Canada: government & governance December 2021-

Written by  //  January 18, 2022  //  Canada, Government & Governance  //  No comments

Canada’s 44th Parliament

11-18 January
CASE CLOSED — Ethics commissioner MARIO DION won’t be investigating ex-China ambassador DOMINIC BARTON’s dealings with Rio Tinto while he was still top envoy in China in 2021.
Global’s MARC-ANDRÉ COSSETTE reported on a statement from Dion’s office, which concluded that Barton “did not have direct and significant dealings” with Rio Tinto before accepting the mining giant’s chairmanship, which he’ll take on later this year. Dion’s office added that Barton did consult the office on his post-diplomatic post options while he was still ambassador.
11 January
(Ottawa Playbook) When news broke that ex-ambassador to China Dominic Barton would be taking up a post-diplomatic job as Rio Tinto chair, the Politico bureau in Ottawa was abuzz in Slack. Can he do that? What are the rules?
Watchdog asked to probe former China ambassador Dominic Barton’s job appointment
The federal Ethics Commissioner has been formally asked to investigate whether Canada’s former ambassador to Beijing, Dominic Barton, violated ethics rules when he accepted an offer to become chair of Rio Tinto, a global mining company that does much of its business in China.
Two New Democratic MPs wrote to the commissioner, Mario Dion, on Friday. Their letter says they believe Mr. Barton is in breach of the Conflict of Interest Act because he met with executives of Rio Tinto shortly before the end of his time as a diplomat.

12 January
Six decades later, we are overdue for a study of the public service
By Andrew Caddell
Aside from the Lambert Commission in 1979, there has been no recent study on the public service. It is as if the cars, machines, or computers of today were the same models as six decades ago, with a few tweaks.
(Hill Times) To start the year off right, there was an announcement from the PMO, which most Canadians missed: a major shuffle of senior public servants. A total of 18 changes were made, moving 13 men and five women to leadership positions.
… it’s hard not to look at these changes as much more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Put aside the challenges of the pandemic and look at the bloated deficit, the inefficiencies of the Phoenix payroll system, and the size of government (2010: 283,000 employees; 2021: 320,000 employees). The Government of All Canadians is adrift.
Much of that is due to the dearth of leadership and imagination in the Prime Minister’s Office and the fatigue of a government in its third mandate. But beyond that, the actual machinery of government has ceased to function. To quote Monty Python, “it don’t work.”

12-18 January
(Politico Ottawa Playbook) Conservative leader ERIN O’TOOLE called for another emergency meeting on the Hill, this time convened by the industry committee.
O’Toole’s presser comes five days after the Globe and Mail reported the feds allowed a Chinese state-owned firm to take over Neo Lithium, a producer of the critical mineral that could eventually be destined for electric vehicles, without a national security review.
O’Toole wants a Cabinet minister to defend that decision, and he also wants the Liberals to reverse it. You’re on notice, FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE.
Ottawa allows Chinese acquisition of Canada’s Neo Lithium to pass with no formal national security review
(Globe & Mail) Ottawa did not conduct a formal security review on the pending acquisition of Canadian lithium company Neo Lithium Corp. NLC-X +0.16%increase
by Chinese state-owned firm Zijin Mining Group Ltd., paving the way for the deal to close.
Last year, Canada designated lithium as a critical mineral, meaning it is essential to the economy. Ottawa and Washington in 2020 finalized a joint action plan on critical minerals, with commitments by both governments to build secure North American supplies of battery minerals, as fears of a growing stranglehold by China on global supplies intensify.
At the moment, Canada has no lithium mines, no lithium ion battery plants and no lithium processing facilities. The country is an also-ran compared to the United States, Australia and especially China, which processes about two-thirds of global lithium output.
All foreign takeovers of Canadian companies are subject to an initial security screening by Ottawa. If the federal government suspects the transaction could be a threat to national security, the deal undergoes a more thorough review under Section 25.3 of the Investment Canada Act.
According to Neo Lithium, no such review transpired.

11 January
24 Sussex Dive: Fixer to fabulous?
The 2021 report concluded that 24 Sussex’s condition is “critical,” the most dire score a federal building can receive. The electrical system is a fire hazard. The plumbing fails on a regular basis. The walls include asbestos, lead and mould.

