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24th of October 2018


The House: Will Canada answer the UN's call? | CBC Radio

If Canadian companies don't start investing more in the developing world, Chinese state-backed firms will see their influence grow, Canada's UN ambassador said ahead of speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the UN General Assembly on Monday. 

Trudeau will urge Canadian companies to boost their engagement as part of a push to reduce global poverty under the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development when he addresses world leaders in New York.

The speech urging companies to invest more comes as Canada pushes for a UN Security Council seat amid a geopolitical showdown over "who has influence, who has none," Canada's UN ambassador said.

"There's huge business opportunities for Canada here," Marc-Andre Blanchard told Chris Hall in an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House. "We just need to think differently about risk."

​The player building the most effective influence through investment in the developing world is currently China, he said. 

"China does it differently. The Chinese government controls its capital. They've invested $120 billion in the last six, seven years in Africa. So they're actually there, building infrastructure. But they do it their own way, with their own principles — which is completely different than if Canada were to do it."

'Offer an alternative'

Blanchard said partnering with China is always an option, "when it's actually good and in the interest of Canada," but said it's important for Canada to invest in the developing world on its own, too.

"We also need to offer an alternative because we can do things in ways that are different and maybe more convenient for countries."

Blanchard used an anecdote to illustrate his point.

"There's an old saying. The Chinese have been going around the world like a good business person with a small bodyguard by its side, looking at opportunities all over. And the West has been going all over the world and rather than seeing business opportunities, [they are] like an insurance company managing risk with a big army by its side."

"We just need to change a little bit of that."

Blanchard said Trudeau will make the argument that a partnership between government and the private sector makes sense for both business and charitable reasons.

"We need to be thinking about how we can contribute to make the world more secure, but also, it creates opportunities for Canadians and our businesses," he said. "That's how we need to look at it."

​Canada's bid for a Security Council seat

Blanchard didn't shy away from discussing Canada's campaign for a UN Security Council seat in 2021, linking the future of Canada's global relevancy to a successful bid. 

"Everybody wants to be at that table. All the conflicts of the world are put on that table," he said. 

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"This is a place where Canada can make a difference. It's going to make Canada more relevant in the world, and when we are more relevant in the world, we have more opportunities for Canadians."

Canada has been on the council six times, most recently in 1999 and 2000, but faces steep competition from Ireland and Norway. 

Canada's ambassador to the UN weighs in on what he thinks Canada has to do to earn a seat on the Security Council, and how the country can stay relevant in a shifting global landscape. 10:37No guarantee all Indigenous concerns about Trans Mountain will be addressed, minister saysFisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says it may not be possible to satisfy all First Nations concerns regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Trudeau government has said more than once it's committed to respecting First Nations' interests in the push to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built — but that doesn't mean saying yes to every request from Indigenous communities, says Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

Last month, the Federal Court of Appeal dealt another crippling blow to the project, revoking the construction permits after citing concerns about inadequate consultations with First Nations and the impact on the marine environment.

On Friday, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the National Energy Board will have 22 weeks to report back to government on the project's potential marine impact.

But Ottawa still hasn't said in detail how it plans to satisfy the court's demand for more robust consultation with First Nations.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is giving the NEB 22 weeks to review the Trans Mountain expansion project 9:36

Wilkinson said not every demand from Indigenous communities will be met.

"It certainly doesn't necessarily mean they get everything they want," he told CBC Radio's The House.

He added that the only player that needs to be fully satisfied is the court.

"At the end of the day, it's not … in the context of needing unanimity to proceed."

Wilkinson said Ottawa will do its best to be clear with Indigenous communities: if the federal government can't address their concerns, it will have to explain why.

The new fisheries and oceans minister talks about the Liberals' announcement of an NEB review on the marine impacts of the Trans Mountain pipeline. 9:06NAFTA deal in the works for next week?Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland arrives at the Office Of The United States Trade Representative, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Washington. Chrystia Freeland was not happy. With trilateral NAFTA talks having been on hiatus for most of the summer, the foreign affairs minister was in Berlin, barely one full day into a week-long diplomatic mission to Europe, when news emerged that the United States and Mexico had forged their own trade alliance in Canada's absence. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Will a NAFTA deal be reached in time for the U.S.'s imposed deadline of the end of the month?

Hassan Yussuff, head of the Canadian Labour Congress, is a believer.

"I'm optimistic, I think we're getting close," he said on CBC Radio's The House. "I'm hoping by next week this will be done."

By "this", Yussuff is referring to over a year of tense talks, late-night (or early morning) negotiations, and intense uncertainty between Canada, Mexico and the United States as the three countries work out a new free trade deal — all at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump.

It's a saga Yussuff is looking forward to seeing wrap up, and one he believes will ultimately benefit Canada and Canadian workers.

"I'm an optimist in life. I think negotiations need to be tough, but the reality is, the way negotiations operate is both sides need to compromise to come to agreement."

Yussuff said he is confident the U.S. will make some compromises, especially around the sticking point that is Chapter 19, the dispute resolution clause.

"There are certain things that are important to us, you cross those lines, you're not going to have an agreement," he said. 

"And it seems that the [U.S.] administration is starting to listen to that, and they're making some modifications to their position. We're not going to leave the table without a Chapter 19 in the agreement going forward."

Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff says he`s optimistic a deal can be reached on NAFTA in the next week. 7:42New Canadian Medical Association head calls for debate on decriminalizing opioidsAbout 8,000 people have died of drug overdoses in Canada since January 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The new president of the Canadian Medical Association is calling on politicians to have an "open and courageous" debate about decriminalizing opioids in the face of a nationwide overdose crisis.

"I think the time for having those conversations is now," Dr. Gigi Osler told the CBC's Chris Hall in an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House.

"With the opioid crisis at the stage it is now, it's probably worth it to have that open and courageous conversation, to look at whether decriminalization would be part of the solution or would it contribute to the problem."

Osler said she uses the word "courageous" to describe such a debate because Canadian society's prevailing attitudes toward substance abuse — particularly of opioids — make such a conversation politically perilous. 

Ginette Petitpas-Taylor spoke to the CBC's Paul MacInnis after QP on Tuesday 1:39

"There's still a lot of stigma associated with people who have an opioid use disorder," she said. "To decriminalize opioids almost means for some people they need to accept it."

Dr. Gigi Osler is the new president of the Canadian Medical Association, and is calling on Canada's politicians to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of decriminalizing opioids. (Dr. Gigi Osler)

At least 1,036 Canadians died in the first three months of this year of what appeared to be opioid overdoses, raising the opioid epidemic's national death toll to more than 8,000 people since January 2016, according to newly released government figures.

"The opioid crisis certainly is a huge public health crisis right now," Osler said, echoing Montreal and Toronto's health departments, which are urging the federal government to treat drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, discussing the Liberals' approach to the opioid crisis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government "will not treat this as a criminal issue" — a statement his health minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, has echoed.

But for now, the door to decriminalization remains firmly shut. At a town hall in February, Trudeau said lifting criminal penalties for illegal opioid use is "not a step that Canada is looking at taking at this point."

In July, a spokesperson for Petitpas Taylor said the government is working instead to reduce barriers to treatment by approving more than 25 supervised consumption sites and making it easier for health professionals to provide access to opioid substitution therapies.

Osler said those strategies are "all very much needed."

"The one strategy that continues to be needed is optimal prescribing practices," she added. "We continue to work with our physicians so we're part of the solution in terms of appropriate opioid prescribing, recognizing when alternate therapies are available."

But Osler also agreed with Petitpas Taylor's statement earlier this week that there is "no silver bullet" solution for the crisis.

"It's a complex problem," she said.

It's also getting worse, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada's latest trend report. In 2016, slightly more than 3,000 Canadians died of apparent opioid overdoses. That number grew to close to 4,000 deaths last year.

Canadian Medical Association President Gigi Osler chats with Chris Hall about the need for a shift in the way the government approaches health care, including a way forward to tackle the opioid crisis. 10:31New Brunswickers head to the pollsNDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie, left, Green Party Leader David Coon, People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin, Liberal Leader Brian Gallant and Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs before the start of Wednesday's debate in New Brunswick. (CBC)

Polls suggest Brian Gallant's Liberals are likely to win a second mandate, but history isn't on his side. No premier has one a second consecutive term in New Brunswick since 2003.

Then, there's the rise of the third parties in the province — the NDP, the Greens, and the People's Alliance — all presenting alternative options for voters, and a potential leaching of votes from the establishment Liberals and PCs. 

We caught up with two reporters who have been following the campaign, the CBC's Jacques Poitras in Fredericton and Radio-Canada's Michelle LeBlanc in Moncton.

What will be the defining ballot box question for voters?

Jacques Poitras: It's changed, and our expectations at the start were upended. We started the campaign with a pretty clear contrast between two parties and two leaders — the incumbent Liberals, led by Brian Gallant, up against Blaine Higgs, the PC leader. But over the course of the campaign we've seen some movement by some third parties and now in the last few days the discussion has really been about vote splitting and strategic voting and minority government scenarios.

Michelle LeBlanc: I think on both sides, it's been a very non-inspiring campaign. From the Liberals' point of view, it's been a big shopping list of everything for everyone, and from the Conservative point of view, it's been very more a campaign of a few ideas — the main one being we will spend within our means. I don't know if the messages resonate for the electorate, but it's going to be riding by riding.

Tell us more about the rise of the third parties in the province.

JP: The NDP hasn't had much success electing an MLA since 2003, and the Green Party did elect their leader last time, so they're in a position this time if they improve to really replace the NDP as a left-of-centre alternative to the mainstream parties. And that risks eroding the Liberal vote in a few key races.

And on the right, the People's Alliance, which is a rural, populist grievance party that's really wrapped itself in some of the complaints and resentments about official bilingualism and language issues, we've seen some real movement for them. So they are probably on the cusp of winning a seat, maybe two, maybe three, but they could also spoil things for the PC party. At both ends of the spectrum, it's a province that's really been a two-party system until now, and we could really see that shaken a bit on Monday night. 

What are you watching for on election night?

ML: The rise of the People's Alliance is something Francophones in New Brunswick are looking carefully at. We are already placed before a choice where one of the two main leaders is unilingual, and now there's maybe a spectrum of him making an alliance with the People's Alliance.

Is it possible we'll see the Liberals get the most votes, but not a majority government?

JP: The vote for the Liberals is very inefficient, and if we do have that outcome - a Liberal popular vote win but a legislature where they don't have a majority - we're going to get into a real epic first past the post discussion.

New Brunswick is on the cusp of an election, so where do the parties stand? Who is leading the polls and what issues are at play? We talk to two reporters about the race. 7:56Read More

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