Trump is incensed by a ragtag group of migrants – here’s what the fuss is about

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TODAY:

  • Donald Trump has identified the most pressing threat to American security — a ragtag group of migrants marching some 3,300 kilometres south of the Texas border.
  • At Issue tackles the tricky issue of pot pardons for past convictions.
  • Mary Moran has to persuade Albertans that the time is right to launch a bid to host another Winter Olympics.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Trump vs. the caravan

Donald Trump has identified the most pressing threat to American security — a ragtag group of migrants marching some 3,300 kilometres south of the Texas border.

The caravan of people fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala has swelled to around 4,000 people, many of them women and children.

Their stated goal is to travel all the way across Guatemala and Mexico to the U.S. border — a journey of several weeks — to seek sanctuary in the United States. But similar caravans in the past have proven to be more about protest than relocation, with few participants making it all the way to the frontier.

Honduran migrants bound to the U.S border climb into the bed of a truck in Zacapa, Guatemala, on Wednesday. (Moises Castillo/Associated Press)

The U.S. president isn’t waiting to see how it turns out.

In a series of tweets this morning, he threatened to cut off foreign aid to the region, call in the military to seal off the border, and perhaps even tear up the new USMCA trade pact unless the marchers are halted.

The reality is that the Mexican government has already taken action.

It has dispatched 500 more federal police to its southern border to intercept the migrants, in advance of a scheduled meeting between President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Mexico City tomorrow.

In the four months since Trump rescinded a policy of separating migrant children from their parents, the number of families arriving at the U.S. border has spiked sharply, the Washington Post reported this week. Although, overall, the annual number of arrests along the Mexican frontier has declined by more than one million from the heights of the early 2000s.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on immigration in Washington on June 22. The Republicans have made immigration a central campaign issue heading into the November midterm elections. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

But Trump’s tweets are surely intended for a different audience, anyway — American voters.

The president and his inner circle are betting heavily on illegal immigration as a key issue to drive out the Republican vote in next month’s midterm elections. His recent rallies have been filled with rhetoric about gangs, crime and Democrats who have gone “soft” on border security.

All for a reason: polls suggest that immigration remains the undisputed top-of-mind concern for GOP supporters.

A survey released this week by the Pew Research Center asked likely voters to identify the most important issues facing America. Democrats said health care, gun violence and ethics in government. Republicans said illegal immigration, and to lesser extent drug addiction, and not much else.

To date more than $150 million US has been spent on 280,000 immigration-focused ads in this election cycle, which as this CNN analysis notes, is five times what was spent on similar spots during the 2014 midterms.

The vast majority have come from Republican candidates, like this pro-wall, pro-Trump commercial from Ron DeSantis, a self-described “Conservative Warrior” who is running to become Florida’s governor.

And all of this is simply a prelude to a bigger immigration battle later this fall.

Republicans are preparing for a big push to try and obtain $5 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall during the “lame-duck” weeks between the midterms and the swearing-in of new representatives and senators in January.

The fight has the real potential to shut down the U.S. government — once again — as Homeland Security funding, which runs out on Dec. 7,  is tied to spending bills for health, education, and the department of labour.

For their part, Democrats don’t seem inclined to strike a compromise.

“It happens to be like a manhood issue for the president, building a wall, and I’m not interested in that,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi proclaimed during an appearance in California this week. “That isn’t the only way to protect the border. In fact, it’s probably the worst way to protect the border.”

Trump’s bluster has also failed to impress the Mexicans. They’re playing tough on USMCA, demanding that U.S. tariffs on their steel be lifted before they will finalize the deal.

And Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president elect, suggested yesterday that migrants will be welcomed with open arms after he officially takes office on Dec. 1.

His new administration will “give jobs to Central Americans,” he said. “It is a plan that we have, that anyone who wants to work in Mexico will have a work visa.”


A green read

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Rosemary Barton on At Issue

Tonight’s At Issue panel tackles the tricky issue of pot pardons for past convictions, writes Rosemary Barton:

And so, it has happened. And the sky has not fallen. And no other political party has vowed to reverse it. And people have purchased and consumed it in droves.

Pot is legal and Canada is now the second country (after Uruguay) to do so.

A customer holding a cannabis product leaves a store in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, on Wednesday. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

With legalization has come another promise by this government, to issue pardons to Canadians who have been carrying minor cannabis-related convictions around for years.

The pardons are limited to those found guilty of simple possession of marijuana. The wait time — five years for a summary offence, 10 years for an indictable offence — and the usual $631 fee for a pardon will both be waived.

But the legislation is not ready. The government says it hopes to table that before Christmas.

While it is a significant move to try and unburden tens of thousands of Canadians, the NDP at least thinks it does not go far enough. It wants those records expunged entirely. That effectively means a criminal record is wiped — but only in this country.

A cannabis user smokes a joint with a maple leaf design in Toronto on Wednesday after pot became legal in Canada. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

The government maintains that expunging records is for abuses of human rights, where “the injustice is inherent in the law itself, as was the case with the prohibition of sexual activity between same-sex partners.”

It adds that a pardon will actually be better for those trying to cross the border, since other countries may have their own records of a Canadian’s criminal history and a pardon shows the conviction has been forgiven.

Chantal Hébert, Andrew Coyne and Andray Domise delve into the politics of pot, as well as how Canada should handle its relationship with Saudi Arabia — and whatever else might pop up between now and when you see us all later tonight on At Issue.

