True North Initiative: News Scan 01 24 17


Trump withdraws from TPP, but offers Canada hope on NAFTA, Keystone pipeline

Donald Trump’s administration is offering encouraging signs to the Canadian government, signalling it will move ahead with approving the Keystone XL pipeline proposal and is open to bilateral trade deals as it renegotiates NAFTA. But the U.S. President also pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Monday, a move almost certain to kill the 11-country Pacific Rim trade deal championed by Ottawa. (Globe and Mail) (Bloomberg)

Canada has 'very special status,' not a NAFTA target: Trump adviser

Canada has a "very special status" and is unlikely to be hit hard by changes the United States wants to make to the NAFTA trade accord, the head of a business advisory council to U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday. Stephen Schwarzman made his remarks after addressing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet, who are holding a two-day retreat in Calgary, Alberta to discuss U.S. ties, in particular Trump's demands to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada sends about 75 percent of its exports to its southern neighbor. (Reuters) (CBC)

Trudeau to meet Trump in 'next 30 days or so' to talk new NAFTA deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet the new U.S. president within the next several weeks, as the incoming American administration talks to its northern and southern neighbours about a revised North American Free Trade Agreement. A spokesman for Donald Trump confirmed the upcoming discussions as he held his first daily White House briefing Monday and took questions on trade, counter-terrorism and a dispute over him making misleading statements. The first NAFTA talks could take place in the U.S., Sean Spicer suggested. He appeared to indicate the leaders would visit Trump. However, in Canada, several officials said specifics of a meeting had yet to be nailed down. (Metro)

Fed up with year of delays, woman goes to Jordan to meet refugees she wants to bring to Canada

A Nova Scotia woman helping sponsor a family of Syrians was so fed up with bureaucratic delays getting them to Canada that she travelled on her own dime to the Middle East late last month to meet the refugees. Stephanie Gillis said the family was shocked — and happy — to see her at their temporary home in Amman, Jordan. "They weren't expecting me, it was a big surprise," she told CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning. (CBC)

Ottawa accused of appeasing China with second review of takeover deal

The Trudeau government is being accused of bowing to Beijing by cancelling a cabinet order to break up a Chinese takeover of a Montreal high-tech firm despite warnings from national security agencies that the deal would undermine a technological edge Western militaries have over China. The Liberal government recently set aside a Harper government decision from 2015 that would have required Hong Kong-based O-Net Communications to abandon its purchase of Montreal’s ITF Technologies. Ottawa then ordered a fresh review. But the change in direction has raised questions from opposition parties, experts and a former spy chief. (Globe and Mail)

15 things about Donald Trump’s first day at the Office, from executive actions to his response to a lawsuit

For Donald Trump, the start of his first full week in office amounted to a reset after a tumultuous weekend dominated by his and his spokesman’s false statements about inauguration crowds and their vigorous complaints about media coverage of the celebrations. On Monday, the new president tried to regroup. He spent the day bounding from one ornate room of the White House to another for meetings, often ordering aides to summon journalists from their West Wing workspace at a moment’s notice for unscheduled statements and photo opportunities. (National Post)


OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Ismael Habib trial: Did RCMP break rules during undercover sting?

If someone offered you what you wanted most in the world, what would you say to get it? Ismael Habib's defence lawyer Charles Montpetit argues you'd say anything — which is what he says his client did when he was caught in a Mr. Big-style sting in February 2016. Habib, 29, is accused of trying to go overseas to commit terrorist acts and of providing false information to obtain a passport.  In the course of the police sting, he confessed to an undercover agent posing as a crime boss peddling fake passports that once he found a way out of Canada, he planned to go to Syria to fight with ISIS. (Yahoo)

City wants more federal help for language training needs of Syrian refugees

Most Syrian refugee newcomers to Hamilton still need at least 900 more hours of English training to be fluent enough to hold a job. And the city says without more federal money to help catch up with the backlog, the new arrivals have little hope of finding jobs and financial independence. A new city report Monday shows that 93 per cent of the new Canadians who fled here from the bloody Syrian civil war a year ago are, on average, at a level four when it comes to English as a Second Language (ESL). That's a Grade 3 reading and writing level. (CBC)

Canada's ambassador to Beijing says openness to global trade is key

Canada is a “long way” from a free trade deal with China but is about to embark on exploratory talks because it believes openness to global trade, not protectionism, is the way to go, says Justin Trudeau’s newly named ambassador to Beijing. In an exclusive interview with the Star, John McCallum praised last week’s speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that promoted global markets as being in line with Canada’s views, calling it an “excellent” speech that was “open-minded” and “internationalist.” (Toronto Star)

Kevin O’Leary leads as Tories gain ground on Liberals, new poll shows

Kevin O’Leary is the far-and-away front-runner for the Conservative leadership as the Opposition party gains slightly on the Liberals in overall voter preference, according to a new poll. O’Leary, the celebrity businessman who entered the Tory leadership race last week after months of signalling a potential campaign, is the top choice to lead the party for 27 per cent of poll respondents. The survey found he had more than twice the support of runner-up Maxime Bernier, the Quebec MP and former minister who scored 11 per cent. (Toronto Star)

Privacy watchdog investigating complaints around sharing economy

The federal privacy watchdog is looking into complaints against so-called “sharing economy” companies for the first time, the Star has learned. In documents obtained under access to information law, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office suggested sharing-economy companies such as Uber and Airbnb are creating a “growing risk” to Canadians’ private information. The key question, according to the documents, is who ultimately controls extremely sensitive personal information such as location data and financial information. (Toronto Star)

