Second Trudeau administration launched on Nov.20 – with near impossible task of uniting Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s second administration was launched on Nov. 20, with a “mission impossible” to unite a divided Canada.

In the Oct. 21 general election, Trudeau’s Liberal Party failed to win a majority but narrowly retained power as a minority government, winning 157 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons, compared with 184 seats it won in the 2015 election. The Conservative Party led by Andrew Scheer garnered the largest popular vote of 34.5% as against the Liberals’ 32.9%, but won only 121-seat, though 28 seats more than four years ago.

Trudeau has said he will not form a coalition government with any of the opposition parties. He will have to work with different parties on an issue-by-issue basis to pass legislation. He is most likely to seek support from the Liberals’ most natural partner, the left-leaning New Democratic Party, with 25 seats, down 14 seats from 2015, on most liberal issues such as climate-change policies and other progressive issues. But it is still uncertain whether the Trudeau government can on the one hand cooperate with the NDP on the global warming and other social issues, while on the other hand work with the Conservatives on energy issues, such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

Most remarkable – or shocking to Trudeau – of the election results was that the Liberals were completely shut out of the two western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Conservative Party swept nearly every seat in the two provinces- 33 of the 34 ridings (the Canadian term for electoral districts) in Alberta and all the 14 ridings in Saskatchewan. The Liberals won not a single seat in these provinces, meaning there is no elected members to represent the region’s voice in the government.

“Within hours of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party winning re-election on Monday, a hashtag began trending in Canada that reflects the deep regional divisions that emerged from the poll: #Wexit, as in Western exit, or more specifically, Alberta separatism,” reported the Financial Times (Oct. 25). All Canadian news media also reported that tweets by frustrated voters supporting separation and independence from the federal government and greater autonomy have increased dramatically on social media, pointing to the deepening regional division between their Prairies and the Eastern provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Residents of Alberta and Saskatchewan, dependent on oil industry, have been frustrated by the Liberals’ global warming policies, such as the carbon tax, and energy policy, especially the delay in the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, a project to twin the existing oil pipeline from Alberta to a terminal near Vancouver, let their anger out in the general election. Their anger to the Liberals had exploded already last April when Albertans elected Conservative Jason Kenney the new premier, who blames the Liberals’ climate-change policies for the province’s worsening economy hard hit by slumping oil prices.

Separatism is rising not only in the western region. In Quebec, the separatist Bloc Quebecois won 32 seats, more than triple the seats it won in 2015, to become the third largest party in the Parliament, only after the Liberals and the Conservatives.

“It seems that Canadians have never been more divided,” says Greg Taylor, portfolio manager at Purpose Investments in Toronto (Reuters, Oct. 22). To address this situation, Trudeau in a significant shake-up of his cabinet, shuffled his former foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, who was born in northern Alberta, into a new and crucial domestic role as intergovernmental affairs minister, where she will work directly with provincial and territorial governments. Freeland, a former deputy editor of the Financial Times, has won Trudeau’s trust as she steered Canada through difficult negotiations with Washington on a new trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. She was also named deputy prime minister and is widely regarded as Trudeau’s successor.

Trudeau also tapped former intergovernmental affairs minister Jim Carr to serve as his special representative for the Prairies to ”ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. Carr was born and raised in Winnipeg.

Furthermore, Catherine McKenna, who in the first Trudeau government introduced tough environment standards, was replaced as the environment and climate change minister by Jonathan Wilkinson, who grew up in Saskatoon, attended the University of Saskatchewan, and favors the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Freeland quickly began to mend relations with the western provinces, visiting Alberta Premier Kenney in Edmonton on Nov. 25 and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe in Regina on Nov. 26, to listen to what they have to say about these provinces’ frustration, resentments and anger.” Premier Kenney “gave her a warm welcome at the provincial legislature as he pointed out her Alberta roots…. Mr. Kenney said he was confident they could find ‘common ground to be partners in prosperity.’” In Regina, Premier Moe said “he was encouraged by his meeting with Ms. Freeland, whom he applauded for making the trip to hear his concerns.” (Globe and Mail, Nov. 27)

They made a fairly good first step toward mending fences – just the first step. It is premature to be optimistic. Premier Moe said after his meeting with her that “the federal government has a chance to ‘reset’ its relationship with his province and other parts of the country,” but at the same time he reminded “it will take significant policy changes from the federal government to ‘reset’ the relationship with his province.” (Globe and Mail, Nov. 26)

In Parliament set to resume in Ottawa on Dec. 5 for the first time since the election, Governor General Julie Payette will deliver Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech from the throne, outlining the government’s priorities for the next session of parliament. A vote by MPs on the speech is considered a confidence vote and will be the first test of whether Trudeau’s minority government can survive.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

Will PM Trudeau be re-elected in the October election?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party are still in a damage control mode as their public support is hovering low following the prolonged “scandal.” Prospects for his re-election in the Canadian election in October look uncertain.

With the election less than five months to go, the latest average approval rate of various polls for Trudeau’s Liberal Party has plunged to 29.8%, the lowest since the launch of the administration four years ago – trailing the opposition Conservative Party by as big as 6.4 percentage points.

According to the CBC News (5/14), if the federal election is held today, the Conservatives would win a majority by 37% of certainty, while a plurality, if not a majority, with a 33% likelihood – for a combined 70% of certainty of the Conservatives becoming the No. 1 party, beating the Liberals.

Many of the Canadian news media predict that the Conservatives would win the election if it is held today. Yet, Canadian election and political pros argue that it’s too soon to count Mr. Trudeau out. The Economist and some other more matured, cool-headed news media say there is no way of knowing what would happen between now and October.

By analyzing various polls conducted by polling firms, institutions and media between mid-March and mid-April, Global News predicts Trudeau’s Liberal Party “is likely to win – but not by a majority” in the federal election scheduled for Oct. 21. (Global News, 4/22)

At the start of the year, the Liberals looked well-placed to win the October election – thanks partly to mediocre performance by new opposition party leaders, who have problems of their personal recognition with voters.

This optimistic mood changed overnight with the Globe and Mail scoop of Feb. 7. It said that the Prime Minister’s Office, including Trudeau himself, had put pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould, then justice minister and attorney-general to shelve the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group on bribery and fraud charges and grant an out-of-court settlement. If it’s true, this is the worst political scandal to hit the Trudeau administration ever since its inauguration, to be known soon, and dog the Prime Minister for over two months, as “SNC-Lavalin scandal.”

