Security, reproductive rights, investment: how politics touched us this week

Security, reproductive rights, investment: how politics touched us this week

OTTAWA — Piercing the winter doldrums was the political goal of the week for all three party leaders.

Justin Trudeau took to town halls in Quebec and northern Ontario to show he is a man of the people.

Andrew Scheer went to Washington to talk up the benefits of NAFTA and show he is a statesman-in-waiting.

And Jagmeet Singh invited media to peek in at his marriage proposal to designer Gurkiran Kaur, to show he is a man of Instagram.

Spectacle aside, the week in Canadian politics revealed developments in global security, reproductive rights and the health of business investment. Here’s how:

GLOBAL SECURITY

The jury is still out over whether Tuesday’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Vancouver, co-hosted by Canada and the United States, hurt or helped ease the tension around North Korea and its nuclear arsenal.

The summit saw the foreign ministers declare their dedication to United Nations sanctions in an effort to force North Korea to de-nuclearize. They also sent a signal to China and Russia, who were not invited to the meeting, that they were not doing enough to enforce the sanctions effort.

And U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed to North Korea’s plans to participate in the Olympics next month in South Korea as proof that the U.S. approach to North Korea — which has included aggressive tweeting between leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un — actually works.

But China and Russia did not take kindly to their exclusion from the meeting.

And by the end of the week, North Korea was perhaps showing cold feet on the Olympics, cancelling a scheduled visit to South Korea to prepare for the event.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

The Liberals launched another youth-oriented program this week with an insistence that groups receiving government funding actively declare they are pro-choice.

The prime minister used an Instagram video to roll out the new Canada Service Corps, which earmarks $105 million over three years to helping young people with volunteer work.

Like the Canada Summer Jobs program, where any group seeking funding will need to check a box declaring its pro-choice credentials, similar criteria are being used to determine eligibility for service corps funds. Trudeau says government money should not go to groups that don’t respect women’s rights.

The move has prompted a debate over ideology, the reach of the charter, freedom of religion and whether the Liberals have gone too far. On Friday, the abortion rights group that drove the pro-choice requirement for the Canada Summer Jobs program wondered aloud if the Liberals had overstepped.

The Conservatives, for their part, have accused Trudeau of imposing his values on others. But they want to know more about the program requirements before they go further in their criticism.

Trump, meanwhile, addressed an anti-abortion march on Friday in Washington, where he insisted that Americans are becoming more anti-abortion all the time.

QUEASY INVESTORS

The on-again-off-again future of the North American Free Trade Agreement is not sitting well with companies doing business in Canada, and the uncertainty is starting to bite, the Bank of Canada warned this week.

Central bank governor Stephen Poloz says NAFTA uncertainty and pro-business tax cuts in the United States are driving investment away from Canada, hurting the Canadian economy.

Policy-makers have long had their eye on Canada’s lacklustre business investment record, looking at ways to turn it around.

So the central bank’s findings put pressure on the federal government to seek a quicker resolution to the renegotiation of NAFTA. Negotiations meet in Montreal in coming days for their sixth round of talks. Progress towards a resolution has been sparse, and there are growing fears the United States is losing its patience.

And Canadian associations representing big and small businesses alike are raising the alarm about Canada losing a competitive edge on the tax front.

Ottawa has argued repeatedly, however, that Canada’s investment regime remains as attractive as ever. Trudeau is heading to Davos this coming week to mingle with the rich and famous to pitch that very message to multinational corporations he hopes to lure to here.

Heather Scoffield, Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press

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