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Trump’s big gift to Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou

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Welcome to a sneak peek of the Maclean’s Politics Insider newsletter. Sign-up at the bottom of the page to get it delivered straight to your inbox.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s Liberals have a lot going for them in the 2019 election, writes Paul Wells. They also have one fundamental problem:

How could they lose? Oh, lots of ways. In 2015, Trudeau offered hope; now he carries baggage. The Liberal leader has made his share of unforced errors, from the bizarre vacation with the Aga Khan to the bizarre working trip in India. He’s abandoned campaign promises, as on electoral reform, and kept others at a cost that must leave him wishing he hadn’t bothered, as on Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s changes to the tax treatment of small businesses. And the grand bargain he offered on his way to 24 Sussex Drive—real action on climate change as the price of real progress on oil exports—seems broken at both ends.

Sorry, did I say 24 Sussex? Of course, Trudeau has never lived in that decrepit palace as an adult and is unable to make the most basic decisions about how or whether to fix it. “Better is always possible” has become “Can I get back to you after you re-elect me?” (Maclean’s)

Beijing couldn’t care less what the people of Canada think about the arbitrary and retaliatory arrests of Canadians living there, after police in Vancouver arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. The state is putting on a theatrical performance for its own people, and China’s aggressive nationalism demands that Beijing extract diplomatic blood:

The people that China needs to keep happy can understand the concept of rule of law on an intellectual level, but emotionally, it is likely a more alien concept. For thousands of years, China’s judges and prosecutors were the same person: the county magistrate, an arm of the government. Sometimes the emperor even directly participated in the process by approving or denying executions. “The rule of man, rather than the rule of law, is very deeply rooted in the Chinese legal culture,” according to the Global Media in China journal.

It would not be too much of a stretch to conclude the average Chinese person will assume the arrest of Huawei’s Meng was at least in part politically motivated and could thus be resolved though political means. (Maclean’s)

Donald Trump only drove home that point to the Chinese with his forehead-slapping offer to intervene in Meng’s case if Beijing would do a trade deal with him. Trump is facing pushback. The U.S. assistant attorney general for security told a U.S. Senate committee the Justice department “is not a tool of trade.” Meanwhile, legal experts say Trump may have done Meng a huge favour: “Meng’s lawyers could use Trump’s remarks as evidence to argue that the prosecution against her is politicized, and they could ask for a stay of proceedings on the basis of abuse of process (via the extradition judge) or ask the Minister not to surrender her.” (Global News, Bloomberg)

Renovation realities: The House of Commons adjourned for the last time in 2018. When MPs return next year they’ll take their seats in Parliament’s temporary digs in the West Block. Given the massive renovation project about to be undertaken on the Centre Block one might think the Federal Public Service would have a plan for how long the project will take and how much it will cost. One would be wrong: “(The figure of) 10 years has been used in the media, but there’s never really been a baseline schedule or budget established for the Centre Block project,” a Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) official said Thursday. As for whether cost estimates had been done, the official replied: “At this point, no.” (iPolitics)

If we were you, we’d want to be us too: Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy got together to flaunt their continued Senatorships in a tweet Wednesday night. With the three Senators posing together, Brazeau tweeted “Like it or not, we survived the unjustified bs!” (National Post)

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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