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Warning: travel to China at your own risk





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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Dreessen: Ottawa has to shed its image as a town that doesn’t like fun





Ottawa has long held a reputation as a place that fun forgot. People who live here know that there is a lot to love about the city: its history, the Rideau Canal, proximity to parks and rivers, excellent clubs, museums and galleries all make Ottawa a great place.

More spontaneous fun things are harder to come by. We’ve created a process that makes it hard for small businesses to thrive and where the process is more important than the outcome.

In 2016, a local artist planned to give away free T-shirts celebrating Ottawa 2017 on Sparks Street, until the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) asked him to move, squashing a fun event to bring people together.

In 2017, business proposals to the NCC executive committee made a business case to open cafés at Remic Rapids, Confederation Park and Patterson Creek. In the summer of 2020, two opened; the Patterson Creek location, opposed by neighbours, has yet to see the light of day, though the NCC website indicates it may happen in 2021.

In each case, the cafés are only open for a few brief summer months. Despite the fact that Ottawa celebrates itself as a winter city, we can’t, somehow, imagine how people might want to enjoy a café in the spring or fall, or during winter months while skiing along the river or skating along the canal. Keeping public washrooms open, serving takeout and, yes, using patio heaters, could make these cafés fun additions to our city for most of the year.

More recently, Jerk on Wheels, a food truck with excellent Caribbean chicken and two locations, has run intro trouble. The one on Merivale Road continues, but the Bank Street location in Old Ottawa South has to close. According to social media posts from the owners, despite the business having all permissions in place, local restaurant franchises of Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons have objected to its presence.

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Ottawa businesses frustrated with slower pace of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan compared to other provinces





OTTAWA — As Canada plots its roadmap to reopening, each province is choosing their own path to reopen the economy and lift the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some are moving towards loosened restrictions at a faster pace than Ontario, which is frustrating for business owners who say they are ready to receive customers safely.

Patio season is upon the city, and at Banditos Restaurant on Bank Street, owner Matt Loudon is staging the large outdoor dining area to prepare for the summer rush. But the patio will have to remain closed until at least June 14, when it is expected Ontario will move into Step One of the three-step Roadmap to Reopen plan

“I hope they push it up a little bit,” says Loudon. “It’s beyond frustrating all the other provinces are opening up before us, we’ve been locked down longer than anybody else.”

Loudon, who owns two restaurants, says their outdoor seating has always been safe and that they have invested in added measures like sanitization stations and personal protective equipment for the staff. Indoor dining will continue to remain off limits in Ontario until Step Three. When patios do open, tables will be limited to four people. 

Unlike British Columbia’s four-pronged approach that began May 25. Residents in the province are now allowed to dine both inside and out, with a maximum of six per table, not restricted to one household.

Quebec will enter into its first step Friday, where outdoor dining will be available for two adults and their children, who can be from separate addresses per table. This applies to red and orange zones in the province. The curfew will also be lifted. 

In Gatineau, hair salons opened their doors to customers last week. Ten minutes away at Salon Bliss in Ottawa, all owner Sarah Cross can do is hope she can reopen sometime in July.

“Most people think that government funding covers all the bills but it’s far from it,” says Cross. Her upscale salon has nine chairs and over the course of the pandemic, in order to comply with regulations and keep staff and patrons, safe, only three chairs can now be filled. She says the hardest part is that the rules constantly change and vary in each region, adding it doesn’t make sense how one is better than the other.

“Our livelihood is dependent on what the decisions are made and if they were aligned with one belief system then I think they would have the trust of the public to follow these protocols.”

Many Ontario business owners say it’s not only a matter of necessity they open, but can do so safely. Infectious disease physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti agrees, and says the province needs to expedite its timeline.

“Especially with the fact that we are in the post vaccine era,” says Chakrabarti.

“It’s important for us to remember that we have been following this case count very closely for the last year and certainly we’ve had some experiences with opening things, especially with the second and third waves we have to remember that as we go forward now vaccines are a huge difference maker to the situation. Cases may go up but that doesn’t mean the most important thing will go up which is hospitalizations.”

Chakrabarti says while people will still get infected with COVID-19, with the reduced risk of hospitalization in large numbers there is no reason to restrict the community. He says while it’s not time for packed stadiums, it’s also not time for lockdowns and Ontario should re-think its strategy.

“We have to faith in the vaccines. We have seen in the other parts of the world like Israel, the U.K.,and the U.S. our neighbours to the south,” says Chakrabarti. “They are very safe and effective and our ticket out of this pandemic. We really should be taking that.”

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$2.9 million tax break for Ottawa Porsche dealership receives the green ligh





OTTAWA — Ottawa city council has given the green light to a $2.9 million tax break for a new Porsche dealership in Vanier.

Council voted 15 to 9 to approve a grant under the Community Improvement Plan initiative to build a Porsche dealership at the corner of Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard.  The project by Mrak Holdings Inc., a.k.a. Mark Motors of Ottawa, would be built at 458 Montreal Road.

Under the Community Improvement Plan approved by Council, business owners can apply for a grant equal to 75 per cent of the municipal tax increase attributable to the redevelopment. A report says the goal of the Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan is to “stimulate business investment, urban renewal and property upgrades in the area.”

Coun. Catherine McKenney was one of nine councillors who opposed the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“I agree with the Community Improvement Plan, but I know and what people see here is that this application does not meet the criteria,” said McKenney about the CIP proposal for the Porsche dealership.

“A car dealership, no matter whether it’s Honda, or a Porsche or a Volkswagen, it does not first off belong on a traditional main street. This does not the meet the criteria of a CIP, it will do nothing for urban renewal.”

Approximately 70 people gathered at the site of the proposed Porsche dealership Tuesday evening to oppose the tax grant.

Coun. Diane Deans told Council she doubted any councillors who supported the Community Improvement Plan when it was developed in 2019 thought it would support a luxury car dealership.

“I don’t think it fits. I don’t think a clear case has been made that this incentive is required for the Mark Motors project to move forward at all,” said Deans. “I don’t believe there’s a clear community benefit.”

Coun. Riley Brockington, Deans, Jeff Leiper, Carol Anne Meehan, Rick Chiarelli, Theresa Kavanagh, Keith Egli, McKenney and Shawn Menard voted against the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“It will lead to a $17 million investment on Montreal Road, it will create about 20 jobs in that neigthborhood,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

Watson noted auto dealerships were not excluded from the Community Improvement Plan when approved by committee and Council.

A motion introduced by Watson was approved to use property tax revenue generated by the redevelopment for affordable housing.

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