The Prime Minister’s Office is adopting a new approach to managing its most-important economic, security and bilateral relationship, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
More ministers will now be dealing directly with their U.S. counterparts as Ottawa takes a step back from its rigidly controlled approach to dealing with the Trump administration.
Deputy Prime Minister and now Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland had been the country’s point person on all things U.S. after leading the re-negotiation of NAFTA.
As she takes on her new role in Ottawa, additional ministers will be taking over some of her responsibilities, according to the sources.
The sources say Trade Minister Mary Ng will be dealing with her counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne will also now be dealing with his equal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who has taken a lead role in negotiating the terms of COVID-19 border restrictions, will also take on some added responsibilities.
Freeland will still be in the picture and at times is expected to be called upon to leverage the relationships she’s already established. Sources insist she is not being completely removed from the Canada-U.S. file, but others will take on a more active role.
Warned to keep out of election
The players may be changing, but the sources say the priorities remain the same. Maintaining a strong economic and security relationship is at the top of the list. Making sure not to inadvertently upset President Donald Trump is also a concern.
One source says the ministers have been directly warned to stay out of the U.S. election.
This warning echoes one made back in 2016 by former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton. In the run-up to that election, he warned cabinet ministers not to say anything about then candidate Trump, who trailed in the polls at the time.
At a cabinet retreat, he told ministers that Trump had a shot at winning, and his temper should not be underestimated.
The sources say Canada is now in a position to embrace a more traditional approach to its relationship with the U.S. after a difficult three and a half years with the Trump administration.
NAFTA negotiations heated and rocky
Freeland and a small circle in the Prime Minister’s Office were first given the Canada-U.S. portfolio in the tumultuous weeks following the 2016 election.
The election of a populist president who had promised to amend or abolish Canada’s most-vital trade agreement, NAFTA, prompted an emergency cabinet shuffle in Ottawa.
Freeland was given what she’d previously viewed as a dream job: minister of foreign affairs. And with it came a more unusual assignment for a foreign minister: overseeing trade issues and major files impacting the bilateral relationship with the United States.
That assignment produced memorable, rocky moments.
The NAFTA renegotiations were often heated. Freeland’s interlocutor, Lighthizer, complained about the Canadian negotiating style and the frequent leaks to media about details of the talks.
Freeland, for her part, made clear her disdain for the Trump administration’s view of international relations in general and trade in particular.
She gave Lighthizer books with lessons on the devastating history of nationalism and protectionism and on the idea that this is the greatest period in human history thanks to global interconnectedness.
She gave speeches in Washington and in Ottawa decrying the Trump team as a threat to the rules-based international order.
It won her plaudits and even an award from like-minded Americans — among whom Freeland had many connections from her days as an international journalist.
But critics at home, and in the U.S., grumbled that her stick-in-the-eye approach wasn’t actually making relations better or helping Canadians.
Freeland refused to use new name
Late in the NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. president made clear his own feelings about Freeland, with Trump saying in September 2018: “We don’t like their representative very much.”
This was late in the talks when the U.S. was eager to wrap up a deal, and two sources at the negotiating table said Freeland kept stalling to go over fine points.
At one point with the talks nearly done, a senior U.S. official erupted at Freeland when she raised the issue of Inuit whaling rights and requested a special provision in the environmental chapter of a deal now commonly called USMCA.
In a sign that she did manage to smooth over some hard feelings from the acrimonious negotiations, she hosted Lighthizer for a family dinner in Toronto in October 2018 after a preliminary agreement was reached (the final deal was signed more than a year later and ratified in April 2020).
But the struggles with the U.S. continue. Just a few days ago, the U.S. re-imposed some tariffs on Canadian aluminum, and Freeland called the move “ludicrous” and “absurd” and promised counter-tariffs.
Trump claims Canada wants U.S. border reopened – CTV News
U.S. President Donald Trump says that Canada wants to see the Canada-U.S. border reopened, but the federal government says it’ll make the decision based on public health advice.
“We’re looking at the border with Canada. Canada would like it open, and you know we want to get back to normal business,” Trump said outside the White House on Friday.
“We’re going to be reopening the borders pretty soon,” Trump said, adding that he thinks the U.S. is “rounding the turn” in that country’s still massive COVID-19 outbreak.
To date there have been more than six million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 198,000 Americans have died. Over the course of the crisis there have been 141,565 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada, and more than 9,000 deaths.
On Friday federal officials on both sides of the border announced that the Canada-U.S. border closure would be extended for at least another month, until Oct. 21.
The land border between the two countries has been closed to all non-essential travel since March 21, a move first made to limit the spread of the virus.
The agreement, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as temporary foreign workers and vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border.
Tourists and cross-border visits remain prohibited, though some restrictions on close family members have been eased allowing families to reunite, while others continue to call for further compassion for non-married couples and others who are still not permitted to cross.
Pandemic tensions have flared in Canada over prospective American visitors, some of whom have used loopholes in the rules to enter the country.
CTVNews.ca reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office for comment, and spokesperson Chantal Gagnon pointed to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s comments earlier on Friday about the continuation of the border restrictions.
“We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair said in a tweet.
