounting in the province amid a more than decade-long failure to build major pipeline infrastructure, causing Canadian oil prices to sell at a steep discount to American rivals. The Trudeau government was completely wiped out in Alberta and Saskatchewan during the 2019 election, largely as a result of growing distrust toward Ottawa.

The election results speak to the “divisions we have in our nation,” Moe said. “I think, in fairness, that manifested itself on election night.”

Industry groups have complained that regulatory reviews in Canada have stretched on years longer than what is appropriate, due at times to legal challenges and political wrangling.

Trudeau is reportedly facing pressure from within his own caucus to reject the project, though a number of cabinet ministers support its approval and later development.

Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who serves as parliamentary secretary for housing, told reporters on Friday he had “significant concerns” with some of the environmental impacts associated with Frontier, particularly for those in northern First Nations communities.

“And we talk a lot about Alberta, but I think it’s time we talk more about the Northwest Territories, in particular the health of the Delta, the Mackenzie Delta,” he said.

Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative natural resources critic, said the Teck Frontier decision will be a defining moment for the Liberal government.

“If the Liberals reject the Teck Frontier mine, Albertans will perceive that as a rejection of Alberta from Canada,” she said in Ottawa. “That is where the vast majority of my constituents are at.”

Don Lindsay, the CEO of Teck, recently said it was “anyone’s guess” whether Frontier would be built due to years of regulatory delays and political pressure. Some analysts have suggested the project would not be viable in today’s oil markets, after global oil prices slumped in mid-2014.

— With files from The Canadian Press





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Jason Kenney says he’s feeling ‘realistic’ about his ‘very frank conversation’ with Trudeau


The good news for Albertans is that Premier Jason Kenney isn’t feeling pessimistic after his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The bad news is that he’s not exactly feeling optimistic either.

“Realistic,” is how he put it when speaking to reporters after the lengthy chat in the prime minister’s office on Tuesday, which lasted for more than an hour.

Kenney’s demeanour was an obvious contrast to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who came out of his meeting with Trudeau nearly a month ago fuming about how disappointed he was. Kenney, on the other hand, mentioned several times that he appreciates Trudeau’s willingness to listen to his concerns.

“We had a very frank conversation about the ongoing economic crisis in Alberta and the impact that has on the Canadian prosperity and, frankly, the unity of our country as well,” said Kenney. “I appreciate that the prime minster listened and seemed to be responsive on a number of points.”

The Alberta premier had a number of big requests for Trudeau, with the most important being a firm commitment on when the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will be completed. With the Alberta economy still recovering from a deep economic decline, the extra barrels of oil the pipeline will move to the Pacific coast have become the dominant issue in the province.

Kenney had no firm date to announce after the meeting, but Trudeau did note that shovels are already in the ground and construction is underway on the pipeline.

Kenney also wants changes to the federal fiscal stabilization fund, which provides extra money to provinces experiencing a short-term economic decline. He told Trudeau he wants the cap on the program lifted and $2.4 billion worth of retroactive payments to Alberta to make up for being shortchanged during the recent recession.

Kenney has been referring to it as an “equalization rebate” and a way for the federal government to show it appreciates Alberta’s outsized contributions to the federal coffers. Last week, all the provinces agreed to raise the issue with Trudeau.

“We already got unanimity across the country. Miracles will never cease,” said Kenney.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney holds a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Dec. 10, 2019.

Blair Gable/Reuters

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Monday that he is open to listening to the concerns of the provinces on fiscal stabilization when the provincial finance ministers meet on Monday. Kenney said he received “no specific guarantee” on tweaks to the program, other than a willingness to look at it.

A recent surge in Western alienation also dominated the meeting.

Kenney told reporters that he urged Trudeau to take the concerns of Albertans seriously, citing poll numbers showing that a third of the province saying they’d be better off splitting from Canada than staying in the federation.

“The prime minister agrees that we must not ignore those sentiments,” said Kenney, who has repeatedly noted that Albertans feel unappreciated and neglected by the rest of the federation.

Kenney also lobbied for the federal approval of the massive Frontier Mine oil sands project proposed by Teck Resources and suggested that this “simple ratification” would be a litmus test for Albertans wondering if their federal government has got their back.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2019.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

“The next few weeks will be critical in determining the seriousness of this federal government to respond to the deep and legitimate concerns in Western Canada,” said Kenney, saying he needed urgent action from the federal government ahead of the February deadline for approval.

Trudeau told Kenney that he’s aware of the deadline and that the federal government is working on the file with that in mind.

“I am somebody who always tries to be hopeful but that’s hard for a lot of Albertans who have been out of work for four years,” said Kenney.

Also on the list of issues that Kenney brought to Ottawa is a request to rewrite Bill C-69, which modified environmental assessments for large energy projects, and a complete scrapping of the government’s tanker ban law, which effectively bans Canadian oil exports from B.C.’s north coast.

