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Politics Briefing newsletter: House begins debate on Magnitsky law

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Good morning,

It's Friday, which means the House of Commons wraps up its work early -- at about 2:30 p.m., in fact, so MPs have time to get home to their ridings for the long weekend. Two bills get their first House debate today: the Liberals' impaired-driving legislation (more on it here) and a private member's bill that sanctions Russian human rights abusers. The latter, modeled after the U.S. Magnitsky Act, is drawing some fire from Russia now that the Liberal government says they'll support it. "In case of endorsement of this … legislative act, relations between our two countries that are already in a rather low phase will suffer a new telling blow," the Russian Foreign Ministry told The Globe.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. If you're reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Let us know what you think.


Lawyers for a pair of Canadian winery owners worry their clients will face lengthy jail sentences in China over a small commercial dispute.

A top Ukrainian politician was in Ottawa this week to once again seek Canada's help.

Madeleine Meilleur, until recently an Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, says she had meetings with many of the top aides in the Prime Minister's Office to talk about getting a job after leaving provincial politics. In the end, Justin Trudeau appointed her as an Officer of Parliament, something the opposition parties are not happy about.

Alberta's two conservative parties, the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives, have struck a preliminary deal to merge. The new party, if approved by party members, will be called the United Conservative Party. The National Post has a few tongue-in-cheek alternative suggestions, such as The Amalgamated Confederated Union of United and Joined Conservatives.

And ever wonder how Canada's coins are made? We take you inside the Royal Canadian Mint's Winnipeg plant, where they also make currency for foreign countries.

Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail) on free-trade negotiations: "Now, with a chaotic White House, the firing of the FBI director, the investigation into possible collusion with Russians – many Republicans are thinking about constraining him or ditching him. Democrats aren't eager to hand him wins. Mr. Trump's erratic style has weakened his NAFTA hand, too."

Shachi Kurl (Globe and Mail) on Jagmeet Singh and the NDP: "Let's not forget for a moment how judgy Canadians can be when it comes to politicians' appearances. Stephen Harper was fat-shamed over his fondness for root beer. Chrystia Freeland takes heat for often wearing the same dress. And if Tom Mulcair's beard was a topic for the last federal campaign, it's certain Mr. Singh's beard, turban, and kirpan – all tenets of his faith – will be the subject of discussion at the coffee shop, the ice rink, and on talk radio."

Harold Johnson (Globe and Mail) on not judging people on first sight: "Despite my being aboriginal, in that moment of first contact, I had judged not only a fellow aboriginal person, but also a fellow human being, according to racist and prejudicial stories. … Anyone who claims not to be racist – who doesn't check their stories with every encounter – fails themselves as well as others. We owe it to ourselves to look twice."

Editor's note: an item in the May 16 Politics Briefing newsletter about the Auditor-General's spring report suggested there was potential financial mismanagement at Defence Construction Canada. In fact, while the auditor found that the corporation could improve its identification of risks of fraud, the report said that corporate governance was strong overall and no significant deficiencies were found.

B.C. UPDATE by James Keller

As B.C. awaits the result of the provincial election, including which party the third-place Greens will support in a potential minority legislature, mayors in the Vancouver region are hoping transit influences what happens next. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is chair of the region's mayors' council on transit, says a Liberal majority could jeopardize major infrastructure projects. Mr. Robertson, who is a former New Democrat MLA, says he hopes the future of transit funding in the Lower Mainland influences negotiations as the Greens contemplate whether to support to the Liberals or the NDP. In particular, Mr. Robertson objects to the Liberals' insistence that any new funding source must be put to a referendum.

As those negotiations continue, the New Democrats appear ready to remove another barrier to winning the Greens' support, as Leader John Horgan says he's open to overhauling the electoral system without a referendum. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has made electoral reform a "deal breaker" and he's said the government should push it through without a referendum. Mr. Horgan had previously said such a change should be put to a referendum, but now he says he's open to skipping that step.


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The New York Times is reporting that, according to sources, then-director of the FBI James Comey tried to keep his distance from Donald Trump, as the President became concerned that he was personally under investigation. Details of their encounters may continue to leak out as Congressional committees ask for Mr. Comey's memos and more testimony.

A Politico profile depicts Bob Mueller, a former FBI director who has been appointed special prosecutor to look into connections between the Trump team and Russia, as a mentor to Mr. Comey and someone who has had a history of being independent from the White House.

Mr. Trump's team, as well as delegations around the world, are working to make sure he'll be taken care of on his first international trip. Presentations during the NATO and G7 summits are expected to be shorter and more visual and caterers in Saudi Arabia are working to get his steaks cooked just right.

In Brazil, President Michel Temer is resisting calls to resign even as prosecutors investigate him for corruption and obstruction of justice.

And if you think the constant stream of Trump news has been distracting for you, imagine how members of Congress feel.

Video: Kenney says united Wildrose, PC party putting Alberta above egos (The Canadian Press)
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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More


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