SNC-Lavalin, based in Montreal, Quebec – Trudeau’s home constituency – is one of Canada’s most important companies, employing nearly 9,000 in Canada and more than 50,000 worldwide. If it is convicted, the multinational engineering company would be banned from bidding in federal government contract projects for 10 years – which could potentially cost thousands of jobs in Canada, and diminish the Liberal Party’s, and Trudeau’s, political fortunes. Quebec is so special to Trudeau and his party that the Liberals dominated and maintained a substantial 17-point lead in the popular vote over the Conservatives in Quebec, even when support for the party eroded during the SNC-Lavalin controversy elsewhere. (Global News)

Ms. Wilson-Raybould, a former high-ranking Indigenous group leader, refused to revisit the case to rescue the company, despite the repeated pressure from the Prime Minister and his team. She was moved to the Veterans Affairs Minister job and vice minister of defense, a less important position, in the Jan.14 Cabinet reshuffle. She quit the Cabinet on Feb. 12, five days after the Globe and Mail broke the news.

Breaking weeks of silence, in the House of Commons Justice Committee on Feb. 27, she gave testimony – “often inflammatory and defiant” – describing vividly and in detail 10 meetings, 10 conversations and a series of emails about the SNC-Lavalin criminal case with senior government officials between September and December. She said that in those meetings and conversations, she received “inappropriate pressure” and “veiled threat,” but said that it was not illegal.

Five days later, Jane Philpott, another Cabinet minister, resigned her post as the Treasury Board chief, saying that trust with Trudeau has been lost. She said she disagreed with how Trudeau handled the matter. “There is very good evidence that there were attempts to have political interference with a very serious criminal trial, she said in an interview with the CBC. (Reuters, 4/4)

A physician, Dr. Philpott is regarded as one of the respected and most capable MPs in the Trudeau administration, and in her previous Cabinet posts, she carried out measures to accept Syrian refugees, legalization of recreational cannabis and doctor-assisted suicide – some of the Trudeau government’s few important measures. As the Indigenous affairs minister, she has had developed close trust relationship with Wilson-Raybould.

What Ms. Wilson-Raybould described in her testimony presented an image of Trudeau, “a self-described feminist, who had a new, open and transparent way of governing, sending aides to gang up on an Indigenous woman to bend her will.” (New York Times, 3/1) By appointing the Indigenous woman leader as the first Indigenous person to hold the prestigious post of justice minister, Trudeau was thought to be serious about correcting the country’s wrongs against its Indigenous population – as he had promised during the 2015 election. The Wilson-Raybould dispute particularly disappointed and angered women supporters and the Indigenous people.

But as the scandal dragged on to become the most serious political crisis for Trudeau, the two MPs continued to criticize the Prime Minister to the extent that they were seen by their party colleagues they were trying to down Trudeau. Liberal MPs, especially veterans frustrated by Trudeau’s handling of the “revolt” demanded Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott be expelled from the party. They were particularly upset by the fact that the former justice minister recorded a phone conversation with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, without his consent, and submitted it to the Justice Committee.

“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken, whether it’s taping conversations without consent, or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government or me personally as leader,” Trudeau said, when he decided that the two should be expelled from the party caucus. “Our political opponents win when Liberals are divided. We can’t afford to make that mistake. Canadians are counting on us.” (CBC, 4/2)

With this, Mr. Trudeau managed to put the prolonged scandal to an end so that he and his party can focus on a long election campaign – although it is yet to know whether they can regain lost ground by convincing voters they are the party that care about them and deliver better than divided opposition parties. Many pundits say that Canadian voters, as voters in other countries, are concerned more about daily life issues – the economy – than a political scandal, and that Mr. Trudeau has five months to regain what he can of his reputation and hope the scandal fades from voters’ minds by the time they return to the polls in October. As apolitical science professor at the University of Waterloo puts it, “It’s hard to say if [the scandal] will be on Canadians’ minds in August or September.” (New York Times, 3/1) Let’s keep watch.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

Shortage of legal cannabis may drag on into 2022 as cannabis edibles, drinks expected to cause ‘2nd wave’ of legalization in October

Much anticipated legalization of recreational cannabis went into force in Canada on Oct. 17 last year. Canada is the first to completely legalize cannabis nationally among the advanced countries, and the second to do so in the world, only after Uruguay. Four months have passed since then without big social confusion, except for empty store shelves spreading across the country soon after the legalization.

Persistent shortage of legal cannabis continues as high demand in the boom continuing since the legalization does not seem to be slowing soon. “Licensed producers have been adding capacity in droves. Millions of square feet of new greenhouse space has been built since last summer. But for every new gram produced, new demand is piling up as well.” (CBC News, Jan. 23)

The CEO of a major Canadian cannabis company predicts the current legal cannabis shortage will drag out into 2020 at the current pace of demand. U.S. media reports said that if this demand-supply situation continues, Canadians would have to turn to the black market for pot, even though it became legalized.

When recreational cannabis became legal last October, only dried and fresh cannabis, oil, plants and seeds were allowed. But, medical cannabis has been legal since 2001, and according to Statistics Canada, the medical cannabis market had grown to the size of 5.7 billion Canadian dollars already in 2017 – a year before the recreational cannabis legalization.

And this medical cannabis market still grows by about 5% a month, according to CBC News quoting Chuck Rifici, CEO of Toronto-based cannabis company Auxly. Cannabis users in the 15-64 age group total 4.9 million, accounting for 16% of all Canadians – and 90% of them are cannabis users for non-medical purposes, according to Reuters.

Now that Canadian adults can openly buy cannabis and cannabis oil at various licensed stores or on the Internet from licensed growers, and they even possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public space. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has forecast the recreational cannabis sales in Canada will reach 6.5 billion Canadian dollars by 2020 – almost equal to Canada’s wine market, according to CBC.

However, this market is expected to expand even faster and cannabis stock shortage to become more serious and prolonged as edible and drinkable cannabis products will be coming into the market in October. The federal government said last October that edibles containing cannabis and cannabis concentrates would become legal on or before Oct. 17, 2019. (CBC News, Nov. 12, 2018)

The same CEO predicts that in that event, the shortage could drag out for more years into 2022 before the industry has demand-supply equilibrium or oversupply.

Cannabis companies as well as beverage makers, food makers and even candy makers and chocolatiers have been busy to take the advantage of the coming “second wave” of cannabis legalization boom, making trial products – cannabis-infused drinks, cannabis chocolates, gummy bears – and all types of unique edible and drinkable cannabis products.