Monday’s Playbook featured an expert’s appeal to the government to finally make a decision on Huawei’s future role in Canada’s 5G infrastructure. Today in overdue decisions, we can’t stop thinking about 24 Sussex. The most recent National Capital Commission calculation on necessary repairs includes C$36.6 million in deferred maintenance on the main residence that features 34 rooms and spans 12,000 sq.-ft.

1 January
Four decisions Justin Trudeau has to stop avoiding
Campbell Clark
We’re not talking here about the promises that were broken and consigned to the trash heap, like the pledge to reform the first-past-the-post electoral system that Mr. Trudeau jettisoned after a year in office, or those they have worked on but not fulfilled, like the commitment to end all boil-water advisories in First Nation communities by March, 2021.
These are the decisions in limbo – the things Mr. Trudeau kept putting off. Here are four things that have lingered on Mr. Trudeau’s To Do list.
Fighter jets – The decision on Canada’s next fleet of fighter jets has been an exercise of procrastination on top of obfuscation on top of procrastination.
Huawei and 5G – It is hard to imagine that Canada won’t restrict the deployment of Huawei 5G equipment. The U.S. warns it poses a security risk. Allies in the Five Eyes intelligence all apply a 10-foot-pole to the Chinese gear, and expect Canada to do the same.
24 Sussex Drive – Justin Trudeau didn’t take up residence when he became Prime Minister because the place was falling apart. Six years later, it is still falling apart, and nothing has been done.
High-frequency rail – The Liberal government needs to make a go or no-go decision on the multibillion-dollar project to build new tracks for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor, at a cost of $4-billion to $6-billion.

2021

29 December
Transparency is a pillar of democratic governance. Canada is continually falling short
(Globe & Mail editorial) In October, a University of Toronto history professor tweeted part of the result of an Access to Information request. The information, of course, was littered with the usual redacted sections, pretty much a universal experience in such endeavours.
What was peculiar in this case was what the Privy Council Office believed had to be hidden from public view. It was sections of a 1959 speech in the House of Commons by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker about the Avro Arrow.
The episode is surreal – the PCO redacted Hansard – yet it also crystallizes Canada’s widespread and continuing failings in access to information. Governments in Canada claim to believe in openness when in fact the opposite is the case. The problems run the gamut, from a recent unjustified tightening of the Freedom of Information law in British Columbia to the day-to-day workings of governments at all levels.

22 December
Andrew Coyne: When you try to run everything out of the PMO, sooner or later something’s bound to break
Is it just me or is there something a little off about the Prime Minister’s Office lately? I don’t mean the Prime Minister himself, who has always had, needless to say, an erratic streak to him. I mean the people around him, the brain trust, the pros, the people who are supposed to keep the ship tight and the clocks wound.
Because some of the decisions coming out of there of late have been more than a little odd. Again, there will always be strange decisions coming out of any prime minister’s office from time to time. But usually these show some evidence of being the product of, well, not thought exactly, but at least intent. Whereas I’m not sure the current PMO is even aware of some of the things they’re doing.
Take, for example, the utterly baffling decision to strike two separate cabinet committees with the same name and the same mandate but different rosters of ministers: the Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion and Climate A, which will consider “such issues as sustainable and inclusive social and economic development, post-pandemic recovery, decarbonization and the environment as well as improving the health and quality of life of Canadians,” and Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion and Climate B, which will consider the exact same set of issues.

20 December
Robert Fife: Dominic Barton met Rio Tinto executives months before firm named him chair
Dominic Barton, Canada’s outgoing ambassador to Beijing, met with Rio Tinto executives in October, two months before it was announced he would take over as chair of the Australian mining giant that does half its business with China.
Federal conflict-of-interest guidelines restrict the ability of a former official, such as Mr. Barton, to take jobs with companies they dealt with during their final 12 months of government work.

16 December
Finally!
Prime Minister releases new mandate letters for ministers
Mandate letters outline the objectives that each minister will work to accomplish, as well as the pressing challenges they will address in their role.

November/December
Getting Parliament to Work Again
(Policy) While the composition of the new Parliament will not shift political power beyond the status quo dynamic that existed before the September 20th election, there is now an opportunity to reform our democratic institutions, including Parliament, if the political will can be mobilized. Former Clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch and former CN and BMO executive Paul Deegan offer a brief prescription for positive change.

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