A 'new normal' in Canada-China relations

This week on The House, we look ahead to Justin Trudeau's upcoming trip to China, with Canada's former ambassador to China David Mulroney. B.C. Premier Christy Clark is here to talk about her province's new climate plan - does it go far enough? Plus, John McKay, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence, makes the case for a peacekeeping mission in Africa, and Crestview Strategy's Chad Rogers discusses the optics of Health Minister Jane Philpott's pricy limo tab.

As Justin Trudeau heads to China later this month for an official state visit, Canada's former ambassador to China David Mulroney says Canada must be prepared for a "new normal" in relations between the two countries.

"China is big, powerful and wants to go its own way in the world," says Mulroney, now serving as the President of St-Michael's College in the University of Toronto.

"And it assumes countries like Canada are going to go along with it."

The Prime Minister's week-long tour, from August 30th to September 6th, will stop in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Hangzhou for the G20 leaders' summit.

It's a visit that has particular emphasis for Trudeau because his father, Pierre Trudeau, established diplomatic relations with China in 1970.

Canada's then prime minister Pierre E. Trudeau, right, shakes hands with Mao Tse-tung, party chief of the People's Republic of China on Oct.13, 1973. The two met at Chungnanhai while Trudeau was on an official visit to China. (Canadian Press)

It's also a visit where Trudeau will need to carefully weigh a desire to build stronger business ties with the world's second-largest economy, alongside concerns over human rights — a balance that may be difficult to strike.

Canada's former ambassador to China, David Mulroney, looks ahead to Prime Minister Trudeau's upcoming trip to China. What will Trudeau be looking to accomplish, and where do we stand now in China's game of political hardball? 12:04

"Now China (…) is a major military power, and you get the sense that it believes in its own headlines, it understands this. It's lost the ability to relate to smaller countries and tends to deal with countries like us in fairly blunt ways, so we're going to have to get used to that."

Mulroney adds now that while questions of global importance are at least partially resolved in Beijing, the most important conversation Trudeau will be having is with Canadians once the trip to China has wrapped up.

"China is a big, important country and it matters to our economy. That doesn't mean we always have to agree or capitulate, but we have to have mechanisms in place to talk with the Chinese and pursue our own interests — and deflect some of the negative consequences of sharing the world with a big and sometimes assertive country like China."

Does British Columbia's new climate plan go far enough?

B.C. Premier Christy Clark unveiled her long-awaited climate change plan for the province at a carbon research institute in Richmond, B.C. (CBC)

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is here to talk about her province's new climate plan — which controversially does not include a carbon tax increase.

"We would have seen it rise to about $100 in eight years," Clark says. "And keep in mind no other province in the country has a carbon tax today."

"What happens when you get too far ahead of everybody else, is that polluters just move. They move to places where it's cheap to make it," Clark adds. 

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark talks to Chris about her province's new climate plan, and why she thinks the other provinces need to catch up to B.C. 11:21

The carbon tax was launched in 2008 as part of a Climate Action Plan which was considered one of former premier Gordon Campbell's signature achievements.

Clark froze the tax when she took over from Campbell as Liberal leader and premier in 2011.

Currently, the tax sits at $30 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. The province's Climate Leadership Team review team had called for a $10 increase in the tax starting in 2018.

"What I called for today is for all provinces in Canada to cast up to B.C. at $30 per tonne — and then we can move forward together so our country is coordinated," Clark says. 

"I'm going to be really urging every province in Canada to catch up."

Should Canada re-engage in an African peacekeeping mission?

An announcement as to where, and in what capacity, Canada will be sending peacekeepers to Africa is imminent.

Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan returned this week from a fact-finding mission to East Africa which included visits to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And while the Minister insists a decision is yet to be made as to where Canadian troops will be deployed, he has stated that the mission will be for a "long duration."

There are currently nine ongoing United Nations peacekeeping missions on the continent, all of which present various degrees of risk and controversy.

So is Canada making the right choice in bolstering UN peacekeeping efforts in Africa?

"We've neglected Africa for the last ten years. I think that's a regrettable development," parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence John McKay tells The House, adding that there is substantial support amongst Canadians for peacekeeping missions.

John McKay, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence, makes the case for a Canadian commitment to a peacekeeping mission in Africa. 7:20

While Sajjan has acknowledged that the nature of peacekeeping has changed and has become potentially more dangerous, McKay stresses that a robust group of highly-trained Canadian soldiers could reduce the possibility of violence in countries on the brink.

"Should we simply stand by while these countries (...) get into full-blown conflict and people are dying and being slaughtered by the thousands, or should we get at it at an earlier stage where there's a possibility that conflict could be reduced and possibly contained, or at least minimized?"

The $1,700 limo ride

Health Minister Jane Philpott found herself in the crosshairs this week after it was revealed that she had spent $1,700 on transportation in a single day while in Toronto in March — and used a limousine service owned by someone who campaigned for her in the federal election. 

It's a story that echoes that of former Conservative cabinet minister Bev Oda's infamous $16 glass of orange juice, a scandal that became an exhibit for critics who wanted to paint the then-government as out of touch with ordinary Canadians.

So, how have the Liberals handled the story now that they're on the other end?

"There's always something that was easy to criticize when you were in opposition and everything was crystal clear, to the muddy series of greys and imperfect choices in government," says Chad Rogers, a partner at public affairs agency Crestview Strategy.

"I would suggest when she gets back to the House she's either going to be facing a number of questions and procedural actions against her, or she will have to stand up and apologize."  

Crestview Strategy's Chad Rogers on how the Liberals have handled the story of Health Minister Jane Philpott's very expensive limo tab. 6:18

In House panel

Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger takes on the added role of government House leader, after a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall Friday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

This week's In House panelists Laura Stone, of the Globe and Mail, and Maclean's Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes break down the big political stories of the week. On tap: the government's surprise new appointment of rookie Minister Bardish Chagger to House Leader, the Health Minister's pricey limo tab, and the Liberals' upcoming cabinet retreat in Sudbury.

In House panelists Laura Stone and John Geddes discuss the government's appointment of a new House Leader, Bardish Chagger, with Chris - and analyse the optics of Health Minister Jane Philpott's limo tab, and look ahead to the Liberal cabinet retreat. 8:51


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