January 13, 2017 — John McCallum is exactly the senior man Justin Trudeau needs in China, as Canada looks to expand its relationship with the Far East country.
The new ambassador to China is faced with the task of facilitating greater ties with a country many Canadians are sceptical of in terms of how it does business and on human rights.
McCallum has spent the last 15 months handling arguably the busiest federal government department as immigration minister, and now he moves into a role that will be a step back in terms of workload, but not in terms of the importance of the task.
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By putting one of his most senior men in China full time, the Prime Minister is sending a clear message both here and over there of the importance he is placing on improved ties.
Given U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s regular anti-China rhetoric, there looks to be an opportunity to capitalize for other countries, and Trudeau clearly wants to put Canada at the front of the line.
Stewart Beck, a former Canadian consul-general in Shanghai described the move as an ‘inspired choice’ in an interview with the Globe and Mail.
Another senior government official said the appointment was down to Canada needing a senior man in China to lead trade deal talks.
McCallum has dealt significantly with China during his time heading Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
One of the key challenges of immigration policy is how to make the vast number of wealthy Chinese coming into Canada spread out around all the provinces.
Currently, Toronto and Vancouver are overwhelmingly the dominant destinations for these immigrants, and they are blamed for overheating the housing markets in both cities.
While McCallum spoke during his time as immigration minister of the need to stop this from happening, he never formulated any policy to this effect.
The key issue is that permanent resident status gives the constitutional right of free movement, meaning there appears to be little that can be done at the surface.
McCallum also visited China back in the summer as a precursor for Trudeau’s own state visit.
During that time he spoke of how Canada would like to double the number of Chinese immigrants coming here, including highly sought-after international students.
It is estimated that a free trade deal between Canada and China could be worth $7.8 billion between the two economies and create 25,000 jobs over 15 years.
If these lofty estimates are to be realized, it is through the hard work of senior individuals like McCallum.
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