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Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party Leader Dwight Ball speaks with the audience after being sworn in as the province's 13th premier at Government House, in St. John's, N.L., on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015.

Paul Daly/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

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Reading is about to become more expensive – and difficult – in Newfoundland and Labrador. To close a budget deficit, the province has announced it is closing 54 of 95 libraries, some of which the Liberals say were open only 18 hours a week. The move comes just days after Newfoundland became the country's first province to institute a new 10-per-cent tax on books.

"The recent cuts to the education system, a tax on books, and now the closure of 54 libraries, I mean to us, it's obviously a direct attack on literacy in this province," said David Brazil, a Progressive Conservative member of the legislature, according to The Telegram. (The Liberals replied that the previous PC government left the province's finances in such a state that they had no choice.) Newfoundland and Labrador does, unfortunately, have the lowest literacy rate among Canadian provinces.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> B.C. Premier Christy Clark has received $277,000 from the B.C. Liberal Party since 2011, including $50,000 last year, The Globe and Mail has uncovered. The Premier raises millions of dollars each year for the party, often from exclusive private fundraisers.

> Bombardier announced some good news and bad news this morning: American airline Delta has ordered up to 125 of the C Series jets, but the manufacturer still posted a loss for the first quarter this year.

> Canada's biggest oil-sands producers are meeting with environmental groups to see how both sides can get what they want: reduced greenhouse-gas emissions and at least one new pipeline.

> Ontario is creating a new "ultra-low-carbon" agency to reduce emissions in the province, by cutting energy use in buildings and encouraging people not to commute by car.

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> If there are so many problems on reserves, why don't indigenous residents move away? The National Post's Tristin Hopper explains the cultural differences that non-indigenous Canadians might not understand.

> Muslim Canadians are quite proud of their country, according to a new poll. What they liked least? The weather. Meanwhile, the Toronto Sun focuses on the survey's suggestion that young Muslim Canadians are becoming more religious.

> While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was unequivocal that his government will not pay ransom to terrorists, evidence suggests Canada has done so in the recent past.

> Mike Duffy should be paid the wages he lost during his two-year suspension, says one of his Senate colleagues. "What went on in the Senate chamber, in my view … during the suspension process was a debacle, a complete debacle," John Wallace said.

> A member of the CBC board of directors, Montreal lawyer Brian Mitchell, has resigned to run for the presidency of the Conservative Party, The Tyee reports.

> From the Speaker's chair to Stornoway? There are rumours that Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer – the previous Speaker of the House of Commons – is being encouraged to run for the leadership of the Conservatives. Unlike another politician from Saskatchewan, there are no doubts Mr. Scheer can speak French.

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> And, writing in iPolitics after the Duffy trial, former MP Brent Rathgeber explains again why the involvement of staffers from Stephen Harper's office in his private member's bill led him to quit the Conservative caucus. The bill would have publicly disclosed more about what those in the public service are paid. "Exasperated staffers could not understand why I didn't understand that a PM under daily attack over Senate expenses should not be forced to defend the salaries and expenses of other senior civil servants," he writes.

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"In British Columbia, the matter [of Premier Christy Clark's extra income from her party] was raised in Question Period on Wednesday. The Liberals mostly laughed their way through the Opposition questions. You can tell Ms. Clark and her Liberal colleagues do not take this issue seriously nor believe it will hurt them at the polls. ... What Ms. Clark fails to understand is that this is serious. There is a matter of grave public interest here. The Premier, the head of government, is selling access through party fundraising events. That is without dispute. And she is benefiting from the proceeds that access generates. It is a clear conflict. And yet, she and her party treat it like a big joke." – Gary Mason.

Konrad Yakabuski (Globe and Mail): "Big gambles on big hydro recently cost a couple of premiers their jobs, as huge cost overruns on massive hydro dams and collapsing prices for exported electricity combined to damn the projects said premiers had promised would generate carbon-free profits ad infinitum. Will British Columbia Premier Christy Clark be the next provincial leader to be turfed for going too big?"

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Russell Wangersky (The Telegram in St. John's): "We already know when the libraries are closing, and the budget that's closing them is only weeks old. How long has the Muskrat circus been playing? Seems like forever."

Colin Robertson (Globe and Mail): "[Canada should] publish the human-rights reviews of all countries Canada is currently selling arms to. The U.S. State Department uses their reports to encourage better global governance. We should do the same." (for subscribers)

Kelly McParland (National Post): "[Robyn] Benson and the other union bosses know they are in a delicate situation. After wailing so long and loud about the Tories, they can't immediately turn against the Liberals. It would look bad. And, in a contest for public support, Justin Trudeau would be a lot tougher to demonize than Stephen Harper. So they might have to go on being disappointed, and grumbling to themselves about the injustice of it all. What good is a Liberal government if public servants can't expect special treatment?"

Kevin Carmichael (Canadian Business): "Most of the people who voted for the Liberals last autumn probably don't care about Trudeau's credentials as a fiscal steward. That doesn't mean Trudeau can do what he wants with his mandate to spend."

Jen Gerson (National Post): "Although despised, sales taxes do the least damage to the economy. A five per cent sales tax – which would still be lower than any other provincial sales tax in the country – would halve the [Alberta] deficit overnight. Combined with moderate spending cuts – even restrained spending growth – Alberta could wean itself from resource royalties within a few years."

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