OTTAWA – Even as Ottawa was overrun with tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of two giant robots shaped like a dragon and a spider strolling through the capital this week, there were enough politicos left around Parliament Hill to natter for days about Rolling Stone.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau graced the magazine’s latest issue on Monday, and was gifted a gushing profile that compared him ever-so-positively to U.S. President Donald Trump.
The heap of flattering international coverage of Trudeau has long prompted eye-rolling among opposition members, and the Rolling Stone version ramped that reaction up a notch.
On a more material level, however, Trump’s administration and the Trudeau government actually saw eye to eye on a key development this week: the U.S. proposal for a border adjustment tax.
The week was also notable for major news on how Canada is managing its natural resources, and how it may be mismanaging its military purchasing.
Here are three ways politics touched Canadians this week:
The dreaded BAT:
Of all the alarming pronouncements made by the Trump administration since taking office, probably none has shaken Canadians’ confidence more than the threat of a border adjustment tax.
The proposal would have taxed imports into the United States more heavily than domestic goods, with the dual purpose of encouraging production within America’s borders and building up some revenue to bring down U.S. domestic taxes in other areas.
Now, the idea has been nixed —much to the relief of the federal government and business leaders. Even though most U.S.-watchers believed the tax didn’t stand much of a chance of ever becoming reality, the risk was high enough to prompt some jitters among people thinking of investing or expanding in Canada.
The federal Liberals were quick to take some credit, pointing to all the lobbying they had done to make the point in Washington that the tax would hurt American consumers and was not worth pursuing. But there were many Americans, including Republicans, making the same argument.
Oil, gas and the future:
There were two major turns this week in Canada’s longstanding push to sell the world more of its oil and gas.
First, Malaysia’s Petronas announced it was pulling out of a $36-billion liquified natural gas development in British Columbia. Both the Stephen Harper government and the Trudeau government had backed the massive Pacific NorthWest LNG project, with Trudeau arguing it was a prime example of socially responsible energy interests working to Canada’s benefit.
The company blamed poor market conditions, while opposition critics in B.C. blamed government red tape.
Then, the Supreme Court shut down seismic testing near the Clyde River community in Nunavut, but at the same time gave a green light to the expansion of the Line 9 pipeline in southwestern Ontario. The court used the two rulings to contrast how the National Energy Board could do things wrong (Clyde River) and do things right (Line 9) when it comes to thoroughly consulting with Indigenous Peoples.
Taken together, the week’s developments show the world of investors that it might be possible — but certainly never easy — to develop and export oil and gas here.
The case of the vanishing deadline:
The federal government is in the midst of figuring out how to spend about $60 billion on new warships, what will likely be the largest planned military purchase in Canadian history and a project taxpayers will be financing for years and years.
But deadlines for companies to have their proposals in for consideration have come and gone, and have not really been replaced. Experts worry it’s a sign of dysfunction behind the scenes, given Canada’s troubling and litigious history of procurement gone awry.
The government says not to worry, there are plenty of signs that companies are ready and willing to participate in the competition and everything will unfold as planned.
Construction on the new fleet is meant to begin between 2019 and 2021. The $60 billion is intended to pay for the building of 15 new ships to replace the navy’s frigates and destroyers.