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Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, bids farewell to public service

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OTTAWA — Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, has bid farewell to the more than 200,000 workers in the federal public service.

Wernick announced in mid-March that he would leave his post as the top federal bureaucrat prior to the fall election campaign.

At the time, he told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a letter that he would no longer be able to fulfil central aspects of his role, including being an impartial arbiter of whether foreign interference occurs during the campaign and to help whichever party is elected to form government.

He said it became apparent there was no path for him to have a relationship of “mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties” in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

His farewell message released Thursday expressed how proud he was to serve as clerk of the Privy Council and reminded those still working in government that what they do matters.

He said a non-partisan public service that is “guided by values, fuelled by evidence” and “a never-ending quest to learn” is key to the success of the country.

“For almost 38 years, I have had the very good fortune to work in jobs that have been stimulating and rewarding alongside wonderful people,” Wernick said in his statement.

“I have great confidence that the public service is in good hands and that you will rise to the many challenges and even greater opportunities of the months and years ahead.”

Opposition parties called for Wernick’s resignation after he rejected allegations that he and others improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on charges of bribery and corruption related to contracts in Libya.

Wernick’s testimony to the House of Commons justice committee was critiqued by MPs as being partisan and unbecoming an impartial senior bureaucrat.

Wilson-Raybould also accused Wernick of making “veiled threats” that she would lose her job as justice minister and attorney general if she didn’t respond to pressure and went on to release a recording of a conversation with him to the committee.

The Canadian Press

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Seamus O’Regan faces calls to visit Attawapiskat during state of emergency

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Dwelling in Attawapiskat

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan is facing calls from the federal NDP to visit the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat First Nation.

Earlier this month, the community declared a state of emergency over concerns about chemical levels in tap water.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents the federal riding encompassing the reserve, is meeting with the community today and says O’Regan needs to see the impacts of the issue first-hand, including that community members are worried about being able to safety bathe their children.

Attawapiskat has drawn national attention for its 2012 housing crisis and it has also faced issues with youth suicide.

Former chief Theresa Spence, who launched a high-profile protest over the housing situation, has also started a hunger strike over water concerns.

O’Regan’s office says that addressing the water issue in full partnership with the First Nation is a top priority, adding it knows recent test results have raised concerns.

 

 

The Canadian Press

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Trudeau to push trade pact in EU leaders’ summit as France moves ahead on CETA

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Trudeau to push trade pact with EU

MONTREAL — Lawmakers in France have begun their ratification of the comprehensive trade agreement between the European Union and Canada as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes the leaders of the 28-country bloc to Montreal on Wednesday.

Trudeau has been pushing hard for a win on trade and foreign policy after two difficult years marked by a rough renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Trump administration and the deterioration of political and trade relations with China.

Trudeau will talk up the merits of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a series of events in Montreal over the next two days.

The group is to visit a pier in the bustling Port of Montreal, the gateway for European sea shipments into Canada.

International trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said that’s a welcome break from the resort-style backdrops that Trudeau and other prime ministers have preferred when they host international visitors.

“Appearing at the Port of Montreal in this era is much better than appearing at Lake Louise or Banff. The message we want to give is Canada is a leading economic force in the world,” said Herman.

“Meeting in Montreal or in any major urban centre gives that message much better than the typical image of Canada being a wilderness country full of mountains and streams.”

Wednesday’s legal development, the French National Assembly’s consideration of France’s CETA ratification bill, is also a prime focus for Canada’s Liberal prime minister, who will be fighting a federal election this fall.

Sources in France and Canada, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, say Trudeau lobbied French President Emmanuel Macron for more than a year to introduce the bill, and that those efforts finally paid off last month in Paris during their most recent face-to-face meeting.

Almost all of CETA — in excess of 90 per cent — went into force in September 2017 under what is known as provisional application, but individual ratifications by EU member countries will bring it fully into effect.

That would mean a win for the international trading order that has been under assault by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s an essential step. We’re very pleased with our co-operation with the French government,” International Trade Minister Jim Carr said in an interview.

Carr will be meeting his EU counterpart Cecilia Malmstrom in Montreal. He said the French move towards ratification is a significant step in Canada’s broader goal of diversifying Canada’s export markets.

Trudeau was in Paris in early June after attending the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in France and Britain, and he and Macron emerged with news that France would move forward with CETA’s ratification. The introduction of the bill in the National Assembly is a first step in a process that the French government hopes will lead to full ratification by the end of 2019.

Macron and Trudeau have talked about the agreement repeatedly — in Paris in April 2018, in a telephone conversation a year later, and other face-to-face meetings. Macron is a staunch Europhile and open supporter of CETA, but he has had to tread cautiously because of populist opposition to trade deals in France and across Europe.

Canada has lobbied French lawmakers, businesspeople and farmers, an effort that included more than two dozen visits to various regions of France by Isabelle Hudon, the Canadian ambassador.

Trudeau also made a direct appeal to French lawmakers in an April 2018 speech to the National Assembly, the first time a Canadian prime minister addressed that body.

Earlier this week, Trump signed an executive order strengthening his protectionist Buy American Act, which requires federal agencies to increase their use of American-made products from 50 to 75 per cent.

Herman said Canadian companies need to be more aggressive in taking advantage of the new opportunities now open to them in Europe, especially its new “privileged” access to national and sub national government contracts in a sector valued at $3.3 trillion annually.

“As the U.S. turns inward and as protectionism raises its ugly face in the U.S. we have to look at other opportunities. And I think procurement is one of the areas where we have great possibility in Europe.”

CETA gives Canadian businesses preferred access to 500 million European consumers, and a $24-trillion market. In 2018, Canada’s exports to the EU increased by seven per cent to more than $44 billion.

But the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance offered mixed reviews on the deal, saying EU agri-food exports to Canada jumped 10 per cent in 2018, compared with the previous year, which increased Canada’s trade deficit with the EU to $3.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Canadian agri-food exports to the EU have dropped 10 per cent since CETA’s 2017 entry into force, the alliance said.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


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