Kenney expressed some optimism on Bill C-69.

“While the prime minster is not going to repeal the bill, as we would prefer, he did agree to work with us on its application, on the regulations and on the project list,” said Kenney. “So on a number of issues he’s indicated an openness and we appreciate that but we will be continuing to push our vital economic interests with vigour.”

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter:





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Recent UN vote not a shift in Canada’s ‘steadfast’ support for Israel: Trudeau – National


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a recent vote to support a UN resolution endorsing Palestinian self-determination is not a shift in Canada’s policy against singling out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

Trudeau made the remarks Monday at a menorah lighting on Parliament Hill, where about 100 parliamentarians and members of the Jewish community gathered to mark the upcoming Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.


READ MORE:
Canada’s view on Israeli settlements in West Bank unchanged, despite U.S. policy shift

Trudeau says he met before the event with Jewish community leaders who expressed their concerns about the United Nations vote in late November.

He says he heard similar concerns from other parties and from members of his own caucus.

The resolution was part of a group of motions brought every year at the United Nations which critics say single out Israel for the ongoing conflict with Palestinians.

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Protest turns violent during pro-Israel event at York University


Protest turns violent during pro-Israel event at York University

For more than a decade, Canada has voted against the resolutions but Trudeau says Canada felt it had to change course on that one resolution, in order to emphasize its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



“I hear you,” Trudeau told those gathered around the menorah. “I understand that many of you were alarmed by this decision. The government felt that it was important to reiterate its commitment to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution at a time when its prospects appear increasingly under threat.


READ MORE:
U.S. reverses position on Israeli settlements, angering Palestinians

“But let me be very clear. Our enduring friendship with Israel remains. We will continue to stand strongly against the singling out of Israel at the UN. Canada remains a steadfast supporter of Israel and Canada will always defend Israel’s right to live in security. And we will always, always, speak up against anti-Semitism at home and abroad. You have my word.”

Canada was roundly criticized for the November vote by Israel, the United States and many within Canada, with several critics accusing Canada of voting with the majority in order to secure a UN Security Council seat next year.

Canada returned to its practice of voting against other resolutions critical of Israel in votes taken this month.






U.S. no longer considers Israel settlements illegal


U.S. no longer considers Israel settlements illegal

At the menorah lighting, Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer both denounced recent incidents of anti-Semitism aimed at Jewish students at York University, the University of Toronto and McGill University.

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“They were made to feel uncomfortable because of their identity, because of their support of Israel,” Trudeau said.

“Calling into question Israel’s right to exist or the right of Jewish people to self-determination is promoting anti-Semitism and that’s unacceptable. We will never, ever be silent in the face of such acts. Hatred has no place in Canada and we will continue to condemn it.”




© 2019 The Canadian Press







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‘That’s no joke’: Taking aim at Trudeau, Trump’s campaign chief compares U.S. job numbers to Canadian losses


For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it seems the fallout from his Buckingham Palace video slip-up is set to run and run.

In the days since the PM’s unguarded remarks showed him cracking a joke at U.S. President Donald Trump’s expense at a NATO summit in England, he has found the clip being used both by Trump’s allies and foes to further their own needs.

At a reception on Tuesday evening, Trudeau was caught on camera with France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands laughing at Trump’s long press appearances. “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” said Trudeau. Trump said the clip showed Trudeau was “two-faced.”

In a news conference after the summit, Trudeau said his “jaw drop” comment had been referring to Trump’s unexpected announcement that the next G7 summit will take place at Camp David and he had meant no offence.

However, that doesn’t seem to have appeased the Trump side, and on Friday Trudeau was taken to task by Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.


Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the Trump 2020 reelection campaign, attends a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in Bossier City, LA, U.S., November 14, 2019.

REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On Friday Bloomberg reported that Canada’s job market weakened, unexpectedly, for the second month in a row. Citing Statistics Canada figures, Bloomberg reported that Canada shed 71,200 jobs in November — the biggest drop since 2009. In total, Canada has added 285,100 jobs in 2019.

Pouncing on the November drop Parscale, citing Bloomberg reporting run online by the Financial Post, highlighted the fact that American job gains under Trump compare favourably to Canada’s numbers. The most recent U.S. Labor Department figures show the U.S. gained 266,000 jobs in the same month.

“Let’s see,” Parscale wrote in a post on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, the latter of which was shared by Trump’s own Facebook page.

“President Trump is fighting for America and our economy just ADDED 266,000 jobs. Justin Trudeau was laughing it up in London and the Canadian economy just LOST 71,200 jobs. That’s no joke. Trump wins. Again.”

