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politics briefing

A Canadian dollar coin, commonly known as the loonie, is pictured in this illustration picture taken in 2015.Mark Blinch/Reuters

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

The weak loonie isn't just making your cross-border shopping more expensive: the federal government is having to spend an additional $143-million this year on its foreign missions and other fees because of the low Canadian currency.

The loonie's low value compared to other currencies mean that the foreign affairs department is having to spend more on locally-engaged embassy staff abroad, and on its membership fees for major international organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. As of 8 a.m. ET, the Canadian dollar was worth about $0.73 (U.S.).

These figures are available in the latest Supplementary Estimates C, a regular financial document wherein federal departments update Parliament on their spending. (In this case, the foreign affairs department is asking for an extra $121.1-million to mostly defray the cost of those currency losses.)

The estimates also reveal the government is writing off $176-million in "unrecoverable" student loans; the defence department needs an extra $215.5-million for its missions in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria; and a number of agencies are asking for a combined $147.4-million to implement the rapid resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> Finance Minister Bill Morneau will make an economic update this morning, where he is expected to announce the date of the budget and explain how federal finances have changed since November.

> Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (appearing on CTV's Question Period with The Globe and Mail's Robert Fife) is asking the federal government for help in three specific areas: expand Employment Insurance benefits to make it easier to qualify and receive benefits for longer; major infrastructure spending; and, given the regulatory hurdles facing many pipelines, a Canada-wide strategy for getting more Alberta oil to market.

> The Liberal government is working to improve the accuracy of its no-fly list and reduce the cases of false positives. "Obviously, when that happens for a six-year-old child [it] can be a pretty traumatizing experience for them and their families," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

> A Liberal MP's private member's bill this week could be a trial balloon for attaching "community benefits" conditions to public-works contracts, such as compelling companies to hire local workers.

> ...and in other private member's bill news, there will be an upcoming debate on banning shark fin. Conservation officials have warned the Chinese food delicacy has led to plummeting shark populations.

> Anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder is meeting with Canadian MPs and cabinet ministers to push for U.S.-style sanctions on certain Russian human-rights violators.

> A bureaucratic snafu meant Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu wasn't technically in charge of her portfolio for two months.

> The Senate has formed a modernization committee to open up and reform some operations of the Red Chamber, though some senators told The Hill Times they were confused by how it formed and why a chairman was selected without any consultation.

> Potential-Conservative-leadership-candidate-opinion-piece watch: Peter MacKay writes in the National Post that pipelines are necessary for Canada's economic future.

> And in U.S. politics, Jeb Bush ended his campaign for the presidency on the weekend. "The rules all changed this year. It was all about taking on the establishment," a Republican source told Politico in a behind-the-scenes peek at the former Florida governor's campaign. "When you're the son and brother of former presidents, the grandson of a U.S. senator, how do you run in a year like this?"

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"The word most associated with Sir Michael Barber, 'deliverology,' sounds like a self-help bestseller for bureaucrats, which is sort of what it was. So when Justin Trudeau's government brought him in as a kind of governing guru, it seemed like a government starting out with hundreds of new initiatives was looking for a trendy new way to manage them. But the striking thing about the message that Sir Michael delivered to Canadian civil servants last week – a how-to approach to delivering on promised initiatives – is that it's such common-sense stuff." – Campbell Clark (for subscribers).

Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail): "For a time, it looked as if the B.C. Liberal government's political challenge with the Northern Gateway pipeline project would be removed with the federal government's promised ban on oil tankers off British Columbia's north coast. Like a persistent stain, however, Northern Gateway is back on B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak's desk for a decision." (for subscribers)

Nik Nanos (Globe and Mail): "Deficits are the bogeyman that Canadians are not afraid of. But letting them run rampant, without connecting them to jobs and hard investments, can damage the reputation of a government." (for subscribers)

Carol Goar (Toronto Star): "Clearly we need a made-in-Canada climate change strategy. Fortunately, most provinces and territories have already taken steps to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, their collective actions won't produce enough progress to meet Canada's international obligations."

Michael Den Tandt (Postmedia): "Conservatives can't win by being the party of angry old men who shake their fists at reporters, endearing though such cantankerousness may be."

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