Outrageous: Seamus O’Regan is Canada’s next Natural Resources Minister

The appointment of Seamus O’Regan as Canada’s next Natural Resources Minister shows that Justin Trudeau has clearly not learned his lesson from the 43rd general election.

Electors returned zero seats to Trudeau in both Alberta and Saskatchewan when all the votes were counted on October 21st.

These two prairie provinces are blessed by oil and gas but are desperately frustrated by their inability to get their resources to market.

Seamus O’Regan is best known for having a morning show on CTV, and and for being in Justin Trudeau’s wedding party.

So it stood to reason that O’Regan would be either a close advisor or something more formal when Trudeau won the 2015 election and O’Regan won his seat in St. John’s South—Mount Pearl.

Seamus O’Regan Natural Resources Minister

Enter Seamus O’Regan

As Veterans Affairs Minister, O’Regan tried to relate to his stakeholders by comparing the sunsetting of his own career as a broadcaster to the challenges faced by active military service personal as they transition to civilian life.

Not great.

But Justin Trudeau indicated that veterans aren’t on his priority list anyway as he famously remarked to a veterans that his brothers and sisters are “asking for more than we are able to give“. So Seamus coasted until the Trudeau inner circle had another problem to solve.

When Gerald Butts shuffled Jody Wilson-Reybould out of Justice where she was making too much trouble for Trudeau’s principle secretary, she was moved to the Indigenous Services ministry. Butts argued argued that the best person should take over the file. Wilson-Reybould flatly refused the position.

Enter Seamus O’Regan.

O’Regan’s tenure at Indigenous Services was marked by gross insentivity, tweeting a glamour shot of himself being pensive about reconciliation next to a passenger of his Challenger private jet.

Seamus O’Regan later deleted the tweet

The Trudeau government has not made reconciliation with First Nations a priority. While they’ve paid a lot of lip service to the issues and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, O’Regan fights compensation for First Nations childrens services in court.

Alberta and Saskatchewan have found themselves in a polarized position against Justin Trudeau and his backers in the rest of Canada. The prime minister’s failure to build pipelines and his failure to negotiate right-of-passage to tidewater for Canada’s energy infrastructure are problems that are worse enough. He also insists that his ultimate goal is to ‘phase out’ the oilsands. This attitude is fomenting Western alienation.

Will Justin Trudeau’s government be humbled by being shut-out in these two Western provinces? Will Trudeau hold out a fig-leaf and appoint a Minister of Natural Resources that will hit the ground running and fight for Canadian energy workers?

Enter Seamus O’Regan.

At Natural Resources, Trudeau has appointed O’Regan to take over one the prime minister’s most neglected files. Predictably, Conservatives and media observers have reacted with shock and exasperation.

Michelle Rempel reacts to Seamus O’Regan’s appointment as Natural Resources Minister
The National Post’s Chris Selley is shocked by the O’Regan news

Canada’s energy workers will be the most affected by the shuffle of O’Regan to Natural Resources. They are already indicating that the appointment does not give them much confidence.

A western geologist and exploration worker weighs in

Justin Trudeau views the oil and gas sector in opposition to his agenda of renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions. Yet, the sector makes up for 15% of Canada’s GDP and spins off hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary jobs. Meanwhile, Canadian innovation continues to drive down the CO2 emissions produced from the extraction of oil from Canada’s bituminous sands.

Trudeau would not be so cavalier and neglectful of carbon-intensive industries such as auto-making in southern Ontario and cement production in the Gaspé region of Quebec.

With Seamus O’Regan’s appointment as Minister of Natural Resources, Justin Trudeau is presiding over more-and-more division among Canada’s provinces.

Fran?ois-Philippe Champagne is the new Minister of Foreign Affairs

According to a well-placed leak to CBC News, Canadians have learned that Fran?ois-Philippe Champagne will be Canada’s 14th Minister of Foreign Affairs, succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the role at Global Affairs Canada.

Champagne was most recently the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities but held the role of Trade Minister just last year in 2018. The promotion to Foreign Affairs Minister is a logical career-track progression for the Minister.

Fran?ois-Philippe Champagne meets Speaker Inara Murniece of the Latvian Parliament

Canada’s foreign affairs challenges

Champagne will be Canada’s principle international-facing Minister on a number of difficult files.

China’s Canadian hostages and Hong Kong

Perhaps most pressing of issues is the detention of two Canadians by the Chinese government. This came as retaliation for Canada’s intent to fulfill an American extradition request for Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei.

The Chinese government has held Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for over 340 days and the two have endured regular interrogation and stress-induction methods at the hands of their PRC captors.

Hong Kong remains a hotspot and a growing concern for Canada. Over half a million Canadians trace their roots back to Hong Kong and about 200,000 were born in the former British colony. The rule of law is being eroded every day for its residents as China starts exerting its influence and control.

Fran?ois-Philippe Champagne must speak confidently for Canadians without encumbrance on Hong Kong and for the rights of Hong Kongers and the freedoms that they enjoy.

Canada-US relations is an ongoing dance

Champagne is now in charge of managing the Canada-US bilateral relationship. Canada has been without an ambassador in Washington DC since the resignation of David MacNaughton.

Canadians expect an embassy appointment soon as the renegotiated NAFTA (USMCA) agreement still languishes and remains unratified by Congress. Unfortunately, Congress is now gripped by inquiries into impeachment of President Trump.

The Americans will also be looking to Canada and its new Foreign Minister to back up a principled stance in two hotspots in the Americas.

South America is bucking socialist strongmen

Venezuelans have faced hyper-inflation, starvation, and a political crisis sparked by Hugo Chavez and continued by the Maduro regime. Over 10% of Venezuelans have fled the country and more than 90% live in poverty.