Parscale’s stinging rebuke came soon after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had chimed in on the Trudeau clip, posting a campaign video to Twitter in which he used the video to take down Trump, suggesting he is a laughingstock to other world leaders.

“The world is laughing,” read the text over that clip and others of Trump’s trips abroad. “We need a leader the world respects.”

As of Thursday evening, Biden’s Twitter video had garnered more than nine million views. The campaign soon posted it to Facebook and told Reuters it was also promoting it to likely caucus-goers in the early presidential nominating state of Iowa on Instagram, YouTube and Hulu.

The Biden campaign also used the video in a fundraising pitch on Thursday, asking supporters to help turn the online ad into a TV spot.

— with files from Reuters and Bloomberg



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Trump calls Trudeau ‘two-faced’ over video that shows world leaders joking about U.S. president


LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly on Tuesday night about U.S. President Donald Trump,

Hours later, the backlash materialized.

“Well, he’s two-faced,” the president said Wednesday when asked about the video. After a long pause, he added, “He’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy.”

Trump, who was taking questions from reporters before a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, attributed Trudeau’s frustration to the president’s pressure campaign to increase Canada’s military spending to 2% of its economic output.

“He should be paying more than he’s paying,” Trump said. “I called him out on that and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is.”

Trump later said on Twitter he would leave the NATO summit early and skip a closing news conference.


Britain’s Princess Royal Anne talks to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a reception on December 3, 2019.

Yui Mok/Pool via REUTERS

At a news conference Wednesday, Trudeau explained he was talking to Macron and Johnson in the video about Trump’s announcement earlier in the day that the next G7 summit in June would be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

“Last night, I made a reference to the fact there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with president Trump, I was happy to take part in it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau told reporters.

“We were all surprised and I think pleased to learn that the next G7 will be at Camp David, I think that was an unscheduled announcement and … I think every different leader has teams who every now and then their jaws drop at unscheduled surprises, like that video itself for example,”

Trudeau said he did not believe the video would come back to haunt Canada.

“The relationship with the United States is extremely strong and I have a very good relationship with the president and his team,” he said.


Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, departsafter speaking to reporters at the NATO summit on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The video was shot by the British host’s pool camera during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.

Snippets of the conversation involving Trudeau, Princess Anne, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands rose above the din and were captured in the short video.

“Is that why you were late?” a smiling Johnson asks Macron in the 25-second clip.

“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau chimes in.

The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but hours before the reception, Trump had turned what were “expected to be brief photo opportunities” with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau into what The Washington Post described as “his own personal daytime cable show”.

In his meeting with Trudeau, Trump questioned the Canadian prime minister about how much his country spends on its own defence. Canada does not meet NATO’s target for member countries to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their militaries.

“What are you at? What is your number?” Trump asked.


President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greet each other at the NATO summit at the Grove Hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Trudeau tried to evade answering directly, saying: “The number we talk about is a 70% increase over these past years. We are increasing significantly our defence spending from previous governments that cut it.”

But Trump followed up. “Okay, where are you now, in terms of your number?”

After some discussion with an aide, Trudeau answered: “1.4.”

Trump said on Wednesday that he had called out Trudeau for failing to meet the 2% target for national output on defence.

By early Wednesday, the Tuesday video had been watched nearly 5 million times.

Others quickly noticed that a member of the royal family was also involved in the exchange, identifying Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, by her distinctive hair.

Earlier in the evening, Anne was seen in another viral video appearing to shrug off a “scolding” from the Queen for not joining the royal receiving line to greet the president and first lady.

Trump on Tuesday did not publicly address the Trudeau video, only tweeting early Wednesday morning that he “enjoyed” his post-reception meeting with Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where the pair “talked about numerous subjects including @NATO and Trade.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

By Tuesday afternoon, Johnson claimed at a news conference that he had not been party to any discussion about Trump.

“That’s complete nonsense, and I don’t know where that has come from,” he said. “I really don’t know what is being referred to there.”

When Trudeau arrived at the summit early Wednesday, he walked briskly by reporters and did not answer shouted questions regarding his remarks allegedly about Trump.

Later, as leaders sat down for their meeting, Trudeau could be seen going over to Trump and shaking his hand politely. The two men said something quickly to each other, then Trudeau walked away.

The video had prompted concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president would react.

“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.

“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”

Trump has long bridled at the idea of other world leaders poking fun at the United States.

“The world is laughing at us,” he said frequently during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing the leadership of President Barack Obama.

In June 2017, when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Trump said that “we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be. They won’t be.”

In 2018, after laughter broke out at the United Nations General Assembly when Trump claimed his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the president insisted that he was not the target.

“They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me,” he said.

While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.

The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Chris Rands, a producer at the CBC’s Parliamentary news bureau in Ottawa, said he had first unearthed the video while searching for images of Trudeau in footage from Buckingham Palace.

