At a tense moment for Canada-U.S. relations, Trudeau travels to D.C. for trilateral talks
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to Washington this week for the first Three Amigos summit in five years — a trilateral meeting with U.S. and Mexican leaders that has been dismissed in the past as high on symbolism and low on substance.
The one-day summit comes at a challenging time for the Canada-U.S. relationship.
The election of U.S. President Joe Biden was celebrated by many in Canada as the dawn of a new era in bilateral relations after the fractious four-year term of his predecessor, Donald Trump. During his campaign, Biden promised a return to “normalcy” and better relations with U.S. allies; the revival of the once-dormant Three Amigos gathering is a sign that the Trump-era froideur is over.
But on Biden’s watch, a number of new irritants have emerged. Biden, more beholden to progressive elements in the Democratic Party than past presidents, has made climate policy a priority to appeal to green activists. Canada’s energy sector is paying a price.
Canada battling U.S. protectionism, anti-oil agenda
In the first week of his presidency, Biden cancelled permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a multi-billion dollar blow to Alberta’s oilpatch.
He has done little to stop Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, from trying to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline — a crucial artery that supplies oil products and natural gas to power huge portions of the Canadian economy. Experts agree its closure would be devastating to Canada — a threat to the continued operation of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and the free flow of fossil fuels to other critical industries.
A spokesperson for Biden said this week the White House is awaiting a review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before deciding whether to wade into a debate over the future of the controversial pipeline. Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan — who served as the natural resources minister until recently — has said the line’s continued operation is “non-negotiable.”
While Canada lifted land border restrictions on non-essential travel this summer, the Biden administration only did away with its months-long ban on cross-border travel last week. Non-stop flights from Moscow and Beijing were arriving at New York’s JFK airport while fully vaccinated Canadian travellers were turned away at land crossings in the states of Maine, New York and Washington — disrupting business, tourism and family reunification.
Legislation before the Democratic congress also threatens trade relations between two of the world’s largest economies. Congress has drafted a bill, the Build Back Better Act, that would offer sizeable tax credits worth up to $12,500 to the buyers of new electric vehicles — as long as those cars and trucks are manufactured in the U.S.
That tax measure would be a devastating development for the Canadian automotive sector, which is trying to attract new investment as the industry transitions away from internal combustion engines.
Biden’s massive infrastructure bill, which he is set to sign into law tomorrow, is littered with Buy America provisions that could leave Canadian companies out of the competition for contracts potentially worth billions of dollars in government business — provisions that undermine the new NAFTA signed by the three countries just a few years ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has identified this protectionist push as a significant problem but Canadian protests have so far fallen on deaf ears.
David MacNaughton, who served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. during the Trump administration, said that while the former reality TV star-turned-politician generated a tremendous amount of “unpredictability” in the Oval Office, it was still possible for Canada to advance its agenda because Trump “didn’t have any particular ideology. In fact, he had no real ideology at all.”
“The problem you face with President Biden is you have some really comforting words about allies but you have, within his own party, and his own domestic agenda, some real ideologically protectionist elements which are going to cause problems in terms of our mutual economic interest. We’re already seeing that,” MacNaughton told CBC News.
“I think the problem with the Democrats is that a lot of them just don’t really believe in global trade and really would prefer everything be done in the U.S. It’s always better when you have somebody who’s sympatico [rather] than someone who’s constantly railing against you, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.”
WATCH: Trudeau, Biden and López Obrador to meet in person in Washington
The Three Amigos gathering, formally known as the North American Leaders’ Summit, is not the best forum to address Canada-U.S. bilateral issues because of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s presence, said Christopher Sands, director of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute.
The Mexican leader is not particularly concerned about the future of Windsor, Ont. as a centre for car manufacturing, or if a major source of Quebec’s national gas supply is in danger of going offline, he said.
“It’s like, ‘Yeah, we want to talk to you but not with the other guy in the room,'” Sands told CBC News. “Canada feels like an afterthought.
“But it’s the Americans trying to economize the president’s time and focus because there are some similarities on things like borders, North American competitiveness and economic issues with both Canada and Mexico. Just for efficiency, they’re grouped together. It’s the way the Americans think.”
The only major trilateral accomplishment of Trump’s term — the renegotiation of the new NAFTA, the Canada-U.S.-Mexican Agreement (CUSMA) — was done without formal Three Amigos summits, Sands said.
