Uncertainty the only certainty for law-makers this summer

It’s been a long haul.

MPs are set to wrap up their last week of midnight sittings this week and head back to their ridings for the summer.

The last official sitting day is June 22. Office pools around Ottawa currently favour MPs sitting until the bitter end, thanks to a seemingly never ending parliamentary to-do list that’s been drawn out by numerous hours of voting.

The House of Commons and the Senate continue to engage in a legislative back and forth. Senators, who have taken their independence to heart, have amended two bills that deal with the legalization of cannabis.

Bill C-45 is the bill at the heart of the government’s promise to legalize cannabis, while Bill C-46 deals with impaired driving. It’s unclear whether parliament will be able to pass both bills by June 22.

Both pieces of legislation face stiff opposition from Conservatives in both the House of Commons and the Senate, who oppose the legalization of marijuana. Meanwhile, several senators have expressed constitutionality concerns about Bill C-46.

As well, implementation legislation needed to enforce the Trudeau government’s 2018 budget is third at reading in the Senate.

Then there’s the ever-contentious trade file where uncertainty reigns.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s anger toward Canada has not abated despite Canadian tariff threats. Steel tariffs of 25 percent and aluminum tariffs of 10 percent have been in place for a couple of weeks.

The Trudeau government’s retaliatory tariffs package, valued at $16.6 billion, is set to take effect on Canada Day. The European Union’s tariff package will also take effect July 1.

Meanwhile, Beijing has announced plans to impose tariffs on about $50 billion of U.S. goods, including a number of key agricultural products, starting July 6.

So far, the Trump administration has dug in its heels, insisting the tariff actions, and the resulting trade uncertainty, are necessary to ensure fair trade treatment for American goods.

The reality for the rest of the world is a full-blown trade war, sparking more international friction while most Canadians are relaxing at the cottage or cooling off at the lake.

Whether the U.S. will push back against Canada’s trade actions remains unclear. One thing is certain: the current White House defies predictability. Anything is possible. Trump calls the shots, often on Twitter, and sometimes catching his own staff off guard.

In recent weeks, the Trump has made it clear he’s not afraid of a trade war, despite warnings from American business leaders, who warn that the Trump administration’s trade actions are putting thousands of jobs at risk.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said repeatedly the agriculture sector is one of the first to be hit in international trade spats, with many retaliatory tariffs levelled on farm and food products.

So far those concerns, from Trump’s own political base, have done little to satisfy the Trump administration’s hardline commitment to its America-First trade policies.

Another trade uncertainty? The future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mexican voters face a presidential election in July. Many Americans head to the polls in November for U.S. mid-term elections. At the moment, the earliest Congress is expected to deal with the decades-old NAFTA trade agreement is next January.

Closer to home, political pundits are not ruling out the possibility of a snap election.

Following a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters NAFTA talks will resume over the summer.

The agreed upon talks come despite a continued impasse about the Trump administration’s insistence that any modernized NAFTA agreement include a five-year sunset clause, a condition Canada has rejected outright.

Nor is it clear how Canada plans to negotiate a trade agreement while caught up in an international trade war, particularly given current political tensions.

And, as Canadians and MPs plan their summer holidays, the loonie continues to slide.

It appears the summer of 2018 is likely to bring even more uncertainty.

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