In a report card on Trudeau government’s first year, indigenous affairs work gets an ‘incomplete’

The Privy Council Office has given the Trudeau government what amounts to an incomplete mark when it comes to meeting objectives the Liberals set for themselves on indigenous and northern affairs, the National Post has learned. The department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs is one of two ministries — the other is democratic reform — that did not get a passing mark on a “deliverology” report card that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet were expected to review as they began two days of meetings Monday in Calgary. (National Post)

May to discuss how to boost US-UK migration with Trump, say sources

Theresa May wants to explore how to boost US-UK migration when she meets the US president, Donald Trump, this week as part of their talks over an early trade deal, according to British government sources. The disclosure follows hard on the heels of the confirmation from the Australian high commissioner in London that exploratory talks have already begun on a UK-Australian free trade deal, and that greater access for Australian businesspeople to Britain will have to form part of it. (The Guardian)

Rex Tillerson: Trump foreign affairs pick narrowly backed

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has narrowly approved Rex Tillerson as US secretary of state, despite concerns about his business ties to Russia. It split along party lines, with all 11 Republicans voting in favour and all 10 Democrats against. A full vote will now be held in the Republican-run Senate. (BBC)

Donald Trump’s national security advisor Mike Flynn ‘investigated over Russia ties’

Communications between President Donald Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russian officials are being investigated by counterintelligence agencies, according to the Wall Street Journal. The news came just hours after the retired Lieutenant General had been sworn in as Mr Trump’s national security advisor on Sunday. The newspaper reported it is not clear when the inquiry began, whether it has produced any incriminating evidence, whether it is still underway or closing. (Independent UK)

69 Pakistanis detained in Saudi Arabia for ‘terrorism’: report

At least 69 Pakistanis are being held in Saudi Arabia for their alleged involvement in terror-related offenses. The most recent arrest came on Saturday when Saudi security forces rounded up Fatima Ramadan Balochi Murad along with her Saudi husband from an apartment in the Al Naseem district after a tip-off, Saudi Gazette reported Monday. (Daily Times Pakistan)

China hits back at US over South China Sea claims

China has asserted its "indisputable sovereignty" over parts of the South China Sea after the Trump administration vowed to prevent China from taking territory in the region. The Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing would "remain firm to defend its rights in the region". White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday the US would "make sure we protect our interests there". (BBC)

U.K. government must consult Parliament before triggering Brexit

Britain's government must get parliamentary approval before starting the process of leaving the European Union, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, potentially delaying Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to trigger negotiations by the end of March. The ruling forces the government to put a bill before Parliament, giving pro-EU politicians a chance to soften the terms of Brexit — Britain's exit from the EU.  "Leave" campaigners had objected, saying Parliament shouldn't have the power to overrule the electorate, which voted to leave the bloc in a June 23 referendum. (CBC) (BBC)



Father Raymond J. de Souza: How Trump could help a broken Middle East

As President Donald Trump plans for his first year in office, he will not have to make space in his calendar for a December trip to Oslo. Unlike Barack Obama, he will not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for just marvelously being Obama. Neither will he be grandiosely addressing the “Muslim world,” as Obama did in Cairo during his first months. But he might be rather more welcome in the capitals of Muslim countries than one might expect. (National Post)

Chantal Hebert: Trump, meet Trudeau, king of the selfie

It is not to diminish the economic importance of the trade arrangements between Canada and the United States to note that more than the bilateral relationship between the two countries will be at stake when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. In many G7 capitals there is concern that few mainstream government leaders seem to have the ear of the incoming American president. Out of the current lot, Trudeau may be among those better placed to establish a connection. That’s not only a product of geography. (Toronto Star)

Tasha Kheiriddin: Trump's war on reality is just getting started

Let’s talk about “alternative facts” for a moment — that migraine-inducing phrase senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway coined to defend the performance (there really isn’t a better word) of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at his first meeting with the Washington press corps after Trump was inaugurated last week. In the course of that memorable rant, Spicer berated reporters for understating the numbers present at Trump’s inauguration, blaming the floor covering for presenting images of a smaller crowd. “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer insisted — one of several statements he made that were contradicted by transit data, on-site crowd estimates and photography. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.” (IPolitics)

Paul Wells: Trudeau’s Trump tactics seem to be working — so far

On Nov. 8, when it became clear Donald Trump would be the next U.S. president, Justin Trudeau was watching with close advisers. “Well, we’re Canadians,” the prime minister said at last. “We can get along with anybody.” We will now see. Until now Trudeau’s occasional offsite two-day cabinet retreats have been professional development exercises, a break from decision-making rather than a chance to make a bunch of decisions in a short amount of time. This week’s retreat, at Calgary’s Fairmont Palliser Hotel, is different. There is one item on the agenda: Donald Trump. (Toronto Star)

John Ivison: Trump has ‘unusually positive view’ of Canada and things should ‘go well,’ top adviser says

The Trump administration has an “unusually positive view” of Canada and things should “go well” for this country, according to the new president’s chief economic adviser. Stephen Schwarzman’s comments in Calgary were vaguely reassuring, in a “you’re liked, but not well-liked” kind of way. Yet, for a government that doesn’t appear to respect any of its peers — with the possible exception of Putin’s Russia — it was as good as it’s likely to get. (National Post)