Cross Country Checkup

Two topics: The TPP trade agreement, good or bad? And, is it fair to ban the niqab in some situations?

A look at two issues this week that set the election campaign abuzz. In the first hour: Is the TPP trade agreement a good deal for Canada? During the second hour: Is it fair to ban face coverings such as the niqab in some situations? With guest host Susan McReynolds.
canada election 2015 leaders composite (Canadian Press)

Election round-up: Two issues this week set the election campaign abuzz. We'll look at both.

Hour 1 - Is the TPP trade agreement a good deal for Canada?

Hour 2 - Is it fair to ban face coverings such as the niqab in some situations?

With guest host Susan McReynolds.

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Two issues lit up the election campaign with fire and consequence this week ...and they couldn't be more different. The first was the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal ...the culmination of years of negotiation between 12 countries comprising 40 percent of the world's economy (GDP). The deal promises to lower trade barriers while offering consumers lower prices, and manufacturers and producers new opportunities. But some say wait a minute ...the deal will damage some parts of our economy and reduce Canada's ability to act independently in certain matters. This is without question a substantial issue with real consequences for all of Canada and it appears Canadians are split on whether they like it or not.

The second issue was the re-emergence of the debate about the place of face coverings in an open and democratic society. The nub of the matter: Does the niqab belong in a public citizenship oath-swearing ceremony? Does it belong on the faces of public servants dealing with the public? And should the government get involved in setting rules on this? These are questions that directly affect only a tiny number of Canadians, but they carry a symbolic value that seems to vault it into a realm of strong emotion. They also single out a very small minority. 

Those in favour of banning the niqab -- in certain specific instances -- say it is necessary to show your face in an open society especially while swearing a solemn oath. Those opposed to any such law say a free society ought to respect the desire of people to dress according to their wish, and that to force them to do otherwise is a profound disrespect and a breach of civil rights. Polls suggest a majority of Canadians favour unveiling, but it's also clear there is a level of discomfort with even discussing the issue.

Is it a distraction from what an election campaign should be about, because it involves so few people ...or is it central to the kinds of decisions citizens must make about the nature of their country?

We will delve into both of these issues today on the program, one at a time.  First, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It would create the largest trade zone in the world. At this point it involves 12 countries but several more are expected to opt in. But also at this point it is not clear how many of the current 12 countries will ratify the deal. The NDP promises to rip it up if elected to govern. In the U.S., Hilary Clinton has come out against it.

Our question in this first hour of the program: Is the TPP trade agreement a good deal for Canada? And in the second hour: Is it fair to ban face coverings such as the niqab in some situations?

I'm Susan McReynolds  ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius XM, satellite radio channel 169 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


Derek Burney
Canada's ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993 and directly involved in negotiating the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement. Co-author of Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World.

Hassan Yussuff
President of the Canadian Labour Congress
Twitter: @CanadianLabour

Megan McArdle
Columnist for Bloomberg View who writes on economics, business and public policy. She wrote a recent column titled "One cheer for the TTP" and is author of The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success
Twitter: @asymmetricinfo

Sheema Khan
Author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman. She writes a monthly column for the Globe and Mail. Her column "Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen."

Raheel Raza
Founder of a forum called Muslims Facing Tomorrow and author of a book called Their Jihad ...not my Jihad. 


Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

National Post

Globe and Mail

Toronto Star


​Niqab Issue

National Post

Globe and Mail