Top Forty Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy

NAFTA players top Canada’s 40 most-influential foreign-policy minds

Insiders and observers weigh in on who impacts Canada’s decisions on diplomacy, trade, defence, development, and immigration.
As NAFTA dominates Canada’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Chrystia Freeland, left, are No. 1 and 2 on The Hill Times’ Top 40 Foreign Policy Influencer list. They’re seen walking to the National Press Theatre on May 31 to announce retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

When it comes to who is influencing Canadian foreign policy, there’s the people working on files related to the United States, and then there’s everyone else.

The constant focus of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with an adversarial United States President Donald Trump has necessarily sucked resources and attention, including the near total focus of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Though The Hill Times set out to list the top minds shaping Canada’s foreign policy, those working on relations with the United States emerged as the most important players, with other influencers on the outskirts.

Past lists have stacked 80 influencers but we’ve halved that number after hearing from insiders who questioned how much the government follows talking heads, and the extent to which even those in government affect policy in what is repeatedly described as a “PMO-driven” approach.

Some in the centre, the Prime Minister’s Office, don’t have a particular affinity for foreign affairs, but their impact is central nonetheless on policy, which critics say too often is formed with domestic affairs in mind.

While the United States and officials working on relations with it have always enjoyed outsized importance in Canada, key players in the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation were among the most common who came up as influencers in our discussions.

Through more than two-dozen interviews with insiders, policy analysts, former diplomats, and senior government officials, The Hill Times developed this list of the top 40 people influencing Canadian foreign policy. Though the formula for making the list is unscientific, actors earned their spot based on access to power, demonstrated ability to effect change, experience—or simply because they’re in a powerful job. And, because those who offered insight were often working in or closely with the government and spoke frankly, their names are not cited.

Many ministers earned mention, and a few just barely missed the mark, including Marc Garneau, who chairs the cabinet committee Canada-U.S. relations and trade, and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, a trade lawyer who’s one of this government’s more visible in cabinet. We could have easily mentioned retiring G7 sherpa Peter Boehm, who was lauded as one of the last true foreign service officers to rise through the ranks to the level of deputy minister.

New Democrats are absent from the list, following feedback from sources who questioned whether the party should crack even the top 40, with one source suggesting the New Democrats don’t have the same influence as when former foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar or defence critic Jack Harris were in the House.

Still, a couple government officials said outgoing MP Hélène Laverdière, the NDP foreign affairs critic, deserves mention for her thoughtful, results-focused approach to issues even while criticizing the Liberals. Another progressive voice, Alex Neve, who heads the English section of Amnesty International Canada, was mentioned as raising the human rights group’s profile with the Liberals compared to the ostracism it faced under the Conservatives. Mr. Neve and Ms. Laverdière have both had strong voices, applying pressure on the Trudeau Liberals’ relationship with Saudi Arabia.

For this year’s list, we’re offering a clear top five (in four spots) and the rest are broken down by category.

Top players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

Canada’s top federal politician will always count, but this celebrity PM makes an extra splash during trips abroad. With eyes on the south, Mr. Trudeau has taken up a sort of anti-Trump persona domestically and internationally, with much of his work on bilateral relations walking that fine line of sticking up for Canada while ensuring sensitive talks on issues like NAFTA can continue. In June, Canada hosted the G7 summit in Quebec amid heightened trade rhetoric and insults Mr. Trump tossed at Mr. Trudeau on his way out of Canada. Mr. Trudeau’s tough response helped him gain in public opinion polls, but he’s not always hit the mark on foreign policy. Some of the PM’s high-profile trips over the last year, including to India and China, have been notable for producing gaffes, and showing a lack of on-the-ground research. While Mr. Trudeau lets Ms. Freeland take the lead, in a government that determines its foreign policy at the centre, he’s the centre of it all.

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

In many eyes, Ms. Freeland could just as easily take top spot because her role is so important. As foreign affairs minister, said one former diplomat, she’s the “most effective since Lloyd Axworthy,” who literally wrote the book on Canada’s place globally and served in the cabinets of three prime ministers. Her tenure has been shaped by two blockbuster speeches—in Parliament and in Washington accepting Foreign Policymagazine’s prestigious Diplomat of the Year Award—denouncing populism and a decline in internationalism. Though she can be a bit of a lone wolf, one source observed, the former journalist hand-selected her advisers and enjoys the complete trust of the PMO. And, after the India debacle, she has a “sort of carte blanche,” in her file though she plays to the PMO.

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary and longtime friend is always mentioned in the same breath as chief of staff Katie Telford, making them a clear tie for third. The two don’t have a specific official role on foreign policy, but all decisions go through them. When asked to separate their roles on foreign matters, sources are hard-pressed to offer much distinction, though they say Mr. Butts is more policy-minded and is more concerned about environmental issues (he’s the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada). So tight is their connection to Mr. Trudeau, one described it as a “three-legged race.”

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

As with her counterpart Mr. Butts, Ms. Telford is “critical on every file,” whether it’s trade, defence, or visits abroad. While the two are “pretty evenly balanced,” she seems to take more interest in the government’s feminist foreign aid policy, diversity, gender equality, and human rights, insiders said. Ms. Telford runs the daily operations in the PMO, having been one of Mr. Trudeau’s top advisers since before the Liberals took government, running his leadership bid back in 2013.

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States

Mr. MacNaughton has a level of influence not experienced by anyone in his post previously. He serves in a ministerial capacity, and has a home in the inner circle. He was described by one source as having more power than any minister in cabinet other than Ms. Freeland. He has the complete trust of the PMO, particularly with Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford. The trio were key players in the Liberals’ 2015 federal campaign (Mr. MacNaughton was the Ontario co-chair) and their connection goes back to Queen’s Park a decade ago working for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Mr. MacNaughton launched and led StrategyCorp, a government relations firm where Ms. Telford also worked. He’s adept at building connections—an essential component in Washington during delicate NAFTA negotiations—but he reaches the realm of senior adviser on other issues.


Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

First elected in 1974 when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was prime minister, Mr. Goodale, who first held a cabinet post in 1993, has been described as having an “incredibly important and valuable” role in the Trudeau government and has been called “the adult in the room.” A former diplomat said he was the “shrewdest and most senior” within cabinet. Some rank Mr. Goodale as the third most important minister after Ms. Freeland and new Trade Minister Jim Carr. He is important in Canada’s national security and on border issues, responsible for intelligence agencies, and sits on both foreign policy-focused cabinet committees. He is in constant contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

A passionate advocate with a “business-minded” approach, the immigration minister has emerged as a strong voice at cabinet, sources said. His portfolio matters too, with the Liberals promising to increase the number of newcomers to 340,000 by 2020. His background, having fled war-torn Somalia to come to Canada, also informs some of his work and support for “causes that he believed in intensely.” He’s done a lot of work in Africa, and was also praised for playing a part in the July 2018 international rescue operation of White Helmet first responders in Syria, which meant “critical coordination” between Global Affairs Canada and his department.

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Though just a few months into this more globally-minded post, he is said to be among the stronger in cabinet and was a key voice lobbying for “diversification” to be added to his ministerial title. That goal of drumming up more trade outside the U.S. is now the “Holy Grail” for this government, as it remains mired in NAFTA confusion. Several observers said the level of the former natural resource minister’s influence is yet to be determined above that of the institutional importance of the post, but it is likely to increase. He is the “pinnacle of a respected voice,” said one senior official, describing Mr. Carr as collegial and a bridge-builder.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister  

Ms. Bibeau, who has served in the role since the start of the 42nd Parliament, is one of the ministers on the list with less influence. She serves on the Canada in the World and Public Security cabinet committee. She has an important voice in the room due to her position, but it is not a dominant one compared to some of her cabinet colleagues. She is in charge of quarterbacking the government’s feminist foreign aid policy.

Harjit Sajjan, defence minister

While the defence minister is a position that should always be on the list, there was clear disagreement among the 20-plus sources surveyed about Mr. Sajjan’s inclusion. Some said the veteran of the Afghanistan war had to be included, while others questioned his influence, seeing him staying in the background. He has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, including by claiming he was the “architect” of a big combat mission in Afghanistan, when he wasn’t. The defence minister’s position typically is one of great influence with its close co-operation with Washington and NATO, especially with Canadian soldiers currently deployed in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Mali. One source said, in theory, he has importance, but he doesn’t drive policy in the same way that Ms. Freeland and Mr. Carr do. Some suggested that Zita Astravas, Mr. Sajjan’s chief of staff and a former senior PMO staffer, has more influence than he does. But others pushed back on that idea.

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

There was contentious debate over which member of the official opposition should be in the mix, if at all. Some said if a Tory MP were to be included, it should be the leader, Andrew Scheer who is set to make a bigger international splash with his eight-day trip to India next month, but others saw foreign policy as a platform gap, and not an issue he’s spent much time on. Many of the Conservative statements about foreign policy don’t come from the leader, but from Mr. O’Toole. One source said Mr. O’Toole hasn’t made the international connections as Ms. Freeland did as a backbencher in a third party during the 41st Parliament. He’s the Conservatives’ loudest foreign policy voice, but the former air force captain has not been as effective as he could be.

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Inside the PMO’s Canada-U.S. war room, Mr. Clow monitors Canada’s relationship with the United States around the clock. Since the government is so focused on dealing with its southern neighbour, Mr. Clow has added importance. He is charged with the political strategy behind the NAFTA renegotiations, and along with Ms. Freeland, he is key to shaping the negotiations politically. He previously served as her chief of staff when she was the trade minister. Mr. Clow serves as an important link between Global Affairs and the PMO. He also monitors Canada’s “charm offensive” in the United States. Some say he has more influence than Ms. Freeland’s chief of staff Jeremy Broadhurst and PMO policy adviser Patrick Travers, but less than Mr. MacNaughton.

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

As Ms. Freeland’s right-hand man, he’s often by her side on the many trips to the United States and abroad. He has her confidence and is part of the inner circle in the PMO, having worked as deputy chief of staff and principal secretary in the PMO before he moved to his current role in January 2017. He has “outsized influence,” given that connection to Mr. Butts, Mr. Trudeau, and Ms. Telford. He brings a lot of institutional knowledge on foreign affairs to debates, one source observed. That comes from his background working under Liberal leaders Bill Graham, who served as foreign affairs and defence minister, Stéphane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff.

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Ms. Deschamps-Laporte took on her post in January 2018 and has impressed observers with her depth of knowledge, described by one as “brilliant.” She’s a former Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, a distinction she shares with her boss. Originally from Repentigny, Que., she studied international development and modern Middle Eastern studies and can speak French, English, Spanish, German, and Arabic. She’s helping push the feminist foreign policy approach within the office, but in the heat of NAFTA she does the hard work of keeping Ms. Freeland briefed on everything, including working at the core on security files. She’s “emerged as a really critical voice at the staff level on everything,” said one senior government official.

