Mail, Japan and Canadian-style populism: how politics touched us this week

Sexual misconduct allegations, Canada Post, free trade with Japan and more

First Nova Scotia’s Jamie Baillie, then Ontario’s Patrick Brown, and finally Ottawa’s Kent Hehr.

The toppling of three politicians in the space of two days obliterated all other talk around federal politics this week, reverberating through caucus meetings in Victoria and Ottawa, and reaching the prime minister during his trip to Davos, Switzerland.

While circumstances around each man’s downfall are dramatically different, they all link to allegations of sexual misconduct — and have prompted politicians of all stripes to take a hard look at what happens behind closed doors.

READ MORE: Combat sexism, misconduct by voting in more women: former B.C. premier

Whether the introspection will turn into better working conditions for women in politics and young staffers, or whether it will turn into a tit-for-tat leaking of lurid tales is an open question.

Drowned out by the scandals were developments on mail delivery, opportunities for trade and investment with Asia, and the taking root of a Canadian brand of populism.

Here’s how politics mattered this week:

Of Canada post and election promises

Home delivery was a contentious issue in the 2015 election campaign after the Conservatives moved to halt it and replace the service with community mail boxes that residents would have to walk to.

This week, the Liberals rolled out their response. After many months of consultation and close scrutiny of the numbers, they say they will not convert any more home delivery routes to community mail boxes. More controversially, however, they also say they won’t “put the tooth paste back in the tube” by restoring the conversions of 840,000 households that have already taken place.

Not going ahead with the Conservative plan to eliminate door-to-door delivery means foregoing $350 million a year in savings. But the Liberals say they are giving Canada Post new freedoms and incentives to spread its wings and compete on parcels, on remittances, and off-hour deliveries.

Does all this mean Justin Trudeau has kept an election promise? Many voters had the impression — from comments made by Trudeau and his team — that home delivery would be completely restored. The Liberals’ election platform promises to “save home mail delivery.”

Of free trade with Japan

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, as Trudeau was consorting with the rich and famous in Davos and the bulk of Canada’s trade negotiators were holed up in Montreal for the renewal of NAFTA, Canadian officials in Japan agreed to sign on to a massive trade and investment agreement with Asia-Pacific countries.

The treaty will give Canada free trade with some of the world’s most dynamic economies — Japan, Australia, Vietnam. But the cheers of joy have been tempered in Canada by concerns about secrecy, and an outcry from the auto sector and dairy farmers.

Canada held off signing on to the deal late last year because of concerns about the cultural and auto industries. It came away this week with a cultural exemption in hand.

On the auto front, officials point to a side deal with Japan that will protect Canada’s interests. But since that bilateral agreement has yet to be made public, the auto sector and its unions fear for the worst — at a time when the NAFTA negotiators in Montreal are also under pressure to make concessions on auto manufacturing.

Of Canada-style populism

Former Conservative leadership contender and MP Kellie Leitch announced this week she would not seek re-election, and massive new polling and research by EKOS and The Canadian Press could give some insight as to why.

During her ill-fated leadership campaign, Leitch did not hesitate to invoke Donald Trump. She advocated screening immigrants for so-called Canadian values, and made no bones about adopting some of Trump’s populist tactics. She finished sixth.

Research published this week shows that populism may have a foothold in Canada, but it’s unique and doesn’t exactly replicate forces that drove voters to choose Trump.

EKOS Research took polls involving 12,604 people who discussed their opinions on economics, culture, openness towards the world and towards immigration. The polling firm formed an index that plotted the respondents according to how “open” or how “ordered” they preferred their world to be.

Fewer than half are on the “open” side of the spectrum. About 30 per cent are “ordered” — feeling economically and culturally insecure. And about 25 per cent have a mixed view.

The 30 per per cent of “ordered” respondents is not generally linked to race or immigration. Rather, there is a stronger correlation with education, income and hopes for the next generation.

Heather Scoffield, Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press

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