Corriere Canadese

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TORONTO - It turns out that Alexandre Bissonnette is not a Muslim terrorist. Just a misguided murderer -  by early indicators, a troubled right wing extremist sympathizer.
 
His mind was not clouded by some religious, “superstitious thoughts” or dated rituals. But, his victims are just as dead as if their assassin were a fundamentalist executioner. Their families, just as innocent, and their lives just as destroyed.
 
At least he surrendered himself and the public did not have to be subjected to further negative speculation of who would commit such a heinous and hateful crime.
 
In the context of the “Trump-liberated” climate of religious/racial suspicion, the finger-pointing was all too convenient, and troubling.
 
Now we know who was the trigger man. We do not have to rely on the investigative practices of the Suretè de Quebec, which is ill equipped to delve into these types of criminal behaviour.
 
A very humbled and grieving Premier, Philip Couillard, sorrowfully and regretfully acknowledged that the society he heads also has “its devils, like xenophobia, exclusion and intolerance”.
 
It is a powerful admission coming from the leader of one of the most secular yet most inward-looking cultures in the Western World.
 
He should be complimented for the admission. It renders his expressions of condolences to and solidarity with “ relative newcomers” a little more sincere.
 
The Corriere Canadese extends its heartfelt condolences and offers its prayers for the families of the killed and injured.
Theirs is an involuntary sacrifice no one should ever have to make in a civilized society. 
 
TORONTO - I love Toronto. There is no other place I’d rather be. I have grown up here; went to school here; met my wife and raised a family here. After all, as a bonus, there is the prestige of its reputation as “the Centre of the Universe.
Every one else in the Country “hates Toronto” because they know this to be true. Pure envy, I say.
But there must be something in the water that affects political thought and political process. It even affects politicians whose intellectual standing in the public forum is well established, in the municipal as well as at the provincial level.
Somehow, Mayor Tory succeeded in convincing Municipal Council to approve the imposition of a toll for the users of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. 
Cannot do without the revenue stream it would generate ($170 million estimate), he said. Moreover, those “foreigners” from the 905-area code are using our roads, clogging up our streets with their cars and not contributing.
City Council budgeted a whopping $335 million last year for the purpose of “minimizing [traffic] congestion”. How? 
Here’s a thought: budget an additional $89.7 million to expand bike lanes (842 km of them on the streets and in the parks). That involves taking current road space away from those relying on cars.
Tough luck for commuters. They should get jobs within walking or biking distance of their homes. Or take public transit like the Mayor.
905-ers cried foul. If only the weather would co-operate and businesses re-locate, they whined. Those who live beyond the northern barrier on St Clair Ave - the raised streetcar tracks for the uninitiated – chimed in their support. “Downtowners trying to keep the uncouth barbarians from their precious enclaves”, they said.
Opposition parties at Queen’s Park pounced on the opportunity to embarrass the Premier, hobbled as she is with an extra dose of unpopularity. They promised to overturn Municipal Council’s decision.  Toronto and the economy it generates goes beyond the borders claimed by the Downtown Progressives.
What was the Premier to do? Why the answer was self evident. Give Toronto the money and spread some more of it (about $250 million in total) to all the other municipalities, thereby eliminating the need for tolls.
Hero? Not quite. Council and the Mayor are outraged. Now they must devise some other technique to keep 905-ers and their evil cars from downtown. But they get to keep the cash. 
It was never about the money, they say. It was about managing traffic congestion. Just to be clear, not the congestion at Keele and Wilson or anywhere along Lawrence Avenue, Sheppard Ave, and the list goes on.
The Premier just gave away some of our hard-earned money to people who didn’t need it and cannot put it to good use. But, it’s the Toronto way.
 
TORONTO - It seems that the Ministry of Education remains unconvinced that the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is serious about addressing issues of discrimination and human rights. 
 
After receiving a written “action plan” by the Board on what measures it would take to deal with the ethnic/race-based bullying in its schools, the Minister, in display of disappointment, has decided to nominate not one, but two Ministry Reviewers with the task of setting things right.
 