For example, “the makers of Corona beer and Kim Crawford wines teamed up with Canopy Growth and expect to roll out cannabis-infused beer and wine. Budweiser partnered with Tilray, and Molson-Coors created their own joint venture with Quebec-based Hexo” to develop non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused drinks in Canada. (CBC News, Jan. 23)

One survey report found 49% of probable cannabis users in Canada are willing to try edibles. An industry insider predicts edibles will prove to be a much larger segment of the industry than the current smokeable pot. “In the next 10 years, you’re going to see the smokeable cannabis (comprising) maybe only 10 to 20% of the market.” (ibid) Even sleep aids or sports recovery products using cannabis may be on the way to the market next October. Canadian cannabis users can’t wait.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

Marijuana legalization vs ‘Opioid crisis’

The Canadian Parliament approved in the Senate in June the bill, known as “Cannabis Act,” to lift the 95-year-old ban on cannabis and allow Canadian adults to openly smoke, ingest or grow the drug.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to delay the legalization until October to give the provinces more time to prepare for a smooth transition when the new law comes into force. This makes Canada the first developed country to legalize cannabis completely – not only medical marijuana but also recreational marijuana – nationwide.  In some U.S. states, recreational marijuana is legal, but the federal government bans marijuana for recreational consumption. In the world, Canada is second to Uruguay, where cannabis is legal nationwide.

As Trudeau said the government is treating cannabis the same as alcohol and tobacco, the federal legislation allows individuals to grow cannabis at home in small amounts. But Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said provinces can pass their own laws regarding home cultivation, apparently in consideration of opposition from Quebec and Manitoba, which wants to ban homegrown plants.

Canadian adults older than 18 years will be able to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana for recreational purposes but will get severely punished when they give the drug to minors.

The Parliament approval of the bill will reportedly lead to a legal multibillion-dollar industry being set to appear in Canada. Licensed producers will be allowed to start shipping dried cannabis to approved retailers across the country and to set up mail delivery. (Globe and Mail, June 19, June 20)

But, the historic move to lift the prohibition on cannabis since 1923 gives some people a sense of déjà vu since the Liberal Party had pledged as one of its campaign promises to legalize recreational marijuana in the 2015 elections, and also because medical marijuana has been already legal since 2001 – which has brought about the situation where, in addition to 50,000 approved marijuana users for medical purposes, some 500,000 Canadians are consuming marijuana for non-medical purposes even when the ban is still on recreational marijuana, according to Health Canada.

Opioid abuses

On the other side of the cannabis legalization, however, a serious situation of the spreading drug abuse is escalating in Canada.

The same week the marijuana legalization was approved by the Parliament, the federal government released figures showing that almost 4,000 people in Cana dies in opioid-related deaths in 2017. That’s 11 people every day – or one person is dying every over two hours. “Canada’s opioid overdose rate is a national health crisis. And it’s getting worse.” (Globe and Mail, June 20)

The number of deaths in 2017 – exactly 3,987 – was 34% higher, or 1,126 more than 2016. This exceeded the deaths from AIDS when the dreadful disease raged. The Canadian government is increasingly having a sense of crisis, as media play this up as “Canada’s national health crisis” or “Opioid crisis.”

Of these opioid overdose deaths, 72% involved prescription and illicit fentanyl – up from 55% in 2016. The majority of deaths involved men and nearly 30% of all opioid-related deaths occurred in people aged 30 to 39 – most of them obtaining illicit fentanyl on the street. (The Globe and Mail, June 19) Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, as powerful as 30 to 50 times as effective as heroine and 50 to 100 times as effective as morphine in alleviating pain.

Nearly 90% of all opioid-related deaths come from the three hardest-hit provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Of these, 1,399 died in opioid-related deaths in B.C., 1,127 in Ontario, and 714 in Alberta – accounting for 3,240 of the overall 4,000.

The fact that Canada is the world’s second highest per capita consumer of opioids, such as oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl, illustrates how serious Canada’s “Opioid Crisis” is.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump, alarmed by the “worst ever situation,” declared last October the opioid crisis a public health emergency, although falling short of declaring “a national emergency.” In 2015, 33,000 Americans died from opioid-related drug abuses, and the number of opioid-related deaths further jumped to the “worst level” in 2016, according to a UN Office in Drugs and Crime. In the U.S. 100 people are dying from drug overdoses. Another FDA report shows that more than 59,000 people died from drug overdoses, including opioid drugs, in 2016. (Financial Times, Dec. 12, 2017) Michael Jackson was known to have been taking two kinds of opioids – OxyContin and Demerol – every day. It was reported he had had a Demerol shot shortly before his death.

It is not that the Canadian government has done nothing. Health Canada has stepped up regulatory measures to tighten the legal use of opioids and plans new restrictions on drug companies’ marketing and advertising activities to promote prescriptions of opioids.

So far, some dozen opioid makers, including Perdue Pharma, have responded to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s call on pharmaceutical companies to stop promoting opioids, by suspending activities such as sales representatives’ visits to doctors, which could lead to the overprescribing of opioids, and ads in medical journals.

Canada’s opioid epidemic traces its roots to the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, when Health Canada approved OxyContin as prescription painkiller, which Perdue had promoted in North America as safer and less addictive than other opioids, encouraging doctors to prescribe opioids more widely for everything from back pain to fibromyalgia. Until then, opioids had been used primarily for terminal cancer patients. (Globe and Mail, June 27, July 10)

The government has also stepped up measures to slow the smuggling of illicit fentanyl from China and elsewhere – a major culprit of the recent sharp spike in opioid overdose deaths, replacing OxyContin. Police and prosecutors across the country have also intensifying crackdown on the gangs and dealers that sell illegal opioids.

Despite these government efforts, a solution to this “opioid crisis” is not found easily while the huge oversupply opioids in all forms, and the same huge demand for the drug do not show any signs of decreasing.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS


Canadian birders trying to make Canada jay the National Bird of Canada

At last, Canadians – and Canadian bird lovers in particular – will soon have their National Bird of Canada.

Many countries of the world have their national birds that symbolize their countries and national features. Japan’s national bird is the Japanese green pheasant (“kiji”), which the Ornithological Society of Japan designated as such in 1947. Choosing national birds began in 1782 when the United States named the bold eagle as its national bird. Britain made the European robin its national bird and India chose the Indian peacock as its symbol bird. But, despite the vast nature and abundant wild life, with more than 450 species of birds thriving, Canada has never had its own national bird.

And so, a group of devoted Canadian birders, together with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, worked for two years to designate Canada’s feathered representative, to make their selection in time for the country’s 150th anniversary – Canada Day on July 1, 2017. They chose the gray jay as Canada’s national bird and the Society made official recommendation some seven months before the 150th national birthday. But the federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not act on the recommendation, just saying there were no plans to adopt any new national symbols.

There are at least several animal and floral symbols representing Canada adopted through the Parliament’s legislation. The most famous is probably the beaver. The sugar maple, whose leaf design is placed in the center of the national flag designated in 1964, is the national flow, national plant or national tree.

These birders and ornithologists’ efforts took a significant flight forward this spring when the English name for Perisoreus canadensis – known as the gray jay for the past 60 years – was changed to its original name, the Canada jay.

“What could be a more perfect bird for Canada, besides all the other reasons why it makes a great choice, than having it named after our country?” said David Bird, professor emeritus of McGill University in Montreal and ornithologist, who is among those leading the effort to have the gray jay formally recognized as a national symbol.  (The Globe and Mail, May 21) (The professor’s name, David Bird, is real.)

