If you thought the summer was going to be quiet now that Parliament has recessed, you had better think again. It is shaping up to be busy on all fronts, with key international and domestic meetings of the G20 and Canadian Premiers, and the NAFTA renewal discussions set to kick off. And don't forget that the House of Commons Finance Committee is looking for your ideas as it begins to plan for the 2018 federal budget.
On July 7 and 8, Germany hosted a tense meeting of the G20 where condemnation continued to be heaped on the United States for their decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. German Chancellor Merkel has been critical of the U.S. on climate change and immigration, while the U.S. has been openly critical of Germany's export-driven economy and for a surge in accepting immigrants. Despite this, Chancellor Merkel has indicated that everyone's interests are best served with the U.S. as an important member of the G20 moving forward.
From July 17-19, the Council of the Federation holds its annual gathering in Edmonton (already underway), hosted by the incoming Chair, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. You can be guaranteed that NAFTA will continue to dominate discussions among the premiers as they follow up on their meetings in Washington in early June. Most Premiers came away from Washington with a united tone, with the group stating that they looked forward to a "modernization" of NAFTA that will update the 23-year old agreement. For example, data services and certain intellectual-property rules for new technologies are not covered by the current agreement and need to be updated.
Job creation in both the U.S. and Canada remains the focus of discussions between the premiers and their American counterparts. In addition to discussing next steps on NAFTA, we can anticipate that the Council will get updates from their five major working groups: Health Care Innovation; Fiscal Arrangements; Economic Productivity and Innovation; the Canadian Energy Strategy; and Internal Trade.
Specifically on NAFTA, we are anticipating that talks will begin in earnest in August, as preliminary discussions continue between Canada's Chief Negotiator Steve Verhuel and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. While resolving an updated agreement is a high priority, there is no deadline to complete the deal as the three countries begin to jockey for position. Both the Mexicans and Americans have indicated that they would like to conclude negotiations early in 2018.
Related to NAFTA, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is taking it upon themselves to discuss trade with U.S. representatives with visits to Georgia and Texas lined up. The Chamber is inviting any Canadian businesses or associations with interests in these states to attend the meetings. The Chamber just finished up the first round of meetings in Tennessee. At the end of August, the Chamber is hosting a mission to Texas and Georgia in October. The sectors that the Chamber is hoping to discuss on the trips include Texas – oil and aerospace; and Georgia – agri-food and manufacturing. More visits to the U.S. are being planned for 2018.
And if you haven't started to think about your pre-budget submission yet, now's a perfect time. The House of Commons Finance Committee has invited submissions as it turns its attention to the 2018 federal budget. Submissions are due on August 4 and, similar to last year, the Committee is seeking ideas to improve Canada's productivity and competitiveness.
In September, the Committee will begin to assemble a list of organizations to appear before MPs to discuss their submissions before making recommendations to the Government. The Minister of Finance will then take the Committee's report into consideration when making decisions on budget items. This government has also been very active in consulting Canadians – there are currently 92 consultations open for comment. For more information on what might be relevant to your association, visit this link.
Finally, this fall will mark the official halfway point of the Liberal Government. With two new leaders for the opposition parties, it is going to be an interesting summer and fall session. The Liberals are set to host their summer caucus meeting in Kelowna to prepare for the busy fall session. Parliament is scheduled to resume on September 18.
Chris Gray is a Senior Counsel with Temple Scott Associates. He previously worked with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Heart and Stroke Foundation and has served on the local Police Services Board and Hospital Board.
If your association needs more information regarding what is happening in the Canadian association sector, consider getting a copy of the CSAE Canadian Associations Financial Operations Report. Within this helpful report, you will find a wealth of valuable information regarding association governance, auditing, composition, and other important demographics.