McLachlin and Paulson take questions on Sunday-morning TV

Video highlights of interviews with the Chief Justice and the RCMP Commissioner, plus talk about the Canada-China FIPA

Message of the day

“The Canada-China FIPA lays out clear rules for investment in China.”

Questions not answered

  • Why didn’t the government have a full public airing of the Canada-China FIPA?

Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin:

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, was on Question Period, where she said all members of the Court strive for consensus, and while they try to reduce the number of things they disagree on with a lot of back-and-forth discussion, but they do respect and value the right of dissent. McLachlin noted that our justice system faces strain by being too slow and too expensive, and that we need adequate resources, as well as more pre-trial planning to ensure that the process moves along efficiently. With regards to the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, McLachlin said it is a fairly mature document now, and that the work of the Court is largely around nuance and fine-tuning as the major decisions have already been made.

Commissioner Bob Paulson:

On The West Block, Tom Clark spoke to RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson on the eve of his one-year anniversary on the job. Paulson said that his biggest challenge has been bringing change to the organization while reacting to the scandals that broke just before his arrival. Paulson says problems have been created by the transition from a male-dominated paramilitary force to a more modern police force operating at four levels, and that only three per cent of harassment cases are of a sexual nature. In the extended interview online, Paulson adds that he is getting a bit of pushback, which is to be expected, but that it is isolated.

Canada-China investment treaty:

With the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA) coming into force in four days, Clark spoke to International Trade Minister Ed Fast about it. Fast said that this is not a market access treaty, but rather sets out clear rules for investment in China and takes the dispute resolution process out of the respective court systems and into an international tribunal. The respective governments retain full authority in areas of culture, safety and the environment, and the Chinese government can only sue once an investment has been made here and the Canadian government acts in a manner that is inconsistent or which hurts China directly.

Clark then spoke with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who doesn’t like that this treaty is coming into force with no debate and no vote (as it is a Crown prerogative). May said her concern is that China is the larger and more powerful economic force, and because its enterprises are state-owned, it becomes the government of China taking the government of Canada to a secretive dispute resolution process for which there is no recourse. She said that she is not anti-China and that we need to trade with them, but that we don’t have to invite them to own us. In the extended interview online, she added that it’s ironic that our free-market system needs to go to communist China to get enough capital to develop the oil sands.

Over on Question Period, May noted that CSIS has said that they have security concerns about this FIPA and she wants to hear from, before she tries to stop it before it passes.

Fast was also on Question Period, where he added that the FIPA gives Canadian investors more confidence when investing in China because of their opaque legal system, as this provides a more clear set of rules. Fast said that it’s not true that it protects Chinese workers more than Canadian ones, but that the FIPA is fully reciprocal. On the European Free Trade Agreement, Fast said that they are having intense, focused discussions on the remaining basket of issues.

When CTV QP’s The Scrum weighed in, Craig Oliver said that this treaty could be as big as the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, but that we spent a year debating that treaty, and even went to an election over it. John Ivison said that while it’s not a perfect deal, the trade imbalance is actually a reason for doing it, and while the secret dispute resolution process is a concern, many of the fears over the billion dollar lawsuits will likely prove to be false. He added that once the Nexen deal is take care of, exploratory talks on a free-trade agreement with China will likely begin. While Gloria Galloway said that some experts have said it could be a constitutional issue if the provinces have to pay huge penalties, Tonda MacCharles disputed that because this treaty is a federal responsibility with no sign-off for the provinces. MacCharles did wonder why this didn’t get a bigger public airing than it did.

Etobicoke Centre decision:

CTV QP’s The Scrum also spoke about the Supreme Court decision on Etobicoke Centre, where Ivison noted that two of the four judges in the majority were Liberal appointees, so there were no partisan lines on the judgement. He also noted that in the future, any overturning of an election decision will have to be on a substantive rather than a procedural ground. MacCharles said that the Court set a high bar of proof to make it harder to contest an outcome after this, but added that the focus on the right to vote means any attempt to interfere with that right will be more heavily frowned upon. Galloway said that there are mistakes in every election, and if you allow those human errors to affect every result, it would make running any election extremely onerous.