Rands added that based on his listening, Trudeau was discussing Trump’s surprise announcement that a Group of 7 summit meeting next June would be held at CampDavid rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

Meanwhile, social media was flooded with reactions.

Some viewers were shocked to witness the leaders seeming to act like “mean girls,” as one person put it.

“Oh my God,” a Twitter user wrote. “This is quite something,” another person opined.

With files from The Canadian Press, Washington Post, New York Times and Bloomberg News






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All joking aside, Trudeau isn’t doing much to convince the business community he’s serious


Poor Mona Fortier. She was so close to a title that would look great on any resume: associate minister of finance. But whoever runs Team Trudeau decided that moniker wasn’t descriptive enough. So Fortier, a member of Parliament from Ottawa, will spend the next phase of her career being introduced as the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity as well.

No need to spend a lot of time on the stupidity of that title. Chris Selley has already done so wonderfully in the National Post. “The title is kind of odd,” John Manley, the former minister of just about everything in Jean Chrétien’s government, including finance, said in an interview.

The unveiling of the cabinet was done without mandate letters, so we don’t know yet what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expects of his 36 ministers. I asked for an interview with Canada’s new junior finance minister, but her assistant said that she was too busy too talk. No doubt. Whenever we can speak, I pledge to take Fortier more seriously than the Prime Minister’s Office did when it was handing out titles.

But I said we wouldn’t dwell on superficial stuff. What does the new cabinet say about how the Trudeau government will approach the economy? That matters, as one of Fortier’s first formal briefings surely will include the latest from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which on Nov. 22 predicted that the global economy will expand 2.9 per cent this year, the weakest rate since the financial crisis a decade ago.

The OECD sees Canada’s gross domestic product growing only 1.5 per cent in 2019, compared with three per cent in 2017 and about two per cent in 2018. It also doubts the economy is on track to grow much faster for the next two years. The OECD called on the Bank of Canada to cut interest rates half a point by early next year, and advised governments against aggressive spending cuts at this time.

“Business confidence and investment in Canada are projected to recover only gradually,” the OECD said. “Exports and imports will remain subdued. Private consumption will support growth, but households will remain reluctant to spend from their income due to uncertainty, a slowing labour market and deleveraging.

Canadian retail sales increased 0.5 per cent in the third quarter, compared with a 1.1 per cent gain in the second quarter, Statistics Canada reported Nov. 22. Households “haven’t been very apt to spend in recent quarters, resulting in virtual stagnation in real retail sales since early 2018,” said Royce Mendes, an economist at CIBC World Markets.

The appointment of a minister for the middle class will do nothing to correct the business community’s impression of Trudeau.

The trouble with the first Trudeau government from the perspective of the business community was that it came across as entirely unserious about economic policy.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who was re-upped on Nov. 20, was afforded none of the stature that typically comes with his position. Trudeau was right to turn his back on balanced budgets, but he failed to tell a convincing story for why he was content to allow the deficit to grow wider and wider.

The government’s struggle to spend the infrastructure money in a timely manner appeared to be a lesson for what happens when you overpopulate your leadership team with thinkers and dreamers, at the expense of ministers with extensive real-life experience in business and politics.

The appointment of a minister for the middle class will do nothing to correct the business community’s impression of Trudeau.

“I’m looking for the government to do less virtue signalling and more listening to people,” said Manley, who is now special business adviser at Bennett Jones LLP, a law firm based in Toronto. “They were taken to the woodshed. I hope they know that.”

If John Ivison, the National Post’s political columnist, is right, the cabinet barely matters because a cabal of unelected advisers makes all the big decisions. And from the outside, it sure looks like the prime minister and his whisperers have created a system made to keep economic ministers busy figuring out who is in charge of what.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson lead the cabinet’s economy and climate committee. Morneau will have Fortier underfoot at Finance, while Navdeep Bains, who returns as innovation minister, will share his department’s resources with Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly.

I’m looking for the government to do less virtue signalling and more listening to people

John Manley, former cabinet minister

Also in the picture: Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, Trade Minister Mary Ng and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Reagan.

There’s your economic-crisis committee, more or less.

Manley said junior ministers aren’t necessarily a bother, and he included Maurizio Bevilacqua, the one-time minister of state for finance, in just about everything because he liked having “another pair of political eyes.”

However, under Jean Chrétien, everyone knew what his or her job was. At Industry, Manley had little involvement with the day-to-day oversight of the regional development agencies, but they required his signature to spend money. Ministers were given a lot of responsibility and it was their fault if they screwed up. Harsh, but it left room for the prime minister to get involved before it was too late.

There might be a lesson for the current prime minister in that. “When the PM owns everything, it’s all on him,” Manley said.

Financial Post

Email: [email protected] | CarmichaelKevin





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