Although the bird had been known as the Canada jay since the early 1800s, it became the gray jay in 1957 and remained that way until a proposal to the North American Classification Committee of the American Ornithological Society last year. The name change will be announced in the July supplement of the American Ornithological Society’s publication, The Auk.

Canadian birders in general and Canada jay enthusiasts in particular have been unhappy since the American Ornithological Society changed the name for the Canada jay and the Oregon jay to the gray jay in 1957. Even more offending was the fact that they use the American spelling “gray” instead of the British and Canadian spelling of “grey.” Some of the Canadian newspapers still insist on spelling “grey” for the gray jay. (Toronto Star, July 6, 2017)

The gray jay is also known as the “whiskey jack, “ coming from the Wisakedjak – a First Nations mythological figure, but Canadians are not happy that the Canadian figure’s name is spelled as “whiskey” meaning bourbon or American whiskey, instead of whisky for Scotch and Canadian whiskies.  Professor Bird says that as Americans call the bold eagle the American eagle, so Canadians should also call the Canadian bird whatever they like – the Canada jay, instead of the gray jay suggested 60 years ago by Americans.

The process of selecting the National Bird of Canada began in January 2015. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society launched a two-year project called “National Bird Project,” which included an online contest lasting for 18 months as well as public debates and consultations with ornithologists and other experts. Nearly 50,000 Canadians voted for their favorite birds out of the 450 species of the bird, contributing comments, to choose the Top 5 by popular vote – gray jay, common loon, snowy owl, black-capped chickadee and Canada goose.

The gray jay was officially chosen for the National Bird of Canada and announced by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in late 2016 in time for the official designation of the bird as Canada’s symbol to mark the 150th celebrations. But as mentioned in the above, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the official government keeper of symbols, responded with a cool statement saying “At this time, the government of Canada is not actively considering proposals to adopt a bird as a national symbol.” (New York Times, Dec.6, 2017)

Professor Bird and those on “Team Canada Jay” say there could be no other choice than the Canada jay. As he argues in documents such as Why Canada Should Have a National Bird and the 17-point The Canada Jay For Canada’s National Bird, the jay is clever and tough, doesn’t migrate in the winter, can breed in frigid temperatures … He says, “I just feel that this bird so embodies Canadian personality and psyche. It’s so friendly, it’s intelligent, it’s hearty. And that, to me, epitomizes the Canadian spirit.” (The Globe and Mail, May 21)

The birds also have a strong connection to First Nations culture and are sometimes called whisky jacks (or whiskey jacks), a name derived from Wisakedjak, meaning prankster or trickster. Gray jays were companions of First Nations hunters and trappers and European explorers in early days, and are today common visitors in mining and lumber camps and research stations, and follow hikers and skiers down trails in provincial, territorial and national parks. In some First Nations folklore, Wisakedjak is a shape-shifter who appears frequently as the gray jay, a messenger of the forest, and with chattering and whistles the bird gives an early warning to hunters of nearby predators. There are even stories of gray jays singing from tree to tree to lead a lost hunter home.
(mother nature network, Meet the gray jay, Canada’s new national bird, Dec. 8, 2016)

Birders don’t give up easily, despite the Trudeau government’s cool response. Professor Bird says he is prepared to walk across Canada and gather a million signatures for the Canada jay.

Photos of the Canada jay, as well as the cover of the Canadian Geographic featuring the Canada jay, are found in this cbc story at


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

PM Trudeau under fire for being soft on Chinese firm’s takeover of Canadian satellite-technology company

This past summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government came under heavy fire from Canadians and Conservative politicians, as well as the U.S. defense and security professionals for Ottawa’s approval of a controversial Chinese firm’s takeover of a Vancouver satellite technology company without full-fledged national security review. This revealed Trudeau’s and his Liberal government’s very soft and “naïve” stance toward national security matters – and China.

This Canadian company, Norsat International sells military-sensitive satellite technologies and materials to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Its defense clients also include the Republic of Ireland Department of Defense, Taiwan Army and Scandinavian defense forces.

Therefore, the sale of Norsat to the Chinese firm, Hytera Communications Corp. of Shenzhen, should have substantial implications on the national security of not only Canada but also Western allies. But Trudeau’s Liberal Party government approved the sale after only routine security screening that all foreign takeovers of Canadian companies undergo – without conducting a full-scale national security review properly – required by law for the sale of companies that might affect Canada’s national security.

Canada’s Investment Canada Act requires full-scale scrutiny of proposed acquisition of Canadian companies by foreign companies when the acquisition raises concerns that national security might be affected. The clause requiring such strict security review was added to the Act during the Harper Conservative government to avoid any ad hoc decision that often causes national security controversy.

Trudeau, however, refuted at a news conference that there is no need to do any further reviews of the sale of Norsat to the Chinese telecom firm and that the sale will not harm Canada’s national security. He defended strongly his government’s decision to allow the Chinese firm to take over Norsat, saying that Canada’s professionals of national security agencies unearthed no significant national security risk in the initial government review and concluded that there are no further reviews needed.

Since media first reported about Norsat’s sale to Hytera in June, Trudeau’s comments flip-flopped. When asked by the Globe and Mail, he first said a full-fledged review was done, but it turned out that the government review was a preliminary review. He also said his government consulted with U.S. officials before deciding to approve Norsat’s sale, but would not disclose who in the U.S. Trump administration, neither what reaction the U.S. administration officials made.

U.S. national security experts are not easy to be convinced. The U.S. government, apparently concerned about the Norsat deal, was going to review on its own all Norsat contracts with Pentagon, saying that the takeover by a Chinese telecom giant of the Canadian company that supplies materials and technologies to the U.S. military would likely to have serious impacts on the U.S. security.

Norsat’s clients also include major media, such as CBS TV and Reuters, as well as NAV Canada, operator of the country’s civil air navigation service. The transfer of Norsat’s sensitive technologies used in the military, civil aviation and media to a Chinese company – which means in China that these technologies will eventually fall into the hands of the Chinese government and the military – will have no small implications on national security. But, Trudeau said – almost nonchalantly – in the Parliament in response to Opposition members that it would be no big deal from where and which company the particular technology comes. “It doesn’t matter what country it’s from or what deal it is.” (Globe and Mail, June 27)

These concerns about possible national security risks further increase when you are reminded that in March, Motorola Solutions of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Hytera, a giant radio transceiver and other wireless equipment manufacturer, alleging that the Chinese firm had obtained proprietary information illegally. Motorola claimed that three of its former engineers stole more than 7,000 proprietary technology files and provided them to Hytera. (Space News, June 15)

Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, said: “A review by CSIS would have warned that investments by the same Chinese company have raised security concerns in other countries.” According to Dr. Byers, Hytera’s takeover of a mobile digital-radio equipment maker in Cambridge, Britain, was only approved after strict security protections were imposed. (Globe and Mail, June 22)

A billionaire Chen Qingzhou owns majority of the company, but a Chinese sovereign owns more than 2% of the share.

