February may be the shortest month in the calendar year, but in politics, it’s often one of the busiest.
This year will be no exception.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to the United States in early February for a four-day visit to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, where he is expected to double down on the fact Canada and the United States’ economies are heavily intertwined.
While in the States, Trudeau is scheduled to meet with local business officials and deliver a speech at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
Travel to the U.S. by Canadian politicians has been steady since U.S. President Donald Trump took office as federal and provincial officials of all stripes stress the importance of the Canada-U.S. economic relationship.
Trudeau is then off to India for a state visit Feb. 17-23. While there, he is expected to participate in a number of business roundtables aimed at furthering trade and investment between the two countries.
Canada’s ongoing trade spat with India over pulses is expected to be discussed during the week-long trip.
In November, India slapped a 50 percent import tariff on pea imports without warning. The tariffs, which apply to all international exporters, came just months after New Delhi refused to extend a Canadian fumigation exemption on pulse exports. It was extended in January.
Ministerial visits by International Trade Minister Francois Philippe Champagne, Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains — as well as ongoing efforts by Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency — have not been able to resolve the issue.
Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced $575,000 in funding for Pulse Canada under Growing Forward 2 for food service market research and other development projects.
Meanwhile, another $178,500 has been pledged to help Pulse Canada explore potential market opportunities in China with another $221,680 earmarked for potential trade contracts with the food services industry.
The end of February will also see another round of North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks. The round is expected to start Feb. 26 in Mexico City, where negotiators are expected to resume discussion on a number of informal proposals aimed at pushing talks forward.
Fireworks are not expected in Mexico City, given that an eighth round is planned in Washington, D.C., likely in March.
Closer to home, February sees the launch of the annual game of “when will the budget be?” — a favourite pastime of Hill reporters and lobbyists alike. Budgets traditionally fall sometime between the end of February and mid-March.
The House of Commons Finance Committee submitted its annual pre-budget report, with its list of budget recommendations, in early December.
Meanwhile, Ottawa’s efforts to legalize marijuana continues to plod their way through the Senate. Justice Minister Judy-Wilson Raybold, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale were scheduled to appear in a special televised sitting of the Senate Feb. 6 to discuss the legislation, which has yet to be sent to committee for consideration.
The Liberal government has promised to have the legislation in place by Canada Day.
MPs have also agreed to fast-track legislation aimed at addressing sexual harassment on Parliament Hill after several allegations emerged within political circles in recent weeks.
On the agriculture front, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture will hold its annual meeting in Ottawa at the end of February. The agenda includes remarks from MacAulay, Conservative agriculture critics John Barlow and Luc Berthold and NDP Deputy Agriculture Critic Ruth Ellen Brosseau.
Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator was expected to attend this year’s meeting but is no longer expected to give remarks, given the conference conflicts with the seventh round of NAFTA trade talks in Mexico.