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The pressure is on for Senate to pass a massive Asia-Pacific trade deal quickly

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The push is on for Parliament to quickly ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement so that Canada can reap the benefits that come from being an early adopter of the deal — and there’s a race on now to beat other countries to the punch.

The agreement comes into force 60 days after six of 11 signatories have ratified it through enabling legislation. So far, four countries have formally put pen to paper on the deal: Australia, Mexico, Japan and Singapore. Two other countries are in the advanced stages of debate: Vietnam and New Zealand.

Canada’s CPTPP legislation, Bill C-79, passed the House of Commons on Tuesday and it is just now starting its journey through the Senate. A number of industry groups representing significant segments of the Canadian economy, including cattle ranchers and the meat and pork councils, are urging a speedy passage so Canada can get a leg-up on other CPTPP partners.

Observers say they believe being among the first six countries to adopt the deal could be economically significant as it would give Canada « first-mover advantage, » allowing it to establish itself in important supply chains early on.

There is huge benefit to us joining the agreement. This isn’t theoretical. It’s taking market share out of the pockets of the Americans. It simply doesn’t get any better for us on the trade front.– Carlo Dade

In a letter sent to senators and subsequently shared with CBC News, a group of farm interests is now asking the Senate to forego its usual parliamentary processes to ensure « expeditious ratification » so the deal can come into force by December 31, 2018 — so there can be tariff relief both this year and next.

« To meet this ambitious objective, we recommend minimal to no further witness testimony at the committee stage, » says the letter, jointly written by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Meat Council, the Canadian Pork Council and National Cattle Feeders’ Association.

« If we miss this timeline by even one day, then the tariff reduction schedule on our exported beef and pork is pushed back a full year. This represents money in the pockets of Canadian farmers that we cannot afford to lose. »

495 million consumers

The benefits of the CPTPP are said to be substantial as it will give Canadian companies more tariff-free access to the world’s largest trading bloc, representing some 495 million consumers. The deal will eliminate up to 95 per cent of tariff lines among the parties.

The chief economist at Global Affairs Canada has said the CPTPP will generate long-term economic gains for Canada in excess of $4.2 billion.

International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said Thursday senators should pass the bill before the end of November so Canada can start cashing in.

« It would be very helpful, senators, for Canada to be part of this initial group [of six], and we know that the date is fast approaching, » the minister said Thursday to the Senate’s trade committee. « Early November is a target we shouldn’t miss. »

International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr wants CPTPP enabling legislation passed by November. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Independent Ontario Sen. Sabi Marwah, the bill’s sponsor in the Red Chamber, also has been busy making the government’s case to his Senate colleagues that the agreement should be ratified « as soon as possible. »

« If other countries are able to gain first-mover advantage before Canada, then Canadian exporters will have a more difficult time gaining market share, » Marwah said in a recent speech. Marwah wasn’t available for an interview with CBC News.

Carlo Dade is the director of trade at the Canada West Foundation and has written extensively about this agreement and its past iterations. He said Canada should act now to take advantage of the U.S. « shooting itself in the foot » by walking away from a deal they had helped draft.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he wouldn’t sign the Obama-brokered TPP. The other TPP countries subsequently pressed ahead without him, reaching an agreement-in-principle on a moderately revised deal earlier this year.

« The rush is because there is huge benefit to us joining the agreement. The dollar and cents stuff is significant. This isn’t theoretical. It’s taking market share out of the pockets of the Americans. It simply doesn’t get any better for us on the trade front, » Dade said in an interview with CBC News. « We want to start clocking benefits. »

A concrete example of this first-mover advantage can be found with Canadian beef and pork exports to Japan, Dade said.

If Canada is part of the agreement when it first comes into force, he said, beef and pork exporters will have « the first crack » at using their preferential market access to displace U.S. exports — which will be more expensive because they’ll face a higher tariff.

While Canadian beef producers exporting to Japan can expect a reduction in tariffs, U.S. beef exporters will still be subject to 38.5 per cent tariffs. More than 30 per cent of Japan’s beef imports come from the U.S., while Canada supplies just 2 per cent.

With CPTPP, there’s a lot of room for Canada to take sales away from the U.S.

« It’s a limited-time offer. The Americans are eventually going to get their act together. So our delay is eating into the money we have on the table, » Dade said.

Cattle at a ranch in Alberta. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is urging a speedy passing of the CPTPP so they can export to major markets in Asia like Japan. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Other tangible benefits that will be felt right away include relaxed visa restrictions on Canadian businesspeople travelling to the region for work, Dade said.

And while cattle farmers are eager to secure Bill C-79’s passage, other groups — like Canada’s dairy farmers and some interests in the auto sector — are urging senators to take the time they need to adequately study the legislation before committing Canada.

Importantly, dairy farmers want senators to probe the government about financial supports for their sector, which was forced to concede quota to allow for more foreign imports.

They also want assurances that the government will guard against « double-dipping » of dairy quota if the U.S., which received some access in the USMCA, later joins on to the CPTPP.

Dade these are not adequate reasons to delay.

« We’re not going to change the agreement. We’re not going to add new things, and we’re certainly not going to find anything new, » he said.

Dade said he’s crunched the numbers and there have been dozens of committee meetings (64, in fact), with hundreds (503) of stakeholders testifying on CPTPP since the deal was first floated by the former Conservative government in 2012.

« How much more do we really need to hear? We’ve debated the agreement endlessly, » he said.

The Conservative leader in the Senate, Larry Smith, said he supports a speedy passage of the bill.

« We have a sense of urgency, we need to act expeditiously. It is not about acting impulsively. It’s about acting and get this done. This is important. We want to know now that we are going to beat the other three or four who are trying to get in in front of us, » Smith said.

Liberal P.E.I. Sen. Percy Downe, meanwhile, bristled at the suggestion that the Senate should hurry up and pass a bill they’ve only had before them for a couple of days.

« I appreciate the urgency and it may very well be that we pass it quickly, that our answers are secure. We should make sure we know what we are passing and take our time to do the job, » he said.

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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