Business councils call on federal government to secure trade agreement with India
OTTAWA — As Canada and other Western nations ramp up their efforts to build stronger political and economic ties in Asia, business groups are calling on the federal government to finally lock in a trade agreement with India.
The Business Council of Canada and the Canada India Business Council released a report on Thursday that looks at Canada’s current trading relationship with India and the economic benefits that would come from establishing a trade agreement.
The report, which includes analysis from Ciuriak Consulting commissioned by the two councils, calls India “one of Canada’s largest untapped trade opportunities” and compares its economy to where China was two decades ago.
The analysis finds that while trade with India has grown on average by nearly 12 per cent over two decades, Canada has lost its market share over the years.
“The best path forward is a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with India,” the report says, estimating that such an agreement would increase two-way trade by $8.8 billion a year and bring about an annual GDP boost of 0.25 per cent by 2035.
Trade negotiations between Canada and India began in 2010 under the Conservative government of former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Twelve years later, a deal has yet to be struck.
After years of no movement on reaching a deal, Canada and India announced in early 2022 that they resumed talks toward a comprehensive free-trade agreement.
The announcement was made following a trip to India by International Trade Minister Mary Ng.
Ng and her Indian counterpart, minister Piyush Goyal, agreed to relaunch negotiations with an effort to secure an early progress trade agreement, which would hold in the interim until progress is made on establishing a comprehensive trade agreement.
The two ministers have been holding monthly calls since the visit to further talks.
According to a senior government official with knowledge of the negotiations, an early progress trade agreement is expected to be reached in the coming months.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share information not yet public, said the agreement will avoid contentious trade-related issues that would require more time to negotiate.
The potential for an agreement comes as the federal government works toward releasing its Indo-Pacific strategy, which will aim to further its political and economic reach in the region.
Vivek Dehejia, an associate professor of economics at Carleton University, says the term “Indo-Pacific” itself is an attempt to boost India’s prominence in the region, which was previously referred to as the “Asia-Pacific.” That shift, he says, is driven by the West’s perception of China as a threat.
When it comes to Canada’s interest in a trade agreement, Dehejia says India being the fastest growing major economy makes it an attractive country from a trade perspective.
However, the economist, who researches globalization and economic development of India, says trade between the two countries is relatively small compared to other countries. In 2021, India was Canada’s thirteenth largest trading partner.
“The elephant in the room is that the real driver of the relationship between Canada and India, I don’t see anymore as the economy, it really is diaspora-driven,” Dehejia said.
The Indian diaspora, which is concentrated in metropolitan regions like the Greater Toronto Area, is made up of swing voters, he said, adding a political incentive to reaching a deal.
In terms of Canada’s prospects in securing a deal, Dehejia said there are some positive signs that such a deal may indeed be on the horizon. While India has historically been closed off to trade negotiations, it has recently shown more openness to such negotiations.
India and the United Kingdom are expected to reach a free-trade agreement this fall and India has also revived trade talks with the EU.
“I think (India) realized that trade is just too important for them to put that on the back burner,” he said.
Dehejia said there is also the incentive for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to secure a deal and post it as a win for his government.
In February 2018, Trudeau paid a visit to India, where official business was overshadowed by his family wearing traditional Indian clothing and the invitation of Jaspal Atwal, a convicted attempted murderer, to two official events.
India’s pursuit of trade deals comes as many countries, Canada included, are taking stock of their position with China amid growing concerns about human rights.
Like China’s leader, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been widely criticized for perpetuating human rights abuses, including in a Human Rights Watch report last year that accused his government of subjecting its critics to surveillance, politically motivated prosecutions, harassment, online trolling, tax raids and the shutting down of activist groups.
India has also refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine due to long-standing diplomatic ties with Moscow and reliance on Russian weapons.
Dehejia cautioned that for negotiations to be successful, however, it would be best to avoid mixing social policy with trade policy, noting that Canada’s criticism of the Indian government has been poorly received in the past.
In 2020, Trudeau made remarks in support of protesting Indian farmers, saying he was concerned about the protests in India and that Canada would always support the right of farmers to be heard. In response, the Indian government had said those comments amounted to interference in its affairs and potentially damaging to its relations with Canada.
“In some ways both governments have to try and sort of compartmentalize the trade agreement and use that to say, look, you know, Canada-India relations are finally improving. We finally got this trade agreement,” said Dehejia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2022.
Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press
Canada: Fatal stabbing in Vancouver leaves city shaken – Hindustan Times
An Indo-Canadian has been arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder. The victim has been identified by the Vancouver Police Department as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt
Toronto: The city of Vancouver in British Colombia was left shaken after a person at Starbucks cafe was fatally stabbed, with an Indo-Canadian arrested for that alleged murder.
The incident occurred on Sunday, around 5.40pm and followed a brief altercation outside the outlet between two men.
The victim was identified by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) on Monday as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt. Meanwhile, Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Police continue to seek additional witnesses to the crime. “We believe this homicide was witnessed by dozens of bystanders, and there may be people with information who have not yet come forward,” VPD Sergeant Steve Addison said, in a release.
“We particularly want to hear from anyone who was present in the moments before the stabbing, or anyone who has cell-phone video of the incident.”
Investigators don’t believe the victim and suspect knew each other. The release added that the “the circumstances that led up to the fatal stabbing remain under investigation”.
A police constable patrolling the area was flagged down “moments after” the stabbing occurred. The suspect was arrested at the crime scene. Officers attempted to save the victim’s life but he did not survive and succumbed to the injuries sustained after being rushed to hospital.
Raw footage of the incident posted online have gone viral throughout Canada, as they show the victim lying outside the Starbucks, surrounded by his own blood, and also the alleged murderer, walking in and out of the glass doors to the establishment. Another video shows Gosal being arrested and taken into custody by police.
Schmidt was the city’s sixth homicide victim of this year.
The apparent random act of violence attracted criticism of the law and order situation in Vancouver, among the major cities in Canada. Filmmaker Aaron Gunn tweeted, “Things are not getting better. They are still getting worse.”
Is femicide in Canada's Criminal Code? – CTV News
Advocates are pushing for the term femicide to be added to Canada’s Criminal Code, saying it would help raise awareness on the issue.
In 2020, a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days in Canada. Femicide refers to homicides that target women and girls because of their gender.
Understanding the violence females face specifically, advocates are hoping for more awareness of femicide at the federal level.
“It’s really important that we name femicide,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, Ont, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “There are some unique traits about femicide. It’s really about men’s violence against women.”
Hutton believes femicide should be in the Criminal Code to prevent tragedies through better understanding.
“Until we name it, then how can we change it?” she said.”When it’s a separate part of the Criminal Code, then we have better data to track it, so we know just how prevalent it really is.”
Femicide can include instances when a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner, a non-intimate partner, or in an armed conflict. The term can also include women who are not the intended victim, but are killed in the femicide of another woman, too.
For Indigenous women and girls, Hutton says they are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women and girls.
Hutton is partnering with Jenna Mayne, who hosts the podcast “She is Your Neighbour” focusing on femicide in Canada.
“We hear from survivors, we hear from family members who have lost women to femicide, and we hear from experts,” Mayne said. “I think these stories are difficult to hear, but they’re so important to hear too.”
To listen to the full interview click the video at the top of this article.
Grocery rebate coming in federal budget 2023
The 2023 federal budget will include a one-time “grocery rebate” for Canadians with lower incomes who may be struggling with the rising cost of food, CTV News has confirmed.
According to sources, the new measure will be unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget and will help nearly 11 million lower-income Canadians.
The new measure would see eligible couples with two children receive a payment of up to $467, a senior would receive $225, while a single person would receive $234 dollars.
The benefit will be rolled out through the GST rebate system, once a bill implementing it passes in the House of Commons, according to sources. This move is essentially re-upping and re-branding the recent GST rebate boost.
The amounts expected to be offered are exactly what the Liberals offered through last fall’s doubling of the GST credit, a boost that was estimated to cost $2.5 billion and got all-party backing. It’s not expected that there will be a requirement to spend the rebate on groceries.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest inflation report, food prices rose 11.4 per cent year-over-year in January, nearly double the rate of inflation of 5.9 per cent and up from 11 per cent the previous month.
The increased cost of food has been the focus of a parliamentary study that’s seen grocery CEOs, including Loblaw chairman and president Galen Weston, grilled over grocery profits.
