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The federal government is set to carve out a bigger role for itself in electricity policy – an area of mostly provincial responsibility, but one that Ottawa has identified as pivotal to national economic interests as Canada competes for low-carbon investment.

New spending commitments to help modernize and expand the capacity of the country’s power grids will be a major component of a federal budget aimed at keeping pace with massive clean-energy investment in the United States, according to government sources.

Policy levers that the government has been considering, the sources say, include some combination of tax credits, grants, financing mechanisms and the pursuit of joint funding agreements with provinces. There is growing recognition that grid investment is currently nowhere near what is needed to meet electricity demand that is expected to at least double as electricity is increasingly used to fuel transportation, heat buildings and power industry.

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Manitoba Hydro power lines just outside Winnipeg, Monday, May 1, 2018.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

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MP Han Dong leaving Liberal caucus, denies allegations related to conversation with Chinese diplomat

Don Valley North MP Han Dong announced yesterday that he is leaving the federal Liberal caucus to sit as an independent, but denied allegations related to his interactions with a Chinese diplomat.

Dong announced his decision shortly after Global News published a report, citing two separate national-security sources, that Dong privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat in February, 2021 that China should delay the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

According to the Global News report, the two sources said Dong allegedly suggested to Han Tao, China’s consul-general in Toronto, that if Beijing released the two Canadians, the federal Conservative Party would benefit politically.

Supreme Court skeptical about argument Ottawa is undermining provinces on regulation of natural resources

The provinces’ rights to determine their own future are being undermined by the federal government’s assumption of sweeping powers over development projects, lawyers for several provincial governments told the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday.

But the argument faced skepticism from a court that just two years ago overwhelmingly upheld the federal government’s right to impose a carbon tax on the provinces.

At issue is the 2019 Impact Assessment Act, which enables Ottawa to regulate natural-resource and other projects based on effects that fall into federal jurisdiction – such as on Indigenous peoples, birds, fish, and climate change.

Ottawa, Washington signal fix to border migrants issue ahead of Biden’s visit

The Canadian and U.S. governments signalled that there may be movement on the thorny issue of irregular migration going in both directions across the border, a day before President Joe Biden was set to arrive in Ottawa for meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In Ottawa yesterday, Trudeau and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser both dropped hints that there will be an announcement on the matter as part of Biden’s two-day working trip in the capital. The President will arrive with First Lady Jill Biden this afternoon.

While officials in Washington were more cagey about what they expect the outcome of the talks will be, Trudeau suggested a solution to the issue could be in sight.

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Also on our radar

Why the future of Ontario’s COVID clinics is uncertain: Ontario’s COVID, Cold and Flu Care clinics have provided timely care to people who need it most and have diverted thousands of visits away from ERs. But the funding of these clinics is set to run out at the end of March, and advocates say the province is squandering an opportunity for an easy fix to a strained health care system.

Fed raises rate despite turmoil in financial system: The U.S. Federal Reserve pressed ahead with its ninth consecutive interest rate hike, but signalled that it may be near the end of its monetary policy tightening campaign as it grapples with the most serious banking crisis since 2008.

Canada extends visa application period for Ukrainians: The federal government is extending its special visa program for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, with the war now in its second year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Wednesday. Ukrainians seeking to come to Canada will have until July 15 to apply for temporary visas free of charge.

Record jump in LGBTQ, religious hate crimes cases: A new report shows a record jump in hate crimes against the LGBTQ, Muslim and Jewish communities, prompting calls for more support for victims of the abuse. The analysis based on police reports also showed around half of Canadians committing hate crimes had been accused of other crimes before and after those incidents.

Shake Shack to come to Canada in 2024: Canadians with a hankering for Shake Shack’s juicy burgers and hand-spun milkshakes soon won’t have to cross the border to satisfy their cravings. Shake Shack’s Canadian debut will begin with a flagship location in Toronto set to open in 2024, and there are plans for 35 locations across the country by 2035.

Morning markets

World markets weigh Fed: Global shares were mixed Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised a key interest rate, while noting the end may be near for its economy-crunching hikes to interest rates. Around 5:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.67 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 were down 0.30 per cent and 0.22 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.17 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 2.34 per cent. New York futures were positive. The Canadian dollar was higher at 73.12 US cents.

What everyone’s talking about

Editorial: “Ottawa needs to rapidly increase its defence spending, with the ultimate goal of meeting the NATO threshold. Doing so would put our armed forces on a better standing. More importantly, it would demonstrate that Canada is shoulder to shoulder with NATO in the defence of our values.”

Cathal Kelly: “Baseball used to hold up its grand tradition as the reason it could never change. But it changed plenty when there were a few more bucks on offer. The example of the [World Baseball Classic] does not hold out the possibility of squeezing more nickels from its customers. But it suggests a way to keep the game more relevant to more people, which is the goal of any business.”

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable published March 4, 2023. MR. PRESIDENT, BEFORE WE LAND, A QUICK BRIEFING ... THE STATE OF THE BRANCH PLANTIllustration by Brian Gable

Living better

Why parents should try to find the money for an RRSP contribution

As welcome as they are, tax refunds can be more a sign of non-optimum planning than a true windfall. But the reality is that 66 per cent of returns processed so far for the 2022 tax year are getting a refund. A thought on what to do with this money if you don’t have a hole in your family finances to plug: invest it in a registered retirement savings plan.

Moment in time: March 23, 2022

Open this photo in gallery:Girls attend a class after their school reopened in Kabul on March 23, 2022. - The Taliban ordered girls' secondary schools in Afghanistan to shut on March 23 just hours after they reopened, an official confirmed, sparking confusion and heartbreak over the policy reversal by the hardline Islamist group. (Photo by AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Girls attend a class after their school reopened in Kabul on March 23, 2022.AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Taliban prevent girls from returning to school

With a deep sense of jubilation, countless Afghan girls headed to school on this day in 2022, only to find that those above Grade 6 were ordered to return home. The Taliban had broken their pledge to allow all girls to return to the classroom. The fundamentalist regime originally blocked girls over age 12 from school after taking power in Afghanistan in 2021, but the measure was thought to be temporary. The Taliban’s decision to maintain the ban, violating girls’ fundamental right to education, prompted outrage from the international community and many Afghan citizens. In recent months, the Taliban have taken further steps to restrict the rights of women and girls, such as barring them from working with foreign aid groups, blocking them from higher education and, in many cases, forbidding them to travel or work outside of their homes. “Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights,” Roza Otunbayeva, United Nations Special Envoy for Afghanistan, said in a statement this month, “and it has been distressing to witness their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere.” Sayed Salahuddin

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