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

The issues-management specialist moved to Mr. Sajjan’s office from the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2017, in the midst of backlash surrounding the minister’s claim her was an “architect” of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. Sources said she’s strong, effective, and a “crucial” staffer who enjoys the PMO’s trust, but doesn’t necessarily play into the policy side of things. A couple sources said she’s more influential than Mr. Sajjan, while others pushed back on that assessment. A former Queen’s Park staffer, she recently took an unpaid leave of absence to join the Ontario Liberal campaign war room, and has worked in three previous Ontario provincial elections in various tour- and communications-related roles.

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

A former chief of staff to Stéphane Dion when he was foreign affairs minister, Mr. Ovens still has an influential role stickhandling Mr. Carr’s office. Mr. Ovens comes from the mining industry, having spent more than 10 years at BHP Billiton and Alcan (later bought by Rio Tinto), which makes him a natural fit with his new boss, who was the previous natural resources minister. He was appointed chief of staff to Mr. Dion in 2015 and took the same role in the international trade minister’s office when François-Philippe Champagne had the post.

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

With the “whole world on his plate,” Mr. Travers joined the PMO in January 2016 from his job as senior policy adviser at the United Nations. He’s considered a sharp guy, who’s at all the meetings with Mr. Trudeau when discussing global affairs, but many questioned the degree of his influence given that he’s not a member of the senior PMO staff. While his files touch everything, insiders say he doesn’t have a key role on NAFTA, nor is he in charge of international development, or gender issues. He’s the key contact point in the PMO on international affairs for liaising with all the ministers’ offices and is good at listening and asking what the office is missing. That said, he does offer recommendations, one source noted, on policy that makes it before the PM, and that holds weight. He was also key in co-ordinating the G7 summit in Quebec in June.

Civil servants and military

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Mr. Hannaford was the first civil servant who briefed Mr. Trudeau on election night, and sources say that close connection has continued throughout the Liberal mandate. He’s considered the “focal” person at the apex of the civil service, above even the Privy Council clerk, and crucial for his advice on all things foreign policy. Even more important, he’s trusted by and “enjoys the full confidence” of the those in the Prime Minister’s Office. He’s a constant on key trips, travelling with the prime minister. He’s a very capable, highly regarded officer who has a legal background, working in both the human rights and trade divisions of the foreign ministry. He also held a high-profile, trusted position under the Conservative government after returning from his post in 2012 as ambassador to Norway.

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator has had a busy summer as he tries to reach a renegotiated NAFTA with the United States and Mexico. Mr. Verheul was the chief negotiator on the CETA trade pact with the European Union, where he developed close ties with then-trade minister Ms. Freeland. He has been called the “best of the best” under tough circumstances. He has more influence than his boss, Timothy Sargent, just behind Ms. Freeland and Mr. MacNaughton. Mr. Verheul, described as a calm voice who uses logic and comes up with solutions in a highly charged and unpredictable atmosphere, is behind the policy and substance of NAFTA. One source called him “one of the most important minds and operators” behind trade policy of his generation.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Canada’s highest public servant is a post that will always hold weight on foreign affairs, but insiders say Mr. Wernick is a good delegator who knows what’s going on but trusts other officials to take the lead. He doesn’t micromanage, and chooses his moments to offer insight from his vantage point of institutional importance, but lets Mr. Hannaford remain the focal point for the PMO. Nevertheless, he’s a very influential person who’s been in the role since almost the start of the Liberal government’s mandate. The 37-year public servant was deputy clerk of the Privy Council and associate secretary to cabinet in the Conservative government’s final years.

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

While Mr. Verheul has been described as more influential, his boss Mr. Sargent is considered “brilliant” and “creative.” He is an adviser on all things relating to trade, who is confident enough to let his own people and trade advisers offer substantial input. Mr. Sargent is relatively new to the trade file, starting the job in October 2016, after being an associate deputy minister at Finance Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has a history of leveraging expertise while inputting his own judgment in his dealings with ministers. Mr. Sargent is less of a player at the prime ministerial table than others.

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

His importance is tied to his post as someone Ms. Freeland relies upon. Like Mr. Sargent, he is very involved, though not one to elbow his way into things. He doesn’t come from a foreign affairs background, having moved to Global Affairs Canada in May 2016 after serving as deputy minister for Employment and Social Development Canada as well as Environment. But that breadth of understanding is a benefit, one source said, because he can consider domestic aspects and “the impact of foreign policy beyond the bubble of the Pearson Building.” This government has given more voice to the civil service, making Mr. Shugart’s post more powerful than in the past. With so many working and focused on the U.S. frontlines, Mr. Shugart’s eye is on the rest of the world and people listen to him when he speaks.

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

A cautious bureaucrat, Ms. Bossenmaier has a powerful role and is seen as a deliberate choice. Before her appointment in May, she earned that trust overseeing Canada’s cyberspy agency, Communications Security Establishment. She doesn’t have the same influence as her predecessor, Daniel Jean, who retired earlier this year after controversy surrounding the PM’s India trip, but most sources say it’s too early to have much of a read on her and the post will always matter. She’s a “very competent administrator,” seen to offer knowledge and insight, but it remains to be seen whether she emerges as an assertive voice that has policy influence. She has a deep background in foreign affairs, having worked in senior roles at the Canada Border Services Agency and in the Privy Council Office’s onetime Afghanistan Task Force.

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

The chief of defence staff of the Canadian Armed Forces always plays an important role in the execution of Canada’s defence policy. Mr. Vance, the commander of Canada’s Afghanistan mission in 2009 and 2010, has been the chief since 2015. He has been described as a “good soldier,” but not seen to have a huge impact shaping policy. On the other hand, one source said inside the Department of National Defence, he and Jody Thomas—DND’s deputy minister—have a significant impact on how defence policy is formulated. On the topic of generals, multiple sources say retired general and now Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, who is the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, has little influence over policy, but is a good communicator and promoter of the government’s policy.

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

As Canada looks to diversify its trading relationship in light of stalled NAFTA renegotiations, Ms. Campbell is leading the charge. She is actively involved in changing how Canadian export promotion operates. During a time of concern over diminishing foreign investment in Canada, she is charged with growing international capital. Ms. Campbell has developed a deep network, aided by work she did with John Manley, the former deputy prime minister and the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada. While she is very involved in trade promotion, she may not be as key to crafting trade and foreign policy. One source said she is taking a leadership role in putting the diversification aspect of Canada’s foreign policy into action. Another called her a “force to be reckoned with.”

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

Based in New York where all the world’s top diplomats reside, Mr. Blanchard wields a key position lobbying for Canada’s bid to win a non-permanent United Nations Security Council. His impact is beyond that work, drawing mention for his efforts on the government’s feminist international assistance policy and Canada’s work to stop the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He’s at the top tier among political appointees, behind only Mr. MacNaughton in prominence. The lawyer is known as one who develops personal relationships and can bring people together. His relationship with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has proven to be important.

John McCallum, ambassador to China

This former six-term MP was named to this job in January 2017. He’s got extra weight because of his political profile, having been a Liberal minister for national defence, veterans affairs, national revenue, and immigration during 16 years in Parliament. He’s well-liked in China and is seen as sympathetic to the Beijing leadership. Some observers questioned whether he missed warning signs during Mr. Trudeau’s December 2017 trip to China, when Canada didn’t advance past exploratory trade talks, but a government source said that result doesn’t diminish the calibre of advice.

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

When Ms. Freeland was deciding who to lead the NAFTA renegotiations, she had to make a choice between Mr. Verheul and Kirsten Hillman. Instead, Ms. Hillman was tapped for the high-profile deputy ambassador to the U.S. post, where she’s frequently called upon for her depth of trade knowledge. Ms. Hillman was Canada’s chief negotiator in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. She forms a good partnership with Mr. MacNaughton, with whom she works often on many trade files; together they serve as an important connector for Canada in Washington. While Mr. MacNaughton focuses on the political, she brings her deep knowledge of the technical side of trade. One source called her the “smartest diplomat” Canada has.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

The former Progressive Conservative prime minister has helped the government work a strategy on the United States. Described as a “Trump whisperer,” he’s known for his friendship with longtime neighbour Mr. Trump, in Palm Beach, Fla. Both publicly and privately, people listen to what he says and he’s among those who are on the regular call list for all things NAFTA. At the outset, the government engaged him in its charm offensive. But that influence isn’t the same as in the beginning, described as “way down” by one former diplomat, who said that Mr. Mulroney’s advice to flatter the mercurial president “was harmful” and didn’t get Canada ahead.

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

The former Liberal justice minister is held in high esteem and is consulted on human rights matters. His efforts were especially evident in pushing the government to pass Bill S-226,  the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which sailed through the House of Commons unanimously in October 2017. He’s someone who has an audience and is held in high regard (one source called him a “national treasure”) as a 16-year MP. He and Bob Rae represent an important historical voice in the Liberal Party that speaks to human rights, which the government listens to. Former Liberal cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have also earned mention as “heavyweights,” but mostly for their work on refugee issues with the government.

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Though she didn’t play on the same team as the Liberals while in Parliament, Ms. Ambrose is a member of the government’s NAFTA advisory council along with fellow former Tory minister James Moore, who was also frequently mentioned as an influential and co-operative Conservative, but she eked out a slight advantage. One source called her “very influential” on NAFTA. She appears to have more influence than her former boss, ex-prime minister Stephen Harper. Some observers suggested if he had any influence it was through the media, as he does not have a close relationship with Mr. Trudeau, like fellow ex-PM Brian Mulroney does.

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Whether to put Mr. Trump’s envoy to Canada on this list led to some heated debate, in some cases provoking laughter at the idea. Several sources said it’d be the first time they would advocate to keep the U.S. ambassador off the list—her critics say the U.S. now has reduced presence in Ottawa. But, observers have a tendency to underrate her importance, a well-placed source suggested. She’s “incredibly well plugged-in,” is present at key meetings, and has offered high-ranking introductions and access to officials. She facilitated Mr. Garneau’s Kentucky Derby visit with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the first meeting between Ms. Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She’s also formed a tight relationship with her Canadian counterpart, Mr. MacNaughton.

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Chair of the finance minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Mr. Barton’s voice continues to be sought out by government officials. He’s extremely trusted and held in “high esteem.” He’s a respected business leader known for heading one of the world’s premier managing consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and as of Oct. 1 is taking over as chairman of mining giant Teck Resources. He “knows China inside out,” and has helped tip opinion on some key economic Asia files, said one insider.

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Despite having left his primo post to return to academia six months after the Liberals swept into power, two years later his name still holds weight. Among academics, his is “the name du jour,” said a former diplomat, an insight in line with the following observation: “When people think Canadian foreign policy, people think Roland Paris,” said one. He’s an internationally respected scholar and his fingerprints are “all over” Mr. Trudeau’s founding foreign policy platform. When Mr. Trump was elected, sources said Ms. Telford called Mr. Paris to form a group advising the government on what to do. With his large platform, he’s considered one of the government’s biggest boosters, while some suggested he can serve as an outlet offering tougher talk (like calling the president a “man-child”) without the political cost. On background, sources said it’s not clear why he left the PMO, speculating that Mr. Butts and his team were going in a different direction, more focused on the domestic impact of internationalism. Even so, most sources had the impression that Mr. Paris “still has an inside track” and remains engaged with and can earn attention of top officials.

