Monday, September 25, 2023
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Politics Briefing: MPs and senators begin to speak about SNC-Lavalin affair

Good morning, In the days after The Globe and Mail broke the story of the SNC-Lavalin affair (background here) that involved then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould resisting pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, anonymous Liberal “insiders” appeared in other reports criticizing the minister’s character. A week later, the Prime Minister’s Office finally disowned those off-the-record remarks. Also on the record are a group of Indigenous senators – most of whom were appointed by Justin Trudeau, but sit as independents – who say they commend Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s record as minister. They may have more to say after they meet in Ottawa next week. But, back to SNC-Lavalin, what is not on the record is exactly how much money the Montreal construction giant does get from the federal government. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. There are roughly 30 major construction and civil engineering firms in Canada. Absent SNC, either new firms of this nature will form, or existing firms will likely expand to meet the opportunity for work.” Don Martin (CTV) on how the SNC-Lavalin affair will end: “There is only one way out: Independent corroboration of Trudeau’s version of events from the only person who can deliver it: Jody Wilson-Raybould. And there’s only one person who can give her permission to speak: Justin Trudeau. If mum’s the final word on this gag order, cover-up is the only conclusion.” Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into?

Report: Huawei CFO May Fight Extradition by Claiming US Political Motive

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada and faces possible extradition to the United States, is exploring a defense that claims U.S. charges against her are politically motivated, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Monday. Meng, the chief financial officer of China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., is the central figure in a high-stakes dispute between the United States and China. "The political overlay of this case is remarkable," Richard Peck, lead counsel for Meng, told the Toronto newspaper in a telephone interview. "That's probably the one thing that sets it apart from any other extradition case I've ever seen. It's got this cloud of politicization hanging over it," Peck added. The office of Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti and Peck did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A Huawei spokesman declined comment. In December, U.S. President Donald Trump said in a Reuters interview he would intervene in the Justice Department's case against Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China. Canada fired John McCallum, its ambassador to China, in January after he said Meng could make a strong argument against being sent to the United States. "He [Mr. McCallum] mentions some of the potential defenses - and certainly, I think any person that knows this area would see the potential for those defenses arising," Peck told the newspaper.

The overlap of law and politics: Meng Wanzhou’s extradition explained

Is extradition essentially a legal process, as the Government of Canada says, or a political one, as China asserts? These alleged lies began as early as 2009. But “conduct by the requesting state that amounts to an abuse of process is a basis for the extradition court to refuse extradition,” Edmonton lawyer Nathan Whitling says. “I think the Trump comments open the door for the motive of the Department of Justice [of the U.S.] to be explored,” Toronto lawyer Frank Addario says. The Supreme Court halted the extradition. “The only decision that must be made by the Minister of Justice personally is the ultimate decision on whether to surrender an individual in the event a judge has ordered committal for extradition,” Justice spokeswoman Célia Canon says. “This is a case that just cries out for transparency.” When the Justice Minister makes his ultimate decision on surrender, what guides the decision? Lawyers for Ms. Meng “can raise almost any issue,” Mr. Addario says, “including the fact that the alleged crime had negligible effects on the requesting state and appears to be the product of a trade dispute.” Can the minister’s ruling be reviewed by the courts? Not if the minister says no to the extradition. The Supreme Court of Canada says courts should generally defer in extradition cases because the executive, not the courts, has expertise in international relations: “The courts must be extremely circumspect so as to avoid interfering unduly in decisions that involve the good faith and honour of this country in its relations with other states.” Ultimately, in extradition cases, good faith and honour cannot be contracted out to the courts.

Politics Briefing: Trudeau’s carbon-tax fight is getting more complicated

With official Ottawa winding down for the holidays, we thought we’d take this week to reflect back on the stories that shaped the year in politics. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s road to a national carbon tax developed more potholes in 2018 than an Ottawa street after a long winter of frequent freeze and thaw. The plan – dubbed a “backstop” by Ottawa – imposes the tax in any province that does not have its own carbon levy – either through a direct tax or cap-and-trade system. Conservative premiers in Manitoba and New Brunswick also backed off plans to adopt a carbon tax, forcing Ottawa to extend its backstop to those provinces along with Saskatchewan and Ontario. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. We’ll be back in your inboxes in a week. Michael Kovrig was detained last week in an apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of an executive at the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. One-in-five Canadians has no opinion of him one way of the other. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are only five points behind the Liberals in the national vote numbers, but are over-performing in regions where there aren’t enough seats available to impact the election outcome.” Margaret Wente (The Globe and Mail) on the holidays: “Why, after 40 years of feminism, has so little changed? It’s spread by women’s publications and by Pinterest, which bedazzle you with images of Stepford wives dressed in hand-knit reindeer sweaters decorating cunning little Christmas cookies.” Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into?

Politics Briefing: Marketing of opioids winds down

Good morning, As prescription opioids are blamed for fuelling a crisis that has killed thousands of Canadians, five pharmaceutical companies including Purdue Pharma have heeded a call from the federal government to stop marketing those painkillers. Purdue’s introduction of OxyContin in 1996 is seen as the root of the current crisis, as the company promoted the drug as safer and less addictive than other opioids. In February, Purdue’s parent company stopped promoting prescription painkillers in the United States, where it has previously acknowledged misleading marketing and paid more than US$600-million to settle criminal and civil charges. Ontario’s newly elected premier, Doug Ford, has already set work dismantling some of the previous government’s policies. Mr. Ford’s campaign promise to cancel cap and trade is prompting the federal government to say it’s reconsidering $400-million in funding. Francisco Valencia, the activist, has been a major voice for improving the South American country’s health-care system, which has collapsed. The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on gun crime in Toronto: “The mayor’s belief that “answers are easy” if the city just throws enough police at the problem is indicative of a failed mindset that has prevailed in Toronto for too long.” Kent Roach (The Globe and Mail) on self-defence: “We need to examine whether the 2012 changes to our self-defence laws have made it too easy for people to use guns to defend property, self and others. The CBSA says detention is used as a last resort, in situations where, for example, officers need to complete an examination, or have security concerns, or have grounds to believe the individual will not appear for an immigration proceeding. It is well past time to accept that the Supreme Court is a political institution and deal with it accordingly.” Help The Globe monitor political ads on Facebook: During an election campaign, you can expect to see a lot of political ads. The Globe and Mail wants to report on how these ads are used, but we need to see the same ads Facebook users are seeing.