Hytera said in a statement in reply to the Globe and Mail in June that it would “strictly obey local laws and regulations,” but did not make committal reply on how it intends to maintain contracts with clients, including the U.S. military. (Globe and Mail, June 27)

This is not the first case. In March this year, the Trudeau government reversed the decision by the former Conservative government that had blocked the sale of ITF Technologies to Hong Kong-based O-Net Communications, which is partially owned by the Chinese government. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had opposed the takeover on grounds that it would result in the transfer of advanced military laser technology to China, eroding military advantage of Canada and its Western allies and raising their security risks.

CSIS officials considered O-Net is effectively controlled by the Chinese state as the company’s corporate statement indicates more than 25% of its shares are owned by a company that is subsidiary of Chinese state-owned China Electronics Corporation. (Globe and Mail, Jan. 23)

Needless to say, an overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose the sale of these two domestic high-technology companies with military customers to the controversial, if not suspicious, Chinese investors. A poll by Nanos Research conducted in late June found that 76% of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose the takeover of Norsat (18% support or somewhat support), and nearly four-fifth or 78% of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose China’s purchase of Montreal-based ITF Technologies. (Globe and Mail, July 2)

Prime Minister Trudeau has made deepening trade and economic relations with China a key foreign policy objective of his administration since he took power almost two years ago. Ottawa is now in the midst of exploratory free-trade talks.

Critics like Andrew Scheer, who became Conservative Party leader in May, are accusing the Liberal government of trying to “appease” China as it aims to negotiate free-trade agreement, by forgoing full national-security reviews. The center-left New Democratic Party (NDP) also has criticized, saying “This is not the same as selling to New Zealand. This is selling to a country with clear global ambitions and zero democratic accountability.”

It is well-known that China has introduced advanced Western technologies (by stealing, or forcing technology transfer through mergers and joint ventures) to modernize the industry and turn them to military use. It is also widely suspected that China is eager to conclude free-trade agreements with industrially advanced countries like Canada, because, once it has a free-trade agreement, Chinese firms’ investment in, or acquisition of, sensitive high-tech companies would be approved more smoothly without causing national security and nationalistic controversies.

It’s almost two years since Justin Trudeau took power, and has received praise for his generous policies to take more refugees into Canada and liberal social policies, including his personal sympathy for sexual minorities. But many of Canadians, including his supporters, are hoping that he realizes that it’s about time to learn about China’s nature and understand that Canada is a member of the Western alliance and responsible for the allies’ security, not just Canada’s. Otherwise, Canada’s neighbors cannot sleep well – including Japanese.

Shareholders of Norsat on June 22 voted in favor of the Hytera takeover.

Since the start of the Trudeau government, Chinese investment cases in Canada have been conspicuously increasing in non-military but strategically important sectors – not just in military and security-related areas. Some examples. In February, Ottawa approved the sale of one of British Columbia’s biggest retirement-home chains to a Beijing-based insurance giant with a murky ownership structure, giving Anbang Insurance Group a foothold in Canada’s health-care sector.

In July, a company with ties to a state-created Chinese investment firm, GM resorts, acquired the Grouse Mountain ski resort and entertainment complex owned by the McLaughlin family since 1989 – an important Vancouver landmark – causing shocks and concerns to local people. The new owners promised no changes to staff, management or operations, but many are wondering about the ultimate intentions of the company and its Chinese affiliate.

Justin Trudeau’s father and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, one of Canada’s most respected politician, recognized China and opened diplomatic ties with Beijing on Oct. 13, 1970, ahead of the U.S. any other Western allies, and maintained close relations with China. Therefore, the son is said by many observers to be highly conscious – probably more conscious than any other politician – about the father’s achievements and this may be influencing his China policy. But he must remember that his father was not just nice to China.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, Senior Consultant, TOCS

Surge of international students at Canadian universities, B-schools

Canadian universities are increasingly popular with international students. Particularly, interests from American students are rising to record levels, as more of them appreciate Canada as a tolerant, stable and freer nation of more diversity in a world beset by political uncertainty, and division within countries.

According to the Globe and Mail (May 14), unprecedented numbers of international students are coming to Canadian universities this fall, with some institutions seeing jumps of 25% or more in admission of students from abroad.

Applications from international students were up by double digits this year, with record levels of interest from American students. Many observers had suggested that the election of Donald Trump was a reason.

At the University of Alberta, for example, the percentage of international students who have accepted admission offers has increased 27% from last year. The school has also seen an increase of some 82% in applications from graduate students from abroad.

David Turpin, the university president, says the rising tide of isolationism and exclusion in Europe and in the United States has had people look to Canada. “We will have these incredible students who will be educated in Canada, and in many, many cases go back home and build linkages that are crucial for our future development,” he said. (Globe and Mail, May 14)

Numbers are similar across the country. The University of Toronto, Canada’s top-ranking higher-education institution, has doubled the percentage of American students accept an offer, after it has been recruiting students in the U.S. this past year.  At Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, acceptances by international students are up 40%. Even smaller institutions, such as Brock University in St. Catharines, are expecting more than 30% more international students to arrive in the fall term.

This trend is same in Canadian business schools. The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management reports a 34% spike in applications from international students, as of March this year, compared with a year ago – although applications from abroad was strong as well last year, up 20% over 2015. (Globe and Mail, March 20)

In contrast, a new survey released in mid-March of 250 U.S. universities and colleges found 39% of respondents reporting a decline in international applications (for all programs, not just business). The survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers also found 35% recording an increase and 26% seeing no change in demand.

One of the major reasons international students choose Canada as their study destination is Canada’s immigration policies friendly to foreign students. Unlike anti-immigrant policies in the U.S. and Britain that impose study and post-graduation restrictions on foreign students, it is relatively easy to secure a work permit after graduation.  Furthermore, with a three-year work permit, graduates can have time to apply for permanent residency in Canada, as many of them actually do.

Uganda-born Helen Kobusinge, who graduated this spring from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, now works as a senior accountant for KPMG in Kingston. She says she chose Canada partly for its immigration policies that offer a post-graduation work permit of up to three years for eligible candidates. “This opportunity I found was much better in Canada than other countries,” she said. (Globe and Mail, June 8)

According to new data released recently by the U.S.-based Graduate Management Admission Council, Canada rose to a top-five list of international study destination between 2009 and 2016. Canada moved into second place last year (from fifth in 2009) as a destination for prospective MBA students from Africa – although the U.S. and Britain typically are preferred choices. Over the same period, Canada climbed into third spot (from fifth in 2009) for students from Central and South Asia, and stood fifth last year as a preferred location for prospective students from the U.S. and the Middle East.