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

When Justin Trudeau went to Washington in his first visit to Donald Trump’s White House, Linda Hasenfratz was at his side. Ms. Hasenfratz is the co-chair of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, which was formed out of that first meeting to Washington, and is a project spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter and adviser. Linamar is Canada’s second-largest auto parts manufacturing company and is a multi-billion-dollar business. Ms. Hasenfratz sits on the government’s NAFTA advisory council too. She has been described as the government’s “go-to” person on the business side of things.

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

As ambassador to Washington during the original NAFTA talks, Mr. Burney is called upon by reporters and the PMO Canada-U.S. war room alike for insight. His name is often mentioned alongside former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, whom he served as chief of staff during the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Now a senior strategic adviser at Norton Rose Fulbright, the experienced negotiator is someone the U.S. team in Canada has regular talks with.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress 

Labour groups have taken on increased influence under the Liberal government. Government officials speak with Mr. Yussuff frequently, including Ms. Freeland, and he was “instrumental” in helping the government on CETA, and getting support from progressive elements. His union represents 3.3 million workers. While Mr. Yussuff’s voice is not as apparent in the public eye, compared to Unifor’s Jerry Dias, he has a post on the government’s NAFTA advisory council—a distinction some sources took care to note. Still, Mr. Dias represents Canada’s largest union in the private sector. Dogged in his work on NAFTA, Mr. Dias often speaks of his direct line to Ms. Freeland and her chief negotiator Mr. Verheul. He’s a loud advocate, “incredibly plugged-in, and a constant “whether you want to deal with him or not,” one official said jokingly.

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

This former national security analyst with the government has become increasingly prominent on social media and is often quoted in news reports and featured on TV panel discussions. She offers a substantive perspective that senior government officials said they listen to in part because she’s “an influence-shaping voice” that has reach. She focuses on domestic and international security, international law, terrorism and technology and has a PhD from the London School of Economics. And, having been in government, she provides a good critical perspective on how it regulates and manages the intelligence sphere, making her among academics who matter.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Though no observers suggested she’s got much of a say on policy, her importance is tied to her position as a member of the inner circle—and as one who’s playing a more a prominent role as Canada’s “First Lady” than past prime ministers’ partners. Several suggested that influence played out poorly during the India trip debacle, given the Trudeau family’s over-the-top dress. The same sources were just as quick to blame Mr. Trudeau and his office’s poor taste, but said her part in that decision shouldn’t be discounted. An advocate for women and girls, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau is also involved with a number of charities, including being a national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I Am A Girl” initiative.

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

A negotiator on the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Robertson’s voice still has impact in the foreign policy arena. However, there is some debate as to how much the government values his voice. Mr. Robertson is quoted often and a frequent columnist on NAFTA, which may be where his influence is greater. A former consul general in Los Angeles, as well as head of the advocacy secretariat and minister in Canada’s Washington embassy, he worked in the Canadian foreign service for 33 years. He sits on Mr. Sargent’s NAFTA advisory council. A former ambassador described him as “sensible, informative, versatile, [and] productive.”

The Hill Times

The top 40 influencing Canadian foreign policy 

Key players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States


Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister

Harjit Sajjan, national defence minister

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

Civil servants and military personnel

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

John McCallum, ambassador to China

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

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On Peter Boehm

Retiring G7 sherpa explains what every new diplomat should know

Meanwhile, Graham Flack and Chantal Maheu have been tapped to fill Louise Levonian and Lori Sterling’s former positions at Employment and Social Development.
Peter Boehm says building mutual trust with political leaders takes time, but it happens by being frank, open, and collaborative. He retires on Sept. 28. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

Be nimble and learn the local language: these are two pieces of advice Canada’s G7 sherpa Peter Boehm hopes to pass along to new diplomats before he retires from a 37-year career in the foreign service on Sept. 28.

Getting out from behind a desk and experiencing the culture of a posting, including learning the local language, is one of the best ways to develop interpersonal relationships, he said, which is key to diplomacy.

Learning the language “gets you more into the [cultural] aspect,” he said, and counterparts “will appreciate what you’re saying because you’re making the effort to speak their language.”

He spoke the local language when he arrived at his five foreign postings, he said, as he’s spoken German since childhood—having been born in a city with German roots, Kitchener, Ont.—and picked up Spanish in high school, which was refined by three Latin American postings.

“I told our local staff, certainly in Havana at the start, that I would insist that they speak Spanish with me even though their English and French was good. I really wanted to learn Spanish,” he said. “If you immerse yourself and you try hard, then it works.”

Representing a government doesn’t mean you can’t do some outside-of-the-box activities, said Mr. Boehm, adding that it’s okay to take calculated risks and young people should be nimble. He’s always found the cultural and sports side of diplomacy interesting, he said, and so when he was posted as the Canadian ambassador to Germany between 2008 and 2012, he brought over the Canadian women’s soccer team to play against Germany.

“We only lost by one goal, which had Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, who was sitting near me, biting her nails, but it was great,” he said.

The constant change in diplomacy—both in the work and in the country in which one is posted—means the career is never boring, he said. His approachable nature has led those in the foreign affairs community, including former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, to call him a “contemporary diplomat” because he combines old-world techniques with new technology, such as social media. Mr. Boehm has a very good grasp of detail and his implementation skills have allowed him to deliver final products effectively, said Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Boehm started his career in 1981 as a foreign service officer, and held various positions with both the foreign and trade ministries (which were separate at the time) until 1997 when he was made the Canadian ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington.

In 2001, he became the minister of political and public affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., making him the third in command during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That day was significant in his career, he said, because his work changed completely but also “it was about the world changing” and becoming more security-minded.

In 2006, he helped evacuate 15,000 Canadians from war-torn Lebanon, and as deputy minister of international development from March 2016 until July 2017, he helped develop the Trudeau government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Of course, Mr. Boehm ended his already impressive career with a bang, heading the planning of the most recent G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que. The drama between United States PresidentDonald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) might have grabbed headlines (Mr. Trump called Mr. Trudeau “meek and mild, and “dishonest and weak”) but Mr. Boehm said he’s proud of the substantial commitments agreed upon by member countries.

“On the girls’ education piece … we were hoping to get $1.3-billion together, we achieved $3.8-billion,” he said. “Being there, it was tiring because negotiations…went through several nights, so a few sleepless nights, but that’s kind of normal for the G7.”

His position was elevated to a deputy-minister level by Mr. Trudeau when he was appointed in July 2017. The move was recommended by an auditor general’s report about the 2010 Muskoka summit, said Mr. Boehm. It makes sense when Canada is hosting, as it allows all aspects of the summit to be housed under one roof with one accountability officer.

Since the summit, he’s been winding down to retirement, he said, but even after Sept. 28, he plans to stay engaged on foreign policy issues, as well as mental health policy. Mr. Boehm has long championed the cause, being on Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick’s mental health advisory committee, and it hits close to home, as Mr. Boehm has a son who is autistic.

“A lot more attention is being put on mental health, and destigmatizing it, and certainly in the workplace,” he said, and he wants to stay involved.

Paul Moen, an Earnscliffe Strategy Group principal who worked with Mr. Boehm when he was a Liberal political staffer, said Mr. Boehm has gained influence in Canadian foreign policy because he “listens as much as he talks” and knows when to push and pull at the right moments.

“He’s able to gracefully navigate that boundary between policy and politics, while maintaining his objectivity and serving governments of different political stripes,” he said.

Mr. Boehm did make headlines, however, for perhaps straying a little too far into the political realm when said the previous Conservative government “suppressed” diplomats’ work during its decade in power. He was speaking during a panel discussion in Ottawa hosted by the United Nations Association of Canada earlier this year before the Charlevoix summit.

Of the idea that he’s politically savvy, Mr. Boehm said it’s learned through observing and “willing to be curious” as well as developing a network both within diplomatic and political circles. A strong network comes into play when important decisions need to be made in a tight timeframe, he said, such as during the 2006 Lebanon evacuations.

Mutual trust allows one to give fearless policy advice and implement a government’s decisions loyally, he said, and comes by being frank, open, and collaborative. One also can’t have too thin of skin because the advice might be rejected, he said, but “that’s the beauty of democracy.”

Not getting caught up in bureaucratic processes is also key, he said.

Boehm’s replacement named in DM shuffle

Mr. Trudeau announced David Morrison as Mr. Boehm’s replacement in a press release on Sept. 21. Starting in October, Mr. Morrison will retain his title of associate deputy minister of foreign affairs, but will add G7 sherpa.

Mr. Morrison was appointed the associate deputy minister in October 2017, and was previously the assistant deputy minister for the Americas. He started with the department in 1989 as a foreign service officer, working in Havana, Cuba.

DM Peter Boehm earns colleagues’ respect as mentor, mental health advocate

By Chelsea Nash      
Leading the government’s foreign aid portfolio, the new DM has worked his way up his department over 30 years in the public service.
Peter Boehm, a longtime foreign service officer recently made deputy minister of international development, in front of a Neil Young poster hanging in his office at Global Affairs last week. The Hill Times photograph by Chelsea Nash

When I emailed Peter Boehm, the new deputy minister for international development, for an interview, he responded almost immediately. He’d be happy to speak with me, either over the phone or to meet me in person at his office. It was a pleasant surprise: high-level government officials such as Mr. Boehm are rarely so accessible and generous with their valuable time.

As Janice Stein, a friend of Mr. Boehm’s and founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto said, “When people become deputy minister, every five minutes counts.” She herself has not spoken to him since he assumed his new role, as acting deputy minister in November, and as confirmed deputy minister in March.

But open and approachable are exactly the words former colleagues and friends use to describe the career diplomat. He’s the “quintessential diplomat,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, and “uniformly highly regarded,” says Tim Hodges, former head of the Canadian diplomats union Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, and a friend and colleague to Mr. Boehm.

He has a large presence. A tall man, he stands out in any crowd, but he also has the sometimes-intimidating aura of someone whose approval needs to be earned. “Professional, curious, well-read, well-travelled, and deliberative in his judgments,” is how Mr. Robertson described him in an email.

He has a dry sense of humour, and is quite soft-spoken, though he doesn’t hold back while answering questions.

Mr. Hodges, who worked directly under Mr. Boehm at Canada’s embassy in Washington, D.C., and regards him as a mentor, said as much. Mr. Boehm was minister in charge of political and public affairs there from 2001 to 2004.

“He’s a tough brief, in the sense that he will read what you send him, and he will digest it, and you had better be up to speed when you get back to have a discussion about what you’ve written,” he said. A demanding boss, but in a good way, said Mr. Hodges, because he doesn’t simply ask for the best, but demonstrates it. Above all else, he is a leader, he said.

