Ministers gather for final day of meetings at cabinet retreat in Nanaimo

NAFTA, pipeline Supreme Court decision, immigration discussed at Vancouver Island Conference Centre

Amarjeet Sohi, minister of natural resources, speaks with reporters at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Thursday morning. NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin

The prime minister and his ministers have gathered for the final day of a cabinet retreat in Nanaimo.

Justin Trudeau arrived at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre around 10 a.m. after spending the morning in Prince George and told reporters he is focused on Canadians today.

Earlier in the morning a handful of ministers addressed the media, including Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs, who said she had had discussions with Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, and representatives from Mexico regarding ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement discussions.

“I had some good conversations yesterday,” she said.

Freeland, who did not provide any updates on the relationship with Saudi Arabia, said based on yesterday’s discussions, Mexico and the United States remain “optimistic” and are making good headway. She wouldn’t comment specifically around the issues between Mexico and the United States, but said Canada remains enthusiastic about the potential to update and modernize the NAFTA agreement.

“In the NAFTA trading relationship there are clearly bilateral issues between each of the two partner countries and then there are a number of trilateral issues in this broader trilateral agreement. In order to get to the ultimate goal that we all share of modernizing and updating NAFTA, obviously it is important to resolve the bilateral issues,” she said.

“The progress that our partners are making in resolving their bilateral issues is an essential and encouraging step in that direction.”

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Freeland said one of the key issues around NAFTA is around the rules on where vehicles are produced within North America.

“This is has really been at the core of the modernization effort,” she said. “The integrated auto sector across North America is a very big part of the North American economic integration and rules of origin are … complex.”

Amarjeet Sohi, minister of natural resources, spoke about the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision this morning to dismiss an appeal by the City of Burnaby over the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which was purchased by the federal government this summer. Sohi said the government is “very pleased” with the decision made by the Supreme Court and will continue with the project.

He mentioned that the pipeline expansion represents “$15 billion of potential revenue that we can use to transition to a more green economy, at the same time improve services that Canadians deserves.”

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Meanwhile, Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, briefly responded to the News Bulletin about the rationale for increasing the number of accepted Parent and Grandparent Program applications through the family sponsorship stream next year. The government had announced earlier this week that it intended to increase the number of accepted PGP applicants from 18,000 to 20,000.

Hussen said that the reason his government decided to increase the number of accepted applicants was because it was what Canadians wanted.

“The community asked for it. We travelled across the country and people asked for it and we listened,” Hussen said, later adding that the family sponsorship program has been successful and “leads to better outcomes socially, emotionally and economically.”




nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
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