Wilson-Raybould must move quickly to reverse what’s becoming a public embarrassment for the government

No Comments 28 June 2017

But she also needs to tread carefully because once launched, any public inquiry is an independent body designed to be master of its own affairs.

First published on Monday, May 29, 2017 in The Hill Times.

OTTAWA—Father knows best.

In 2017, that statement may be an anachronism, but Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould received some sage parental advice last week.

Hereditary chief Bill Wilson was blunt, calling for the resignation of the head of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Characterizing the glacial pace of the inquiry as “disgusting” and a “bloody farce,” he added in a blunt CBC television interview: “It’s almost as if they have scraped scabs off open wounds and then have done nothing to heal them.”

Wilson-Raybould will be under tremendous pressure to ignore her father’s advice but if she does so, she will pay a huge political price.

Only a few days earlier, commission chief Marion Buller defended the apparent disorganization and lack of communication by claiming she was taking a victim-centred approach to the inquiry process.

Public complaints keep piling up. Basic organizational tools to carry out simple tasks like manning hotline phones and enlisting witnesses do not seem to be in place more than five months after the inquiry launch.

And given that the promise of an open, transparent forum was one of the key Liberal election centrepieces, it is imperative to get the inquiry right.

One of the challenges the minister faces is that once a commission of inquiry is called, it becomes master of its own destiny.
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It’s back to the future on free trade

No Comments 21 June 2017

The reality for both countries is that a seamless North American border is a sine quae non to confront the onslaught of Asia-Pacific competition. From China to India, the world economic poles of influence are changing. Like it or not, Europe and North America are no longer privileged players.


First published on Monday, May 22, 2017 in The Hill Times.

OTTAWA—Like it or not, we are back in the free trade debate.

But chances are, it won’t be as divisive as the one we experienced in the election of 1988.

This time, there will be a fair bit of unanimity around the big issues. But be prepared for a few Canadian sacred cows to be sacrificed in the process. When I speak of sacred cows, I am of course not referring to the beasts themselves, but rather what they produce.

U.S. President Donald Trump has his sights squarely set on the abolition of the supply-managed Canadian dairy system.

Trump believes that Wisconsin carried him to the White House, and in so doing, it brokered a favour and secured a champion to open northern borders to state milk.

Canada can trot out all the data it wants to prove that the United States is getting as good as it gives in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The figures prove it.

But in the alternative Trump truth, what matters is politics. And he has supply management in his crosshairs.

It is also true that support for this unique made-in-Canada solution to dairy productions has been facing mixed reviews at home for years.
The latest politician to line up against the dairy farmers is none other that the likely future leader of the Conservative Party, Beauce Member of Parliament Maxime Bernier.

The strongest political support for the existing system comes from Quebec, but the loudest voice to kill it belongs to Bernier.

Ontario dairy farmers are not as vocal but they are equally political, with strong lobbying efforts in Ottawa, and direct contact with every Member of Parliament in rural Canada.

Those members punch above their weight. But given the vocal opposition of Bernier, if the government is forced to sacrifice supply management, it will be less politically damaging.
Most Canadians are too young to remember when supply management was introduced into Parliament. The system was the brainchild of a former minister in the Pierre Trudeau government, colourful Windsor-area Eugene Whelan, whose signature green Stetson was recognizable across the country.
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Political skills of premier secured re-election for B.C. Liberals

No Comments 14 June 2017

Christy Clark’s minority government, which could turn into razor-thin majority, will set the stage for some political chess played by all three parties.


First published in The Hill Times on Monday, May 15, 2017.

OTTAWA—The minority victory of the Liberal Party in British Columbia will shortly become a majority.

The nine-vote New Democratic Party margin in Courtenay-Comox will flip when the results of the military and absentee vote are counted. As the Liberal candidate was formerly the base commander in that riding before the election, he will surely lap the NDP to deliver a razor-thin majority to the Grits.

After 16 years in government, it is a credit to Premier Christy Clark’s campaign skills that the Liberals are even there at all.