“He’s been my mentor, whether he knew it or not, for many years. I think he’s been a mentor for many other people…He not only cares about people, but he cares about people moving up through the system. That is usually voluntary; it’s not required for the job. It usually is after-hours, or find time at lunch time to have a sandwich with someone and talk about a problem,” he said, speaking of the extra effort that Mr. Boehm has given the department over the years.

The DM has been with the department since he first joined as a foreign service officer more than 30 years ago. He is the only deputy minister in the department to bring first-hand experience within the foreign service—18 years worth, in fact—to the position.

Born in Kitchener, Ont., he grew up speaking German and English, and received a bachelor of arts in English and history from Wilfrid Laurier University in the region in 1977, according to biographies of him by his alma mater and his department.

His time at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, where he earned his master of arts in 1978, first sparked his interest in the foreign service. He applied then, but never heard back. So instead, he went to the University of Edinburgh on a scholarship, where he completed his PhD in history. At the time, teaching seemed to be the natural course of action for him, however, he wasn’t having much luck with his applications. He decided to try the foreign service again. This time, he heard back.

Next thing he knew, he was on his first posting in Havana, Cuba. He hopped after that to places including Germany as ambassador  from 2008 to 2012, and San José, Costa Rica. He’s also been ambassador and permanent representative to the Organization of American States from 1997 to 2001, and from 2005 to 2008, he was the senior official responsible for the North American leaders’ summits. Along the way, he’s earned the Public Service of Canada Outstanding Achievement Award and the Canadian Foreign Service Officer Award for his help toward achieving peace in Central America.

“It’s fair to say he’s a very results-oriented person, and he wants to deliver. He’s focused always on: what’s this going to deliver? How are we going to execute this? I think that’s a very good combination, to be open at the front end and focused at the back end,” said Ms. Stein.

Aid program review wrapping up

Interestingly enough, “open at the front end and focused at the back end” seems to mirror the format of the international development review the department is in the process of wrapping up. Public submissions on the future of Canada’s foreign aid program stopped being accepted at the end of July, and Mr. Boehm said they are in a period of “internal assessment, and trying to see what are the policy thrusts we are going to suggest to the minister.”

It was the first review of its kind the department has done, he said. Both in terms of the technology used to conduct the review—the department had a portal on its website to accept input—as well as the format of the review itself: the department accepted thousands of submissions from “really anyone in the world.”

Mr. Boehm said “a number of trends are already emerging,” including a focus on women and girls, and their rights and empowerment. Education and climate change are also important themes, he said.

“It’s a very exciting moment because there’s never been a consultation that has been undertaken in this way in our history,” he said, “in terms of really trying to get the most input from as many actors as we can, and trying to come out with a policy that is very 21st century, that is very forward-leaning, and can serve as an example for other countries.”

He said in his capacity as G7 sherpa—representative of the prime minister to the G7 summit—he has also been consulting with his counterparts from other countries for the development review, and talking to them about their challenges and successes.

“There is an exponential need for humanitarian assistance. The needs are high, but we also have traditional development. There’s a squeeze there in terms of how we use the budget, the dollars, to greatest effect. That also suggests looking at new and creative ways of programming and addressing these challenges,” he said.

Mental health advocate

Mr. Boehm also has a reputation for advocating for mental health initiatives, and has made great strides within the department to provide a support structure for foreign service officers.

Ms. Stein said mental health “was an important issue for him long before it became an important issue for many people…He does it in a very quiet, but very persistent, way—which again, reflects who he is.”

Mr. Boehm attributes his determination to advance mental health initiatives and to reduce stigma to his own experience. One of Mr. Boehm’s sons, who was born abroad, is autistic.

“Just travelling with him, and making sure he gets the supports he needs was probably the greatest challenge of my life,” he said. “I’ve been pushing it and I’ve blogged about it internally in terms of my own experience. And if I can talk about it, and write about it, then why can’t others?”

He is the father of three other children as well, ranging in age from 12 to 33. They are all over the globe, from Vancouver to Budapest, doing “different things.” None want to follow directly in his footsteps, he said, though they all seem to have caught his interest in international affairs.

“My 12-year-old, I have a plan for her,” he said with a coy smile. “Prime minister.”

The 62-year-old was reluctant to admit his age, saying he doesn’t think like he’s 62. That’s what his 12-year-old daughter tells him, anyways. And, having only been in his current position since November 2015, Mr. Boehm said retirement is not on his horizon anytime soon.

“Oh I’m not gone yet,” he said. “I’d like to stay involved in international issues. I think I have contributions to make.”

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Retaliation on Trade

Republicans pressure Trump to drop tariffs after Trudeau retaliation, but it might not matter, say U.S. trade watchers

‘Whether or not you can pressure an administration that has no policy, no direction, and no philosophy, I don’t know,’ says ex-Democratic U.S. trade representative Mickey Kantor.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, announced plans on May 31 to bring in retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. exports to Canada, beginning July 1, if President Donald Trump’s administration did not reverse newly-imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade

Republican lawmakers are pushing back against U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., likely making the case that the move could pave the road to his impeachment, say a former trade adviser to U.S. politicians and a Canadian lobbyist tracking the trade battle.

“The only hope there is the Republican leadership gets inside the head of the administration to say, ‘Whatever you’re trying to achieve, you’re going to lose the House in November. And if you lose the House in November, we’re immediately into questions of impeachment,’” said Flavio Volpe, president of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, a lobby group for an industry that relies on steel and aluminum crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

“That’s an argument they’ll certainly make,” said a former trade adviser to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, adding, “I don’t think that it will cause the president to withdraw the tariffs.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) could hardly have hoped for a better outcome after he responded to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the EU by imposing retaliatory penalties—effective July 1—on U.S. steel and aluminum, and a variety of other goods produced in U.S. swing states or the electoral districts of influential Republican lawmakers. Numerous Republican politicians have openly spoken against Mr. Trump’s decision, U.S. industry groups have done the same, and even the powerful conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, including Americans For Prosperity, are campaigning against Mr. Trump’s tariffs.

It’s not clear to what extent the Republican backlash is related to Canada’s counter-tariffs, however. Several lobbyists and analysts following U.S. trade issues closely said the penalties brought in by Canada’s government have created some pressure on Republicans and the White House, as intended, by hitting the pocketbooks of businesses that export to Canada and are represented by Republican lawmakers. But some of the politicians who have spoken out or taken action against the tariffs—including Republican House speaker Paul Ryan, who was targeted by Canada’s counter-tariffs, and the Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker—have already said they won’t run for re-election, theoretically diminishing the threat unhappy constituents would pose to them.

“Clearly across the country, in many places, what they have done is going to adversely affect campaigns for Republicans in the House and Senate where the Democrats have a chance, certainly to win the House, if not the Senate,” said Mickey Kantor, who served as the U.S. trade representative, the highest-ranking trade official in the government, under former Democratic president Bill Clinton.

“And that’s exactly what puts the Republicans under pressure. Now, whether that can pressure this president, is quite another question,” he said.

“Whether or not you can pressure an administration that has no policy, no direction, and no philosophy, I don’t know,” he said.

Mr. Trump took aim squarely at Canada after the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec last weekend, and a closing press conference in which Mr. Trudeau said Canada wouldn’t be pushed around by the U.S. on trade. Mr. Trump fired off a series of tweets in which he called Mr. Trudeau “meek and mild” and “dishonest and weak.” He left the G7 summit early, refusing to sign onto declarations about reducing plastic waste and climate change.

Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, appeared on CNN Sunday that Mr. Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox News “there’ a special place in hell for for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J.  Trump,” referencing Mr. Trudeau.

‘Dicey’ for Republicans to take on Trump

The Democrats are thought to have a strong chance of taking back majority control of the House from the Republicans in November’s mid-term elections, needing to win 24 Republican seats while keeping their own, with the party polling well and more Republican-held seats appearing vulnerable than those held by Democrats, according to reporting from The Financial TimesThe New York Times, CNN,, and others.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign, once completed, could produce evidence that Democrats could use to begin impeachment proceedings. If a majority of House members vote to impeach, the U.S. Senate would ultimately decide whether to accept that decision. Two-thirds of Senators would have to vote in favour of impeachment, The New York Times reported. The Republicans have a majority in the Senate, however, and are thought to have a good chance at holding it after the midterms.

“I’m not sure that he is convinced” that impeachment is a realistic outcome, said the former trade adviser, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis. “And at the end of the day, he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Republicans vying for re-election are under pressure to support Mr. Trump’s actions, as the president can undermine their bids to stay in office by backing their challengers for the Republican nomination, which is not automatically awarded to incumbents, said Maryscott Greenwood, the CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, a government relations consultant at Dentons’ in Washington, and a former U.S. diplomat to Canada.

“That’s why it’s dicey to take him on,” she said.

“What [Mr. Trump] is doing is politically popular in the Republican base among Trump voters,” she added.

Mr. Trump’s White House team is digging into the “loyalty” of Republican members of Congress as it decides which races Mr. Trump should lend his support to, or not, CNN reported last week.  The White House is also considering doubling down, and imposing additional trade penalties on Canada in response to Mr. Trudeau’s retaliatory tariffs, The Washington Postreported last week.

Some Republicans may not feel pressured to react to Canada’s threat of counter-tariffs until it becomes a reality, and businesses in their district start to feel financial pain, said Ms. Greenwood.

Bill Huizenga, the Republican representative for Michigan’s second district, told The Hill Times that delay could be a reality for some lawmakers, but “for some of us it’s very ripe and we want to deal with it.”

“Some polling will say that people are in favour of this, and the population are in favour of this, but part of that might be they haven’t seen some of the ramifications of it. I’m not just talking with Canada and NAFTA. I’m talking larger scale,” he said.

“What I have expressed both publicly and privately is that I’m afraid that the actions from the [U.S.] administration, while they may be well meaning, are a misguided effort to recapture a world that really no longer exists that way that it once did.”

Republican Senator brings bill to rein in president

Sen. Corker made a splash last week by introducing a bill that would force the president to seek approval from Congress before introducing tariffs under national security provisions of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which Mr. Trump used to bring in the penalties against steel and aluminum from Canada and other countries.

That bill would apply to any decisions made in the past two years as well, essentially giving Congress a veto over Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Canada. Sen. Corker has support from nine other Senators in both parties, The Denver Post reported. The bill has a tough road ahead, however. Time to pass it before the midterms is running short, with a summer break looming. The former trade adviser said the bill was unlikely to attract enough support from Republicans—wary of a backlash from Mr. Trump—and Democrats, some of whom are protectionist, and favour U.S. trade restrictions.

Mr. Trump called Sen. Corker on the day he introduced the legislation, and the two had what the Senator described as a “lengthy” and “heartfelt” conversation, CNN reported. Mr. Trump would have the power to veto the legislation if it advanced through both chambers of Congress.

Mr. Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, also urged the president to exempt Canada from the steel and aluminum tariffs, ABC News reported last week, after Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) and his counterparts in the G7 issued a statement urging him to do so.

Mr. Trump hasn’t shown signs of backing down yet, tweeting late last week that Mr. Trudeau was “being so indignant” and that Canada’s protected dairy sector was “killing our agriculture.”

