by Heather Scoffield, Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press Posted Jul 21, 2017 2:12 pm MDT Last Updated Jul 22, 2017 at 6:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Appointments, NAFTA and tax avoidance: how federal politics touched us this week OTTAWA – The week in politics was supposed to be all about kids and playing in the park.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau popped up in disparate corners of the country to highlight Canada 150 free passes to national parks and to celebrate — with cake and all the trimmings — the first anniversary of the Canada Child Benefit, his government’s multi-billion-dollar attempt to deal with income inequality.But the questions that followed him were more about the prime minister’s accountability and appointments than motherhood and apple pie.The U.S. list of objectives for the upcoming NAFTA negotiations and the finance minister’s new proposals to crack down on tax avoidance also loomed large over the past few days.Here’s how politics touched the public this week:ACCOUNTABILITY AND APPOINTMENTSOpposition critics are ratcheting up their questions about the Liberals’ methods in choosing who lands the big, powerful jobs in Ottawa.Three recent appointments have attracted attention because of transparency concerns.Last month, it was Madeleine Meilleur for official languages commissioner. This week, it was Julie Payette for Governor General and then Ian Scott for chairman of the CRTC, which regulates broadcast and telecommunications.With Meilleur, the former provincial cabinet minister withdrew her nomination after relentless pestering about her Liberal connections and donations to the party. With Payette, no one is opposing her appointment in the wake of revelations about a quickly dropped charge of second-degree assault, but the opposition is concerned that the prime minister’s appointment process was opaque. And with Scott, there are concerns his close ties with the telecommunications industry will make him biased.The questions about appointments will undoubtedly persist, partly because the list of vacancies in the top echelons of government is alarmingly long and partly because Trudeau has promised more transparency in governance.NEEDLING ON NAFTAThe U.S. Trade Representative has released its list of objectives to revamp NAFTA, and it’s clear negotiators in all three NAFTA countries have their work cut out for them when they start their talks next month.Many of the American objectives have been aired before, making them no surprise to insiders. But when mapped out over 18 pages and surrounded by vague text that may or may not mean major changes afoot, the list is eye-catching.Canada should expect to have to play defence on dairy production, wine sales, investment in telecommunications, government procurement contracts and rules for cross-border shopping over the Internet. But the biggest fight will probably be over how to settle fights of the future. The United States wants to get rid of that chapter altogether, and in the past, dispute settlement mechanisms have been a deal-breaker for Canada.What does Canada want from the talks? So far, the federal government won’t say much for fear of giving away its negotiating position.TAX AVOIDANCEBorrowing a phrase from his Conservative predecessor Jim Flaherty, Finance Minister Bill Morneau rolled out a “tax fairness” plan this week. It aims to eliminate the ways some high-income earners spread out and record their income so that the government applies a lower tax rate to their earnings.The goal is to prevent rich people from setting up private corporations just to lower their tax bill.Finance Canada says the number of self-employed individuals who have incorporated has almost doubled in the past 16 years.By closing just one of the three loopholes under consideration (income “sprinkling” by putting family members on the payroll), the government figures it will affect about 50,000 families and bring in an extra $250 million a year.Small business owners, doctors, accountants and lawyers are already showing their displeasure. They have 75 days of consultation to change the government’s mind.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedAfghanistan air strike: UN confirms 30 child deaths in April attackMay 7, 2018In “latest news”Kabul blast kills 80July 23, 2016In “Crime”Kabul explosion kills 40 at gathering of clericsNovember 20, 2018In “Crime” Afghan troops keep watch at the base near Mazar-e-Sharif after the attack (Reuters)(BBC) More than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed or wounded in a Taliban attack on an army base on Friday, the defence ministry has confirmed.Fighting lasted for several hours near the city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Balkh province.Insurgents targeted those leaving Friday prayers at the base’s mosque and others in a canteen, the army said.The Taliban said in a statement they had carried out the attack, using suicide bombers to breach defences.Earlier estimates put the death toll as high as 134, but a statement from the defence ministry on Saturday gave the figure of more than 100 killed or injured.It is one of the deadliest tolls in a Taliban attack on the Afghan army.At least 10 Taliban militants were also killed in the fighting and one attacker was detained.The Afghan government has declared Sunday a day of national mourning.Separately, the US military command in Afghanistan said that Taliban commander Quari Tayib had been killed in a coalition air strike.It said that Tayib was “once known as the shadow Taliban governor of Takhar province” in the north-east, and was killed along with eight other Taliban fighters in the strike on 17 April. The Taliban fighters who attacked the base wore army uniforms and drove through checkpoints to launch the raid, a military spokesman said.One injured soldier, Mohammad Hussain, said: “When I came out of the mosque, three people with army uniforms and an army vehicle started shooting at us. Of course, they had some infiltrators inside the base, otherwise they would never have been able to enter.“One of them sitting inside a vehicle had set up a machine gun at the car’s window and shot everyone in his way.”President Ashraf Ghani flew to the area on Saturday and visited wounded troops.US military spokesman John Thomas described the attack as a “significant” strike, but he praised Afghan commandos for bringing the “atrocity to an end”.Relatives’ anger: Syed Anwar, BBC News, KabulJan Agah from Jowzjan province lost a nephew in the attack (BBC)There are conflicting reports about casualties. The defence ministry confirmed more than 100 soldiers had been “killed or injured” but a security official in Mazar-e Sharif told the BBC that more than 100 had died, including a top military commander.Relatives of some of the soldiers gathered outside the base to take possession of coffins. They all questioned the security measures in place at the main entrance.“If strict inspections had taken place, the attackers would not have passed the first gate,” said Jan Agah, from Jowzjan province. One of his nephews serving at the base died and another was injured in the attack.The raid shows the Taliban can plan and carry out complex attacks. The militants said four of the attackers had served as soldiers for a long time and had knowledge of every corner of the base.The base at Mazar-e-Sharif is home to the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps, responsible for providing security to most of northern Afghanistan, including Kunduz province – which has seen heavy recent fighting.Several German and other foreign soldiers are reported to be garrisoned there.Last month about 50 people were reported to have died when militants believed to be from the group known as Islamic State targeted patients and staff at a military hospital in Kabul with guns, grenades and knives.Also in March the Taliban said they had captured the crucial south Afghan district of Sangin after a year-long battle.