But despite the format’s shortcomings, it’s still a chance to get these leaders around a table talking about issues of common interest, he added.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Trudeau will use the short time he has before Biden to press these bilateral concerns and “discuss shared priorities and find North American solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
Coming off the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Trudeau is also eager to discuss the environment as the world struggles to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. López Obrador skipped COP26 and Mexico, a major oil producer, has rebuffed renewable energy projects.
“Our countries are committed to providing a better future for our people, including creating more middle class jobs, building a cleaner economy and tackling climate change and finishing the fight against COVID-19. I look forward to meeting with my counterparts to discuss a new path for our partnerships at a time when the world is facing complex global challenges,” Trudeau said in a media statement.
In its own media statement, the White House pitched the summit as a way to “strengthen” the “partnership” and “revitalize our leadership and respond to a widening range of regional and global challenges.” The statement says that Biden — doubtless with an eye on domestic politics — will also use the meeting to discuss “a regional vision for migration,” an issue of little relevance to Canada.
The first formal North American leaders’ meeting was held in 1956 when then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower gathered his continental counterparts — Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent and the Mexican leader, Adolfo Ruiz Cortines — as the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union was starting to heat up.
Canadian ambivalence at the time about this trilateral dynamic was reflected in a piece in the Chicago Tribune.
On the occasion of the first-ever Canada-U.S.-Mexico leaders’ meeting in West Virginia, the newspaper reported that “Canada traditionally has kept aloof from Latin America in trade matters, in the belief that it can deal better with Washington on a bilateral basis.”
The focus of the 1956 summit was on how the three countries could “develop democratic processes” at a time when communism was on the march in the developing world. The U.S., seen by some as an imperial power, wanted to recruit “smaller countries like Canada and Mexico in offering a helping hand to countries that have been determined to remain neutral in the ‘Cold War,'” according to an account of the summit in the New York Times.
The leaders’ summits were held sporadically in the decades that followed. U.S. President George W. Bush created the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) in 2005, a regular forum for the three countries to meet to cooperate on security and economic issues.
The SPP was the subject of much criticism: left-wing groups in Canada said they feared it would be the first step toward a North American union, while right-wing activists in the U.S. fretted about a possible spike in the number of people crossing between the three countries. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, scrapped the SPP but kept the leaders’ meeting portion.
“They’ve always been more important to the Americans. Stephen Harper didn’t put much of a priority on this. Canada skipped hosting it a couple times,” Sands said. “Now, the Biden administration has put great stock in the return to normal.”
“It’s not a longstanding tradition but having civilized conversations with your neighbours is pretty normal compared to what we’ve seen recently. Is it absolutely necessary? No, we can live without them, we did for a long time and we did just recently. But I think what makes this important is the U.S. signalling it wants to have this conversation and it’s bringing it together on relatively short notice.”
Just as Eisenhower gathered his Canadian and Mexican counterparts while the Soviet Union was flexing its muscles in the 1950s, Biden is hosting this year’s summit as the Western world grows increasingly concerned about China. Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping before Trudeau and Lopez Obrador arrive in D.C.
“It’s pretty clear North America will have to work together to counter its competitor in China and counter the threats in China,” said Scotty Greenwood, a former U.S. diplomat and an expert in Canada-U.S. relations at Crestview Strategy.
As the U.S. shifts its supply chain away from Asia and an increasingly hostile China, Canada and Mexico will become “extremely relevant” to the American economy, she said.
Mexico’s low-wage labour and Canada’s critical minerals and natural resources could help the U.S. “decouple” from its continued reliance on China, she said. “I think the outline is there for really important North American cooperation.”
Hundreds killed after passenger trains derail in India, officials say
At least 233 people were killed and 900 were injured when two passenger trains collided in India’s Odisha state, a government official said on Saturday, making the rail accident the country’s deadliest in more than a decade.
The death toll from Friday’s crash is expected to increase, state Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said in a tweet.
He said over 200 ambulances had been called to the scene of the accident in Odisha’s Balasore district and 100 additional doctors, on top of 80 already there, had been mobilized.
Early on Saturday morning, Reuters video footage showed police officials moving bodies covered in white cloths off the railway tracks.