“Trudeau has no option but to retaliate,” said Mr. Kantor. “Simply because, for domestic purposes, if not anything else, I would assume that the business community and regular folks in Canada are upset at what the U.S. has done and demand that Canada respond.”

Editor’s note: this story was updated online to include the outcome of the G7 summit that ended June 9.


Who put Canada’s tariff list together, and how

Canada’s list of retaliatory tariffs includes 44 categories of steel and aluminum products—a tit-for-tat response to the U.S. tariffs on Canada—and 84 categories of other products, ranging from playing cards to yogurt.

Those other categories in particular were strategically selected by Canadian officials to put pressure on businesses in the electoral districts of influential U.S. Senators and representatives, particularly Republicans.

Public servants in Global Affairs Canada, including in the U.S. embassy and consulates, worked with peers in the Finance, Agriculture, and Innovation departments to assemble the list, according to Global Affairs spokesperson John Babcock. The offices of the ministers for those departments and the PMO and PCO were also involved, he said.

The government tried to ensure the products being considered for inclusion on the list were finished products, and therefore unlikely to be materials Canadian companies rely upon to make their own goods, and to ensure that non-U.S. alternatives were easily accessible for Canadian consumers, said an official from Global Affairs, speaking on background.

Staff in Global Affairs and the Canadian embassy and consulates would have brought in the knowledge of which states exported which products, said Peter Clark, a trade-focused consultant at Grey, Clark, Shih, and Associates and a former trade official for the Canadian government.

“The steel items are a no-brainer—they simply  copied the U.S. list and invited Canadians to comment to ensure they can avoid injury to Canada,” he said.

Canada has sharpened its approach to assembling these retaliatory tariff lists over the years, said Colin Robertson, a vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and former Canadian diplomat in the U.S.. Mr. Robertson said he was involved with similar efforts related to softwood lumber disputes in the 1990s and mid-2000s.

“We worked closely with Finance and Industry [Canada] and our own sector specialists. We did not reach out to consulates,” he said in an emailed statement. “We also have more data crunching capacity today to figure out where goods are produced and link it to congressional districts and states.”

Canada’s last government under prime minister Stephen Harper took a more thorough approach to assembling a list of retaliatory tariffs after the Obama administration supported Country of Origin Labelling requirements—commonly abbreviated to COOL—for Canadian meat.

Finance Canada is responsible for tariffs, and took the lead on assembling the COOL list, said Adam Taylor, a trade consultant for Export Action Global who was working as a senior staffer for then-trade minister, now Conservative MP Ed Fast (Abbotsford, B.C.).

“The bureaucracy are best equipped to know that stuff, because our embassy is supposed to track who’s influential with the administration,” and who you can “raise the ire of” if you need leverage, said Mr. Taylor.

The list of counter-tariffs included orange juice, targeting Florida, an important swing state where Republican Governor Rick Scott is challenging Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for his seat; whisky, targeting Kentucky, the home of Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell; yogurt, targeting Republican House speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, the second-largest exporter of the product to Canada among U.S. states, after New York; and more.

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Canada USA Relations

‘It’s a very dangerous political place to be for the Conservative Party,’ Ambrose warns Tories not to attack Liberals on NAFTA

NAFTA advisory council member Rona Ambrose and other panelists also paint a gloomy picture of future Canada-U.S. trade relations and of U.S. President Donald Trump’s impact on the free trade consensus.
Moderator Colin Robertson, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, and former Chrétien-era communications director Peter Donolo, pictured May 8 on a panel at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute conference at the Rideau Club. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

OTTAWA—Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose is warning the federal Tories to watch their attacks on the Liberals over the crucial NAFTA renegotiations because it could make them look “anti-Canada” which is not a big “vote-getter.”

“It’s a very dangerous political place to be for the Conservative Party of Canada to attack the Liberal government, which is working hard to come to a deal that’s in the best interest of Canada,” she told a packed room Monday at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute conference at the Rideau Club. “That would mean almost like you’re having to look like you’re taking the other side, which is Donald Trump’s side. That is not a politically smart place to be.”

Ms. Ambrose, who is now a Liberal-government-tapped member of the NAFTA Advisory Council and is based in Washington, D.C., with the Wilson Centre, said the NAFTA issue doesn’t garner a lot of votes and it isn’t a No. 1 issue for constituents or even the No. 10 issue. Ms. Ambrose was speaking at a panel discussion called ‘Positioning Canada in the Shifting International Oder.’ The panel focused on managing Mr. Trump’s ‘America First’ approach to foreign affairs and international trade, moderated by former diplomat Colin Robertson.

Ms. Ambrose was responding to Peter Donolo, former longtime communications director to former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who told the same audience that he believed the political consensus on NAFTA will eventually disappear and that Canada-U.S. relations will become a “live issue” again.

He said U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to politics, often based on demonstrating “his opponent’s face has been grounded into the dirt” and humiliated, will not go over well with Canadian politicians.

“The term win-win is not in Mr. Trump’s lexicon,” said Mr. Donolo, now vice-chairman of Hill and Knowlton in Toronto. “I don’t think Mr. Scheer or Mr. Singh, who have been part of this elite consensus on NAFTA negotiations, are then going to congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau and his government for a great deal on the NAFTA renegotiation when that’s not the way politics works.”

Mr. Donolo predicted the political atmosphere is going to look like how it was when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, when political parties were split on whether to participate in the conflict.

He pointed to how Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and actions have swayed Mexican politics, where leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador is now leading in polls and is running on challenging Mr. Trump.

“There will be firm sides drawn and there won’t be a national consensus issue; where it will end, I don’t know. It’s not a healthy development.”

Ms. Ambrose, Mr. Donolo, and Jean Charest, former Quebec premier and Progressive Conservative leader, all spoke in Ottawa while Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) and trade officials are in Washington for another critical round of talks, the last such discussions before renegotiations are halted to accommodate for presidential elections in Mexico in July and the midterm congressional race in the U.S. in November.

The negotiations fall under a global political backdrop of right-wing, populist, and trade-skeptic movements rising in many western democracies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

But in Canada, conservative politicians haven’t swung to the hard right and remain enthusiastically supportive of free trade, despite the belief, including from Ms. Ambrose, that movements in other countries have influenced some Canadians.

While Ms. Ambrose said she remains optimistic that a trade deal can be reached, she also painted a gloomy picture of Canada-U.S. relations, even if Mr. Trump doesn’t receive a second term in 2020.

“This romantic notion that the Americans are our best friends and biggest allies; that’s not the reality anymore,” she said.

“That’s not how they’re treating us in the trade arena. It’s how they’re treating us in other arenas. And it speaks to the fact we have to recognize their agenda, when it comes to ‘America First,’ is Canada is not just second, Canada’s maybe third, fourth, or maybe fifth down the line.”

Ms. Ambrose also said she doesn’t believe that Mr. Trump’s politics will be confined to one-term or that he’s a one-off politician the country won’t ever see again.

“I think the people who support him are alive and well and in fact growing, the type of politician that he is. We see some of these elements right in our own country. We see it in a number of western democratic countries,” she said.

But she also noted that a recent deal between the U.S. and South Korea was celebrated as a victory by both governments, possibly signalling that the Trump administration won’t take as hardline of an approach to trade deals in the future.

Ms. Ambrose said striking a deal on auto parts in the ongoing round of negotiations would mark a major breakthrough because it would give Mr. Trump a major political victory and a win for his political base, located in the country’s industrial heartland.

“If we can get something around autos, which is the absolutely sweet spot for Donald Trump…I think that is a win-win for Canada and the U.S.,” Ms. Ambrose said. “And I don’t think we’ll see him rub our faces in the dirt over that.”

Ms. Ambrose said Trump voters don’t care about wonkier issues such as the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism, but striking a deal on auto parts will leave negotiations in better shape heading into election season.

“I’m a little more optimistic if those are the last things on the table,” she said. “As a politician, you’re looking at these things and going ‘Okay, we really want to get rid of Chapter 19, but what is that going to gain me in the states where I need votes.’ Not much because they don’t even understand it.”

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Poison Pills and Montreal Round

Poison pills and protectionism:

negotiators still face long list of

issues in next NAFTA round


As negotiators head to Montreal next week for the sixth round
of negotiations,
here’s an overview
of the issues in play.


Last week, trade observers could be forgiven for feeling whiplash after reports swung from Canadian advisers expecting an imminent United States withdraw- al from NAFTA to U.S. President Donald Trump musing negotia- tions could continue past Mexico’s July presidential election.

The fifth round of negotia- tions in November was supposed to be a ministerial meeting, but was a dialled back to technical discussions after an acrimonious fourth round saw the Americans present several non-starters from the Canadian perspective—what Canada’s chief negotiator Steve Verheul told Parliamentarians last month were“extreme proposals.”

While there is“emerging agreement”on the less controver- sial ideas, like updating NAFTA for the digital age, the status of five issues commonly referred to as“poison pills”remain anyone’s guess, said John Weekes, Can- ada’s NAFTA negotiator from 1991 to 1994, who currently sits on a government advisory panel alongside other trade experts.

“This is seen as a bit of a make- or-break session,”said Mr.Weekes, noting Canada’s initial negotiating position appeared to be that the poi- son pills were so unacceptable, they weren’t prepared to engage.

Here is a list of the trade is- sues still in play:

The poison pills

Autos, rules of origin

The America First approach of the U.S. administration is perhaps most apparent in its fourth-round demand that 50 per cent of con- tent in vehicles be U.S. based in order to cross borders tariff-free. It also raises the NAFTA-country content to 85 per cent from the current 62.5 percentage require- ment in vehicles travelling duty- free between the three partners.

Before a House committee in the fall, Mr.Verheul told members the plan is“wholly unworkable.” The proposal has also been re- jected by Mexico and panned by that country’s auto lobby.

Insiders say Canadian indus- try—especially big auto and big la-

bour—are in line with the govern- ment, pushing against the U.S. ask. Unifor president Jerry Dias said agreeing would be the “death knell of so many different industries” and that on NAFTA content, Canada could live with 75 per cent but will “never agree” to half American.

But Mr. Weekes said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Canada counter with“practical changes”to rules of origin given the tracing list cov-
ers components that are no longer found in cars and fails to cover items invented in the last two de- cades. The Globe and Mail reported last week Canada’s negotiating team is working on a proposal
to increase the amount of North American-made content to address the contentious American ask.

The auto trade is probably the best example of North America making things together, said for- mer diplomat Colin Robertson in a Canadian Global Affairs Institute primer prepared for the Montreal round, because “building auto parts and components … rely on supply chains that crisscross the borders.”

For example, Ontario-based Magna employs 62,000 Ameri- cans, 22,000 Mexicans—far more than the 20,000 Canadians.The CEO has dubbed the proposal
a “lose-lose-lose”situation for North American car companies.

