The House

The House: Canada negotiates for new version of NAFTA

This week on The House, we recap the major shifts in the NAFTA negotiations with advisory council member Rona Ambrose. We also ask Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc about Ottawa's path forward after the Trans Mountain pipeline construction was stopped by a court ruling causing Alberta to go against the federal climate change plan. Finally, we look at the cluster of retirements from the NDP caucus.
Candian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks to journalists outside the U.S. Trade Representative's office in Washington, U.S., August 28, 2018. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Though the outcome of the NAFTA negotiations remains to be seen, a member of the government's advisory council on the talks says the pressure of the past week was the push everyone needed to get a deal done.

Rona Ambrose told The House the frantic energy of the past week "refocused" everyone and moved the U.S., Canada and Mexico closer to a deal.

After half a week of high-level meetings in Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a break in negotiations for the weekend but added they will resume on Wednesday.

Canadian negotiators had rushed to the U.S. capital this week after President Donald Trump announced a bilateral deal with Mexico, adding it was unclear if Canada would take the necessary steps to join.

Several pain points remained on the table, including a dispute-resolution mechanism and dairy regulations.

Ambrose says Canada needs to stand firm on that first point and could compromise on the second.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Oshawa on Friday 2:52

Canada's dairy supply-management system has attracted the ire of Trump from the beginning of negotiations. It's been a "trade irritant," for a long time, Ambrose said.

Currently, any U.S. dairy shipped to Canada that exceeds a set quota is subject to a 270 per cent tariff — and Trump wants that dropped.

"We've got to find a creative way forward to give a little bit of access," Ambrose said, though she added giving access doesn't necessarily mean Canada loses.

We ask NAFTA advisory council member Rona Ambrose what a deal could look like for Canada after the hectic week of negotiations in Washington. 8:47

Federal government searches for path forward on pipeline as Alberta pulls plug on climate deal

Rachel Notley delivered an address to Albertans Thursday night, announcing she is pulling Alberta out of the national climate-change plan to protest a federal court ruling that quashed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. (CBC)

As progress on the Trans Mountain pipeline stalls, Ottawa has lost another provincial ally in the climate fight — leaving the Trudeau government scrambling for answers as the crowd of friendly faces thins across the country.

The latest to go is Alberta Premier Rachel Notley who announced she was pulling her province out of the federal climate deal on Thursday and would not return until construction for the Trans Mountain pipeline is back on track.

This week the Federal Court of Appeal quashed construction permits for the pipeline saying consultations with Indigenous peoples were inadequate.

Despite that setback, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government is moving forward with plans to purchase the pipeline.

"We certainly understand the frustration of Premier Notley," Dominic LeBlanc, the new minister of intergovernmental affairs, told The House.

"We also understand that tackling climate change is something that our government has been committed to doing since we took office."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley talks to us about what she wants to see from Ottawa before she considers rejoining their federal climate plan. 7:27

Ottawa has been working toward implementing its pan-Canadian climate plan, which would include a price on carbon pollution — $20 a tonne in 2019 and rising to $50 in 2022.

Provinces were given until September to create their own plans, or the federal government would step in and impose one.

In the face of court challenges over the carbon tax from Ontario and Saskatchewan, and wavering support from Atlantic provinces, Alberta was one of the strongest supporters of the federal plan, but that resolve appears to have been shattered.

"We cannot afford to do this without getting fair value for our resources," Notley told The House on Friday.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reacts to the Trans Mountain ruling in a news conference Thursday evening. 0:49

"We struggle to see a path to getting this pipeline built in the foreseeable future without the federal government taking some very bold action."

Notley said she wants to see concrete legislative change to get the pipeline project moving again before she considers rejoining the federal climate change plan.

But for now, Ottawa has few answers on how long it will take to get shovels back in the ground.

"The court laid out a series of concerns, but also laid out a path that may allow us to remedy or to fix the particular failings that the court identified, so that's the work we're doing," LeBlanc said.

Liberals remain committed to finding a collaborative way forward with the provinces to tackle environmental issues,  said LeBlanc, but they are not flexible on one thing: only major energy projects with proper reviews and environmental protections in place will go forward.   

New intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc talks about what the federal government needs to do to move the Trans Mountain pipeline forward, while being respectful of environmental concerns and consulting with Indigenous peoples. 9:20

NDP's shrinking caucus is just coincidence, MP says

NDP MP Linda Duncan and six others from the party will not be running in 2019. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Outgoing NDP MP Linda Duncan says it's "purely coincidental" that so many of her fellow caucus members are leaving politics at the same time.

Duncan, the NDP's only MP from Alberta, and London-area MP Irene Mathyssen announced this week that they would not be running in 2019.

In addition to these two, the NDP will be without the services of at least five other MPs going into the 2019 federal election, including Ontario MP David Christopherson and Quebec MPs Hélène Laverdière and Roméo Saganash​.

Duncan pointed to her decade as an MP as reason enough to seek out opportunities outside the House of Commons.

"I think that's long enough, frankly, for anyone," she told The House.  "It's time to pass the torch."

She said she was not aware of any other MPs' plans to retire from caucus.

The NDP has dipped in the polls recently, and losing another familiar name on the ballot will not help the New Democrats in tight races next year.

However, Duncan maintains the caucus is united.

Outgoing NDP MP Linda Duncan shares why she's not running again in 2019 and we ask about the repercussions it could have on her party. 3:48