Many Canadian schools are taking measures to follow up on growing admissions of international students. David Dunne, director of MBA programs at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business, says that it is not easy for these students to come and slot into Canadian culture and that schools have the onus to create a supportive environment for foreign students. “At Gustavson, with two-thirds of the MBA class from overseas, the entire cohort participates in a three-week orientation that includes time outdoors, including the woods, to learn about sustainability,” he says, adding that students also meet local First Nation leaders during the orientation.

Some business school officials, however, caution that foreign students’ rising interests in Canadian schools would not last long, unless there are some assurances that studying at Canadian universities, especially business schools, will lead to good job opportunities – not just such university supports for international students, before and after their arrival, including scholarships.

Interests in Canadian universities are increasing fast not just from students but from researchers and scholars who are giving closer look at the research environment and infrastructure in Canada. This is partly due to deteriorating political situations and the research environment in the U.S. and Europe, as in the case of international students looking to Canada, but equally as a result of Canadian universities and local governments’ stepped-up efforts.

Some prominent Canadian universities are in the midst of ambitious internationalization drives, including recruiting globally recognized researchers and professors. At the University of British Columbia, for example, money from an increase in international student fees is targeted toward the creation of the President’s Excellence Chairs Program. Six research areas will see a substantial boost in research heft, with each chair receiving as much as $10 million to $15 million to set up research labs or teams. (Globe and Mail, May 14)

Those positions are in addition to the university responding to inquiries from professors from abroad. “There has been very significant interest from scholars from around the world in moving to UBC,” said Santa Ono, UBC’s president. Faculty members wishing to relocate to Canada have been approaching his university, he says.

The University of Toronto’s computer science department has recruited about 20 new professors over the past two years. Ravin Balakrishnan, the chair of computer science, observes: “Some number of people over the years have always expressed that Canada may be a middle ground between the United States and Europe. We have a lot of the positives of the tech-savvy and energy of the U.S., but some of the safety net of European countries. May be that has been enhanced due to world events.” (Globe and Mail, May14) Research-funding packages and the opportunity to work with other professors at the beginning of their careers have been more important draws in attracting new hires, Dr. Balakrishnan adds.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

Canada kept busy dealing with growing influx of asylum seekers fleeing Trump’s America

The number of asylum seekers crossing the border illegally from the U.S. into Canada has been rising rapidly since the turn of the year, keeping Canadian police and refugee officials busy. During the first two months of 2017, 1,134 asylum seekers were intercepted by Canadian police guarding the borders while crossing over from the U.S. into Canada. The number is already nearly half the total of illegal border crossers arrested during 2016. Most of them have been arrested when they tried to enter Quebec from New York. (Of the total, 677 were caught in Quebec, 161 in Manitoba, 291 in British Columbia and five in Saskatchewan.)

Most of these asylum seekers are fleeing the United States following a crackdown by President Donald Trump on illegal immigrants, migrants and refugees. Janet Dench, executive director of the Montreal-based Canadian Council for Refugees, said Trump’s policies had been a contributing factor to illegal crossings. “Some people who have been coming to Canada have said that they had been in the U.S., had not planned to come to Canada but now feel unsafe in the United States,” she said. (Globe and Mail, March 24)

In the first two months of this year, the federal government dealt with 5,520 claims for asylum, including those asylum seekers from the U.S. who cross the Canadian border illegally on foot, compared with 2,500 in the same time frame in 2016. If this high pace of influx continues, asylum seekers would easily exceed the 2016 total of 23,895 and reach more than 30,000.

It is those asylum seekers from the U.S. that are making the headline almost every day in Canadian media, arousing sympathy of people in the world, who saw images of families, arriving on foot in deep snow and freezing temperature near the border in Quebec and Manitoba, dragging suitcases, to be arrested by RCMP officers for illegally crossing the border and taken to custody.

Especially, moving many Canadians and striking the chord of people in the world were images reported by Canadian media of a young girl, carrying her doll and small suitcase, while her family from Turkey being escorted by RCMP officers as they illegally cross the Canada-U.S. border into Hemmingford, and a man carrying several bags in one hand and his young son in the other as he wades the snowy marshland to illegally cross the border into Canada.

Most of these asylum seekers are those from Muslim-majority countries, or those who have been staying and even working in the U.S. for many years since they smuggled into the U.S. – who fear they might be caught and deported by the Trump administration. In January, Trump issued an executive order that put a temporary ban on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, and a 90-day ban on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Iraq was removed from the list in the second version of the ban. Refugees from Djibouti and Romania – many of whom are illegal immigrants in the U.S. – are reported to be increasing.

Furthermore, encouraging those illegal border crossers into Canada is the announcement by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that his country would welcome those fleeing persecution after Trump issued the executive order.

These asylum seekers make more difficult and dangerous, sometimes deadly, illegal crossing the border on foot into Canada, rather than through the official border crossings, because of the 2004 Canada-U.S. “Safe Third Country Agreement,” under which Canada does not allow foreign refugees claimants who landed in the U.S. through its official border crossings. But if they can physically get onto Canadian soil any way, they will be arrested, detained, released and given an assessment, a hearing and a right to appeal. (Globe and Mail, Feb. 24)

f they are illegal migrants in the U.S., they would immediately be sent back to the U.S. and deported, when they claim refugees in Canada at the official crossings.

Hemmingford, a small town of 800 residents near the border in southern Quebec, directly south of Montreal, is called the “Gateway to Canada.” Most asylum seekers from the U.S. head for the Canadian town by walking down the snowy road surrounded by thick forests from Champlain, northeaster edge of New York State, where they arrive by bus or even by taxi paying exceptionally expensive fare.

Another key entry point for these asylum seekers from the U.S. is Emerson, Manitoba, where they arrive through frigid wilds of Minnesota. There is a community of Somalians in Minneapolis.  In early March, the worst blizzard of the season raged in the area. Some of the asylum seekers were blown off by the snow storm with winds reaching 100km per hour, but, luckily, no one was killed.

Federal officials are stepping up preparations for all scenarios involving the influx of asylum seekers from the U.S. – from a further rise in numbers in coming weeks and months to spring floods that could put migrants at risk in Manitoba.

ublic Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says that contingency planning is continuing, involving RCMP and CBSA (Canada Border Services agency), pointing to the fact that the Red River goes through Emerson, and that the government must be ready for spring floods. He announced in Emerson an additional federal support of $30,000 for the town.

When spring comes, it will become much easier for these illegal asylum seekers to cross the border, while crossing the snowy border on foot in the freezing-cold winter is a dangerous tour for them even though the border is unguarded at most points without fences or walls.

