Evening Brief: New NAFTA implementation bill touches down in House


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Good evening.

The Lead

The Liberal government has formally introduced legislation in the House implementing the terms of a new trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House Wednesday afternoon to introduce the bill, saying the removal of U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products paved the way for the start of the ratification process.

It comes nearly two years after U.S. President Donald Trump prompted the renegotiation of the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement. Marco Vigliotti reports.

In Canada

There is sufficient evidence for SNC-Lavalin to stand trial on fraud and bribery charges related to its activities in Gaddafi-era Libya, a Quebec judge ruled Wednesday.

Of course, the engineering and construction firm’s bid to avoid a criminal trial over the charges sparked the fiercest controversy of the Trudeau government. Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould famously accused senior Trudeau government officials of inappropriately pressuring her to extend a deferred prosecution agreement to the firm that would allow it to avoid a potential 10-year ban on bidding on federal contracts.

“Given the threshold to be met by the prosecution at the stage of the preliminary inquiry, this outcome was expected,” said SNC-Lavalin chief executive Neil Bruce in a statement about today’s ruling, as the Canadian Press reports.

The company has pleaded not guilty and Bruce has vowed that SNC-Lavalin “will vigorously defend ourselves to get the right outcome and be acquitted.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told a defence industry conference today that a tender will be issued to replace Canada’s aging fighter jets by mid-July, CBC News reports. The minister said he hopes to have bids from contractors to review by the winter of 2020.

A government official said the goal is for a final contract to be reached by 2022, while the new jets won’t be delivered until at least 2025.

Keeping with Sajjan, he told reporters at the CANSEC conference that Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance are being given “their privacy and their space” to discuss Norman’s possible reinstatement to the military. The vice-admiral’s breach-of-trust charge was dropped by federal prosecutors earlier this month.

“We respect the chief of defence staff’s space to be able to manage the people,” Sajjan said, as the Canadian Press reports.

“When it comes to the management of the people, it’s the chief of defence staff’s space.”

Staying with the Norman controversy, the Senate defence committee has voted in favour of a motion to call the vice-admiral to testify about the charges levelled against him before Parliament rises for the summer.

The motion from Conservative Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais included the option to call Sajjan and Gen. Vance.

It was approved during the committee’s clause-by-clause reading of Liberal government legislation overhauling the military justice system. Bill C-77 was passed by the committee without any amendments and appears poised to become law. Charlie Pinkerton has this story.  

Landmark accessibility legislation appears poised to become law after the Liberals gave notice Tuesday in the House to move a cloture motion that would curtail future debate on Bill C-81.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger said she planned to move a time allocation motion restricting the amount of time available for debate on amendments to the bill passed by the Senate after being unable to broker an agreement with the opposition parties.

This comes despite all the major opposition parties voicing support for passing Bill C-81 after the governing Liberals said they would accept 13 amendments from the Upper Chamber, including a provision to ensure Canada is barrier-free by 2040. Marco Vigliotti reports.

In Other Headlines

Wilson-Raybould says she never had an ‘end game’ planned in SNC Lavalin affair (Canadian Press)

Former Liberal leadership candidate David Bertschi becomes Conservative candidate in Orleans (Postmedia)


Former FBI director Robert Mueller broke his silence about his special counsel report today, declining to clear U.S. President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice during his two-year-long investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said, in his first public comments about the report, according to the New York Times.

He said legal guidelines prevents an indictment of a sitting president and thus charging him with a crime was not an option.

Mueller also suggested that it was inappropriate for him to testify before Congress, as the Democratic-controlled House judiciary committee has asked. He also said he was closing the special counsel’s office and returning to private life.

Trump and other Republicans attempted to downplay Mueller’s comments today, with Trump tweeting that the “case is closed.” Since the full report was released last month, certain Democrats have flirted with launching impeachment proceedings.

As well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political coalition has yet to secure enough seats to form a new government, setting off high-stake backchannel negotiations with a deadline of midnight tonight.

As Al Jazeera reports, Netanyahu needs to secure the support of a nationalist faction or face an unprecedented second election this year. The prime minister’s Likud party and like-minded allies won a total of 60 seats in April elections in a 120-seat parliament.

Meanwhile, possible frontrunner to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has been ordered to appear in court over claims he lied by saying the U.K. gave the E.U. $350 million a week.

Johnson has been accused of misconduct in public office after making the claim during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign, according to the BBC. The case was launched by campaigner Marcus Ball, who crowdfunded $200,000 for the case. Johnson’s lawyers argued it was “a stunt.”

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner that a lasting Middle East peace can only come with the creation of a Palestinian state on land captured by Israel in the 1967 war, Al Jazeera reports.

Kushner is set to unveil his plan for peace in the Middle East at a conference in Bahrain next month. He is on a tour of Morocco, Jordan, and Jerusalem this week ahead of the highly-anticipated summit, which the Palestinians have already said they would not attend over concerns it favours Israel.

The Kicker

Good news.

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek said his doctors have told him that he is in “near remission” of his stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is responding well to chemotherapy.

The 78-year-old native of Ottawa revealed the news in a People magazine cover story published today.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” Trebek said. “The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory…some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent.”

The Canadian icon said he still has several more rounds of treatment to go but fans have helped him thus far.

“I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed their good thoughts, their positive energy directed towards me and their prayers,” he says. “I told the doctors, this has to be more than just the chemo, and they agreed it could very well be an important part of this.”

Until tomorrow.

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