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COMMENTARY: The ‘trade bonanza’ with China was a bust. Canada must look elsewhere –



How often have we heard over the past few years that Canada could not afford to harm its growing trade relationship with China because the country would miss out on its share of the biggest economic bonanza of the 21st century?

Seduced by potential lucre at the end of this rainbow, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has zealously pursued trade with Beijing. The prime minister appointed two ambassadors, John McCallum and Dominic Barton, who were as ardent admirers of China as he and Liberal grandees such as Jean Chretien and John Manley.

READ MORE: Most Canadians think Trudeau should rely less on trade with China, Ipsos poll says

As just about every Canadian knows, that intention has been ill-starred since Huawei heiress Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver 19 months ago where she has become a reluctant participant in extradition proceedings that will decide whether she should face serious fraud charges in the U.S. and China responded by kidnapping Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Relations between the two countries are now at their lowest ebb by far since Pierre Trudeau established diplomatic relations with China half a century ago this October with no hint that they might get better any time soon.

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For reasons known only to themselves, while most of the developed world began distancing itself from China a couple of years ago, Prime Minister Trudeau and Ambassador Barton seem to have remained convinced that things with China would still work out somehow. Or they thought so until a few months ago. Since then they’ve been rather quiet about the future of Ottawa’s moribund relationship with Beijing.

With Canada’s China policy effectively a dead letter, what’s next?

For starters, there will still be some trade (mostly raw resources and agricultural products) with China. It will not be anything like the many hundreds of billions of dollars a year in potential spoils that once dazzled the Canadian government and many Canadian business leaders, but it is still likely to be substantial.

When assessing the economic fallout from the Meng/Two Michaels confusion, a more global perspective is required. Canada is hardly the only developed country whose trade and diplomatic ties with China have become frayed. The U.S., Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and a few of the most important players in the European Union are equally ill-disposed towards President Xi Jinping’s dictatorship today.

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It is also a fact that despite all the noise about China being the golden egg, only 12.4 per cent of its imports and 3.9 per cent of its exports went to and came from China. Those are impressive numbers, to be sure, but they are not so large as to be economy killers.

Seldom discussed is that Canada did more than seven and a half times more trade with the U.S. than China last year and 30 per cent more trade with the European Union. Even Canada’s trade with Mexico was a surprisingly robust 50 per cent of what it was with China.

READ MORE: Caving to China’s demand to release Meng Wanzhou would put Canadians in danger, Trudeau says

As for areas of potential growth, senior officials from Japan, India and Vietnam, which all have territorial disputes and complicated relationships with China, have emphatically told me over the past year that they wish to greatly grow their countries’ trade relations with Canada and have been baffled by Ottawa’s lack of interest. As it is, taken together, these three countries do about half as much trade with Canada today as China does.

Similarly, there is room for lots of growth in trade with Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

Canada must look beyond Asia for new opportunities and as part of western efforts to prevent China from dominating many distant markets. There should, for example, be more trade with Latin America, where Chinese business interests have been super busy.

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Ottawa should encourage Canadian banks to return to the crucial role they played in the Caribbean until a few years ago. With Canada largely absent, China has filled the vacuum there, building airports and cricket grounds.

Coronavirus: Trump says he holds China responsible for ‘unleashing’ COVID-19

Coronavirus: Trump says he holds China responsible for ‘unleashing’ COVID-19

During several fairly recent visits to Africa, I got an earful in the streets and the countryside about China’s big and growing business presence and the boorish behaviour of many of the Chinese working on infrastructure projects that they’ve met there. There is also anger and exasperation with their own political leaders for having become so friendly with Beijing’s bankers and leaders and for having sold them large tracts of farmland.

Canada does not have the resources to change much in Africa. But targeted opportunities and development in conjunction with close allies could pay dividends.

To give actual meaning to the slogan, “Canada’s back,” the Trudeau government should for the first time assume a major global leadership role by pressing the U.S. hard to join the 11 country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Achieving this will be a very tough sell as long as President Donald Trump resides on Pennsylvania Avenue, but there is a growing likelihood that Democrat Joe Biden will unseat the incumbent in November’s election.

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Democrats tend to be protectionist, but they are as strongly opposed to China’s ambitions in Asia and elsewhere as Trump is. It is also a given that if the Democrats control the presidency, the Senate and the Congress, they will be keen to repair the wreckage that Trump has created in American relations with most of its allies and potential allies.

