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National

Canada will not bend to U.S. steel tariff pressure in NAFTA talks, says Freeland

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  • OTTAWA — As the United States tries to light a fire under NAFTA negotiations, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada will not be bullied or pressured by the United States as part of those talks.

    Freeland is coming off a tense week which started with the seventh round of NAFTA negotiations making little progress towards an agreement but ended with a sigh of relief when Canada and Mexico secured an exemption from new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

    The steel tariff threat was seen by many to be an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure Canada and Mexico to complete the NAFTA talks — giving in to other U.S. demands or giving up some of their own —rather than risk the punishing steel and aluminum duties. The steel tariff investigation was launched to see the impact of steel imports on U.S. national security.

    Freeland said it was absurd to consider Canadian steel a national security threat and that “as far as Canada is concerned there is absolutely no connection” between the national security reasons cited for the steel tariffs and NAFTA.

    “These are two separate tracks and in the NAFTA negotiations Canada will not be subject to any type of pressure,” she said. “This episode has not changed our NAFTA negotiation position.”

    Her words echo those of Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo who said last week Mexico also believed the steel tariffs had nothing to do with the NAFTA talks.

    Freeland notes the written presidential proclamation putting them in place does not.

    “That was significant and we were glad to see that,” she said.

    The proclamation instead pointed to economic integration between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the fact the U.S. also exports steel to both Canada and Mexico, and the three countries’ shared commitment to national security and addressing global excess capacity in steel production. Trump did say he expected both Canada and Mexico to take action to prevent other countries from sneaking steel into the U.S. by sending them to Canada or Mexico first.

    However Trump specifically mentioned NAFTA in his press conference announcing the exemptions on March 8.

    “We’re negotiating right now NAFTA and we’re going to hold off the tariff on those two countries to see whether or not we’re able to make the deal on NAFTA,” he said. He added that national security was an important part of that deal and, if a deal is made, “this will figure into the deal and we won’t have the tariffs on Canada or Mexico.”

    NAFTA talks started seven months ago and the U.S. is starting to get antsy about getting a deal. Mexican federal elections scheduled for July 1 and U.S. congressional elections in the fall are adding pressure, as changes of government as a result of either could affect both getting a deal and getting it ratified.

    Following the close of the seventh round of negotiations last week in Mexico, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. wants to get a deal done in the next four to six weeks. Canada and Mexico are both indicating a willingness to step up the pace of the talks but not at the expense of getting a good deal for all.

    Freeland is headed to New York Monday to host an event on Canada’s Elsie Initiative for Women in Peacekeeping, which aims to increase the number of women deployed as part of peacekeeping forces around the world. From there, she may travel to Washington, D.C. to continue NAFTA talks although her spokesman would only say her schedule is still being finalized.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading to Canadian steel country this week on a three-day tour designed to shore up the industry. The tour was planned before the tariff exemption was confirmed but will still go ahead despite the exemption, with stops in Alma., Que, Hamilton, Ont., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Regina, Sask.

    — follow @mrabson on Twitter.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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    Arts

    Collection featuring Group of Seven paintings donated to University of Lethbridge

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  • LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess spent a lifetime following her passion.

    A lifelong educator and art collector, the Order of Canada recipient bequeathed a collection worth as much as $5 million to the University of Lethbridge following her death at age 100 in 2016. 

    The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery received word last year that Hess had donated her vast collection, which includes works from some of the most well-known artists in Canada and from around the world.

    University president Mike Mahon knew Hess for eight years prior to her death. He said she created a masters-level scholarship for students at the university and her generosity was well known.

    “I’ve seen her generosity in spirit, in volunteerism and in funds over the course of her life,” Mahon said

    “I knew she had an amazing art collection partly because when I would have a cup of tea in her living room you’d be surrounded by the Group of Seven and Emily Carr and others hanging on the wall or stacked against a chair.

    “She had art everywhere.”

    The gallery at the University of Lethbridge, now renamed in her honour, has on display 112 of the 1,140 pieces she donated.

    “It’s really exciting. I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite. It was hard enough to come up with a selection out of the gift to show this summer,” said assistant curator David Smith.

