True North Initiative: News Scan 12 13 16

TOP STORIES

Trudeau says he’s lobbied, but not influenced, at Liberal fundraisers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Monday that people lobby him at Liberal Party cash-for-access fundraisers, but said he ultimately makes up his own mind on what is good for Canada. It is the first time the Prime Minister has admitted that government business is being discussed at partisan Liberal money-raising events. This activity runs contrary to the very rules the Liberal Party made public earlier this year where it said government business is not discussed at pay-to-play fundraisers. At these events, Canadians or non-citizens who are permanent residents pay as much as $1,500 for access to the prime minister or other cabinet ministers. (Globe and Mail) (Metronews)

Murders of Canadian hostages 'a low point' in 2016: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the brutal killings of two Canadian hostages held by Abu Sayyaf extremists in the Philippines were “a low point” for him in 2016. “(It) is something that obviously was personally difficult for me as I had the responsibility for directing and articulating the Canadian position, but also the opportunity and responsibility to speak with their families,” PM Trudeau told reporters during a year-end news conference in Ottawa on Monday. Trudeau was responding to a question about his biggest regret of 2016. (CTV)

Private Sponsorship for Refugees Pays Off in Canada's Job Market

New refugees to Canada are more successful breaking into the job market when sponsored by private community groups rather than by the government, a finding that takes on added importance as the nation welcomes tens of thousands of Syrian migrants. Refugees sponsored for a year by a community organization like a church or a group of private individuals earned C$18,300 (U.S. $13,939) in the 2014 tax year compared with C$13,300 for those who had government support, based on the median estimate of arrivals over the prior five years, according to Statistics Canada data. People who fled to Canada without sponsorship earned C$22,000. The agency doesn't normally provide an analysis of the data it releases. (Bloomberg)

Identities of 2 Quebec men who fought in Syria revealed

An investigation by Radio-Canada's Enquête has uncovered the identities of a group of 10 young Quebecers who secretly joined militants in Syria to fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime.  The group was made up of friends who often gathered at a Montreal-area shooting range to practise before seven of them left for the Middle East between the summers of 2012 and 2013, Radio-Canada has learned. According to witnesses, the young men brought two firearms to the shooting range. One of them was an imitation Soviet semi-automatic carbine, called an SKS, similar to the one used by rebels in Syria. (CBC)

Money began to rain on Trudeau Foundation once Justin took over Liberals, analysis shows

Last Monday, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose wrote to the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner and to the lobbying commissioner, asking them to investigate Liberal fundraising practices — and in particular, whether people might be using donations to the charitable Trudeau Foundation to gain influence with the government. (Canada.com)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Frustration as Westmount synagogue waits for sponsored Syrian families to arrive

As Syrian refugees celebrate the one-year anniversary of their arrival, members of a Westmount synagogue say they have no idea what's going on with their ongoing attempts to bring two Syrian families here. Members of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom started the sponsorship process in September 2015. The plan originally was to bring one family to Montreal, but the response from the community was such that they decided to sponsor two instead. (CBC)

Frustration abounds for sponsorship groups waiting for families to arrive

It didn’t take long for Nancy Wilding and her sponsorship group in Huntsville to raise well over the $60,000 they needed to sponsor a Syrian family of seven. With an application submitted in October 2015, they were matched quickly with a refugee family and scrambled to get things ready. By December they had secured a four-bedroom house for the family. Some 60 volunteers installed a new kitchen, with cabinetry donated by Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, with natural maple cupboards, new countertops and a donated fridge and stove. Handmade curtains were hung, a country-style couch and love seat were brought in to grace the living room and a harvest table big enough for dining for the entire family was given pride of place. The group even filled the house with food, clothing and daily necessities. The only thing missing was the family. (Toronto Star)

‘It just seems unfair': Langley kids booted from school over mom in citizenship 'limbo'

Despite the fact that both the five- and seven-year old were born in Canada — and are therefore Canadian citizens — the local school district won’t let them enrol because of their horse-trainer Mexican parents’ paperwork troubles. The federal government offered the mother and children visitor visas so they could enrol by a Sept. 30 deadline, while their father continues his paperwork in Mexico to resume his 10-year employment as a trainer at Hastings Racecourse. (Metronews)

Kevin O'Leary Tells Tories He Can Beat 'Surfer Dude' Trudeau In 2019

Celebrity businessman Kevin O’Leary unofficially launched his bid for the Conservative leadership Monday, promising that the next election will be an “ugly fight” against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. “2019 is not an election, it is an exorcism,” O’Leary told approximately 30 Tory MPs who gathered to hear his thoughts at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. (Huffington Post)

Poll suggests no Conservative leadership contestant has captured Canadians' attention yet

A new poll suggests no candidates for the Conservative Party leadership have been able to lift themselves out of the pack in the eyes of Canadians and Conservative supporters — a stark contrast to the last two races for the leadership of the New Democrats and Liberals, when clear front-runners had already emerged at this stage of the campaign. The poll, conducted by Forum Research and published in Postmedia's Sun chain of newspapers, found that none of the contestants tested in the poll scored more than 9 per cent support among Conservative voters, while 49 per cent said they preferred "someone else." (CBC)

Saudi Arabia giving Canadian oil an opportunity to cash in after facing ‘traumatic times’