READ MORE: Canadian minister promises review after security contracts awarded to Chinese-state tech company

As the Tories have repeatedly demanded, Canada should immediately quit the Beijing-based Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. As Canadian diplomats told the government earlier this year, the AIIB burnishes China’s reputation, though not Canada’s, and spreads China’s influence and authoritarian political model across the developing world. Being part of the AIIB has turned out to be a cock-eyed way of spending about $360 million.

Withdrawing from the AIIB might make it easier to convince American legislators to join the four-year-old TPP and reinvigorate the much older, Japanese-led Asian Development Bank, of which Canada and the U.S. are both members.

Putting all these parts together could make up for what has been lost as relations with China have soured badly. However, to get there from here will require a new mindset in Ottawa and far more complex, trenchant and original strategic thinking than Global Affairs Canada and Canadian trade officials have yet demonstrated.

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If well-executed, such a reboot could make up for most or all of the trade with China that Canada is likely to lose out on. Such a scheme would make Canada stronger, too, because it would end up with a much broader web of trading partners and strategic alliances, especially in the Indo-Pacific.

As important, it would restore some of the self-respect and lustre that Canada lost when it decided to invest so much time and political capital in its misbegotten effort to be China’s best pal.

Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas

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Canada reports 220 Coronavirus new cases, 6 more deaths



Canada reported 220 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, as well as six more deaths.

Saturday’s numbers bring the country’s total COVID-19 infections and fatalities to 119,187 and 8,976, respectively. As of Aug. 8, a further 103,566 — or 86 per cent — of patients infected with the coronavirus have recovered. Over 5.12 million tests have also been administered across the country.

The new numbers, however, do not reflect all regions across the country as several provinces — including British Columbia, Alberta, P.E.I. and all the territories — do not report new COVID-19 data on the weekends.

Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, reported 126 new cases of the virus on Saturday raising its total infections to 60,367. Five more deaths, including one that occurred before July 31, were also announced.

Ontario announced 70 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, raising its total confirmed cases to 39,967. Saturday marks the sixth day the province has seen daily case counts below the 100 mark. One more death linked to the coronavirus was also reported by the province on Aug. 8, raising its death toll to 2,784.

Manitoba recorded an additional 16 lab-confirmed or “probable” cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. The new numbers were not reflected in Global News’ tally as only lab-confirmed cases are counted. Saturday’s reporting brings the province’s total lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to 507.

Saskatchewan announced an additional 24 cases of the virus, raising its provincial total to 1,433. No new deaths were reported by the province, with its COVID-19 death toll standing at 20. A further 1,245 patients have also recovered from the virus in Saskatchewan.

No new cases were announced by Nova Scotia on Saturday, with the province only having two active cases of the virus.

New Brunswick also reported zero new cases on Saturday, with the province only grappling with six active cases. The Maritime region has seen a total of 176 cases and two deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also recorded zero new cases of the virus on Saturday during its daily briefing. The province has seen 267 cases and three deaths from the virus and currently has one active case.


In a statement Saturday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that an average of 48,360 people were tested daily over the past week, with one per cent testing positive. According to Tam, there has been an approximate average of 400 new cases reported daily across the country.

Tam’s statement also highlighted her previous remarks on the upcoming school season in September.

“Across the country, jurisdictions are announcing plans for reopening schools, which take into account the local context and epidemiology of COVID-19,” read her statement.


“Now that our collective efforts have flattened the curve and brought COVID-19 spread under manageable control, with increased capacity and public health measures in place to keep it that way, we must now establish a careful balance to keep the infection rate low, while minimizing unintended health and social consequences.”

Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 19.4 million people, according to a running tally kept by John Hopkins University. Over 723,000 people have died from COVID-19 as well.

The United States, Brazil, India and Russia continue to be among the countries with the highest amount of coronavirus cases in the world.

Source: – Global News

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Family of Ontario man who died of COVID-19 in U.S. custody are angry with Canadian Embassy –



The family of an Ontario man who died from COVID-19 while in U.S. custody awaiting deportation to Canada is blaming the Canadian Embassy for not doing enough to bring him home. 

“They did not do their job. They did not protect my uncle, who was a free Canadian citizen,” said Jessica Marostega, the man’s niece.

Her uncle, James Hill, died this week after contracting COVID-19 while at a detention facility run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was scheduled to fly to Toronto on July 9 after being held at the facility in Farmville, Va., since April. A judge ordered his deportation in May.

But his departure for Canada was delayed due to “medical reasons.” 