“I’ve been talking with Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast over the past many months hearing directly concerns around affordability, around the high cost of food, of rent, of so many different things. That’s why a big part of the budget will be focused on measures to help Canadians in targeted ways,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday.
“Groceries will certainly be part of it but, there’s other things as well that we’re going to continue to do to be there for Canadians…I look forward to a great budget tomorrow.”
The NDP had been calling for the Liberals to double the GST tax credit. Reacting to the news, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said this measure “looks very much like… what we’ve been asking for, for a long time.”
Both Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have been hinting for weeks that the 2023 budget would include targeted affordability measures to directly help those feeling the pinch of inflation the most.
“This support will be narrowly focused and fiscally responsible. The truth is, we can’t fully compensate every single Canadian for all of the effects of inflation or for elevated interest rates,” Freeland said last week in a pre-budget speech signalling her priorities. “To do so would only make inflation worse and force rates higher, for longer.”
On Monday afternoon, the finance minister took part in a long-standing tradition of picking out a new pair of shoes to wear on budget day.
This year, Freeland opted for a pair of black heels that were on sale at Canadian retailer Simons, from the store’s in-house brand. She placed them in a reusable tote bag after purchase.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPECT IN BUDGET 2023?
With the economy expected to continue slowing in the months ahead, potentially leading to a recession, Freeland is facing calls for the massive fiscal document to include a plan to promote economic growth.
Amid Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes, inflation cooled to 5.2 per cent in February. That’s down from 5.9 per cent in January, after 40-year record highs over the summer, reaching 8.1 per cent in June.
“What Canadians want right now is for inflation to come down and for interest rates to fall. And that is one of our primary goals in this year’s budget: not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” Freeland said in her pre-budget positioning speech.
At the same time, she signalled the 2023 federal budget will still be prioritizing “two significant and necessary investments”: the $46.2 billion in new funding included in the $196 billion federal-provincial health-care funding deals, and new measures to boost Canada’s clean industrial economy.
It’s the latter that government officials have signalled will get some attention in tomorrow’s budget, with several news outlets reporting there will be sizable—30 per cent, according to Reuters— new clean technology-focused tax credits to generate growth in the electrical vehicle supply chain and in critical mineral extraction and processing.
The November 2022 fall economic update had telegraphed that these kinds of credits and investments were ahead.
“Tomorrow…we’re bringing forward a budget that is focused on affordability and supporting Canadians… and creating great jobs for the middle class in a clean and growing economy. Those are the focuses that we’ve been laser focused on over the past many years,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Monday, fresh off of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit, where the green economy was a central piece of discussion.
Canada’s clear focus on the clean transition comes in part out of a need for these sectors to remain competitive in the face of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions of dollars in energy incentives south of the border.
The Canadian Press has also reported that Tuesday’s budget will include an increase to the withdrawal limit for a registered education savings plan (RESP) from $5,000 to $8,000; and a plan to go after hidden or unexpected consumer fees known as “junk fees” that inflate the overall cost of a product or service.
Finance Canada officials, who for some time have been parsing the stacks of pre-budget submissions from various industries and sectors, will also have to factor in the Liberals’ commitments to the New Democrats, with key planks of the two-party confidence deal due to come to fruition this year.
“We still want to see confirmation of the dental care expansion to include seniors, people living with disabilities and kids 18 and under. We really want this budget to save money for people, and that’s something really important for us,” Singh said.
With this budget, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the federal government to lower taxes, end “inflationary” spending, match new spending with savings, and improve housing affordability.
“He wants to take away everybody’s money, centralize it in his own hands, and promise that it will trickle down through his mighty bureaucracy… And there will maybe be a few little drops that get down to the people who actually earned it in the first place,” Poilievre levelled at the prime minister during Monday’s question period. “Will he cap government spending and put an end to the inflationary deficits, tomorrow?”
The fall economic statement issued in November 2022 projected the federal deficit at $36.4 billion in 2022-23, down from the $52.8 billion forecast in the April 2022 federal budget. Freeland also forecasted that federal coffers could be back to balance by 2027-28.
The 2023 federal budget is coming just ahead of a two-week break in the House of Commons, allowing Liberal MPs to then descend on their ridings to promote it to their constituents before coming back to the capital to work on getting the budget implementation legislation passed through the minority Parliament.
With files from CTV News’ Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos, and CTVNews.ca’s Michael Lee and Spencer Van Dyk
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