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Politics This Morning: Freeland in Edmonton ahead of NAFTA renegotiations

By Marco Vigliotti      
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, pictured left, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Donald Trump, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, will be in Edmonton today to participate in a roundtable consultation with agriculture stakeholders in advance of NAFTA renegotiations next week in Washington. Photograph courtesy of PMO photographer Adam Scotti
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Good Friday morning.

The weekend may be on the horizon but the quiet summer enjoyed by the Trudeau government could be coming to a dramatic end.

After months of chest-thumping threats and navel gazing, the all-important renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement are set to begin next Wednesday in Washington, D.C. While the focus of the U.S. and Canadian media may have shifted to other matters (cough, prospective nuclear war with North Korea, cough), trade fodder should return to the front page in due course.

Representatives from Canada, the United States, and Mexico will all participate in the trade talks, and hopefully all will “win so much,” they’ll get “sick and tired” of it.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will kick off this busy spell working on the NAFTA file with a visit to Edmonton on Friday.

The minister will host a roundtable consultation with agriculture stakeholders on the continental trade deal at Canada Place, starting at 10 a.m. (Mountain time). A media availability will be held following the meeting.

The roundtable chat presages a full slate of NAFTA politicking for the minister next week. Ms. Freeland is scheduled to appear at a sold-out panel discussion on the trade deal at the University of Ottawa Monday morning before heading to the Hill a short while later to appear before the House International Trade Committee.

LeBlanc, Garneau head east to announce plans to stem whale deaths

Shifting to the East Coast, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Marc Garneau are scheduled to appear before the media in the small central New Brunswick community of Pointe-du-ChĂȘne later this morning to announce what’s being framed as “temporary” measures to stem the mounting deaths of endangered whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The scenic waterway has bore witness to an alarming spate of deaths of ultra-rare North Atlantic right whales, 10 of which have been found dead in its waters since June 7. There are only roughly 500 North Atlantic right whales in total in the world.

The federal Fisheries Department has already taken steps to prevent more deaths, including closing a snow-crab fishing area where the whales are known to frequent and completing examinations of some of the dead whales to determine how they died.

The rare dual minister press conference is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. (Atlantic time). Ottawa media can call into the briefing via teleconference.

Defence minister hits up the air show in Abbotsford

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan plans on spending his Friday with his eyes on the skies, taking in the festivities at the annual Abbotsford International Air Show.

But first the minister will stop by the city’s Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo to deliver a keynote address and make what his office is calling an announcement related to the country’s aerospace and defence sector. His address is scheduled for 4 p.m. (Pacific time). 

Shortly after, the minister will head over to the B.C. city’s international airport to deliver remarks at the opening ceremonies of the air show 

Hot takes on Wall’s departure

Reaction continues to pour in to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall‘s stunning resignation announcement on Thursday.

A long-rumoured federal Tory leadership candidate, Mr. Wall has seen his once impenetrable popularity begin to sag in recent months as his Saskatchewan Party government made steep cuts and raised taxes to soften the blow on the province’s balance sheet from sliding commodity prices.

Mr. Wall said he intends to remain premier until his successor is chosen.

In a statement, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer praised Mr. Wall as a “powerful voice” for Saskatchewan and a “champion of Canada’s conservative movement.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau credited Mr. Wall for his years of service to the province, singling out his work promoting Canadian exports.

“I have had the privilege of working closely with Premier Wall for more than a year and a half,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement.

“In that time, we have made important progress on the issues that matter most to middle class Canadians, including pensions, health care, growing our agricultural industry, and promoting our natural resources to the world.”

While many observers were surprised by Mr. Wall’s resignation, with the premier remaining popular among conservatives nationally, Maclean’s John Geddes credited the departure to his slumping numbers in Saskatchewan, saying the problems there “trumped” his national stature. 

Have a great day and enjoy the weekend!

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