Thunder Bay mayor, wife and one other person charged with extortion
It would not make any sense for the Liberal government to divulge what they hope to get out of a new North American Free Trade Agreement, said Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations.
“It’s illogical to unmask and to lay down detailed objectives when we don’t have to,’’ Leslie said Friday.
“What we’d rather do is analyze what they’ve laid down — no real surprises there — figure out where we can negotiate, what we can probably push ahead or hold the line on and take it from there,’’ he said.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump released an 18-page summary of its objectives for the new NAFTA on Monday, as required by U.S. law.
There are no such rules forcing the Canadian government to do the same, but Conservatives and New Democrats teamed up to ask that several cabinet ministers appear before an emergency summer meeting of the House of Commons trade committee to do just that.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has agreed to attend, alongside officials, on Aug. 14 _ two days before the first round of negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico begin in Washington, D.C.
Leslie said Freeland can be expected to outline approaches, rather than share detailed objectives, to avoid “giving up a negotiating advantage.’’
When it comes to the overall approach Canada will take, Leslie said it is akin to what U.S. VicePresident Mike Pence said in a speech when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Rhode Island last week: a “win-winwin’’ for all three of the trading partners.
The American NAFTA objectives do not always appear to take that approach.
They say the U.S. government will insist on maintaining “Buy American’’ rules that limit opportunities to foreigners, while at the same time demanding more opportunities for American suppliers to bid on government procurement contracts in Canada and Mexico.
“That’s one reason why we should not start negotiating in public,’’ Leslie said when asked about how this squares with the message from Pence.
“That will have to be part of the give-and-take of the negotiating teams,’’ Leslie said.
If the president wants “Buy American,’’ then what about access to projects like the billions the Liberals intend to spend on infrastructure?, Leslie said.
“I think our friends and allies would do well to watch what we are about to build in Canada and they may want to take part in that,’’ he said.
The mayor of Thunder Bay, Ont., was charged with extortion and obstructing justice Friday, almost two months after the northern Ontario city’s police chief was arrested in the same case.
Ontario Provincial Police said Keith Hobbs, 65, was charged in connection with an investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing that include a municipal official and a local resident.
Hobbs’ wife, Marisa Hobbs, 53, was also charged with extortion and obstructing justice. Police additionally charged Mary Voss, a 46-year-old Thunder Bay resident, with extortion, but officials would not say how she was connected to the other accused.
Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne explained that the charges were linked to breach of trust and obstructing justice charges laid against Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque in May.
She said Levesque was charged shortly after police had launched an investigation into the mayor. She added that it was Levesque who called for the investigation.
“The investigation started and as a result of that, (J.P.) Levesque was charged and then these three people were charged,’’ Dionne said.
Keith Hobbs was an officer with the Thunder Bay police for 34 years before he entered municipal politics in 2010.
His lawyers, Brian Greenspan and Naomi Lutes, said Hobbs and his wife firmly denied the allegations against them.
“These charges are unjustified and will be vigorously defended,’’ a statement from the lawyers said. “Mayor Hobbs and his wife are hopeful that the community will not prejudge these unproven charges and are grateful for the continued support of their many colleagues, family, and friends.’’
City officials said they would not be commenting about the case because the matter is before the courts.
Coun. Trevor Giertuga told reporters at a news conference that Hobbs advised council he would be taking a three-month leave of absence “as he deals with this personal matter.’’
“We are aware that we have issues within the City of Thunder Bay, but we have a strong council and strong leadership working to confront those issues,’’ Giertuga said. ``But let’s not lose sight that we are dealing with an issue today that is unrelated to city business or city issues.’’
The development in the case comes as Thunder Bay grapples with tensions between its police force and members of the Indigenous community.
In recent months, Ontario’s chief coroner asked an outside police force to help investigate the deaths of two Indigenous teens in the city.