The Board’s position on Staff, Student and Trustee conduct on issues of Human Rights and student welfare came across as “milktoast-like ” at best, according to a reliable source. No surprise here. 
 
Voluntary participation in sensitivity training is poor substitute for the psychological damage inflicted on and suffered by children in the care of the Board.
 
The real issue is Leadership. It is under the mandate of the Board’s Director of Education that these conditions were allowed to emerge and develop, seemingly without the administrative responses the public should come to take for granted. 
 
The public, and some Superintendents, have taken to challenging his commitment to issues of human rights and his competence to deliver a strategy for the Board that would include respect for the cultural diversity and for the dignity of individual children/students.
“An urgent review of the board is needed. I am appointing Patrick Case and Sue Herbert to review the governance and performance issues at the YRDSB”, Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education wrote in a statement.
 
“The reviewers will recommend improvements, particularly regarding equity, accountability and transparency, to regain public confidence in the school board. In addition, they will recommend ways to improve the working relationships at the board, including amongst trustees, between the board and the director of education, between the director of education and senior staff, and with the community.  
 
In addition, they will review whether board members and the director of education are fulfilling their legislated duties”.
 
A Ministry Reviewer assigned to examine the procedural competencies invoked in this sad affair may even uncover the special talents that the Director, Mr. Parapally, brought to the table to earn him a contract whose compensation conditions were unique in the province.
 
At a Board meeting earlier this week and consistent with his style, Mr. Parapally remained silent, almost aloof, in the face of parent protestors who had come to present a petition signed by over 1600 parents anxious to have him and the Board right the wrongs their families were suffering at the hands of the YRDSB.
 
“My colleagues and I want all students, parents, staff and community members to have confidence in our publicly funded education system, and to ensure transparent and accountable school board governance that nurtures and respects inclusive and equitable education”, the Minister wrote in the statement.
 
The other York Region Board would do well to heed the signs – the Ministry is not willing to shoulder the burden of locally created problems.
The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher
 
 
TORONTO - Everyone is all aflutter because President Trump has vowed to demolish everything that stands in the way of making America Great[Again]. Soft targets like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are already history – victims of Executive Orders – because they were merely in the negotiation stage.
 
But, because Trump sees “bogeymen” everywhere, he has mused about the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It should be a much tougher nut to crack. It has been there since 1994, weather the test of reciprocal profitability, court challenges and chicanery by businesses and pliable politicians.
 
Canada and Mexico must be on the alert and wary. But, they are not the real target. Nor are they without “partners” in the dance for market access.
 
President Trump has summoned the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada to talk about “improving the NAFTA”, otherwise. Presumably he could sign Executive Orders to begin the process of withdrawal. It is not a quick and dirty process.
 
He might even bully some of the Industrial sectors covered by the NAFTA with either the threat of tariffs (probably illegal and unenforceable under the rules today) or increased taxes on American companies that defy his “invest in America, or else” policy. 
 
It is unlikely, as long as the USA stays in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the arbitrating component adjudicating on the General[ly negotiated] Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.
 
The USA and other leading Industrial Powers have worked hard to “discipline the marketplace” – and continue to do so – in order to level the playing field. And to provide companies with protection against bully tactics by governments like that which Trump muses about leading, or against special treatment for competitor companies.
 
Canada has been there before. In fact, the WTO has a special case study on Canada, NAFTA and the Auto Sector. It is a well researched (though sometimes technical) piece revealing the sly, behind-the-scenes manipulation of rules, the “caving in” to domestic political pressures, the use of “alternative facts” followed by [humiliating] political damage for the government of the day.
 
The study is replete with ironies. The bullies of the day were the [Detroit] Big Three Automakers. They did not like the market strategies of European and Japanese counterparts who located in Ontario to take advantage of the NAFTA provisions – negotiated by the USA with Mexico and the government of Brian Mulroney, later ratified by Canada’s Jean Chretien in 1994.
 
Canada was in clear violation of the NAFTA, because it did not treat the Japanese and European as North American companies, even though they complied with all the measures and proved a veritable boon to the Manufacturing sector (Auto) in Ontario.
 
