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The prime minister wants businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, both detained December 2018, to be released prior to a deal. (TVA)

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Talking point: The appeal comes as the U.S. and China are increasingly signalling progress in their talks. The U.S. expects a “phase one” deal to be signed in January, and earlier today China announced it would exempt six U.S. chemical products from additional tariffs for a year. Kovrig and Spavor were arrested after Canadian officials detained Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver as part of an extradition attempt by the U.S. The two Canadians have had no access to family members or lawyers while in custody. Ottawa has made repeated appeals to China to have them released. Asking the U.S. to intervene is a sign those efforts have been ineffective. It also follows federal opposition parties’ move earlier this month to form a committee to look at ways of freeing the two detainees.

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Kate Purchase will exit the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), where she has been executive director of communications and planning, at the end of the week. Her new job as a senior director in Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s office involves working on “communications and other vehicles.” (CBC, National Post)

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Talking point: Turnover within Trudeau’s PMO has been low, but significant changes are now afoot. Another such aide, executive director of policy Mike McNair, is departing at the end of the year. Several senior advisers have also been dispatched to cabinet offices as chiefs of staff, including Ryan Dunn for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains; Elder Marques, who also previously worked for Bains, for Finance Minister Bill Morneau; and Mathieu Bouchard for Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Purchase isn’t the first member of Trudeau’s inner circle to depart for a job in Big Tech: in August, former ambassador to Washington David MacNaughton, a close adviser to the prime minister, was named president of the Canadian branch of controversial Silicon Valley data firm Palantir.

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At a Wednesday meeting of the Ontario legislature’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Waterfront Toronto staff faced questions over whether a vote on a controversial smart-city deal with Google sister company Sidewalk Labs was rushed to ensure the prime minister could be present to announce the partnership. Stephen Diamond said the optics were “unfortunate,” and that rushing the vote “was likely not the smartest or wisest move to be made.” (The Logic)

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Talking point: The framework agreement approved by the rush vote was replaced by the Plan Development Agreement in July 2018. Diamond said this earlier part of the process was “totally insignificant” now that Waterfront and Sidewalk have signed a new agreement. In an interview with The Logic following the meeting, Diamond said that since becoming chair in March, he has realized the importance of being “very careful that there is no potential perspective, in dealing with a public entity, that there is anything untoward in terms of the process being followed.” Diamond called the committee’s questioning “aggressive,” and said it had “no real sense of appreciation of some of the successes that we’ve had or where we could go in the future.” He acknowledged, however, that committee members were doing their jobs. 

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The two are scheduled to discuss the ratification of the USMCA, duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports, and possible levies on uranium imports. They will also talk about the cases of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians detained in China since December 2018. And, Trudeau will attempt to coordinate priorities with Trump for the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28 and 29. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Ottawa’s efforts to get the USMCA ratified are starting to resemble the early days of NAFTA renegotiations, when the government put on a major lobbying effort to preserve free trade in North America. Cabinet members, premiers and diplomats conducted 300 meetings with U.S. elected officials between January and July 2017 alone. Trudeau spoke with Trump four times in May. And, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Bob Menendez and Chuck Grassley, the chairs of the Senate foreign affairs and finance committees, respectively. It was Freeland’s second trip in two months. Ottawa has also been pushing senior U.S. officials to intervene on its behalf with China. Trump has called for Spavor and Kovrig to be freed, but continues to suggest Huawei—the source of Canada’s China troubles—could be a bargaining chip in a trade deal with China. That’s unlikely to help Canada’s cause, which looks even more difficult after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Thursday that “the current setback China-Canada relations face are entirely caused by the Canadian side itself.”

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The U.S. vice-president said Trudeau “drove a hard bargain” in negotiations for a new free trade deal, and called the final treaty “a win-win-win agreement.” Trudeau tabled legislation on Wednesday to implement the USMCA. The Mexican government will also send the deal to the country’s Senate for review on Thursday. Meanwhile, the White House plans to trigger a process allowing it to submit the trade deal to Congress within 30 days, despite a request from Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to do so. (CBC, CTV, Reuters, Washington Post)

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Talking point: Pence is in Ottawa to push the deal, but it’s his own country that might hold up implementation. The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives wants stronger enforcement powers for the treaty’s labour provisions and, last week, President Donald Trump said Pelosi wanted an additional two-week study period. Canada’s House of Commons only sits for three more weeks before it rises for the summer and a scheduled fall election, so any changes to the deal likely won’t be reviewed by MPs, but instead approved by cabinet.

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Trudeau said tech companies will face “meaningful financial consequences” if they don’t significantly improve their handling of disinformation, during a Paris speech. He did not reveal the contents of the charter or what specific enforcement measures the government plans to set up. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains will announce further details of the document at an event in Toronto next Tuesday. The charter will reportedly include provisions on privacy, and data sovereignty and ownership. (Toronto Star)

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Talking point: Trudeau has already agreed to one broad set of principles for curbing terrorist and extremist online content this week, signing Canada up to the Christchurch Call to Action, which includes a promise to enforce laws against the creation or spread of extremist or terrorist content on digital platforms. Trudeau and his ministers have been calling on the platforms to accept more responsibility for their role in the spread of disinformation, but in the past it’s largely taken the form of discussions with the companies, not new laws or regulations. How effective the charter proves to be will depend on just how “meaningful” its financial consequences are. In April, Facebook said it expected to be fined up to US$5 billion by the U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner for privacy violations, an amount that did not hurt its stock price at all.

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Ian Jenkins, CEO of Utah-based Frelii, attended a $1,600-a-head fundraiser for the prime minister earlier this month. At the time, the firm said Trudeau prompted Jenkins to use its AI technology to test medical marijuana in the country and suggested an introduction to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains. After being contacted by The Globe, both the firm and a spokesperson for Trudeau said the contact was just a cursory exchange. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Lots of cannabis companies, including home-grown success stories like Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis, want access to Trudeau, but are finding face-time with the Prime Minister hard to come by. There are 107 firms registered to lobby the Prime Minister’s Office about cannabis, but only five have actually lobbied and all of those communications were with policy advisors to Trudeau, not the prime minister himself. Lobbying the Prime Minister at fundraising events has been banned by Liberal party ethics rules the entire time Trudeau has been in power, but it regularly happens. In 2017, Trudeau was cleared in an investigation over a series of cash-for-access fundraisers at which certain attendees later received government support for billionaire deals on everything from canola exports to Chinese takeovers of seniors’ care companies.

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Waterloo-based Communitech will get $18 million, MaRS Discovery District will get $17.5 million and Invest Ottawa will get $16.9 million as part of a new Scale-Up Program meant to help 30 Ontario firms reach annual revenues of $100 million by 2024. The prime minister said the program will create 18,000 “high-paying middle-class” jobs and attract more than $4 billion in investments. Meanwhile, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced $500,000 for the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre in Kenora. (The Logic)

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Talking point: In October 2018, The Logic published an internal government report that outlined a proposed scale-up program seeking to build 25 companies with annual revenues of over $100 million in the next 10 years. Tuesday’s announcement proposes a shorter timeline and more high-growth firms, but is short on specifics on how to hit those goals. The October report, by contrast, had plenty of specifics on how to create $100-million firms. It suggested a “lifetime limit” for companies receiving government funding. It also suggests dramatically reforming the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax-credit program and changing the behaviour of the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to stop being what the report describes as risk-averse.