Saturday November 11, 2017
TPP partners agree on "core elements" of a trade deal, so what's next?
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, which have been anything but straightforward, haven't gone the way many had anticipated, and that Canada clearly wasn't ready to say yes on a number of issues.
And there's still plenty of room for countries — including Canada — to say no.
"All countries, when they sign the agreement in principle, all recognize that they have to have it approved by their own domestic government," Charest told The House. "There is no deal until the Canadian parliament of Canada says there's a deal."
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- TPP partners reach agreement on 'core elements' of Pacific trade deal, Canada says
From his experience with past trade deals, Charest said culture could be a deal breaker for Canada in TPP negotiations, but other issues — like rules of origin for car manufacturing and intellectual property rights — might have a bit more leeway.
"Culture was a deal breaker with the FTA in 1988 with the United States, and it's such a sensitive issue in Canada, especially in Quebec, more than anywhere else that it could become a deal breaker," Charest said.
Charest said he doesn't believe TPP will have much effect on NAFTA renegotiations.
Trump, Charest said, is the reason why TPP negotiations are taking place as they are. He's the one that walked away from trade deal.
"I wouldn't accept any criticism from the Americans on this," he said. "The key word for us is to diversify…we have to get out there and diversify. This is what TPP11 is about."
Montreal's new mayor argues Safe Third Country Agreement needs to be revisited
Montreal's incoming mayor wants Canada to take another look at the Safe Third Country Agreement as authorities prepare for another wave of asylum seekers who have been flooding into Canada illegally from the United States.
"We need to review that for sure," Valerie Plante told The House.
"If you want to come into a country, you should go through the official border agency, the right way. I do not think the way it's going on right now makes sense."
The Safe Third Country Agreement requires asylum seekers to apply for refugee status in the first country they arrive in, either Canada or the United States.
But a loophole in the agreement, which requires the asylum applications at official points of entry into the country, has led to thousands of migrants crossing outside of legal entry points.
Concerns that more asylum seekers will try to enter Canada illegally have grown after U.S. President Donald Trump hinted last week that his administration would end temporary protected status, which allows refugees to stay in the U.S. while their home countries recover from disasters, for refugees from countries including Honduras and Nicaragua.
"We know there's gonna be another wave, there's gonna be more people coming in... there has to be a better way to manage that," said Plante, who takes over the mayor's office on Wednesday.
Plante noted that although she didn't discuss the issue in her first conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just after she was elected, illegal border crossings into Canada will certainly be on the agenda the next time she sits down with him.
Many families expected to stick with 12 months of parental leave benefits, minister says
The newly extended parental leave benefits announced this week is touted as a great choice for Canadian parents, but Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos admits the option won't be for everyone.
"It's a matter of flexibility, it's a matter of family choice. We want families to make the best decision possible," Duclos told The House.
The extended benefits announced last week will come into effect on Dec. 3, 2017. The revised program will allow parents to choose whether to keep 12 months of employment insurance benefits, or spread that same amount of money over 18 months.
Critics argue not everyone who wants to stay home longer with a newborn or newly adopted child can afford because the monthly benefit payments will be too low.
Expanded parental leave, new caregiver benefit, to come into effect Dec. 3, as questions remain
Duclos says the aim of the new program is to provide parents with flexibility. He understands not everyone can afford to stay home for a year and half.
"And that's alright, because in that case they should be choosing that [12 month] option. I expect many families will do that," Duclos said.
"We expect 20,000 families to want to choose the more flexible 18 month approach. But the other families will maintain their choice of the 12 month approach."
And for those families who need to return to work more quickly, availability of affordable childcare remains a big issue, he said.
"We've announced a $7.5 billion investment over the next 10 years to increase the availability and the quality and affordability of childcare services everywhere in Canada," Duclos said.
But availability of spaces "will remain a challenge for some time until our investments make a real impact in many places in Canada."
Budget watchdog considering legal 'saga' with revenue agency to test his powers
Canada's budget watchdog is considering whether to use a 5-year battle to get information from the Canada Revenue Agency to test the limits of the new legislation outlining his office's powers.
"I call it a saga, a long saga."
Parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Fréchette says his office has been involved in a legal battle with CRA since 2012.
The PBO has been requesting information to evaluate Canada's "tax gap," which represents the difference between taxes that should be perceived and the ones that actually end up being collected, the latter being lower due to the underground economy, tax havens and mistakes made by Canadians filing their taxes.
The CRA has been refusing the PBO's repeated requests for income data, arguing sharing information would break confidentiality laws, even if Fréchette argues his office is only after numbers, not personal information.
"For now, I'm facing this kind of impasse and it's very difficult, but I never give up, never, never," he said.
"Maybe eventually we should test the new legislation. The timing is good, everybody is asking for the tax gap," Fréchette added.
That new legislation, which came into effect this year, is supposed to ensure that the office has expanded access to data, among other things.
Tax havens, which contribute to the tax gap, were in the news this week because of the Paradise Papers.
Fréchette says there is a cost to not knowing what the tax gap is.
"If you don't know money eventually gets collected by CRA, you don't do really your job, or due diligence, in terms of voting on budgets, and so on,"
In an email, a spokesperson for Revenue Minister Diane Leboutillier wrote that the: "Canada Revenue Agency now has a dedicated team studying the topic and has released three reports on the tax gap since 2016."
Security and intelligence committee can prevent another Omar Khadr case: David McGuinty
David McGuinty says if the 11-member national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians does its job, no other Canadians will face the same kind of fate as Maher Arar and Omar Khadr.
"That's a likely outcome if we do our work the right way. If we are properly resourced. If we can pick themes and studies that cut to the chase here in finding out where these weaknesses might lie."
And the Liberal MP, who's chairing the new parliamentary committee overseeing the work of Canada's national security agencies, believes its members won't hesitate to call out efforts to unduly limit their access to classified material.
"If we feel we're having some difficulty, or if we feel it's unfair in what may or may not be released to us in terms of information, the committee can go to a microphone, stand up at a pulpit and tell the Canadian people just that," David McGuinty told The House.
Arar, Khadr and three other Canadian men received millions of dollars in compensation from the Canadian government because security officials in this country played a role in their detention and abuse overseas.
"We've learned a lot as a country in the last several years," McGuinty says, "not just through these settlements but in the conduct of governments over the last several decades."
The members of the committee were announced just this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The 11 members — eight MPs and three senators — come from all three major parties. All but three of the MPs have previous experience in cabinet. One of the senators is a former police chief, another is a former member of the agency that reviews the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
McGuinty said the committee's first job is to build trust: with Canadians, and the approximately 20 agencies whose activities they are mandated to oversee.
"I can't prejudge the journey we will undertake as a team, but there is a possibility, in due course of the committee once it's actually been in place for some time, the committee might want to make recommendations to change its very mandate."