Footage from Friday showed rescuers climbing up the mangled wreck of one of the trains to find survivors, while passengers called for help and sobbed next to the wreckage.
2 express trains collided
The collision occurred at about 7 p.m. local time on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express, running from Bangalore to Howrah, West Bengal, collided with the Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai.
Authorities have provided conflicting accounts on which train derailed first to become entangled with the other. The Ministry of Railways said it has initiated an investigation into the crash.
Although Chief Secretary Jena and some media reports have suggested a freight train was also involved in the crash, railway authorities have yet to comment on that possibility.
An extensive search-and-rescue operation has been mounted, involving hundreds of fire department personnel and police officers as well as sniffer dogs. National Disaster Response Force teams were also at the site.
On Friday, hundreds of young people lined up outside a government hospital in Odisha’s Soro to donate blood.
According to Indian Railways, its network facilitates the transportation of more than 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of aging infrastructure.
Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared a day of state mourning on June 3 as a mark of respect to the victims.
Meta to start blocking news content for up to 5% of Canadian Facebook, Instagram users
Meta will soon block some Canadian users of Facebook and Instagram from accessing or posting news content on either platform.
The move, which the social media giant announced in a blog post on Thursday, comes in reaction to the looming passage into law of Bill C-18, the Online News Act.
Facebook has said it will be forced to block news content from its platforms in Canada if the bill becomes law, something that could happen as soon as this month as the bill is currently being considered in the Senate.
Among other stipulations, the bill would require tech giants to pay Canadian media companies for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.
“As we prepare to comply with the legislation, we are announcing today that we will begin tests on both platforms that will limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing some news content in Canada,” Meta said.
- Are you a Facebook or Instagram user? Do you use those platforms to share the news? We want to speak to you as part of a story. Email us at email@example.com.
Between one and five per cent of the 24 million Canadians who use Facebook or Instagram will be included in the test, which is set to start soon.
Different content may be blocked for different users on different platforms, said Rachel Curran, the head of public policy for Meta Canada.
“It won’t be a uniform experience, necessarily,” she said. “Some news links won’t be shareable on Facebook, but it might not be that experience on Instagram. It will be a different experience on different surfaces.”
“Throughout the testing period, which will run for several weeks, a small percentage of people in Canada who are enrolled in testing will be notified if they attempt to share news content.”
The test means that a user would not see links to articles or videos from news publishers anywhere in their feed. A user would also be blocked from sharing such content to other people.
News publishers will be able to post news links and content, but some of it will not be viewable in Canada.
Users who will be included in the test will be selected randomly, and will only be made aware that they’re included if they attempt to share news, at which point they will see a notification that they are unable to.
The number of news publishers who will have their content included in the test will not be public and is also randomized, but could include international publishers that operate in Canada. The publishers will be notified if they have been included in the test, Meta says.
News industry decries move
Paul Deegan, the head of News Media Canada, called Meta’s move a “kick in the shins” to Canadians at a time when the value and need for credible information has never been greater.
“Meta’s decision to ‘unfriend’ Canada by denying access to trusted sources of news for some of their users, as wildfires burn and when public safety is at stake is irresponsible and tone deaf,” Deegan told CBC News in an email.
“This hard-nose lobbying tactic is more evidence of the power imbalance that exists between dominant platforms and publishers, which is why parliamentarians need to pass the Online News Act before their summer recess.”
Meta’s move comes on the heels of a similar move by Google earlier this year, when it blocked news results for more than a million Canadians, also in opposition to the bill.
Meta says Bill C-18 is “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we provide news publishers.”
Curran told senators pondering the bill in a committee last month that the company objects to being asked to compensate news publishers for their content, when by their calculation they have given news publishers more than 1.9 million clicks in Canada in the past year, “and free marketing worth more than $230 million in estimated value.”
“We will be forced to compensate news publishers for material that they post to drive traffic and drive clicks back to their page and websites where they can then monetize those views and eyeballs either through a paywall or they can place ads against the views that show up on their web page,” she said. “We are being asked to compensate them for an activity that actually benefits them from a monetary perspective.”
Government calls move ‘disappointing’
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta’s move “disappointing” and said Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.
Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.
Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.
Meta also reached a deal with U.K. publishers that year, after similar discussions.