The Big Three, and their Union allies, they prevailed on a Cabinet pre-occupied with the pressures emanating from Quebec, pre-and post-Referendum, to defend their interests at the WTO. After a negative decision, they further convinced the government to appeal. Canada lost.
 
General Motors, which had been “promising” to keep a plant in St Therese, Quebec, open, in return for government action at the WTO, vacated the province. They must have been operating in a milieu where “alternative facts” are the norm.
 
The point is that, while both Canada and Mexico are saddled with weaknesses, their position in NAFTA is now stronger for the expiry of the TPP. At least as far as the Auto sector is concerned. 
 
If Trump’s USA is truly concerned about the growing Auto sector in China, it should be encouraged to improve the local content provisions under NAFTA as a start.     
 
Of course the negotiations and National positions are more complex but there has to be a beginning. If Trump needs some sort of “face-saving win”, Canadian negotiators might look to the TPP as a “bullet they dodged” when they ceded negotiating authorities to their American counterparts and insist on strengthening their relative positions in the NAFTA.
 
The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher
 
TORONTO - Two hundred years ago, the USA, emerging from a successful war of Independence from Mother Britain, fashioned a “Foreign Policy” that, in layman’s terms, claimed all the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific as property of the USA, to do with it as it pleased.
 
Because God willed it. It was America’s Manifest Destiny. President James Monroe in the early 1820’s refined it to include the entire Western Hemisphere, warning all European Nations that the USA would consider their active presence in the Americas as a threat to its interests, and would react accordingly.
 
Trump’s version of this Monroe Doctrine may seem less refined. In his inaugural speech, he reminded everyone that he will “renegotiate everything” so that the USA will come out ahead. 
 
In case anyone is confused, this means the USA must come out on top: “we’ll negotiate until I win. You must, therefore, lose. The only issue is by how much.”
 
None of this is new. He has been repeating that he would renegotiate everything so that America would get its fair – bigger – share. Truth and fact will be the first casualties of the Trump Era. So, on what basis will there be negotiation? His surrogates are already insulating him from any value structure, moral or legal, by saying they will [always] have “alternative facts” to the truth.
 
Twenty four hours after the pomp and ceremony of his inauguration, women in the USA produced an impressive numerical rejection of his leadership with an unexpectedly - hugely – successful demonstration of opposition to him and what he represents.
 
Therein may be the clue to how “partners”, existing and potential, need to approach Trump: united and with a game plan. Woe the country that allows itself to be isolated or separated from its military or trading alliances.
 
The Russians have already cautioned that Trump may need some time before he becomes accustomed to the “nuances” of Foreign Policy. The Europeans – minus England have started to signal that, while they are always willing to discuss issues, their focus is on upgrading relationships for reciprocal improvement.
 
Even the English are already hedging their bets on what to expect from a potential trade agreement with the USA that may indeed be worth considerably less that what may be lost over time with a Europe restricted to keep England out.
 
Assuming Trump is serious about addressing the real problem facing the American economy, his target will be China, the Industrial behemoth destined to only grow bigger. China has four times the population of the USA. Its GDP is already on a par with that of the USA, and with Europe. It holds a commanding percentage of the American debt. It already produces about 70% of the world’s manufacturing.
 
It has become THE biggest player in the global transportation business. Domestically,  on a per capita it is still much smaller than its European and American counterparts. But, if its economies of scale are any indication, it will outstrip any and all competitors in the near future.
 
American businesses, Trump’s included, are locating in China for future growth.  83 countries already have the EU as their largest export market, 28 have the US and 14 have China, according to an international online statistics aggregator, Nation Master.
 
The European Union is the biggest market for both American and Chinese products. The USA is the biggest market for Europe, as it is for Mexico and Canada. The other nations who rely on the USA are secondary players.
 
Globalization has so far worked for the Americans. So has the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
 
Yet, Trump has decided to “squeeze” America’s most important trading partners – Canada and Mexico – to send a signal to its rivals Europe, and more importantly, China.
 
Tomorrow: NAFTA updates are nothing new