In the latest episode of CTV News’ podcast Trend Line, Chair of Nanos Research Nik Nanos said that “people in Canada see what’s happening in the United States, and they have significant concerns about the risks to Canadians because of the pandemic.”
Canada’s Public Health Agency president resigns amid rising coronavirus cases – Global News
Tina Namiesniowski, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, has resigned leaving the department in charge of leading country’s response to the coronavirus without a leader, amid rising cases of the virus in some of Canada’s most populous provinces.
In a letter to staff released by Health Canada, Namiesniowski said she needed “to take a break” and “step aside so someone else can step up” to lead the public health agency tasked with coordinating Canada’s response to COVID-19. Namiesniowski was appointed to the job in May 2019.
Her resignation comes as caseloads of the virus have surged in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec and criticism about the federal government’s response to the virus in the early stages of the pandemic has mounted.
A spokesperson for Health Canada said, “a replacement will be announced next week.”
“This is a very difficult decision for me but I think it’s the right one,” Namiesniowski said. “You really need someone who will have the energy and the stamina to take the Agency and our response to the next level.
“Even though I might not have accomplished everything I would have liked to have done, I truly hope the foundation for change I’ve championed through our work on PHAC of the future will help serve as a road map moving forward.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Namiesniowski worked as the executive vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency and served as an assistant deputy minister at Agriculture Canada and Public Safety Canada.
“I will support the transition of a new President and then I am going to take some time to reconnect with my husband, kids and aging father and think about my own next steps,” she wrote. “I do want to remind everyone about how much of a toll this relentless pace can have on each of us and our loved ones so please try and look after yourselves and each other.”
PHAC, which Namiesniowski formally headed, faced criticism over a depleted national emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) and reports that the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) – a federal pandemic early warning system — was shut down last year.
Namiesniowski said in her email Friday, “it is hard to believe that close to ten months has elapsed since the Agency picked up the initial GPHIN signal on December 31st, 2019, about a cluster of cases in Wuhan of an unknown respiratory illness,” but did not mention the ongoing controversy around GPHIN.
Last week, Health Minister Patty Hajdu ordered a review over the warning system matter and reports that officials working on it were silenced, just months before the global outbreak of the coronavirus.
Hajdu said in a statement that a “full and expeditious independent review” has been requested.
“We were concerned to learn of reports that GPHIN analysts felt that they were not able to proceed with their important work, and that some scientists didn’t feel fully empowered. That’s why we have ordered a full and expeditious independent review of GPHIN,” said Hajdu’s office in a statement.
“This independent review is an important step in restoring GPHIN and ensuring that it can continue its valuable contributions to public health in Canada and around the world.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's premiers push for $28B top-up to annual federal health care spending – CBC.ca
Canada’s premiers are demanding $28 billion in additional federal funding to cover their ballooning health care costs — a boost that would bring annual transfers to $70 billion.
The premiers have agreed unanimously to call on the Liberal government to address what they call an “absolutely critical” situation.
The premiers are meeting in Ottawa today to map out their demands ahead of next week’s throne speech.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier François Legault — the incoming chair of the Council of the Federation — met in person, with other premiers joining virtually.
“It’s time for the federal government to do its fair share,” Legault said.
Ford said that as the demand for health care services has risen, support from the federal government has been decreasing.
“We’re in desperate need of your support,” he said.
The proposed increase would mean the federal government would cover 35 per cent of provinces’ health care costs, up from the current 22 per cent. Right now, the provinces spend $188 billion on health care, with the federal government covering $42 billion.
“We need the support from the federal government. We’re asking the fed government to support all Canadians. Be a true partner when it comes to health care,” Ford said.
Pallister said Canadians are living in fear because of the consequences of federal underfunding, such as longer waits for services and diagnoses.
“Right now, millions of Canadians are waiting for an appointment for a test, for consequential treatment, for surgery. Those delays are painful. A lump that isn’t diagnosed is not fun,” he said.
“Every single day right now in Canada, there are people in fear directly of the consequences of delay, and their families join in that fear, and their friends join in that fear.”
Pallister said it’s been a longstanding problem that has gone unaddressed. He said it’s time for the federal government to resume its “rightful role as a true funding partner” in order to shorten wait times and improve health care.
Ford and Legault met in Mississauga, Ont., last week to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness as the number of active COVID-19 cases rises in parts of the country.
“Premier Ford is in Ottawa to join his fellow Premiers ahead of the throne speech to press the federal government on critical priorities for the people of Ontario, including strengthening frontline health care, helping people and businesses get back on their feet, and moving shovel-ready infrastructure projects forward,” said Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich in an email.
The federal government is providing $19 billion to the provinces to help ease the financial burden of the pandemic; about $10 billion of that sum is for health-related expenses.
But Ford and Legault said more long-term funding is needed to address critical health care issues that predate the pandemic, such as the increasing cost of new medical technologies and drugs and an aging population.
The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care this fiscal year under an agreement that mandates an an annual increase of three per cent.
Legault has said that the federal contribution is well below the 50 per cent share originally agreed upon decades ago.
Before the premiers’ meeting, Ford sat down with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches.
The provincial government has imposed stricter rules on gatherings in the Ottawa, Toronto and Peel regions after their COVID-19 infections spiked.
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