    “What I’ve tried to do is replicate the areas of strength in her collection. More than half of her collection was work by Indigenous artists so more than half the works in this show are Indigenous artists,” he added.

    “There’s a selection of Group of Seven works with Tom Thomson and an Emily Carr piece. They’re really great pieces. The Thomson is particularly exciting. A recent guesstimate says there are only about 75 of those panel sketches left in private hands.”

    There are about 15 Group of Seven paintings safely behind Plexiglas.

    Smith said the remainder of the collection will be displayed in years to come.

    Hess, who was the daughter of a lumber magnate, never married and spent her life collecting art and lecturing on it.

    She received a doctorate of fine arts from the University of Lethbridge and at one point was a member of the university senate.

    “She was very close with A.Y. Jackson. He used to come and stay with her and visit her at her ranch near Cochrane. She’d drive him around to the best spots and they had a really great, lifelong friendship there.”

    Also on display until Sept. 7 is an original sketch by Henri Matisse, a print by Pablo Picasso and the art of prominent Indigenous artists, including Alex Janvier, Bill Reid, Tony Hunt, Jessie Oonark and Helen Kalvak.

    — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

     

    Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


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    National

    Quebec’s longest-serving legislature member blames PQ for decline of sovereignty

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  • QUEBEC — The Parti Quebecois is partly to blame for the lack of support for sovereignty, according to the province’s longest-serving legislature member, who believes his party has renounced its duty to promote independence.

    Francois Gendron, 73, will retire from political life this fall after 42 years in the legislature — but not without a few parting shots directed at the media, his political rivals and his own party.

    “The PQ has things to blame itself for,” says Gendron, who was first elected in 1976 under former Parti Quebecois premier Rene Levesque.

    In a lengthy interview with The Canadian Press, the politician says he has three words of advice for his party, which was founded to make Quebec a country but has thus far proven incapable of rallying the population to its cause.

    “Go. Talk. Convince.”

    Gendron, a former teacher, believes sovereigntists have to return to the basics of political activism, and show Quebecers what they have to gain from independence.

    His party, he believes, has failed in this scholarly duty, noting that they haven’t produced a single substantial document on the benefits of sovereignty since the last referendum in 1995.

    When asked if he’s scared he’ll never see Quebec become its own country, he responds, “the answer is yes.”

    The outspoken politician had nothing but good words for former Bloc Quebecois leader Martine Ouellet, who stepped down from her party earlier this month after losing a confidence vote. She currently sits in provincial legislature as an independent but has indicated she won’t run in October’s election.

    Ouellet, who was criticized at times for her laser-like focus on independence, is a woman “of conviction,” who wears the cause proudly and knows it inside and out, Gendron says.

    In contrast, he has harsh words for the poll-leading provincial Coalition Avenir Quebec, whose members he describes as “puppets” with no program, and Philippe Couillard’s Liberals, whose “billions” spent on advertising he says ought to provoke a “social crisis.”

    Gendron also blames a highly individualistic culture and a lack of education among citizens for the decline of the independence movement and most other collective efforts.

    “There’s no more culture, no more history, people know just about nothing,” he says.

    Some of his harshest criticism was reserved for the media, which in his opinion is largely responsible for discrediting the noble role of elected politicians through endless commentary that “pollutes the airwaves.”

    “We’re less credible than sex workers and used car salesmen,” he says.

    Gendron, who will not seek re-election in this fall’s election, says that what he’ll miss the most is representing the 35,000 people in his western Quebec riding of Abitibi-Ouest.

    While outspoken on many topics, he remains more discreet when questioned on his party’s possible fate come October.

    He notes, with a touch of disappointment, that the party has lost its foothold in many ridings that were once PQ strongholds. 

    In his decades-long career, Gendron has held a number of cabinet posts, many of them linked to regional development or resource management.

    He was instrumental in creating the first regional development policy in 1982, which he describes as a moment of pride.

    These days, he’s faced with the task of sorting decades of photos, documents, press clippings and memories as he prepares to make his exit.

    “When we stir all this up, madam, it disturbs,” he says. “It comes to get you at an emotional level.”

    Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press



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