Barely three days into a CN Rail strike on Wednesday, Quebec claimed its fuel supply was threatened, making Bloc leader Yves Blanchet’s earlier cheap talk about Alberta’s “petrol state” status in the Canadian federation worth about as much.
According to Quebec Premier François Legault, the province is down to five-days’ worth of propane and has begun rationing, 85 percent of the fuel comes to Quebec by rail and hospitals and longterm care centres have been given priority.
After being sworn-in a second time as Transport minister earlier the same day, Marc Garneau told reporters he would not estimate any resolution and dodged a question about implementing back-to-work legislation.
“We are very seized with this situation and we are very much working with the two sides, CN and the teamsters. We feel that there is a solution at hand,” Garneau told reporters at Rideau Hall.
“We believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re going to push them as hard as we can because this is very important from the economy perspective. We also believe in the collective bargaining process.”
A day later on Thursday, Garneau emerged from the first meeting of the new cabinet with much the same messaging, that he was “seized” by the issue, wouldn’t put a timeline on negotiations and he “believes” in the bargaining process.
Of other crises, this one significantly longer and also with economic consequences, is the incarceration of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, arrested in China on Dec. 10, 2018 and part of the communist regime’s diplomatic assault against us that includes ongoing agriculture embargoes.
This belligerence is viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, currently under house arrest and fighting extradition to the United States.
Meng was taken into custody at Vancouver International Airport Dec. 1, 2018 and is wanted in the U.S. for fraud and conspiracy charges. Less than a fortnight from that one-year anniversary, Trudeau faced questions about Canada-China relations in the wake of his cabinet reveal.
“We have always understood two things about China. Obviously China’s a global economy [for which Canadian business depends upon],”Trudeau told reporters after his ministers were sworn-in, on day 346 of Spavor and Kovrig’s incarceration.
“At the same time, Canadians expect us to stand up for our values and our rights, and we are going to do that.”
Trudeau was responding to a query on whether China’s “hostage diplomacy” would cause him “to revisit and reshape the government’s China policy with a new understanding of the regime and the situation.”
The PM’s complete response was as contradictory as Canada-China relations have been under this decades-old notion that we can coax nations to our liberal democratic way of doing things, simply by conducting business with them.
“There are opportunities for Canadian businesses, Canadian exporters, and Canadian investors… with better relations, economic relations with China,” said Trudeau, before reiterating condemnation of the “arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.”
On the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong and the fate of 300,000 Canadians who live there, Trudeau offered nothing new.
“We have repeatedly called upon China to respect the terms of the one country, two systems principles. We will continue to call for de-escalation and an end to violence.”
And so the ongoing challenges for the federal government on both the domestic and foreign front will continue to be a theme of Trudeau’s tenure as prime minister, and with the exception of a few cabinet post swaps, his minority government forges ahead with nothing in the way of a clear plan, at least not one that differs from the current strategy.
What’s in the rearview mirror will also haunt Trudeau this coming government, if Conservatives’ front bench pugilists Pierre Poilievre and Gerard Deltel are to be believed.
In either official language on Wednesday afternoon at West Block, they congratulated the PM for his cabinet picks, wished the government well before promising to resurrect the SNC-Lavalin scandal in committee and the bogus charges against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, if they could get the votes.
Poilievre went through a greatest hits of Conservative talking points; Bill C-69 “no more pipelines bill”; the carbon tax making the western business “impossible” but the thread of reality was the separatist sentiment on both sides of the country.
“It’s amazing. If I had told you three years ago that we risked the threat of a separatist movement with broad appeal in Alberta or Saskatchewan, you would’ve laughed, no one would’ve believed it,” Poilievre told reporters.
“But in one mandate Trudeau has ignited a (western) separatist movement… tat and the revitalization of the Bloc Quebecois, a movement that was dead four years ago.”
While few are laughing now about separatist rumblings in Canada, reporters had a chuckle when Poilievre shared his thoughts on Trudeau’s newest cabinet portfolio, the Ministry of Middle-Class Prosperity.
“I think it is a punchline,” said Poilievre.
“They raise taxes on the middle class but don’t worry. If you can’t afford to heat your home or drive your car, you’ve got a minister named after the middle class to make yourself feel better about it.”
Parliament reconvenes on Dec. 5 when a new speaker will be elected followed by a Speech from the Throne–the Liberal minority government’s plan, to be delivered by Governor General Julie Payette in the Senate chamber.