Supply management

Canada’s supply management system has been a no-go zone in trade agreements, but the NAFTA negotiations nevertheless squarely centred the hot-button issue. For decades Canada’s protectionist approach has set quotas and prices for local farmers, controlling the supply of milk, eggs and meat from turkeys and chickens. It tacks a 270 per cent duty on imports out- side of set amounts, an approach Mr. Trump has targeted as “very unfair.” Under his hand, American negotiators have called on Canada to eliminate those tariffs and the controlled flow of goods.

Mr.Trudeau’s key cabinet offi- cials on the file—Agriculture Minis- ter Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan,

Steve Verheul, chief negotiator for NAFTA with colleague Dany Carriere appeared before the

House Standing Committee on International Trade in December, updating Parliamentarians on several proposals he considered ‘unworkable.’

The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

P.E.I.) and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland—have held firm, with the Ms. Freeland (University- Rosedale, Ont.) telling a committee when negotiations launched last summer, Canada is“fully commit- ted”to saving supply management, making it part of her first speech on Canada’s NAFTA objectives.

Canada faced some of the tough- est farm lobbies in Europe, yet still emerged with both the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and
the supply management intact, noted Earnscliffe Strategy Group principal Paul Moen, a former Liberal trade adviser. There was some movement, however, with an increase of 16,000 tonnes of duty- free fine cheeses and 1,700 duty- free tonnes of cheese marked for industrial food processing cheese, so observers say something similar could be on the table with NAFTA, but only in the context of toned- down expectations from the U.S. And, if any further quota erosion is offered in NAFTA, Mr. Moen said to expect an assistance package (like the Conservatives offered to coun-

Canada’s agriculture lobby is actively pushing Canada to hold its ground, with groups like the Dairy Farmers of Canada and Chicken Farmers of Canada regu- larly in the mix. Canada’s chief agricultural negotiator Frédéric Seppey is granting regular meet- ings, with 181 communication reports filed to his name with the lobbying commissioner’s office over the last year, compared to 184 for Mr.Verheul.

Sunset clause

An automatic NAFTA five-year renewal by positive agreement from the member countries—or a sunset clause—has been panned by Mexico, Canada and industry stake- holders for the uncertainty it would create for cross-border business.

Mr.Verheul in December said the U.S. proposal is“a rather large concern”and the three“can’t have an effective agreement”if it could expire, noting that businesses need a“fairly long horizon”to plan their investments.

“[A sunset clause is] going to put a significant chill on invest- ment, on planning, and on the strength of the agreement.”

Mr. Weekes said there could
be a way to engage with the proposal without ever consider- ing it as an option. Canada could counter with a softer option that encourages ongoing reviews to update the deal, investigate how it functions—which he thought the countries should have done more following the first NAFTA.

“Part of the reason we got to this point was political neglect, and particularly in the United States, and then it became fash- ionable to badmouth NAFTA when you were running for an election. It’s not surprising that a strong constituency developed

at the grassroots level,”said Mr. Weekes, noting it wasn’t just Mr. Trump who would talk down NAFTA; both former president Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took some issue with the agreement.

“They all campaigned on the need to change or reform or get rid of it.” He said he believes the coun-

tries should have been doing“a lot more”over the last two decades and that committees were origi- nally set up with that in mind.

“I thought [review] would hap- pen but it hasn’t really happened,” he said.“We don’t want a sunset clause but I think it would make a lot of sense to have regular politi- cal supervision to make sure the three countries are living up to their obligations.”

Dispute settlement

Also in dispute is NAFTA’s approach to dispute resolution, with Mr.Trump taking aim at the agreement’s approach, preferring all matters be dealt with by the U.S. trade remedy system.

Chapter 19, which deals with countervailing duties and anti- dumping, is“vital to Canada and Mexico,”said Mr. Robertson be- cause there would be no recourse otherwise.

“If we don’t get that, then we’re simply at the mercy of the American trade remedy system which we think is unfair.” Mr.Verheul told the House International Trade Committee in December the chapter has been “an effective instrument” for Can- ada, which has taken up 20 cases over the years leading to the U.S. changing its practices 13 times.

But several suggested it’s a phil- osophical debate at heart, and that Congress should reign supreme.

“The whole notion of a tribu- nal that’s non-American, [that would] judge the U.S. is complete- ly inconsistent to the Trumpian view,”said Mr. Moen.

Ms. Freeland said in August Canada wants to reform the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, or Chapter 11, which protects Canada’s ability to pass public interest regulations with- out the fear of corporate legal action. Canada is going after a CETA model where set judges adjudicate matters rather than ad- hoc appointees.

It’s seen the most pushback from American companies and Canada is already a target, facing more Chapter 11 lawsuits than any other country, according to a Globe and Mail report.

During the first NAFTA nego- tiations, Chapter 19 was almost a deal breaker, and insiders say it’s still a red line Canadian negotia- tors won’t cross.

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Iran and Diplomatic Relations

Iranian-Canadian Liberal MP expresses concern about Iranian protests but defers on re-establishing diplomatic ties

‘It’s important going forward, that all governments are in solidarity with the Iranians, that we judge the Iranian government not by their words but by their actions,’ says Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi.

Protests against the Iranian government in Kermanshah, Iran, on Dec. 29. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsBy JOLSON LIM

PUBLISHED :Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 3:50 PM

Iranian-Canadian rookie Liberal MP Ali Ehassi says the heavy-handed response to massive street protests against the government in Iran is “heart-wrenching” to watch, though remained tight-lipped on whether he continues to support efforts by the Trudeau government to reopen diplomatic ties with the country.

In an interview, Mr. Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.) told The Hill Times he’s closely following the situation in Iran, and believes that the interests and narratives propagated by the Iranian regime are different from those of the Iranian people.

“It’s important going forward, that all governments are in solidarity with the Iranians, that we judge the Iranian government not by their words but by their actions,” he said, noting that since the protests began, he has spoken to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) and members of the Iranian-Canadian community about the ongoing unrest.

Asked whether he supports his party’s view that Canada should re-establish formal diplomatic ties with Iran, Mr. Ehsassi said only that it’s “important” to reach out to members of the Iranian community in Canada.

“I think it’s important that Global Affairs Canada consults closely our allies around the world. I think it’s important to not jump to any conclusions prematurely,” he said, calling the protests against the Iranian government as “one of those moments where we may have to take stock of things.”

Mr. Ehsassi lived in Iran for five years as a child and comes from a family of Iranian diplomats and statesmen associated with Pahlavi dynasty. Following the 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled the Pahlavi dynasty and brought to power a theocratic republic, his parents left the country and settled in Canada.

The first-term MP attended a rally in Toronto on Jan. 7 expressing solidarity with the protesters and their demands that also brought out Liberal MP Michael Levitt (York Centre, Ont.) and Conservative MP Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.). The protests, which began late last year, have seen thousands of Iranians take to the street to express anger with deteriorating economic conditions and government restrictions against public expression.

The Iranian government has responded by detaining demonstrators, censoring media coverage, and limiting access to social media channels that could potentially be used to help organize rallies, drawing stern criticism from the West. At least 21 people are believed to have died in the protests, while about 3,700 demonstrators have been detained, according to media reports.

Amid the protests, fellow Iranian-Canadian Liberal MP Mr. Jowhari (Richmond Hill, Ont.) drew criticism for posting a photo last month on Twitter of a statement from Ms. Freeland expressing hope that the protesters would be able to freely air their grievances with “support of its elected government.”

Conservative MP and party foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) called Mr. Jowhari’s actions “inappropriate,” and said the tweet was “a preposterous presentation.”

When reached, the office of Ms. Jowhari said he was unavailable for an interview and did not respond to requests for an email statement. The rookie MP represents a suburban Toronto riding that has the highest percentage of Iranians-Canadians.

It’s not the first time Mr. Jowhari has weathered allegations of supporting the interests of the Iranian regime.

He attracted criticism for meeting last year with an Iranian parliamentary delegation at his constituency office without the involvement of Global Affairs Canada. The meeting was purportedly about forming a Canada-Iran parliamentary friendship group, according to reporting by a Richmond Hill newspaper.

He was also slammed for allegedly stacking a meeting with then-Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and members of the Iranian-Canadian community with delegates supportive of Canada restoring diplomatic ties with the country, rather than those critical of the existing regime.

“I really worry when it appears that there’s positions taken with respect to foreign countries that aren’t within our national interest, that are being advanced by our MP, that’s inappropriate and the prime minister should call him on the carpet, I think, to see where his loyalty lies,” Mr. O’Toole told The Hill Times.

“There’s now been enough things that I’ve heard over the last year or so, mainly from Iranian-Canadian community that causes a lot of MPs’ concern.”

Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) president Bijan Ahmadi defended Mr. Jowhari, arguing the tweet was taken “out of context.”

He told The Hill Times that recent media coverage has unfairly portrayed Iranian-Canadians as a “monolithic community,” and claimed there haven’t been enough pro-diplomacy viewpoints in the public debate.

Ever since Mr. Jowhari began pushing for re-establishing diplomatic ties after he was elected in 2015, he started “getting these attacks from certain political groups, especially groups whose sole agenda is to isolate the Iranian government,” according to Mr. Ahmadi.

Mr. Ehsassi said he was out of the country during the holidays when Mr. Jowhari’s posted his tweet and couldn’t “shed light on what exactly he meant by his statement,” adding that he hasn’t spoken to him.

Asked about whether he and Mr. Jowhari had differences in opinion, Mr. Ehsassi said “I’m truly not aware of any individual who has identical views with me on any given issue. We all have different perspectives on issues.”

He wouldn’t say whether he believed criticisms hurled at Mr. Jowhari are unfair.

“What I can say, as an MP, I think each and every single one of us is supposed to try the best to their ability to talk to our constituents. I never try to pass my own judgement onto others. Our job is to advocate on behalf of our constituents,” he said.

Canadian government denies Iranian media report hinting at new meetings

Last month, Iranian media quoted a senior government official saying that the country would be sending a delegation “at the directorate general level” to Canada in the new year.

However, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Brittany Venhola-Fletcher told The Hill Times there are no plans for any future meetings with Canadian and Iranian officials in Canada.

“There are ongoing discussions, but no timeline has been established and no meetings have been confirmed. Discussions have taken place among officials and at the ministerial level. Minister Freeland has spoken with Foreign Minister Zarif, including at the UN General Assembly in New York,” she explained.

She also stated that there had been no meetings to discuss re-establishing diplomatic ties ever held in Canada.

In October and May, Canadian officials travelled to Tehran to hold talks with the Iranian government. However, the Canadian government cautioned that many issues needed to be addressed before Canada could open an mission in the Persian country.

Five rounds of talks have already been held between the two countries at the expert level, Mr. Keshavarzzadeh, the general director of American affairs in the country’s foreign ministry, told Mehr news agency on Dec. 16, though Global Affairs Canada has not confirmed that.

When asked about the effect of the protests on negotiations, Ms. Venhola-Fletche referred to Mr. Freeland’s previous statement calling direct engagement with the Iranian regime as the “most effective tool to hold Iran to account,” though expressing concern about the government’s crackdown of freedom of expression and support of known terrorist organizations.

