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With friends like the U.S., who needs enemies like China?

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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.

At least two Canadians have now gone missing in China amid that country’s repeated threats to punish Canada for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng WenzhouMichael Spavor hasn’t been heard from since he contacted Canadian officials to say he’d been questioned by Chinese authorities. Spavor, who lives in China, is best known for helping to arrange Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea. Meanwhile, according to Chinese press reports Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, was seized by state police and accused of “participating in activities that harm China’s national security.” His exact whereabouts are unknown. (Globe and Mail)

U.S. President Donald Trump—who also considers Canada to be a national security threat—massively complicated the Meng case and undermined Canada’s position with China by offering to upend the U.S. rule of law and free her if China would do a trade deal with him. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Trump’s remark “troubling” and said “Canada is acting in good faith, responding to a U.S. extradition request in accordance with the law. … Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is — and will always remain — a country of the rule of law.” (Canadian Press)

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also took aim at Trump. Countries seeking extraditions from Canada must, she said, “ensure that any extradition request is about seeing that justice is done” and not about “political interference. … Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than be pursuit of justice.” (Global News)

Political life at Centre Block is winding down ahead of the big renovation. Trudeau offered his thoughts during what was likely his last time entering Question Period in the building (at least for a decade) before engaging in a final Centre Block sparing match with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Hill reporters, MPs and others have been saying farewell on Twitter and sharing moments of nostalgia, like what it’s like to walk down the stairs to the Commons and a stroll down the portrait hallway of former prime ministers. Trudeau delivered a final farewell speech, as did Scheer. Meanwhile MPs gathered for a last group photo.

Conrad Black might regularly write fawningly of Trump, but Lord Black of Crossharbour has not formally applied for a pardon from the president. “You are correct that no pardon has been applied for, and I have no comment on the subject,” Black wrote in an email late last month. “The public speculation about it that I have seen is bunk.” That doesn’t mean the speculation won’t continue, or that Trump won’t eventually pardon his old friend, writes Stephen Maher:

David Adler, president of the Idaho-based Alturas Institute, says that Trump’s pardons have so far been transactional, like everything else he does. So if he pardons Black, it will be because he thinks it will help him.

“If Trump were to pardon Black it would be a reflection of Black’s craven flattery of the president as seen in his book and articles striking Trump’s ego, and an expectation that Black would somehow support Trump’s Reelection bid,” Adler said. (Maclean’s)

It’s been nearly 20 years since Nunavut was added to the map of Canada. Yet Nunavut’s progress has been marred by missed deadlines and slow starts caused by unproductive discussions, backsliding and funding disputes:

Over the past two decades, the initial euphoria among Inuit for Nunavut has faded. Many aspects of the ambitious project remain unfulfilled, leading many Inuit, who make up 85 per cent of the population, to doubt they can still realize their aspirations through the territorial public government.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), an organization responsible for ensuring the other levels of government fulfill promises made under the 1993 settlement, is now considering an alternative path. In October, its board passed a resolution to explore potential models for Inuit self-government. “We’re being reflective: what are ways in which we can ensure Inuit needs and points of view are being looked at and engaged in, not in a superficial way?” says Aluki Kotierk, the president of NTI. “Is there a better way in which we can serve Inuit? If the territorial public government isn’t meeting the needs of Inuit, is there another way in which we can do that?” (Maclean’s)

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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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