Trade, procurement and Kevin O’Leary: three ways politics mattered this week

Three ways politics affected us this week

OTTAWA — Politics groupies suddenly found themselves this week discussing the pros and cons of cupping, of all things, after the prime minister popped up on a podcast with telltale purple circles on his forearms.

Cupping, just FYI, is an alternative therapy that involves placing suction cups on the skin to draw blood to the surface. Made famous by swimmer Michael Phelps among others. And yes, Justin Trudeau is a fan.

And water coolers across the capital also overheard many a conversation about Trudeau’s admission that his father used his connections to help his brother Michel deal with a minor marijuana charge: was it a smart move to show empathy with youth? Or a sign of privilege blinding the prime minister to the need for an amnesty for small pot infractions?

But chatter about cupping and privilege quickly took a back seat to far more serious matters as the week progressed. Long-standing assumptions about Canada-U.S. trade, the country’s military procurement system and the Conservative leadership were challenged to the core. Here are three ways federal politics touched Canadians this week:

TRADE TURMOIL

If there were any remaining believers in the theory that when U.S. President Donald Trump talked about tearing up NAFTA he was really just talking Mexico, they were converted this week.

Trump has repeatedly singled out Canada in recent days for not being fair. Canada’s dairy regime hurts U.S. farmers. Canada’s lumber is too cheap and needs to face stiff duties. NAFTA should be ditched, or perhaps just renegotiated, but in a way that prevents Canada and Mexico from continuing to take advantage of American generosity. And Bombardier Inc. is way too subsidized.

The federal government has confronted the accusations with lists of facts and figures, direct talks with Trump and his team, and a public plea to be reasonable and polite. Retaliation does not seem to be in the cards at this point, partly because the only material measure taken against Canada by Trump so far is a 20-per-cent lumber duty. With so much more hanging in the balance, Ottawa does not want to make matters worse.

PROCUREMENT AND INTEGRITY

Details released this week about the saga of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman served as a stark reminder of the mess that is Canada’s multi-billion-dollar military procurement system.

Documents obtained by the RCMP and submitted to the court in its case against Norman show in colourful relief that the omnipresent chase for military contracts is high-stakes, ruthless and endlessly political.

Norman was the military’s second in command until he was suspended without explanation in January. The RCMP accuses him of leaking cabinet secrets — ostensibly to make sure he could get a supply ship built quickly by a Quebec-based shipyard.

The correspondence paints a picture of military operators and competitive industry players plotting relentlessly to manipulate not just each other but also the media and elected politicians.

It’s not clear yet whether Norman did anything wrong, or if he was caught in the shadowy network of lobbying and arm-twisting that has come to define procurement in Canada.

Government after government has sought to reform the procurement rules and create new bureaucracies to ensure that taxpayers’ money and legitimate military goals are treated with respect. As one of the Armed Forces’ most widely respected leaders strives to clear his name, it’s obvious there’s some work to do yet.

CONSERVATIVES MINUS O’LEARY

The Conservative leadership race was turned on its head this week when Kevin O’Leary — a reality TV star and a presumed front-runner in the leadership contest — suddenly pulled out and threw his support behind rival Maxime Bernier.

The drawn-out contest to replace Stephen Harper will be decided on May 27, but Conservatives will see a different dynamic over the next few weeks now that O’Leary has essentially conceded to Bernier and arguably robbed some of the other 12 contenders of their focal point.

O’Leary was a latecomer to the race but he injected it with profile and attitude, and challenged it with an unorthodox vision of what it means to be conservative. But he also confirmed, in the end, that the tradition of party leaders speaking both official languages is one that can’t be jettisoned with impunity — even in the age of Trumpian unorthodoxy.

Heather Scoffield, Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Canadians on epic journey arrive in Nanoose

Snaw-Naw-As First Nation welcomes participants of Canada C3 voyage

Kwalikum Secondary student back from year in Netherlands

Don’t pass up opportunity to travel with Qualicum Beach Rotary’s help, says Taylor Hunter

Resident slam loud dynamite blasting at Cedar Ridge Estate development

Sleigh feels insulted by Mayor Lefebrve who failed to understand their suffering

RDN creates new service to fund INfilm

Regional district to enter three year agreement with film commision for annual funding of $50,000

Bowser school asks RDN to double funding for outdoor learning area

From $30,000 to $60,000 for Tulnuxw Lelum Cultural Learning Space

VIDEO: Parksville home to new film studio

Film studio just off Highway 4A

Police on motorcycles tap on windows of distracted drivers in Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller says a police motorcycle has been effective in enforcement

Silver Creek reacts after remains found, man arrested

Neighbours of property where remains were found say man arrested was sweet and polite

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Generals top division-leading Wolves, 5-1

Home game on tap Sunday afternoon against Victoria Cougars

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Kellers Jewellers in Lantzville suffers break-in

Incident happened around 5:30 a.m. Oct. 21, say police.

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Most Read