OTTAWA — Here is a timeline of key events in Canada’s dispute with the United States over NAFTA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and American tariffs on steel and aluminum:
June 28, 2016: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declares his antipathy for the North American Free Trade Agreement in a campaign speech in Pittsburgh, in the heart of a Rust Belt state that he would eventually win to secure the presidency. “NAFTA was the worst trade deal in history,” says Trump, pledging to renegotiate the pact “to get a better deal for our workers.” He promises to leave the agreement if Canada and Mexico refuse to bargain with him.
Aug. 16, 2017: Canada, Mexico and the United States begin the renegotiation of NAFTA in earnest. The Trump administration opens with a lecture, upping the ante from earlier remarks that it simply wants to “tweak” the deal. Trump’s trade czar Robert Lighthizer declares: “We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement.”
October: The U.S. introduces so-called “poison pills” that Canada says it simply can’t accept. The U.S. wants to increase American content in automobiles, get rid of Canada’s supply-management system in agriculture, introduce a five-year sunset clause to force regular renegotiations, do away with a dispute-settlement mechanism and reduce Mexican and Canadian access to bidding on U.S. procurement projects. The three countries do eventually reach a new deal on autos, while the U.S. backs away from the other demands.
March 14, 2018: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada won’t be “bowled over” at the NAFTA talks by Trump. Trudeau makes the remarks while visiting steelworkers in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “We’re standing up for ourselves. But we know there’s a win-win-win we can get to,” Trudeau says. “We’re pushing back on some things that we think might not be the right suggestions, which is what people would expect from Canada.”
May 31: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross declares that the Trump administration is making good on its threat to slap hefty tariffs on Canadian metals exports — 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum — on the grounds that foreign steel dependency poses a threat to American national security. However, Ross signals clearly the tariffs are linked to the trade talks: “As to Canada, Mexico, you will recall that the reason for the deferral (of tariffs) had been pending the outcome of the NAFTA talks,” he said. “Those talks are taking longer than we had hoped.”
June 7: Trump hurls a series of personal insults at Trudeau from Air Force One after a G7 summit in Quebec. The president calls Canada’s prime minister “dishonest” and “weak” after Trudeau repeats his objections to the steel and aluminum tariffs. The incident marks a new low in prime ministerial-presidential politics across the 49th parallel at a time when NAFTA negotiations remain deadlocked.
July 1: Canada imposes dollar-for-dollar tariff “countermeasures” of its own on up to $16.6 billion worth of imports of steel, aluminum and other products from the U.S. — everything from flat-rolled steel to playing cards and felt-tipped pens. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland calls the U.S. tariffs illegal and counterproductive; Trudeau calls it inconceivable that Canada could be seen as a national-security threat to the U.S.
Aug. 27: Mexico and the United States announce their own bilateral trade deal after weeks of negotiations that were supposed to be only about autos. Instead they negotiated a sweeping text covering the full scope of the trading relationship. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland blows up a trip to Europe and diverts to Washington, starting a month of intense negotiations to bring Canada into the NAFTA fold.
Sept. 20: Liberal government insiders indicate that as the NAFTA talks come down to the wire, the so-called Section 232 tariffs — so named for the obscure U.S. trade-law provision under which they were imposed — remain a major sticking point. Some observers suggest negotiating the tariff dispute separately would mean a shorter path to a deal.
Sept. 26: Trump strikes again, this time at the UN General Assembly: “Frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada,” he says when asked about the stalled talks. “We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada,” he continues, adding, “We don’t like their representative very much” — a reference to Freeland.
Sept. 30: Staring down a midnight deadline to provide a text of an agreement to Congress, Trump’s and Trudeau’s team work out last-minute details that bring Canada into a renewed continental trade pact. Trudeau leaves the Prime Minister’s Office after a late-night cabinet meeting and says six words: “It’s a good day for Canada.”
Oct. 19: Liberal government officials make it clear Canada will not accept any sort of a quota restriction on steel and aluminum exports to the U.S. in exchange for lifting the tariffs. Meanwhile, Mexican officials fuel speculation that the U.S. plans to lift the tariffs once the new agreement is signed during a G20 summit in Argentina.
Nov. 30: Trump, Trudeau and outgoing Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto sign the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, at the summit but there is no sign of movement on tariffs.
Jan. 30, 2019: Kevin Brady, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee (its senior member from the minority Republicans), sends the first clear signal that the tariffs could be a problem for both Democrats and Republicans when it comes to ratifying the new trade deal. “They’re not really willing to consider this agreement until the steel and aluminum tariffs are ensured to be lifted off, including quotas,” Brady tells a trade conference in Washington.
Feb. 21: David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., declares publicly that he’s confident the tariffs will be lifted “in the next few weeks” — comments he later acknowledges were aimed at lighting a fire under recalcitrant U.S. negotiators. Later that same week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau tells a gathering of governors in the U.S. capital that Canada would struggle to ratify the agreement with the tariffs still in place. “I got the message loud and clear,” responds Larry Kudlow, Trump’s senior economic adviser.
May 17: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suddenly adds a trip to a Stelco plant in Hamilton, Ont., to his schedule. He confirms reports that an agreement on tariffs has been reached and that the levies will be gone within 48 hours. “This decision reflects what is known to be true by friends on both sides of the border,” Trudeau says. “Canada has been America’s most steadfast ally for more than 100 years, and our long-standing partnership and closely linked economies make us more competitive around the world and improve our combined security.”
The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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