Opponents of diplomatic engagement have decried the Iranian regime for its litany of human rights abuses, suggesting the recent unrest serving as an example of why Canada should back out of re-engagement. Supporters have argued that the Iranian-Canadians are cut off from much-needed consular services and that it’s more productive to engage with the regime diplomatically than not.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told The Hill Times that protests against the Iranian government wouldn’t threaten to derail the dialogue on re-establishing diplomatic ties because the government sees human rights and diplomatic re-engagement as “two separate tracks.”

“It’s consistent with the Trudeau approach to engagement and commitment to multilateralism,” he said, noting that Canada, despite applying sanctions on Russia, still has diplomatic relations with the Kremlin.

Mr. O’Toole called on Canada to reassess any decision towards re-establishing diplomatic ties, saying it would be used by the Iranian regime in “propaganda efforts” to further its interests in the Middle East.

However, Mr. Ahmadi said if there is any reassessment by Canadian officials, it would only “re-confirm that we need to be in Iran.”

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Negotiating NAFTA: How it works

Behind the scenes of how Canada’s ‘dream team’ negotiates NAFTA

Chief negotiator Steve Verheul, and Canada’s top two officials in Washington, David MacNaughton and Kirsten Hillman, are among the dozens involved in the sensitive trade talks, which see negotiators holed up in a different North American capital’s hotel board rooms every few weeks to hash out the text.

Mexico’s Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer exit a press briefing during the third round of negotiations to rework NAFTA.The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

PUBLISHED :Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 12:00 AM

Every few weeks this fall, roughly 300 Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans descend on a hotel in one of their respective capitals for about five days. While lobbyists chat in the hotel coffee shop or restaurant and reporters troll for tidbits of news, trade negotiators are holed up in hotel board rooms, sometimes 20 to a room, hashing out how to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement, at times until the wee hours of the morning.

The hundreds of Canadians working on the highly secretive NAFTA renegotiation operate largely behind the scenes and work on a need-to-know basis, but the talks nevertheless follow a formula familiar to the experienced team, say trade experts.

“There’s a considerable effort to keep things fairly quiet in public,” said Queen’s University professor emeritus Robert Wolfe, adding the relatively few leaks to media on Canadian strategy is no mistake.

Representatives of businesses and other groups getting updates or serving in advisory roles have signed non-disclosure agreements.

The negotiations, ongoing since August, involve 28 “tables” or negotiating rooms, each hashing out what will likely become a chapter in the final deal’s text.

These NAFTA talks are different from past trade talks in that the time between rounds is only a few weeks, whereas in other talks it might be months. Also, the politicians leading the talks from the three countries fly in for the end of each round, typically dining with each other, sitting down for formal meetings, and approving a joint communiqué on what was accomplished.

During the latest round, the fourth, in a Washington-area hotel, negotiators seemed to have finished the low-hanging fruit where the three countries could easily agree, and moved on to stickier subjects. “Substantially all” initial text proposals have been tabled, according to the three sides’ joint communiqué at the end of the round.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico have touted progress after effectively closing chapters on small- and medium-sized enterprises and competition, but tensions grew in the fourth round, which ended Oct. 17, as American negotiators were accused of pushing non-starters and United States President Donald Trump mused again about pulling out of the deal if his country doesn’t get what it wants.

After the breakneck speed of initial negotiations, there will now be more time in between, the communiqué said, with Mexico set to host the fifth round of talks in Mexico City from Nov. 17-21. More negotiating rounds will be scheduled through the first quarter of 2018.

Based on past practice, like with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, there wouldn’t be many Canadians involved who know very much of the big-picture details, and Mr. Wolfe’s sense is with NAFTA even less are in the loop.

“They are being very careful. They really do not want to negotiate in public, they really do not want something being said in Ottawa that could cause a firestorm in the White House because there’s a completely unpredictable negotiating environment.”

It’s a necessity born of the alchemy of several factors: a tight timeline ahead of 2018 elections in Mexico and U.S., the intensity of interest in Canada, and the volatile situation under Mr. Trump and his America-first rhetoric.


The tables

The chief negotiators’ table seems to meet all the time during a round, observers noted, made up of John Melle of the United States, Kenneth Smith of Mexico, and Canada’s Steve Verheul. They also would have met early on to determine the topics each table would focus on—which are likely to become the chapters of the deal’s text.

Each table, or negotiating room, works with the text in their chapter alone, while the chief negotiators carry with them the full text and will cover the contentious issues. They usually meet at the beginning and end of the day to debrief with their table leads and funnel key information up to the political leads, in Canada’s case Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.). Sometimes a chief negotiator might interrupt a head of one table if their discussion becomes relevant, but “they try and do it in tandem so they’re not upsetting the process,” said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross circulated a list of 28 topics not previously made public. Global Affairs Canada did not respond to confirm if the list was accurate, after some observers noted oddities, namely the lumping of trade remedies in with dispute settlement and a “securities annex,” which sources told Inside U.S. Trade was not a topic being covered in the talks or something the three countries were looking to include in a new deal.

Other topics included agriculture, customs, energy, environment, digital trade, intellectual property, labour, rules of origin, and technical barriers to trade. While there is a table on gender, which Canada said was a priority, a chapter dedicated to Indigenous people was absent. That’s likely still being handled at the chief negotiators’ table, said Mr. Wolfe.

As much as Canada may publicly push for the above goals and environmental standards, the reality is defensive issues are taking the top spot, said Ottawa-based trade strategist Peter Clark. Hotly contested issues are rules of origin, the review of Chapter 19’s dispute settlement, and supply management, which came into the crosshairs this week as the U.S. demanded its end, according to media reports.

Most of the tables are working from a single unified text, with sections in square brackets highlighting separate language where the sides disagree. A particular clause could have three different versions, or perhaps two, if only one is the odd country out on language agreement. The tables work off that piece of paper until they reach consensus, or one single text they all agree on.

Often the Canadian chapter heads managing each table would be from Global Affairs Canada, but also from the government department responsible for the area. That’s the case with Canada’s chief agriculture negotiator Frédéric Seppey, who observers note is in a uniquely—and historically—public position given the complexity of the highly technical file. Other negotiator names are not public and Global Affairs did not respond to a request for that list.

Other than the heads and their supporting staff, the hundred or so Canadians in Arlington, Va. supporting the negotiations this week didn’t divide into sectors. There are legal staff, regional and provincial experts, including those from the respective department or the embassy in Washington.

“They’re the resource people. They’re to help you from falling into [an] abyss,” Mr. Clark said, adding Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton—the country’s quarterback when it comes to Congress—has a big team working for him, including his No. 2 Kirsten Hillman, deputy head of mission, who used to be Canada’s chief negotiator for the TPP.

“They’re aware where all of the bodies are buried, where Canada has leverage, which states are big suppliers to Canada. He puts it all together,” said Mr. Clark, referring to Mr. McNaughton. He was speaking last week from Washington where he said the sides were going in the rooms to negotiate late in the evening, often with at least half a dozen people from each country. By Sunday, he noted the pace of the meetings had slowed.

In an interview last month, Rideau Potomac Strategy Group president Eric Miller, a former vice-president with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, called them the “dream team.” Ms. Hillman has the technical knowledge from her years working in trade, including on the TPP, and Mr. MacNaughton, while not a deep trade expert, has the “complete trust” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.).

Both Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Robertson sit on a trade-experts council that acts as an advisory sounding board to the deputy minister of trade, who briefs the group periodically and seeks their views. There are also a number of advisory groups from various business sectors, Mr. Robertson added. Those groups likely have their own lawyers looking at the language of the deal and aware of the sensitivities.

“That’s why these things run over three or four days, because you are constantly checking back to verify,” Mr. Robertson said.

As much as the action is where the negotiating teams meet, there’s also that chain of check-ins and a fairly complex behind-the-scenes process in Ottawa to develop negotiating objectives and to ensure there is broad support within the government, Mr. Wolfe added.

Hotels make a good space for these sorts of negotiations, said Mr. Robertson, explaining in his experience how they would reorganize tables to fit in a big square or triangle to fit the three sides. Principal negotiators for each country would be in the front row, with those in supporting roles behind.

In this round, Mr. Clark said the board rooms can hold around 20 people.

“Each table will have its own dynamic and it is a reflection in part of the personalities at the table,” said Mr. Robertson, but what’s different here is that the players know each other quite well, many of whom would have been at the table for TPP.

“The rhythm depends on what it is you’re negotiating,” he added.

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Remembering Allan J MacEachen

Remembering Allan J. MacEachen: Parliament’s unmatched Celtic sphinx

Canny, shrewd, and wily, Allan J. MacEachen knew how to get things done.

Veteran Liberal cabinet minister Allan MacEachen, pictured centre, with then-prime minister Jean Chrétien and his chief of staff Jean Pelletier en route to the funeral of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 2000, died earlier this month. Photograph courtesy of Jean-Marc Carisse

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 12:00 AM

Justin Trudeau called him a “peerless” Parliamentarian. Allan J. MacEachen was certainly that. MacEachen venerated Parliament as an MP and then a Senator; he mastered its procedures with effect. He used his skills to help shepherd through a remarkable package of social reforms including medicare, a labour code for Canadians, and insurance for Canadians out of work.

He taught me and the many who worked with him over his 38 years in Parliament that politics is much more than a competitive sport, that ideas do matter, and that it is your duty to influence, shape, and make public policy in support of the common good.

Our job, he told us, was “to help those who need our help to put bread on their table.” His liberalism drew from the Moses Coady school of a hand-up, self-help, and hard work.

Justin Trudeau described the relationship between Allan MacEachen and his father, Pierre Trudeau, as a “match made in heaven.” MacEachen served Pierre Trudeau as House leader and Canada’s first deputy prime minister as well as minister for Manpower and Immigration, External Affairs, and Finance. Pierre Trudeau would later write in his memoirs that MacEachen was “the kind of man I respected, because he had no ulterior motives. He said what he thought, and the reasons he would give were always his real reasons.”

Elected from Cape Breton, N.S., in 1953, MacEachen served as a private member during the St. Laurent years. He chastised me for describing an MP as a “backbencher.” He thought it unfairly diminished the independent role of the private member.

He worked for then-opposition leader Lester Pearson after losing his seat (by 16 votes) in the 1958 election. MacEachen, Maurice Lamontagne, and Tom Kent were a powerful brain trust to Pearson. MacEachen always described himself as a “Pearson Liberal.” A photograph of a smiling young MacEachen riding with Pearson in a convertible with the top down during a campaign tour in the early ‘60s occupied a place of honour in MacEachen’s parliamentary offices.

MacEachen profoundly believed in the redemptive power of government and the moral duty of the state to look after the sick, the poor, and the elderly. These were themes of his campaign for the Liberal leadership in 1968.

In his chronicle of the period, Distemper of our Times, Peter Newman described MacEachen during the campaign as an “authentic voice of the Liberal left.” As the Laird of Lake Ainslie, he left as his legacy new roads, airports, and harbours; improvements to the steel and coal industry; a heavy water processing plant; and a national citizenship office.

MacEachen deserved the sobriquet the “Celtic sphinx.”

