Politics Briefing: Huawei executive back in Vancouver court

Good morning,

The chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei remains in Canadian custody today. Meng Wanzhou will be back in court today arguing that she should be allowed to leave jail during her extradition hearings. Ms. Meng said two of her four children go to school in Vancouver, she owns two properties in the city and she used to be a permanent resident of Canada, though she gave that up. In court filings, she also said she is dealing with health problems this year. (Vancouver police are also looking into an attempted break-in at one of her houses.)

Ms. Meng was arrested last week to be extradited to the United States, where she is wanted for having allegedly violated trade sanctions with Iran. The arrest caused an immediate chill in relations between Canada and China. British Columbia’s government even cancelled an official trade trip to China, although Canadian companies say they’re going to go ahead with the trip anyway.

But while the arrest catalyzed problems in the diplomatic relationship, there were already some tensions brewing there because of Huawei. The Globe and Mail reported this morning that Canada’s spy agency had convened a meeting with the country’s top research universities in October to tell them to be wary of their work with Huawei. The Globe detailed earlier this year how the telecom giant was getting the intellectual property of work done in Canada’s taxpayer-funded labs.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is exclusively available only to our digital subscribers. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


In Ottawa, it’s the last week of sitting for the House of Commons before the winter break. Expect a mad rush to get some bills passed into law before MPs head to their home ridings for the holidays. It will also be the final week of sitting in Centre Block for at least a decade. MPs move into West Block in the new year, into a brand-new chamber whose construction we’ve chronicled. Finance Minister Bill Morneau has guests today, too: his provincial and territorial counterparts. A topic of discussion will be, as always, equalization, and the fact that Quebec – a province with a balanced budget – will get a larger infusion from the federal coffers this year, whereas the hard-hit energy-producing provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador won’t get anything.

In London, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to postpone a key vote on her Brexit plan, as it was looking like she was almost certainly going to lose the Tuesday vote in the House of Commons. Ms. May spent the weekend talking to the European Union to see if she could wring out more concessions for Britain’s planned exit from the group. But getting changes to the hundreds of pages of legal documents will not be easy.

And in Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump needs to hire a new chief of staff. Mr. Trump announced on Saturday that John Kelly, a former general, would step down from his post on Jan. 2, after months of tension between the two people. Mr. Trump had expected to want to pick Nick Ayers, the vice-president’s chief of staff, to fill the newly vacant post, but Mr. Ayers has been clear he does not want it. Mr. Trump is said to have a few candidates from within the administration whom he might ask to take on the job. Not that the role will be a lot of fun: Democrats are already champing at the bit to try to impeach the President, or see him go to jail.

Globe and Mail editorial board on Huawei and the political relationship: “Canada’s courts must independently consider the U.S. extradition request; there is no way to honour the Chinese demand that Ottawa somehow end a court proceeding and free an accused. That would be illegal and impossible under Canadian law. We are a rule-of-law country. As part of the extradition treaty with the United States, this process will take place beyond the control of politicians. If American prosecutors have made a credible case, extradition will happen.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Friday’s first ministers meeting: “It looked for a while like a lot of premiers were going to band together to take on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But it was no united front. They disagreed among themselves more than with the feds.”

Lori Turnbull (The Globe and Mail) on the premiers and the next election: “Mr. Trudeau might be headed toward a similar federal-provincial conflict, despite his very different approach to intergovernmental negotiations. For example, his plan for a national carbon price has been met with sustained resistance from several premiers who are looking to the courts to rule that the measure is unconstitutional.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the urban/rural split in the next election: “Political divides are natural and expected in all developed democracies, until they become toxic. Downtown voters – who are more likely to be well educated, affluent, progressive and comfortable with all kinds of diversity – too often look on their country cousins as uneducated, intolerant and unenlightened. Rural voters see the way downtowners seek to reshape the country into something they barely recognize. When tensions become too extreme, a populist backlash seeks to Make America Great Again, fuels the Brexit vote, creates political paralysis in Sweden, causes riots in France.”

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