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Politics Briefing: Trudeau finally confirms pastor’s release

Good morning,

Next time you're staying in another city, watch out -- you could be crashing at a politician's pad. Derek Fildebrandt, a member of the Alberta legislature and the United Conservative Party, has landed in a bit of hot water for listing his Edmonton apartment on Airbnb, the site where people can bypass hotels and book short-term stays. The problem is that while Mr. Fildebrandt, a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is earning money from the rentals, he's also collecting a taxpayer subsidy for the space. Mr. Fildebrandt says no legislature rules have been broken. For now, though, his apartment has been delisted from the site. But those who stayed with him and left reviews only had good things to say.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa, Eleanor Davidson in Toronto, and James Keller in Vancouver. 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.

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CANADIAN HEADLINES

After a day of silence from Ottawa, Justin Trudeau finally released a statement on Thursday morning about North Korea's release of Toronto pastor Hyeon Soo Lim. Mr. Trudeau confirmed Mr. Lim's release from a North Korean jail and thanked Sweden for assisting the Canadian government as a "protecting power" in North Korea. Mr. Trudeau also noted that Mr. Lim's "health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada." North Korea's treatment of prisoners has faced increased scrutiny since the release of American student Otto Warmbier in June. Mr. Warmbier fell into a coma while imprisoned in North Korea, and died six days after he was released. "I think that North Korea understood that it was on thinner ice than usual," said Steven Denney, a doctoral fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs.  A spokesperson for the Lim family confirmed Mr. Lim will receive medical attention when he returns to Canada.

Mr. Lim's release is a small gesture of goodwill from North Korea, amidst escalating threats between the authoritarian country and U.S. President Donald Trump. North Korea announced plans yesterday to launch four missiles in mid-August that will land off the shores of the U.S. island territory of Guam. But it was business as usual in Guam today, with nearly 15,000 tourists visiting the island. Guam's governor, Eddie Calvo, told Reuters "there is no need to have any concern" about the missile threat.

British Columbia's new NDP government is expected to make an announcement today related to how it plans to fight the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The New Democrats campaigned on killing Kinder Morgan's pipeline project, and the issue is a major part of the party's power-sharing arrangement with the Greens in the minority legislature. The government has already ruled out attacking the pipeline by denying or delaying permits. Observers have suggested the answer could be in the courts, where a number of groups including several First Nations have launched legal challenges. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned B.C. it has no power to block the pipeline, though he and Premier John Horgan largely avoided the topic during their first meeting last month.

The B.C. government has no plans to change the province's controversial civil forfeiture office, which seizes houses, money and other property from people who haven't been charged with a crime. The New Democrats called for a review of the office while in Opposition, but now the new Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, says he thinks the office is working as it should. Mr. Farnworth says there are enough "checks and balances" in place to protect people's rights. The office is in the spotlight again, after a woman targeted by the office settled a lawsuit and received an apology from the RCMP.

And the Canada-U.S. border has seen so many asylum seekers cross into Quebec that Canadian soldiers have now built a tent city that can house 500 of them to aid in processing.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Canadian vs. American approaches to immigration: "The two settler countries have embraced radically different philosophies toward immigration in this century. Canada is counting on large numbers of newcomers to sustain its economy and slow the aging of its population. The United States appears increasingly determined to shut itself off from the world."

Aaron Wherry (CBC) on the possibility of an elected Senate: "[Retiring Senator Bob] Runciman wonders if Justin Trudeau's independent senators — if the Liberals win another term in 2019, independents could end up occupying something like 80 of the Senate's 105 seats — could one day provoke a crisis by standing in the way of the House of Commons. That might stir public sentiment. Another expense scandal could, too. Or perhaps the Trudeau government will find some new way to make the Senate a symbol of injustice and rot."

NAFTA UPDATE

Canadian optimism about NAFTA talks
has "no grounds," warns former Canadian ambassador to the United States Derek Burney. As chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney, Mr. Burney led the final round of negotiations over the Canada-U.S. free-trade deal in 1987. He cautioned that Canada should see no grounds for complacency or optimism, and urged Ottawa to keep prioritize no deal on NAFTA over a bad deal. "I do see a period of uncertainty ahead for investors, producers and service providers," he said. We are just beginning to peel what could be a large, possibly pungent, onion."

The Globe and Mail editorial board on Canada and NAFTA: "In addition to preserving an independent dispute adjudication mechanism, Canada must also ensure that the U.S. doesn't tilt a renewed NAFTA to its advantage. That includes moves to benefit American pharmaceutical companies in ways that extend patent protections and push up drug costs. It includes a U.S. desire to give American online retailers a leg up compared to Canadian retailers, by exempting significant amounts of foreign online purchases from duties and sales taxes."

INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES

At least three people died in post-election violence in Kenya on Wednesday. Two people were shot dead in Nairobi, and one person was killed in the opposition stronghold of Kisii County. After opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed the election results had been hacked in favour of the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta, police used tear gas in Mr. Odinga's home city and shot at supporters of the opposition leader. Kenya's election commission dismissed Mr. Odinga's claim that the election had been hacked.

After bravado, blustering and threats of "fire and fury," could the war of words between North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump really be just that...Words? The Globe's Nathan VanderKlippe analyzed the threats made by Mr. Trump, and found they sounded familiar. It turns out Mr. Trump's rhetoric follows a similar pattern to tactics North Korea has employed for decades. A North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, phrased it best: "Mr. Trump has obviously secretly attended a workshop for aspiring diplomats in Pyongyang."

And a bizarre twist in the nascent diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba came to light yesterday. Last fall, several U.S. diplomats in Havana began reporting unexpected losses of hearing -- some cases were so severe that they were forced to return home early. U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with a sonic weapon operated around their residences. Five diplomats were hurt. The U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from Washington in May.

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on Emmanuel Macron: It turns out that "Jupiter," as the new President is nicknamed, does not walk on water. Not yet 100 days into office, Mr. Macron has seen his popularity plummet faster than almost any other modern French leader. Even his two immediate predecessors, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, had higher approval ratings at this point in their presidencies. And both ended up as one-term presidents.To avoid the same fate, or even accomplish much during his first term, Mr. Macron will need to persuade French voters that he is in it for them rather than himself. His early days have left the opposite impression.

Terry Glavin (Ottawa Citizen) on Afghanistan: "While Donald Trump's White House convulses in imbecilities and lurches from crisis to crisis, it is difficult to determine what will become of Trump's promised overhaul of the U.S. approach in Afghanistan, although he has been quite clear that he wants to wash his hands of the country altogether."

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) on John Kelly, the President's chief of staff: "Kelly, used to saluting and taking orders, seems unwilling to manage up, to persuade Trump to put down his phone, to stop obsessing over TV coverage and, most important, to avoid inflaming the North Korea situation. Kelly's method would work in a run-of-the-mill White House where the real problem was, for example, lack of coordination between the White House and Cabinet departments, or meetings that ran too long or reached no resolution. The main problem in this administration has always been Trump — and the unwillingness or inability of anyone, including relatives, to restrain his worst instincts. The time to stop humoring Trump, telling him what he wants to hear and shielding him from bad news, has long since passed."

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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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