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Politics This Morning: Champagne touring Quebec in support of CETA

By Marco Vigliotti      
International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne is visiting Sherbrooke today as part of a tour of Quebec to drum up support for CETA. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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Good Thursday morning,

International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne is visiting Sherbrooke today as part of his weeklong tour of Quebec promoting the soon-to-be enacted trade pact with the European Union, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known popularly as CETA.

He will be joined by International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau in the southeastern Quebec city for a conference on CETA and roundtable discussion with female entrepreneurs. A media availability with both ministers will take place at 9:15 a.m. at the Delta Hotel.

According to Global Affairs, Mr. Champagne is touring La Belle Province to talk with local businesses and industry representatives on expanding Canada’s market share in the EU, among other trade-related queries.

He will also make stops in Shawinigan, Gaspé, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal as part of the provincial trek, though no further details about his schedule have been released at this time.

CETA was originally pursued by the former Harper government, which nearly wrapped up negotiations before concerns about the investor-state dispute resolution provisions, among other issues, cooled several EU members on the pact.

After the 2015 vote, it was left to the new Liberal government to woo these reticent members, which it managed to do by revising the agreement and sending then-trade minister Chrystia Freeland on a frenetic lobbying campaign.

The EU finally voted to enact the deal last year, and the two sides agreed for CETA to go into effect on a provisional basis on Sept. 21. At that time, 98 per cent of EU tariff lines on Canadian goods will be duty-free.

The European Union is Quebec’s second-largest export destination and second-largest trading partner, according to Global Affairs.

McKenna heads to Toronto to discuss green NAFTA goals

Down the 401 in Toronto, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is hosting representatives from the business world, civil society, and Indigenous community to discuss Canada’s environmental and climate change objectives in North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, currently ongoing in Washington. Ms. McKenna will host a media availability following the roundtable talk at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel at 11:30 a.m.

Maybe the purported kinship between White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Gerald Butts, principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will give Canada an inside track in NAFTA talks.

According to The New Yorker, Mr. Bannon sees Mr. Butts as “a sort of left-wing version of himself,” and after meeting during the transition period before Mr. Trump took office in January, the two “now talk regularly.” The PMO is trying to downplay the idea that the two are friends, Huffington Post Canada reported.

Also in Toronto, Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef will make an announcement at 1 p.m. on the government’s plan to provide young women with leadership opportunities. 

Meanwhile, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is stopping in Thunder Bay this morning to unveil federal funding to connect a local First Nation to Ontario’s provincial electrical grid.

MacKinnon makes shipbuilding announcement

Closer to the Hill, Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the public services and procurement minister, is visiting the Ottawa offices of defence systems manufacturer Thales this morning to unveil what the government is calling a “long-term investment” in the shipbuilding strategy.

Details are scarce at the moment, with the Liberals only saying it will be related to the Royal Canadian Navy and Canada’s marine sector. The Ottawa Citizen has reported that the Liberals are announcing “a $5.2-billion deal to privatize maintenance of new navy ships despite concerns the plan puts key portions of Canada’s military capability in the hands of a private firm.”

Conceived by the former Harper government, the multibillion-dollar shipbuilding strategy aimed to foster growth and stability in the domestic shipbuilding industry by awarding bulk contracts to build the next fleet of Canadian Navy and Coast Guard vessels. Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax was awarded a $26-billion contract to build new warships, while Vancouver’s Seaspan was handed an $8-billion contract to construct noncombatant ships.

But as work has progressed, concerns have mounted about spiralling costs and missed deadlines. The federal government awarded Quebec’s Davie Shipbuilding a $700-million contract for an interim supply ship to meet immediate needs.

The announcement is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at 1 Chrysalis Way in Nepean.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is currently doing double duty as acting public services and procurement minister while Judy Foote is on leave.

In other news today, Statistics Canada is set to release revised data on language from the 2016 census this morning. This comes after the statistics agency admitted that its data had been skewed by what it said was a computer glitch that affected about 61,000 individuals’ responses. The skewed census data had shown an increase in those reporting English as their first language in Quebec, especially in smaller regions.

And today’s the deadline for NDP leadership candidates to sign up members eligible to vote for the party’s next leader, who will be named in October.

Have a great day!

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