– Rosemary Barton

(P.S. – No, we will not be high, though many of you requested it …)

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Seven questions on Calgary’s Olympic bid

Mary Moran has the sales job of a lifetime — persuading Albertans that the time is right to launch a bid to host another Winter Olympics. The CEO of Calgary 2026 spoke to The National Today about the costs, benefits, and challenges.

Calgary 2026 Bid Corp. CEO Mary Moran delivers the technical elements of its plan for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to Calgary City Council on Sept. 11. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Q: What do you think Calgary got out of the 1988 Olympics?

A: I would say the legacy that was left behind after the ’88 Olympics was a legacy of community spirit and volunteerism, and over and above that, it started to showcase Calgary around the world. Our global awareness went up so much higher than it was prior to the games. And it allowed us to attract businesses and investment, as well as talent, into this community easier than before the games.

Q: So what’s the return for 2026? The same?

A: I think the most important part is having this 1988 legacy infrastructure that we can reuse for the 2026 games, and so our costs are greatly reduced. And we’ve got willing partners — the private sector, the government of Canada, the government of Alberta — who are all willing to share in the cost. So by our estimate it will be an almost 5-to-1 return for the city of Calgary, and yet we get all these legacy infrastructure whose lifecycle is extended. We have new venues that are coming on, and we get to build some affordable housing the athletes will stay in during the games and will be left behind for populations that may not be able to afford market housing.

Q: What the public and media tend to focus on is the cost. Calgary 2026 has pegged the price of hosting at $5.23 billion. Why should people have confidence in that number when almost every Olympics, Winter and Summer, has gone over-budget?

A: It’s a good question. I can just tell you that I am confident that we are going to have no budget overrun, because most of the budget overrun doesn’t come in the operations of the games. It comes in the capital investment that goes into infrastructure. The IOC’s Agenda 2020 is about using existing venues. They don’t want cities to build resort towns. They don’t want the Rios and the Sochis and the Athens. That’s why Calgary is so well set up to provide the winning bid. Our plan is sustainable, responsible, and will leave a legacy in the community, because 11 out of the 13 venues exist today.

A girl learns to skate on the ice at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Plaza in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Q: What about security costs? They ran almost $1 billion in Vancouver, and your organization is budgeting $610 million 16 years later. What’s different about Calgary?

A: Calgary is a different place to service from a security perspective. I am very confident in this. We have been working with a team of 40 people from all levels — RCMP, local police, Calgary emergency response group — and they’ve done a very integrated approach with all the roles and responsibilities worked out so there’s no confusion, which will be cost-saving. And because of the difference in geography, we hope to be able to do it with fewer people.

Q: Do you get the sense that the politicians are excited? Rachel Notley just pledged $700 million towards the costs — $300 million less than you were looking for.

A: The provincial government has been very consistent in the information that they have provided to us. They have been consistent in that $700 million. And I think the message that they are sending to the community is that they are living within the means of the economic reality of Alberta right now. We still have two willing partners that we’re talking with and the negotiations are going well, so we’re very confident that we’ll still be able to deliver the Games with the support that the government of Alberta showed us last week.  

Q: Calgarians will vote on the Games in a non-binding plebiscite on Nov. 13. How much support do you think you need in order to go forward?

A: We want to see majority support. And I think we’ll get there. This is Calgary making a decision for all of Canada. And I think that’s really important for Calgarians to acknowledge. Do they want to spend a dollar to get $5 coming into the community? That’s really what we are asking them to do.

Mary Moran, the CEO of Calgary 2026, discusses what Calgary will lose if it doesn’t make an Olympic bid. 1:33

A few words on … 

How different parts of Canada dealt with the legalization of pot in their own way.


Quote of the moment

In rehearsals it worked every time…”

– A postscript to a new video from the artist known as  Banksy, suggesting that a shredder embedded in a painting sold at auction this month was designed to totally, rather than partially, destroy the work.

Sotheby’s employees pose with ‘Love is in the Bin’ by British artist Banksy during a media preview at Sotheby’s auction house on Oct. 12 in London. During Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale on Oct. 5, the Banksy artwork ‘Girl with Balloon’ shredded through the bottom of the frame as it was sold. ( Jack Taylor/Getty Images)


What The National is reading

  • Putin says Islamic State has seized 700 hostages in Syria (Reuters)
  • Tax scam cost European treasuries $82 billion (Deutsche Welle)
  • Protests turn violent at Indian temple as devotees try to keep women out (CNN)
  • Indonesia drops disinfectant on disaster-ravaged neighbourhoods (CBC)
  • Haitians call out corruption in social media campaign (Miami Herald)
  • Why white supremacists are chugging milk — and alarming geneticists (NY Times)
  • World’s longest bridge, linking Hong Kong to Macau, set to open (Asia Times)
  • Two charged with feeding Timbits to bears (Vancouver Sun)

Today in history

Oct. 18, 1988: Japanese tourist boom in Banff gets mixed reception

Japanese tourists have fallen in love with Canada’s oldest national park, thanks to Rice Curry, a TV soap opera set at the Banff Springs Hotel. Not only are they visiting in record numbers, they’re spending twice as much, on average, as Americans. But that’s not enough to please some business owners, who carp about the “changing face” of the mountain community, and the way Japanese tour companies conduct business.

Banff business owners are divided over the benefits of Japanese visitors in 1988. 12:20

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