I served as his legislative assistant (1982-4), having won the assignment probably because I wore my clan’s tartan tie to the interview (MacEachen was very proud of Canada’s Scottish heritage).

Shortly before Question Period, I would enter his cavernous office, across from the House of Commons, to brief him while he finished the plate of cream cheese and fruit prepared by his indispensable assistant and gatekeeper Pearl Hunter. MacEachen would listen, nod, and then slowly walk over to the House. Three months had gone by and he had not said a word to me.

I had asked Sean Riley, who later become president of St. Francis Xavier University, if I should do anything. “Three months…it was at least that for me…just wait,” he replied.

Finally, one day when I had given him a particularly obtuse response on a Middle East issue, the Sphinx stirred.

The deep, rumbling baritone asked: “Would you really say that? Would you really say that in the House of Commons?” Pondering my loyalty to the foreign ministry (my department) against my service to its minister, I blurted “No minister.”

There was a pause. “What would you say?”

I burbled something. He nodded and went into the House. A variation on the question was asked but his answer bore no resemblance to what the department or I had offered. It was erudite and informed, earning him admiring laughter but leaving nothing for the opposition to chew on.

MacEachen also knew how to manage the mandarins. He would keep a piece of paper with two columns: what they wanted and what he wanted. Their list was always much longer and they would constantly push to get things done. He had some projects he wanted done–for the constituency and for Atlantic Canada–as well as policy initiatives around North/South relations or trade. He would take out the piece of paper and remind them the score was very much in their favour but his asks were still outstanding. It got results.

Canny, shrewd, and wily, Allan J. MacEachen knew how to get things done. Canada is a better place to live and work thanks to Allan J.

Colin Robertson is a former diplomat who worked as a departmental legislative assistant to Allan MacEachen from 1982 to 1984 while he was foreign affairs minister and deputy prime minister. Mr. Robertson is now vice-president and a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a senior adviser with Dentons, LLP.

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Full Court Press on USA

‘Full court press’ by ministers, Trudeau ahead of NAFTA negotiations

An active cabinet is key to Canada’s new approach to U.S. relations, say former diplomats, current Parliamentarians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe during a Q&A session with governors after his keynote address to the National Governors Association last week in Providence, R.I.Photograph courtesy of the PMO

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, July 19, 2017 12:00 AM

Canada’s “full court press” on U.S. relations is one coordinated from the top and taken up by MPs of all political stripes ahead of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations expected to begin next month.

“Our strategy is quite simply to work at all levels. We are doing everything reasonably possible to expand our relationship with the United States at every level,” said Liberal MP Wayne Easter (Malpeque, P.E.I.), who is co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.

He, like other Canadian officials, pushed back against reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) is going around Donald Trump’s White House, pointing to the bilateral meeting with vice-president Mike Pence that coincided with Mr. Trudeau’s speech to governors on July 14 in Rhode Island.

“We continue to work constructively with the Trump administration and with the United States Congress to advance mutual interests as well as our strong and prosperous partnership,” said Adam Austen, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), in an emailed statement.

Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, there have been more than 175 visits and “300 individual contacts” with senior U.S. officials and Canadian cabinet members, parliamentary secretaries, premiers and provincial and territorial ministers and Parliamentarians, according to data sent Monday by Ms. Freeland’s office.

Some 28 cabinet ministers and five parliamentary secretaries represent 95 of those interactions. Meetings have been with Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence, 17 U.S. cabinet members, 200 members of Congress, and more than 45 governors and lieutenant governors, with numbers expected to grow in the coming weeks, the office added. Washington represented the vast majority of meetings with 78, followed by New York with 18, and several spots in California made up eight visits.


U.S. NAFTA objectives released

Monday’s late-day announcement of negotiating objectives for the NAFTA by the United States Trade Representative started the next phase of the NAFTA talks, said Paul Frazer, a former high-level diplomat at Canada’s embassy in Washington.

“At this stage we can guess about the public role many in the Congress will choose to have. All-in-all I am confident that the Canadian advocacy work in the U.S. will need to be maintained and adjusted where necessary,” said Mr. Frazer, president of PD Frazer Associates who advises clients on cross-border issues.

“Including deficit reduction as a U.S. goal signals that the president and his rhetoric will unavoidably be prominent; Ottawa and Mexico City will have to manage two tracks: the negotiation itself and the impact of the president’s actions/statements over the course of the negotiations.”

Export Action Global principal Adam Taylor highlighted several areas that “provide a key line of sight into the Trump administration’s thinking,” including: its fixation on trade deficits; sensitivities in agricultural trade; enshrining ‘Buy American’ policies; and raising Canada’s de minimis threshold, a rule that slaps customs and duties on imported goods worth more than $20.

“While there are very few surprises, it is now clear that one person’s tweak is another’s transformation,” he said by email.

Canada will be ready for negotiations to “modernize NAFTA, while defending Canada’s national interest and standing up for our values,” said Ms. Freeland in a statement Monday.

“Canada is the top customer of the United States. Canada buys more goods from the U.S. than China, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined.”

That messaging reflected Mr. Trudeau’s address at the National Governors Association meeting Friday—a first for a Canadian leader.


Personal relationships key to U.S. strategy

Mr. Trudeau’s reception in Providence is one sign that Canada’s message—as America’s “biggest and best” customer—is being noticed, and that the nation is less of an afterthought, said an official in Ms. Freeland’s office who said they could only speak on background.

Standing ovations at the summit, and the number of people who recognized Canada’s prime minister, speak to the work done to build ties recently, the source said.

The month before, Canada sent Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.), parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, to the Western Governors’ Association meeting.

The official didn’t confirm whether specific ministers were handed regional assignments, as reported by Vice News in May, but said some are a natural fit given their industries, like Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains’ (Mississauga-Malton, Ont.) connections to Michigan and its established auto and aerospace industries.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said face-to-face interactions were the most effective form of free trade advocacy.

“It’s a contact sport,” said Mr. Robertson. “Personal relationships are everything.”

“There have been a whole series of efforts that [go] beyond traditionally how we approached the administration,” he said, adding there have been more minister-level meetings, such as those between Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) and his counterpart U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin in February and again in June, accompanied by Ms. Freeland.

It was a smart strategy by Ms. Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) to meet with U.S. officials before their respective policy speeches in February, he added. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s (Regina-Wascana, Sask.) effort to build a relationship with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, the first of Trump’s cabinet to come north, was also crucial, he said.

“The homeland security side is really important, because that’s Trump’s base and so that relationship is very important,” he said, noting Mr. Kelly met with other key ministers.

An unusually large number of American officials are deciding they should make the trip north, Mr. Robertson noted. Recently Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he’d visit Canada this summer, leading a delegation of government and business representatives.

“I can’t think of a time when we’ve had that many in that short a period,” said Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Bains is one Canadian minister who has “undertaken significant outreach,” said spokesman Karl Sasseville—most notably in Michigan, Colorado, and California. And, while Mr. Trudeau was in Rhode Island, Mr. Bains met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who has also met with Ms. Freeland to discuss issues like softwood and steel.

Mr. Bains has met with business leaders, governors, and other elected officials where he “[insisted] on the mutually-beneficial nature of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship,” said Mr. Sasseville.

The 10 other cabinet offices contacted deferred questions about their minister’s role to Global Affairs Canada’s Mr. Austen.


PMO briefing Parliamentarians

Ms. Freeland accompanied the prime minister to Providence, as did Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose government has fought against Buy American rhetoric, stressing the impact Canada has on various state economies, and warning that protectionist trade measures will harm more than help.

Global Affairs has helped to brief members of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group attending bilateral meetings with the latest issues and messages from the communications branch of the Prime Minister’s Office, said Mr. Easter,

The PMO has also launched an unprecedented U.S.-relations ‘war room,’ led by Brian Clow, Ms. Freeland’s former chief of staff when she was international trade minister.

Conservative Senator Bob Runciman was among the group in Rhode Island last week, and said he’s also seen more attention paid to Canada-U.S. relations.

“It’s simply more a sense of urgency and a higher priority, given some of the things president Trump has said and veiled threats, if you will, in respect to tearing [NAFTA] up. I think there’s a real full court press,” he said.

He said there’s a real “team feeling” to the meetings, and agreed it was a good idea for Mr. Trudeau to reach out to governors, noting several key cabinet secretaries came from those ranks.

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The Order of the Aztec Eagle


Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.




Colin Robertson

Congratulations on Appointment to Order of the Aztec Eagle

Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, it is always praise for Canada when a Canadian is awarded an international tribute.

At a special ceremony last week, His Excellency Agustin García-López, Mexican Ambassador to Canada, presented Colin Robertson with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honour the Government of Mexico can bestow on a foreigner. Maureen Boyd, Colin’s wife was also honoured.

My pride in witnessing this presentation was huge. My heartiest congratulations and thanks go to Colin and Maureen for their commitment and ongoing international work for Canada. This honour is especially timely, marking a particularly positive commitment between partners when the future of NAFTA is in question and the need to retain relationships so important.

Colin Robertson has long been heralded for his knowledge and insights into Canada’s place in the world. Personally, watching Colin’s career evolve over the years has been a treat. My husband gave him his first job in the Manitoba Archives when Colin was a University of Manitoba undergraduate. He worked with the then recent transfer of the Hudson’s Bay Archives from London, and joined us for many dinners and TV specials.

A Canadian diplomat for 30 years, Colin is now Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; an Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy; and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He sits on many advisory councils, including the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, and the North American Research Partnership. An Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy, assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate, he is also on the Deputy Minister of International Trade’s NAFTA Advisory Council. You will have read his regular columns on foreign affairs in The Globe and Mail.


His understanding of the importance of cultural diplomacy is deep, unwavering in support for arts and culture as a critical tool for Canada’s goals and profile abroad. That was evident when he was Cultural Attaché in New York, in the Canadian mission in Hong Kong, at the UN, Consul General in Los Angeles, and the first Head of the Advocacy and Legislative Secretariat at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

He has supported many international cultural exchanges involving Canadian creators, musicians, dancers, writers, exhibitions and performing arts groups. Canada-Mexico artistic relationships are long-standing. Mexico’s Frida Kahlo and our own Emily Carr have been featured in major international exhibitions. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet recently performed in Mexico and Canada’s National Gallery has a number of exhibitions in the final planning stages.


Honourable colleagues, I very much want to thank to our friend, Colin Robertson, this visionary diplomat who contributed so much to Canada, and congratulate him on this honourable distinction that he was awarded.


Colin Robertson, a consummate diplomat, is a champion for Canada of whom we should all be proud. He is a silent hero who has worked tirelessly over many decades to advance the interests of Canadians while respecting those of our international partners.

Garcia Lopez me hug

Former Mexican Ambassador Agustin Garcia Lopez Loaeza embraces former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson after presenting him with the Order of the Aztec Eagle award at the official Mexican residence in Ottawa on May 4. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

me Thai ambassador

Mr. Robertson, left, speaks with Thai Ambassador Vijavat Isarabhakdi, right. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

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