Inside Canada's efforts to inject climate change into NAFTA 2.0

This week on The House, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna joins us ahead of the third round of NAFTA talks to discuss her efforts to include climate change language in the new deal. We also bring The Insiders to the radio to analyze the strategies on display during the first week of the fall sitting.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks with the media at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, Wednesday September 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:59

Canada is looking to places beyond the White House to support a chapter on the environment in an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's indifference, at one point even denial, towards climate change.

Ahead of the third round of negotiations in Ottawa this weekend and early next week, Canada's Environment Minister met with her NAFTA advisory council on the environment on Friday.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, holds a meeting in her office with members of the NAFTA Advisory Council on the Environment on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The 10-member council includes Canadians with politics, law, and Indigenous backgrounds to advise McKenna environmental issues as Canada looks to strengthen environmental protections in a new NAFTA.

Climate change was been seen as a potential stumbling block in the negotiations, as Trump has previously called global warming a "hoax," withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord and promises to rebuild America's coal industry.

"There are many different kinds of folks out there in the United States and so, yes, while federally they may be taking a different approach certainly we've seen at the state level lots of good action," McKenna told host Chris Hall.

"Canada has to make decisions for itself... We need to make sure we're regulating in our own national interest."

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna joins us ahead of the third round of NAFTA talks to discuss her efforts to include climate change language in the new deal. 8:59

The British (trade teams) are coming

British High Commissioner to Canada Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque speaks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their first meeting in August. (Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque/Twitter)

The new British High Commisioner to Canada said the U.K. is open to the so-called progressive chapters the Liberal government has been pushing for in free trade deals, but not right off the bat.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Theresa May told reporters they agreed to a "seamless" transition of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada after the U.K. leaves the EU and is no longer a party to that agreement.

May said her government will be putting together a "working group" with Canada on a new trade deal, with CETA as the basis.

"I think initially what we're looking for is a more or less a direct  transposition of what's there already. But as both prime ministers made clear on Monday, that doesn't exclude the possibility after we've left the European Union to re-examine the agreement and add or substract things from it," said Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council Global Citizen Awards Gala in New York City Tuesday, Trudeau reiterated the importance of  pushing chapters on gender equality, Indigenous rights, and labour protections as priorities for a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

He said trade deals have been broadly positive for the majority of citizens, but if they were perfect there would be no populist backlash like the ones currently occurring, especially in former manufacturing regions slammed by offshoring and automation.

"In short, progressive trade is not a frill. In addition to being the right thing to do, it is a practical necessity, without which popular support for a growth agenda cannot be maintained," Trudeau said.

The new British High Commisioner to Canada says the U.K. is open to the so-called progressive chapters the Liberal government has been pushing for in free trade deals, but not right off the bat. 9:20

Looking to China 'with our eyes wide open'

John McCallum, Canada’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, appears as a witness at a House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in Ottawa in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada's ambassador to China says the Liberal government is still making its pros and cons list about launching formal talks around a free trade deal with the global superpower, including the potential public fallout.

"It's in our genes, if you will, to do free trade agreements, but there are concerns. There are some industries which would not be happy. There are some groups of Canadians who would not favour such an agreement. There's a question of whether the public can be persuaded that this is a good idea. So there are certainly pros and cons," said John McCallum.

But the immigration minister-turned-diplomat wouldn't say whether he believes the positives outweigh the negatives.

"Well, I'm not going to say that. I'm working for the government. I'm part of the discussions leading up to a decision. What I'm saying is there's a strong case for, but there are also arguments against," he said.

Officials from Canada and China have held several meetings since exploratory talks were formally launched earlier this year. McCallum said the two countries are getting along "extremely well" so far.

"It's all cylinders firing in terms of moving ahead on many fronts with China because it's really good for Canadian jobs," he said. "We want to pursue stronger ties with China but with our eyes wide open. We understand there are issues there."

While accepting an award in New York this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the need for progressive trade deals, with chapters on labour mobility and gender equality.

McCallum said getting a compromise between the two countries will take some time.

"These are not the kinds of things China itself would put on the table," said McCallum. "China's preference would be to do a simple free trade agreement."

Prime Minister Trudeau hosted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Montreal last September. The federal government wants Canadians to express their goals and concerns as part of broad consultations on a possible trade deal with China. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

A document obtained by CBC News this summer shows the government has been confronting long-standing concerns from business and other stakeholders, including issues related to intellectual property rights, transparency, the bulk sale of water and human rights.

At the time, Canada's former ambassadors to China, David Mulroney, called the documents a "sales job" and was especially critical of how the government was addressing human rights concerns.

"It's not a strategy, it's just 'don't worry we raise it.' And that's not enough," he said.

Another ongoing issue with China is cybersecurity. In June, the two countries agreed not to engage in state-sponsored hacking of each other's trade secrets and business information.

"China is changing a bit. China is becoming a holder of very important intellectual property as well as an acquirer," said McCallum.

"China is at least as much concerned about other countries acquiring their intellectual property as taking it from others. I think there's an evolution here."

Canada's Ambassador to China, John McCallum, talks about the future of the trading relationship between the two countries. 11:26

The NDP vote begins

From left to right: Ontario MP Charlie Angus, Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, Quebec MP Guy Caron, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton. (CBC)

After a summer of campaigning, the NDP is an inch closer to finding a new leader.

Voting has begun for the more than 124,000 members eligible to rank Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh using a ranked preferential ballot system.

The first round of results will be announced next weekend, and if there's no winner, members can re-order their votes among the remaining contenders.

Karl Bélanger, a former top advisor to both Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair, says if Singh's membership numbers are as advertised, he'll be tough to beat.

"If Singh gets 47,000 that's going to be tough for the others to catch up," said Bélanger, who has remained neutral in race.

"People want to be with him. They want their pictures taken. They want to touch him. They want to talk to him. And there's a buzz."

Quebec MP Guy Caron is the "wild card," says Bélanger.

"Many his campaign would admit they see themselves as either finishing last or finishing first. There's no in between."

Of the group, Ontario MP Charlie MP is the street fighter, says Bélanger.

"When you're used to fighting for what you believe in and go hard at it some people don't necessarily like that. But you know, he's a punk rocker. He's not an opera singer."

While Manitoba MP Niki Ashton hasn't signed up as many members, Bélanger says the influence of the party's left wing has grown during her campaign.

Karl Bélanger, a former top advisor to both Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair, says if Singh's membership numbers are as advertised, he'll be tough to beat. 4:53

The Insiders

Jaime Watt, executive chairman of Navigator Ltd, Kathleen Monk, a principal at Earnscliffe and David Herle, a principal Partner at the Gandalf Group, make up CBC's Insiders. (CBC)

We're trying something new on the show, bringing The Insiders segment to your radio (or earbuds).

Jaime Watt, executive chairman of Navigator Ltd, Kathleen Monk, a principal at Earnscliffe, and David Herle, a principal Partner at the Gandalf Group, break down this week's political peacocking. 

Listen here.

Jaime Watt, executive chairman of Navigator Ltd, Kathleen Monk, a principal at Earnscliffe and David Herle, a principal Partner at the Gandalf Group, break down this week's political peacocking. 13:49