Canada is a country with huge land. It receives as many as 300,000 immigrants annually this year to sustain the economic vitality. In addition, it takes some 40,000 refugees from abroad, through strict security and other reviews. (In 2016, Canada accepted 55,800 refugees, because of the special quota for Syrian refugees.) To allow refugee seekers from the U.S. to stay in Canada, it will cost the federal government considerable additional budget to finance, first controlling the illegal border crossers, and then keeping them for years in Canada until decision on their status is made by authorities.

In towns like Emerson and Hemmingford, many of the communities organize volunteers to help the asylum seekers from the U.S. Some of them even build housing facilities for the asylum seekers. But, these towns’ few ambulances and paramedics are always preoccupied with attending these asylum seekers and townspeople will be left without ambulance services, according to media reports.

As spring nears in these northern regions and problems of refugee seekers’ influx threaten to be prolonged, recent polls show that nearly half of Canadians think that Canada should not let asylum seeker into the country any more. Some 48% respondents said they supported “increasing the deportation of people living in Canada illegally,” according to the Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls taken in early March. Meanwhile 36% supported the federal government policy, saying Ottawa is doing good job about the asylum refugees. However, opposition parties, especially the Conservatives, argue those illegal border crossers make Canada “less safe” and that they should be deported to the U.S. upon being arrested. They say images of asylum seekers illegally walking into Canada, crossing the unguarded 8,900 km long border, give an impression to terrorists that Canada is a country they can easily enter, to put the country’s security at risk.

Prime Minister Trudeau seems to be stubbornly sticking to his policies friendly and compassionate to refugees and asylum seekers. And President Trump does not seem to relax his tough immigration policies soon.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, Senior Consultant, TOCS

Canada warily awaits President Trump’s debut

Donald Trump was elected the next U.S. President in the November election, defying all predictions and wishes against him. In Canada, which had opposed his presidency long before the election, more vehemently than any country, probably except Mexico, politicians and citizens are equally shocked by Trump’s victory.

Three weeks before the Jan. 20 inauguration, the Trump administration is taking shape as names of people for major White House and Cabinet posts are being announced. While the world is watching anxiously what the Trump presidency would bring to them, Canadian people still seem to be having difficulty to accept Trump’s “surprise” victory – now already two months earlier.

There seemed to be no end of stories in Canadian news media until recently on how President Trump would affect Canada. Some of them are still talking about how unfit Donald Trump is as a (U.S.) president in terms of policies and personal quality. (Back in the U.S., Democrats’ last-ditch efforts to topple the Trump presidency by demanding recounting of votes in some states and attempt to make some of presidential electors’ revolt to Hillary Clinton from the Trump camp all failed.)

Meanwhile, articles are now appearing in media, telling Canadians to play nice with Trump and get along with President Trump’s America as Trump is the president of the neighboring country but not the president of Canada, and it was American people that elected Trump their president and there are nothing Canadians do about this.

David MacNaughton, Trudeau’s ambassador to Washington, tells the Globe and Mail (Dec. 2) “there are plenty of mutually beneficial interests for Mr. Trump and Mr. Trudeau to pursue, despite wildly divergent world views.”

A foreign policy for any country is something like that, and Canadian governments have worked for so long to make relations with the most important, big country south of the border – the United States – as much as predictable with many agreements and arrangements and rules they made. But Donald Trump won the election with the promise to dismantle all those things to restart from the beginning. Trump has vowed not only to withdraw from the yet-to-become-effective 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty but also “repeal or renegotiate” the 22-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the very first day of his presidency to “Make America Great Again.” What would actually happen to these campaign promises is probably the greatest concern for Canada.

Barrie McKenna in his Globe and Mail column (Nov.9) called Trump’s stunning upset over Clinton “a worst-case scenario for Canada’s trade-dependent economy.” Canada is the most trade-dependent among G7 countries.

President Trump is going to promote the most protective agenda since President Nixon. He has threatened to repeal NAFTA and impose 45% and 35% of tariffs, respectively, on China and Mexico. In his “Contract with the American Voter” he proposed during campaign he has vowed to “renegotiate or repeal” NAFTA on the very first day. Repealing the North American free-trade agreement could also result in significantly higher tariffs on Canadian exports entering the United States – the destination for nearly three-quarters of Canada’s merchandise exports.

NAFTA’s demise would be the equivalent of a 10% across the board tariff on U.S.-bound goods and services, according to recent analysis by the EDC. That would send Canadian exports plunging 4.5%, trigger a nearly 4% drop in GDP and cost this country 737,000 jobs, the EDC report says. (Globe and Mail, Nov. 9)

Of course, Canada is not the target of President Trump’s NAFTA and other trade policies, but Mexico is. Whether Canada is Trump’s target or not, Canada would equally suffer as Mexico would if NAFTA is allowed to be dismantled or shaken up to meet the U.S. interests. That’s why Primer Minister Trudeau said immediately after Trump won the election that the Canadian government is ready to renegotiate to make sure Canada will be a party of a new NAFTA. How the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress would like to do with NAFTA is yet to be seen, however.

It is feared that the election of President Trump will also seriously jeopardize the effectiveness of the efforts to slow the global climate change. Candidate Trump had said he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement of the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which President Obama had used his leadership with Prime Minister Trudeau to be concluded.

Prime Minister Trudeau has carefully worked on measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris agreement, while paying attention to avoiding as much damages as possible to industries. But, should the Trump administration pull out of the Paris agreement, it would become very difficult for the Canadian government to sell its policies to reduce carbon emissions with carbon taxes to greenhouse gas emitters at home. Carbon-intensive industries may find an incentive to move to a jurisdiction with lower environmental controls, if the Trump administration rolls back moves to put a price on carbon in the U.S.

f the largest CO2 emitter does not believe in the climate change, then measures to reduce carbon emissions would become meaningless.

President Trump, however, is not always bad news. The Obama administration delayed and delayed its decision on the approval of the north-south pipeline project, Keystone XL, for six years – and then, for reasons of Democratic Party politics, declined soon after the Liberal Party’s Trudeau took office. But President Trump as candidate made building the Keystone XL pipeline one of 18 points in his “Contract with the American Voter,” vowing to approve it on the first day in the White House.

For the Trudeau government and the Canadian oil industry, the building of Keystone XL – which would send more than 1 million barrels of oil sand crude from Alberta to Gulf area in Texas – would unblock an economic and political logjam. It would mean more Canadian oil flowing to market by the most cost-effective and least politically controversial means possible. That would be a large and unexpected gift for Mr. Trudeau. (Globe and Mail editorial, Nov. 9)

While all other major pipelines under consideration in Canada cross provincial boundaries and native-land claims and all involve troublesome negotiations with the provinces, and with the First Nations, the route of Keystone XL is almost entirely in the U.S. – which means the environmental and political risks are all south of the border. Encouraged or not by Trump’s victory, Prime Minister Trudeau, who had been cautious about the pipeline issue, announced in December his government’s approval of the building of some of controversial pipelines in Canada.

