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But who will stand up for the autocrats?

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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.

“Grave consequences”—that was China’s threatened response to Canada after police in Vancouver arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a warrant from the U.S. (Associated Press)

China hasn’t elaborated on what those consequences might be, but China watchers were quick to guess. David Mulroney, the former Canadian ambassador to China, said that country will put any trade talks with Canada in a “deep freeze for sometime.” The ice is already setting. On Sunday the B.C. government suspended a trade mission to China because of the Huawei case. (Global News, Vancouver Sun)

It’s becoming a tradition: former foreign affairs ministers-turned-private-sector mouthpieces siding with autocratic nations to tsk-tsk Canada. After Meng’s arrest John Manley seemed to suggest the Trudeau government should have directed the RCMP to practice “creative incompetence” and let Meng slip through their fingers. “China is the second largest economy in the world, we need to have our own China policy driven by our own national interests. And unfortunately we’ve got ourselves caught in a situation where our China policy is being very much fashioned by some hardliners in Washington,” Manley, who was foreign minister in the Chretien government and is now the CEO of the Business Council of Canada, told CTV.  In August former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird appeared on Saudi state TV to berate the Trudeau government for tweeting about the Kingdom’s human rights abuses. Baird now collects his paychecks from Barrick Gold, which has operations in Saudi Arabia. (CTV)

While China threatens Canada for executing a U.S. arrest warrant, America still considers Canada to be a national security threat, its justification for tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. In an interview with the CBC aired Sunday, Justin Trudeau suggested the key to getting those tariffs lifted lies away from the White House: “I mean we, obviously, want to get rid of those steel and aluminum tariffs. But we also see the path toward ratification as a place where there are continued conversations from members of Congress, from business or associations in the U.S., from governors who also want to see these tariffs gone, and we’re going to keep working on that. Every step of the way there continue to be levers to pull on and we’re going to continue to do what Canadians expect us to do, which is look at every opportunity to stand up for our interests.”

Trudeau and the premiers met Friday. Nothing concrete came out of the talks. That was by design, writes Paul Wells, who examines how these types of meetings have evolved through successive prime ministers:

[Trudeau] does not gather the premiers to  decide anything. Everyone’s just checking in. Several days before Friday’s meeting in Montreal, Trudeau’s office sent premiers a proposed agenda. It made no room for a series of issues of capital importance to several provinces, especially the gap between oil prices in Alberta and those in global markets. Several premiers complained. Some wondered aloud whether a trip to Montreal was even worth their time. Did Trudeau’s office tell them to stuff it? Not at all. The feds gave a lot of ground, and in the end no premier reported that his or her favourite issues was ignored. Because when discussion is the only goal, discussion is easy. (Maclean’s)

Doug Ford and Jason Kenney have taken a page out of Donald Trump‘s playbook of treating the media as enemies, because it works:

“It’s changed dramatically, but the change is subtle if you’re not paying attention,” says Tim Abray, a Queen’s University PhD candidate studying voter psychology and a former press secretary to a cabinet minister in Mike Harris’s PC governments in Ontario. “Some politicians aren’t running against the media; they’re vilifying the media. There’s an important difference.”

Abray explains this trend as part of an ongoing effort to negate the effectiveness of unfavourable coverage in the mainstream media. “If you’re a partisan and want to maintain power, you want to neutralize critique as much as possible,” he says. “If the media is a major source of reliable critique, the best you can do is erode people’s confidence in that institution to provide objective critique.”

In short: if politicians undermine the media’s credibility, then whatever criticism of government emerges in the press is chalked up to media bias rather than a party or leader’s shortcomings. (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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