Closeby in Bolivia, the resignation of Evo Morales — after being ousted by the military due to accusations of fraud and corruption — poses new challenges for Canada.

The Trudeau government has already declared that it will work with the new government of Jeanine A?ez, while refusing to join the United States, Brazil, and Colombia in recognizing A?ez as the new President. If Canada is to speak with principled leadership in the region, it cannot continue with this wishy-washy stance.

Canada should do as it did in Venezuela when it recognized the opposition leader as the rightful leader of the country. Again, this comes after reports of corruption, constitutional manipulation, and fraud in both countries by long-standing regimes which have impoverished its people.

Iran faces internal turmoil, Canada should back up the people against the regime

Iran is facing an uprising of its people and has been witness to widespread protests for the past few days. Terry Glavin reports major disturbances in more than 100 towns with 12 people dead and 1000 protesters arrested so far. Iran, as Iran does, has shut down internet access in an attempt to stem the protests.

All of this unrest is in reaction to a spike in fuel prices mandated by the government. Yet, democratic activists in Iran have been vocally calling for regime change for quite some time.

Since the end of the Harper government, Canada has been playing toward the European end of the engagement spectrum with Iran, eschewing the American position of sanctions and isolation in response to Iran’s aggressive plan to enrich uranium for the use in nuclear weapons.

The Canadian-European position is untenable versus a regime that breaks its word on its plans for uranium enrichment. The Iranian government claims peaceful use for energy production. However, the regime continues to threaten Isreal with annihilation and continues to make marked steps away from the 2015 Iran deal.

Champagne will have a chance to reassess Canada’s approach to Iran and will hopefully come to determine that sanctions and isolation are appropriate and reform-inducing responses to a rogue regime that flouts international law.

Trade

On the trade-front, Trudeau has been wise to continue Prime Minister Harper’s agenda of negotiating free trade agreements with friendly nations. Canada is currently negotiating significant free trade agreements with India, Japan, and the Mercosur nations of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Trudeau will need to repair relations with India to re-prioritize Canadian negotiations with the world’s largest democracy (and growing market), while its diplomatic positions on change in South America could direct progress among the significant markets of that continent.

Evan Solomon is the new host of PowerPlay on CTV

News veteran Don Martin recently announced his retirement one of the most significant television shows covering politics daily from Ottawa. Martin hosted CTV’s PowerPlay for the better part of a decade. We didn’t find out who would replace him until Monday.

Evan Solomon PowerPlay

And with that Evan Solomon steps up to take over in 2020. Previously the host of CBC’s Power & Politics, Evan was knocked off his perch at CBC News when it was revealed that he was doing some art-dealing on the side with some of the news figures that he was covering. Usually, CBC usually likes to avoid conflicts of interest for its hosts. Of course, this didn’t seem to apply when Rosemary Barton filed a lawsuit against the Conservative Party on the same day she hosted the national leader’s debate during the 43rd general election.

Evan has had a slow climb back ever since. He hosted a daily radio program at Ottawa’s CFRA and was eventually brought on as a host on CTV’s question period.

CTV’s Power Play is the show opposite the one that Evan used to host along with Barton on CBC. Now, though Evan has reclaimed the timeslot, his former co-host has moved on to co-host The National.

As one of Evan’s colleagues in the Press Gallery put it to me years ago, Power Play is Bell’s daily hour of impressing its importance upon Canada’s federal government — which, it may surprise you to learn, regulates the telecom company and its industry. My wise friend noted that it didn’t even matter if CTV got any significant ratings among the folks at home. She pointed out that this is evidenced by the low cost ads for sit-down showers and CHIP-reverse mortgages that litter CTV and CBC during these hours.

PowerPlay regularly features panels of lobbyists labeled “strategists” for the folks at home. Watching Don Martin’s PowerPlay, I once spotted Bell’s Conservative lobbyist and Bell’s Liberal lobbyist on the same panel.

The other featured panel is the one for backbench MPs. Both lobbyist and MP panels are emailed talking points from their respective party liaisons at most a few hours before the show.

Among other eyebrow-raising moves on the show, cabinet ministers would ‘guest-host’ the show when Don was golfing down south. All wins for certain VPs at Bell to be sure.

If there’s one thing we hope that Evan Solomon can bring to PowerPlay’s new format is a ban on useless talking point panels, let alone a moratorium on the flattering of government ministers with TV gigs.

Evan Solomon interviews Conservative leader Andrew Scheer

We hope for more one-on-one interviews; the types of grilling interviews that Solomon conducted on Sundays on Question Period. If television news is still to be an accountability function for our democracy, let Solomon bring more of it to his daily show.

In our now-regionally-divided country, Solomon should also regularly take his show on the road. Every month, he should host CTV PowerPlay from one of Canada’s provincial/territorial legislatures. The interface between federal and provincial politics will be crucial over the next 1.5-4 years. It is important for Canadians and policy makers to appreciate this dynamic.

Take the show outside of the studio too. Find the coffee shops, airport gates, and job sites where federal policies are making their effects on people.

Let CBC continue its daily coverage of the special interest groups that line up for pork in the federal budget. CTV should forge a new path and interview representatives from the small business community and those now out-of-work in Alberta. Of course, these folks will be lobbying for themselves and their families and they would never consider calling themselves partisan ‘strategists’.

Though you may have detected some cynicism above, I’m always hopeful for change and the appointment of Evan Solomon to host CTV’s PowerPlay is a welcome development. Yet, we should continue to ask how PowerPlay can serve the public interest instead of Bell’s regulatory strategy.