Very wisely, liberal and outspoken Trudeau did not criticize Candidate Trump during the campaign, in sharp contrast with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and other politicians, who denounced Trump for his misogyny and discriminatory remarks against minorities, and in some cases, overtly racist messages. Trudeau, who says he may be able to get along with President Trump, may be able to build a new “special relationship” with Trump’s America. Some Canadian media are talking about such optimistic expectations.

Once upon a time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s father and one of the greatest Canadian prime ministers, said that living next to the United States was like sleeping with an elephant: Even if the beast is friendly and even-tempered, his enormous bulk means that Canada is affected by every twitch and grunt. (Globe and Mail editorial, Nov. 11) Canada has not many choices but play nicely with the new elephant, whether it is friendly, even-tempered and predictable, or not.


Yoshikazu Ishizuka, Senior Consultant, TOCS

Liberal government allowing more immigrants to come to Canada; Over 300,000 newcomers landed in past year, highest since 1971

Canada is known as a multi-ethnic, multi-culture country friendly to newcomers. Even during the past 10 years of the Conservative rule, new immigrants were arriving in Canada constantly every year. Immigrants have been increasing rapidly since the Liberal Party took power a year ago. When antipathy is rising toward immigrants in the U.S., Britain and many other countries — as shown by the Donald Trump phenomenon and Brexit — Canada is increasing the immigration target for years to come, and even relaxing regulations on incoming temporary foreign workers is being discussed.

According to the latest Statics Canada report of its annual population count, in the past year to July, 320,932 immigrants landed in the country, the largest annual number since at least July 1971, when comparable records started. That is a steep 33.3% increase over the previous 12 months, the fastest growth in nearly three decades. In 2015, 240,844 immigrants came to Canada.

These immigrants include Syrian refugees, who began arriving in Canada in November 2015 as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise during the campaign. At last count, Canada had welcomed 30,862 refugees, with thousands more still to be processed.

Statics Canada says that Canada had not received such a large number of immigrants in a single annual period since the early 1910s during the settlement of Western Canada. The country’s population subsequently rose 1.2% in the year to 36.3 million (preliminary estimates), or an increase of 437,815 people – the biggest gain since 1988-89.

Despite such sharp increases in the past year, Immigration Minister John McCallum has said he wants to boost immigration levels substantially in the coming years to help alleviate the demographic challenges of an aging population. The government’s immigration target was about 300,000 immigrants, a jump from 240,844 immigrants in 2015. McCallum said that Canadians support higher levels, adding that he would expand the temporary foreign-worker program so that more temporary foreign workers can come to work in Canada.

(In fact, aging of Canada’s population has been progressing fast, if not so fast as Japan’s. A record number of Canadians — six million — were at least 65 years of age as of July 1, compared with 5.8 million children. By comparison, in 1986, there were twice as many children as people who were 65 and older. Immigration is a critically important policy measure to sustain Canada’s economic growth.)

However, the federal government’s own internal polling has shown that most Canadians are satisfied with current levels (which, at the time of the poll, were around 250,000). In a Nanos Research survey conducted for The Globe and Mail in August, 39% of respondents said the government should accept fewer immigrants in 2017 than this year, while 37% said the country should receive the same amount in 2017. Only 16% said the target should be increased – although two out of every three respondents support the government plan to accept more refugees. (Globe and Mail, Sept. 28, others)

With the 2017 immigration plan set to be announced in November, Canadian news media are asking in their editorials and opinion pieces whether the country needs more immigrants. (Globe and Mail, Sept. 20)

Politicians have also been alarmed. Not only Conservatives, who are generally cautious and reluctant toward immigrants – and often against or even anti-immigration – but also some Liberals, who are usually more open to immigrants and foreign workers, began expressing their concerns over and even opposition to the government’s immigration plan. Canadians worry that, in an uneasy economy, new immigrants might take their jobs, if the pace of newcomers landing in the country continues accelerating. Liberal politicians from such constituencies, as well as conservative citizens and politicians who worry Canadian tradition and values may be undermined by the immigrants’ big inflow, are cautioning about the fast expanding immigration.

Against such a backdrop, Kellie Leitch, the Conservative MP and candidate for her party’s leadership, caused a stir recently when she e-mailed supporters with a questionnaire asking them whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.”  (Globe and Mail, Sept. 4)

Ms. Leitch was immediately criticized by her peers and media for proposing “a value test for immigrants” and “playing identity politics.” Her proposal ng smacks xenophobic, anti-immigration and racist, upset colleagues said.  “What Ms. Leitch is toying with — a government that tells people what to believe and how to think — is itself anti-Canadian,” the Globe and Mail editorial (Sept. 4) said.

Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose, as well as one of Leitch’s opponents in the leadership race, slated for next May, MP Michael Chong criticized Ms. Leitch’s proposal as being outrageous. Mr. Chong called it “dog-whistle politics,” the kind of messaging meant to prick up the ears of those who fear immigrants will become the enemy within. Some suggested that it reminds people of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal of “extreme vetting” for would-be immigrants to undergo. Another Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier offered a reasonable criticism, saying “the best way to promote Canadian values is to provide new immigrants with economic opportunities to help them integrate into society.”

The harshest words have come from former Conservative leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former policy director Rachel Curran. She called Ms. Leitch’s proposal “really dangerous politics” and “actually a pretty Orwellian path.”

Canadian media pointed out that it was not the first time Ms. Leitch proposed such fear-mongering identity-politics tactics. They reminded readers of her role during the 2015 federal election campaign in promoting the Conservative Party’s disastrous proposal for a “tip line” for reporting “barbaric cultural practice” — which alienated even Conservative supporters for the police-state tone the proposal gave. Worse, the Conservative Party’s campaign also included a proposed ban on the niqab, a face covering worn by some Muslim women, during citizenship ceremonies. These political gaffes rescued Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, which had been badly trailing in the campaign, boosting it to the October victory.

Conservative politicians have been so upset by Ms. Leitch’s proposal and trying to neutralize its effects so desperately because they fear that her “anti-immigration” proposal could shatter to pieces their somewhat successful efforts over years to improve the image of their party as an “anti-immigration” or at least “immigrant-unfriendly” party. In order to win in the next general election in 2019, any party needs to win support of immigrants and their children, and new immigrants’ support is especially important, as four out of 10 Canadians are now immigrants and their children today.

The federal government’s 2017 immigration plan on how many newcomers Canada will welcome is to be announced in November. The Trudeau government is also considering possibility of relaxed rules for temporary foreign workers to make it easier for companies to hire them — sometimes at ordinary Canadian workers’ cost — and allow those temporary workers to become permanent workers after the four years of stay. A “season of immigration politics” is now here.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, Senior Consultant, TOCS

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