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Warning: travel to China at your own risk

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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.

Well, now we know part of what China meant with its threat of “grave consequences” for Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant. On Tuesday China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who worked on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2016 visit to China. The move appears to be in retaliation for Meng’s arrest. (Canadian Press)

As Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, told the Globe: “This is a demonstration of how nasty the Chinese can be, how brutal they can be. There will have to be lessons learned among our political masters about the type of people we are dealing with.” (Globe and Mail)

As of Tuesday the Federal government’s travel advisory website for China remained the same as it has for several years—travellers should “exercise a high degree of caution” due to “isolated acts of violence, including bombings and protests.” Ottawa is considering adding the risk of the government taking arbitrary retaliatory measures against Canadians in the country. Meanwhile, a B.C. Supreme Court judge released Meng on on $10-million bail (CTV News, Global News)

And as if this story needed more twists, President Donald Trump offered to intervene in the case to free Meng if China would agree to a trade deal, thereby affirming China’s assertion that the arrest was politically motivated, even if it wasn’t. In the process, he threw Canada under the bus, again. As Paul Wells noted on Twitter, “If Canada executed this arrest out of respect for the rule of law, now might be a good time to let her go. Because the rule of law just got cancelled by the President.” (ReutersTwitter)

As Trump’s hallucinatory world heaves and crumbles, Americans ponder what kind of country they wish to live in—and what kind of people they want to be. From Allen Abel in Washington:

The great American cavalcade of liars and lawyers slithers into Courtroom 2. Just outside the chamber, high above us as we enter, there are red stains in the plaster, reminiscent of the scene in Tess of the d’Urbervilles in which Mrs. Brooks looks up to see “The oblong white ceiling, with this scarlet blot in the midst”—the oozing blood of the rapist whom the heroine has killed.

It is a Friday morning in the District of Columbia’s federal courthouse, one of those grandiose buildings where the Ten Commandments meet the Seven Deadly Sins. In this case, as in so many others in this town and in these times, the admonition not to bear false witness is grappling the tag-team of Pride and Greed, their latest battle in a rivalry that started east of Eden, long ago.

“Is this the trial of the century?” someone asks out loud as the black-robed judge arrives, and if it isn’t, it certainly is a chapter in the paramount criminal case of the century’s first fifth—the scandal that may, eventually, ensnare a seething president.  (Maclean’s)

Remember the Great Canadian ‘Boycott America’ movement of summer 2018? Now Canadians are boycotting each other. A movement is building in Alberta to boycott goods and services from Quebec, after Quebec Premier François Legault  said there’s “no social acceptability” for reviving the Energy East pipeline. What started with an angry tweet from  former Wildrose leader Brian Jean—”The Premier of Quebec said that ‘there is no social acceptability for oil in Quebec.’ Yet he has no problem taking the transfer payments funded by Alberta oil. Quebec gets around 60% of all equalization. It’s time to start boycotting Quebec products here in Alberta.”—spread on social media with Albertans swapping examples of Quebec brands to boycott. (Global News)

Asking “What if Alberta decided there was no ‘social acceptability’ for cheese curds and Cirque de Soleil?” the National Post looks at what an Alberta-Quebec boycott battle would entail. (National Post)

The Canada Border Services Agency wants to revive its reality TV show Border Security: Canada’s Front Line. You know, the one that was taken off the air in 2016 after Canada’s privacy watchdog found the CBSA violated the rights of a migrant worker during a raid. “They should give up their Hollywood dream and focus on doing their job,” says the head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.  (CBC News)

Long time no see: Disappearing-Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio popped his head into the House of Commons after staying away for months, acknowledging that actually showing up on Parliament Hill is part of an MPs job, but instead he decided to “do something concrete” in his Montreal-area riding—raise awareness about the dangers of cannabis legalization. Well, that and hold down his other job as a lawyer. Di Iorio also used his wide-ranging return speech to discuss the historical mistreatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War. (Canadian Press)

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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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