And while the focus has been on her tenuous hold on government, the real story is the split vote on the left.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will be poring over these results, looking for clues as to how the Ontario Liberals can trump their hat trick in an election next June.

But the real power grab in the British Columbia election is that of the Green Party. With three new players in the legislature, their clear agenda on financing reform is a no-brainer.

Less clear is where the province goes on resource development. The Liberals were able to carve out a new base in rural British Columbia by promoting the link between jobs and energy.

The New Democrats, if they are ever to form the government, need to square that circle. But with the Greens nipping at their environmental heels, the path to government is less clear.

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Prince Charles deserves turn on throne

No Comments 07 June 2017

Take it from one who met him on multiple occasions, Prince Charles is the real deal.


Published first in The Hill Times on Monday, May 8, 2017 12:00 AM


OTTAWA—The royal retirement of Prince Philip announced by Buckingham Palace last week begs the perennial question: who will replace the reigning monarch in the royal succession plan?

The world may be rooting for grandchildren, but I for one, would like to cast my vote for the most underappreciated member of the royal family, Prince Charles.

I was never much of a monarchist growing up. As my mother’s family hailed from working-class England, her political bent was more on the Labour side.

As children, we inherited her mistrust of hereditary lines of authority, and my older sister Mary went so far as to enter a regional speech contest sponsored by the Canadian Legion with the chosen topic, “Why we should abolish the monarchy.” Needless to say, despite her excellent content and perfect delivery, she scored last in the Legion declamation ranking.

But as we all know, views soften with age. As minister of Canadian Heritage, I had no problem defending the monarchy because I was of the firm view that in order to move forward as a country, we must embrace and understand our history. A rupture with royalty would also mean severing the unique connection that links Canada directly to 51 other countries on five continents around the world.

From a purely domestic perspective of self-interest, those connections are often very useful when global decisions are being made on issues like membership on the United Nations Security Council, or site selection for Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Networks matter. And the Commonwealth group of like-minded countries is a modern economic and social network that adds value to the Canadian body politic.

In addition, the Queen and her descendants come with a pedigree that makes Hollywood pale in comparison.

The opportunity to invite members of the royal family to celebrate with Canada when we achieve milestones like our 150th birthday is worth the price of admission.

The robust schedules of both the Prince and Queen Elizabeth have been truly amazing. The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen have visited Canada more than 20 times.

The fact that both have retained relatively good health well into their ninth decades is statistically surprising.

Back in her 70s, the Queen enjoyed a travel schedule and stamina that would be the envy of people half her age.

Whenever she and the Prince would visit Canada, they would literally cover two or three provinces with an average of six or seven public appearances a day, involving handshakes and conversation with literally hundreds of people.

And through it all, in thick or thin, they followed the British motto of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Prince Charles carried on in his own inimitable fashion. He was never as deft of tongue as his father, nor did he inherit the regal bearing of his mother. But take it from one who met him on multiple occasions, Prince Charles is the real deal.

He is thoughtful, visionary, and extremely grounded.

He fought in favour of the environment long before it was fashionable. He understood the importance of local farmers years before anyone had written a word about the 100-mile eating craze. He was concerned about the plight of indigenous peoples long before the rest of us caught on.

Just after he had completed his education and the requisite naval tour of duty, he founded the Prince’s Trust. In 40 years, it has helped more than 825,000 youth by investing in local job creation and business start-ups.

He explained the name of his initiative as an attempt to offer young Brits the trust they need to move ahead.

His efforts garnered little attention as the world focused on his personal life.

But anyone who has seen the man up close knows that he is the real deal. He is a genuine thinker and doer, who levers his royal family credentials to assist those in genuine need.

Prince Charles may not be as photogenic as some of his progeny, but in terms of understanding how to exercise the delicate balance of royal responsibilities with real influence, he is best suited to ascend to the throne.

As his father retreats from public life, now is Prince Charles’ time to shine. He and the Duchess of Cornwall will be the official royal family representatives at the birthday bash on Parliament Hill.

It will be his 18th visit to Canada and, hopefully, all Canadians will get a chance to witness the human side of the prince.

He would make a great monarch for all.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.

© 2018 Sheila Copps.