Accountable Tech, a U.S.-based advocacy group pushing for more regulation of technology companies in that country, says the news blackouts in various countries show the lengths that big tech companies will go to in order to sway governments and maintain their profits.
“What we witnessed unfold in Australia, and now in Canada, is Big Tech’s willingness to cripple democracy by withholding news content to a population — chosen at random — as a bargaining chip to stop legislation,” the group’s executive director Nicole Gill said.
“It’s clear that Meta has no interest in acting in good faith or improving the lives of its users and the communities they operate in. There is simply no reason for the U.S. to delay any action on reining them in.”
Meta to test blocking news on Facebook, Instagram in Canada over Bill C-18 – Global News
Meta is preparing to block news for some Canadians on Facebook and Instagram in a temporary test that is expected to last the majority of the month.
The Silicon Valley tech giant is following in the steps of Google, which blocked news links for about five weeks earlier this year for some of its Canadian users in response to a controversial Liberal government bill.
Bill C-18, which is currently being studied in the Senate, will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.
Meta said it’s prepared to block news permanently on Facebook and Instagram if the bill passes, which the government said could happen this month.
Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, said this first temporary move will affect one to five per cent of its 24 million Canadian users, with the number of those impacted fluctuating throughout the test.
Meta set to block news on Facebook, Instagram from Canadian users
Randomly selected Canadian users will not be able to see or share news content in Canada either on Instagram or Facebook.
She said that could include news links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
However, the experience won’t be the same for every user who is subject to the test.
“It won’t be a uniform experience, necessarily. Some news links won’t be shareable on Facebook, but it might not be that experience on Instagram. It will be a different experience on different surfaces,” Curran said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Trudeau calls Meta’s decision to block news in Canada ‘irresponsible and out of touch’
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday evening that the fact that Facebook is still refusing to work with Canadians shows how deeply irresponsible the company is.
“When a big tech company, whatever the size is, the amount of money and the powerful lawyers they have, they come here and they tell us, ‘If you don’t do this or that, then I’m pulling the plug,’ — that’s a threat and that is unacceptable,” he said in the statement.
“I never did anything because I was afraid of a threat, and I will never do it.”
Rodriguez added in a tweet that “Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.”
Meta said it is picking random news publishers that will be notified that some people in Canada will not be able to see or share their news content throughout the test. They will still be able to access their accounts, pages, businesses suites and advertising.
International news companies such as the New York Times or BBC could also have their content blocked in Canada during the test, if they are randomly selected. However, people outside of Canada will not be affected.
“It’s only going to impact your experience … if you’re in Canada,” Curran said.
Trudeau slams Google for blocking news content from Canadians
Meta is defining news as it’s described in the Liberal government’s online news act.
“The legislation states that news outlets are in scope if they primarily report on, investigate or explain current issues or events of public interests,” said Curran.
Content that doesn’t fall under that definition will not be blocked from Canadians. When Facebook blocked news in Australia in 2021 because of a similar bill, there was widespread concern that trusted sources would be unavailable, while pages that published misinformation flourished.
Curran said affected Canadians will still be able to use their platforms to access information from a variety of sources including government pages, organizations and universities.
“We think all of that is good information. They’re also seeing and sharing things that interest them and entertain them. We would not classify that as misinformation. That’s great information and that will continue to be shared and to be viewable,” Curran said, adding that the company will continue to address misinformation on its site through a global fact-checking program.
Meta’s test is designed to ensure that non-news agencies don’t get caught in the dragnet should they block news permanently.
Google blocks some Canadian news sites from results in protest of Bill C-18
The company said it doesn’t want to accidentally block emergency services, community organizations, politicians or government pages, which happened in Australia.
Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the federal Liberals’ online news bill because it would bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Companies such as Meta and Google have been blamed for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.
Curran said removing journalism from Meta’s platforms is a business decision, and the company makes “negligible amounts” of revenue from news content.
The company said less than three per cent of what people see in their Facebook feeds are posts with links to news articles, and many of its users believe that is already “too much” news.
“We’re facing a lot of competitive pressures and competition for user time and attention. We’re also facing some pretty serious economic headwinds, and a macro economic climate that’s a bit uncertain,” Curran said.
“Of course news have value from a social perspective. It’s valuable to our democracy. It just doesn’t have much commercial or economic value to our company.”
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