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“Jared Kushner Called Around Supper Time”

Greg MacEachern

With files from Mary Anne Carter, Pascal Chan, Saro Khatchadourian, Chris McCluskey and Louis-Charles Roy

It’s that time of year again! Environics Communications’ team has closely reviewed 2017’s major political stories through the lens of some of the year’s biggest tunes. So, sit back and check out the dedications in our 6th annual Counting Down the Political Hits (and – as always – some misses, too).

5. The Provinces: While there was little in the way of provincial elections for 2017, the landscape did see one significant provincial player move on, with another about to follow. Following an election that included an odd encounter in a grocery store, Premier Christy Clark suffered an outcome that only reflects the wonderful weirdness of BC politics. Her party won the most seats (barely), but when the Legislature reconvened, the combined NDP and Green Parties defeated her Government and she resigned. We also learned that longtime Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will be moving on following the selection of his replacement as the leader in early 2018. The coming year will also see Ontario and Quebec go to the polls, with the election in Ontario feeling like it’s already underway. We wish all politicians, arriving or departing, the best of luck as they search for their Castle on the Hill(Ed Sheeran)

4. Liberal Backbench: Through the fractious years as the Liberal Party transitioned from Jean Chretien to Paul Martin, the words “unnamed source” became synonymous with a leak from caucus. While Justin Trudeau is not facing anything remotely similar, restlessness among the Liberal backbench garnered attention, particularly on the proposed tax changes (more on that later). With only so many cabinet roles and committee chairs to go around, one can understand the backbenchers’ plea “What About Us?”(Pink)

3. Trade with China: So, what happened? Heading into an early December trip to China, there were hints that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit could be the start of official free trade talks. Instead, the PM returned home to headlines that included a word most politicians only want to see on YouTube: “fails.”Speculation ranged from Letters to the Editor suggesting it was the Prime Minister’s casual dress, to the more nuanced asking about Canada’s “progressive” requirements for trade. Considering Australia experienced more than ten years and twenty rounds of negotiations to establish their trade deal with China, perhaps the obstacles include the aforementioned and many more, as many as a “Million Reasons.” (Lady Gaga)

2. Finance Minister Bill Morneau: It was supposed to be a quiet summer announcement around tax changes, but by the end of August the Liberal backbench was plenty nervous with Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s plans. The Opposition seized on the issue, and it continued to grow over the fall with revelations of an undeclared villa, and a significant donation to charity. For a time, Minister Morneau seemed to be in political jeopardy as the Opposition continued to press the issue daily in Question Period, but perhaps taking it too far, with columnists like Andrew Coyne accusing them of “blowing smoke.”Morneau ended up Canadian Press’ Newsmaker of the Year, but we’re just going to dedicate Sorry/Not Sorry (Demi Lovato) to him.

1. NAFTA: The call was coming from inside the house — the White House, to be clear. As Alex Panetta of The Canadian Press put it, “Jared Kushner called around supper time.” Nothing quite encompasses the strangeness of NAFTA negotiations like the revelation that the Agreement was in such jeopardy, the President’s son-in-law called Prime Minister Trudeau‘s Chief of Staff Katie Telford to encourage the PM to contact the president ASAP to request the deal be renegotiated rather than eliminated. Since then, there have been many rounds of negotiations with the specter of the midterm US elections and the Mexican presidential campaign looming. No pressure! But in the spirit of Glengarry Glen Ross’ “always be closing”, we would like to dedicate “Closer” (The Chainsmokers) to those who have to shepherd a deal. Or no deal.

(Note: Just like nothing rhymes with “orange” no political story seemed right for “Despacito.” Maybe that’s for the best. Sorry/Not sorry.)