“My cousin got an email from the Canadian Embassy saying that his travel had been postponed due to medical reasons, and that’s all they would tell us at that time,” Marostega said. It was later confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Formerly a practising doctor in Louisiana, Hill had been serving more than 14 years in prison for health-care fraud and distributing a controlled substance before being transferred to the detention centre.

He was 72 and considered at high risk when he was transferred to Farmville. After contracting the coronavirus, Hill was taken to a local hospital, where he died about a month later. Almost every single detainee at the detention facility has contracted COVID-19.  

“It was devastating,” Marostega said. “Fourteen years waiting, we find out he is finally going to be released.” 

James Hill’s family and friends donated items to help him settle back in after returning to Ontario from prison in the U.S. Marostega, his niece, says the family now has to return the items. (Ellen Mauro/CBC)

She said the family was told in April it would take only a few weeks before Hill could come home. But his return was pushed back to the beginning of July.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” she said. “We blame the Canadian [Embassy] for that when they could have asked, ‘Why is he not coming home earlier?’ I think [they] should have advocated for that a little more for him. To me, that’s their job.” 

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada offered “sincere condolences to the family,” but it did not respond to the family’s criticism.

“To be honest, all the emails that my family sent that got responses back, they were all very blanket responses — somebody else was looking into it…. And in terms of the embassy, I felt like they just passed a message back and forth but there was no saying to ICE this wasn’t OK,” Marostega said.

“Our family offered to pay for transportation, medical check, everything — and it was all brushed under the table.”

WATCH | Family speaks out after Canadian man dies of COVID-19 is ICE custody:

James Hill died of COVID-19 while in the custody of U.S. immigration enforcement while awaiting deportation to Canada. 2:11

Marostega also reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to her local MP but said the responses were inadequate.

Now, she and her family are left to clean up the room they had set up for her uncle’s arrival and return items that were donated from relatives.

While she knows Hill won’t be coming home, she said she hopes a situation like this won’t happen to someone else. 

“I can’t bring my uncle home, but if I can bring somebody else’s home, right?”

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Kootenay region pitched as winter roost for Canadian snowbirds –



The Columbia Valley region of British Columbia can’t claim the warm winter temperatures of Palm Springs or Phoenix.

But regional officials are hoping the area’s other charms will be enough to attract Canadian snowbirds whose annual migrations to a warmer climate are on hold because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s a great place for Canadians, and hopefully snowbirds to spend two, six, eight weeks or more,” Ryan Watmough, the economic development officer for Columbia Valley, told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

The plan to promote the region to sun-loving retirees is also envisioned as a strategy to help local businesses survive the pandemic, Watmough said. 

An Invermere, B.C., bakery delivers pastries by bike in April. (Ryan Watmough)

In mid-March, Canadian snowbirds flocked back early from their winter sojourns in the U.S. and other warm destinations as the first wave of COVID-19 spread around the world.

In the latest newsletter from the Canadian Snowbird Association’s official publication, the CSA News, association President Karen Huestis expressed optimism that the annual migration will be back in full swing by fall. 

“It is our belief that our border with the United States will open again to leisure travel toward the end of the summer,” Huestis wrote. 

“For those travelling, the key to staying safe in our winter homes shouldn’t be that different from the protocols which we observe here in Canada: maintaining a two-metre distance from those whom we don’t live with; wearing face coverings; avoiding touching your face, frequent hand washing; and disinfecting high-touch surfaces,” she wrote.

Winter RV camping is among suggestions in a proposal to market the Columbia Valley as a winter destination for Canadian retirees who might not be heading to their usual southern destinations this year. (Ryan Watmough/Regional District of East Kootenay)

Watmough said he doesn’t believe most Canadian retirees will be eager to return to U.S. sun belt destinations any time soon as high levels of COVID-19 infections and deaths continue. 

“They’re not going to likely want to go down to Florida, Arizona, Texas or California this winter. Perhaps not going to be able to,” he said. “So it’s a matter of let’s show them what they can do, and what they can discover in Canada.”

Watmough expects some of the snowbirds who will spend winter in the Columbia Valley are local residents who will opt to stay home this year. In addition  local families who may invite retired parents and grandparents who may fill hotel rooms, longer-term rentals or perhaps bring their RVs for winter camping.

Watmough estimated that if even 500 to 750 of the estimated 300,000 Canadian snowbirds spend a good part of the winter in the Columbia Valley, it would make a major difference in bringing the local economy through the pandemic. 

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