Cutting crude oil production beyond OPEC will help Canada through higher prices, though cuts from the cartel itself will benefit this country the most. Prices have been climbing since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to reduce its collective output for the first time in eight years at the end of last month. Other major producers – most notably Russia – reached a similar deal over the weekend for the first time in 15 years. Taken together, and after accounting for some OPEC members being exempt from the cut, a combined 1.2 million barrels of daily production will come offline next year. (BNN)

A nasty Hungarian national mood rejects immigrants — and journalists

The Goy Bikers Association of Budapest. Translation: The Non-Jewish Bikers Association of Budapest. We went looking for them as part of a report on the proliferation of extreme-right, xenophobic and anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, clothing themselves as nationalist defenders of the land. It didn't go well. The bikers' leader, Imre Meszaros, demands the right to veto the work of journalists who interview him, even presents them with a legal document to sign right off the bat. (CBC)

Trump tweet about F-35 aircraft hits Lockheed Martin shares

Shares of Lockheed Martin fell as president-elect Donald Trump tweeted that making F-35 fighter planes is too costly and that he will cut "billions" in costs for military purchases. Lockheed makes the F-35 one-seat fighter aircraft for the U.S. and is a major defence contractor. The F-35 program made up 20 per cent of Lockheed's total revenue last year. The Pentagon has ordered 90 F-35 Lightning II jets from the company in the first tranche of the program and the U.S. air force has begun the process of designating bases that will handle the stealth warplanes. The total cost is expected to exceed $391 billion. (CBC)

Donald Trump selects Rex Tillerson for secretary of state

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department, dismissing concerns about the businessman's close ties with Russia, two people close to Trump's transition said Monday night. Trump's decision caps a lengthy process that often played out in public and exposed rifts within his transition team. It also sets Trump up for a potential fight with Congress over confirming Tillerson, who has connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Toronto Star)

 

EDITORIALS AND OPINION PIECES

John Geddes: In Justin Trudeau’s second year, promises meet proving ground

Few saw the one-two punch thrown by global politics in 2016 coming. Like a set-up jab to the body, Brits voted to exit the European Union. And then, like an even harder follow-up cross to the head, Americans voted Donald Trump into the presidency. The world was left seeing stars. But maybe, if this isn’t giving Canada’s most famous boxer too much credit as a fight strategist, we might have braced ourselves for the blows if we’d been listening more closely to Justin Trudeau. (Macleans)

Justin Ling: 0.99% A-OK

Canada’s defense spending is below one percent of its GDP. Trump and NATO want Canada to double it. Will Ottawa give in? Canada’s defense minister says he won’t put “fake numbers” on Canada’s military spending just because Donald Trump and Canada’s NATO allies tell him to. In a sit-down interview with VICE News, Harjit Singh Sajjan admitted that the Canadian Armed Forces are running on a “deficit” and that he’ll be looking to boost military spending, but wouldn’t come out and say that he’ll meet the targets set out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. (VICE)

Andrew Coyne: If fairness is the goal, Liberals should tax health and dental plans

I suppose we can say the trial balloon is still aloft, and gaining altitude. Since my colleague John Ivison reported the Liberal government was considering taxing employee health and dental benefits, various government officials have had ample opportunity to shoot down the story as the usual “baseless speculation” or whatnot. None has, including the Prime Minister at Monday’s press conference. (Canada.com)

John Ivison: Justin Trudeau admits to being lobbied at Liberal fundraisers

Justin Trudeau appears more confident about everything than most of us are about anything, particularly when it comes to the righteousness of his party’s fund-raising activities. The messianic sense that the Liberals are on a crusade to create a Just Society has stood the Prime Minister in good stead. In his year-end press conference, he recapped the busiest session since his party won power – a free trade agreement with the European Union; a free-spending fall fiscal update; the introduction of carbon pricing; the approval of two pipelines. (National Post)

Elizabeth Renzetti: The $1,500 question: Where did the Liberals’ transparency go?

Please consider this an invitation to my first fundraiser, an opportunity to gather, most likely at Swiss Chalet, and discuss the column topics you feel need addressing. In the full spirit of transparency and accountability, I cannot guarantee that I will actually write about any of these topics, or your grandson’s fascinating new startup. But I will be there, eating my Festive Special, ready to listen. According to the guiding principles of the Columnists’ Federation, entry is set at a reasonable $1,500, tax deductible, and payable in gift cards or Canadian Tire money. (Globe and Mail)

Tasha Kheiriddin: An overstuffed agenda and a steep learning curve: Trudeau in 2016

In a year-end press conference Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reflected on the highs and lows of governing the nation in 2016. For Trudeau, the lowest point was the killings of Canadian hostages John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, two businessmen who were kidnapped and murdered by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Philippines. “(It) is something that obviously was personally difficult for me as I had the responsibility for directing and articulating the Canadian position, but also the opportunity and responsibility to speak with their families,” said Trudeau. (IPolitics)

Shannon Proudfoot: Canada’s opposition parties seek leaders—and meaning

The Conservative and NDP leadership races, through to the end of 2016, were looking a bit like a bad art-house film: muddied plotlines, no recognizable names and an interminable running time. But in 2017, these races are all but guaranteed to heat up because the two parties find themselves in quite similar and somewhat dire circumstances. Weakened in the House of Commons, drifting under extended temporary leadership and squaring off against a Liberal government that remains remarkably popular despite its missteps, both opposition parties face a crisis to define their identity and future direction. (Macleans)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

- Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration meet later today to study Modernization of Client Service Deliver (3:30pm EST) (Public)

- Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development met yesterday to discuss Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials and Special Economic Act (In Camera)