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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks from the podium at Ford Motor plant in Oakville Ont. on Friday January 4, 2013. Mr. Harper announced the renewal of the Automotive Innovation Fund.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Politics Today* is your daily guide to some of the stories we're watching in Ottawa and across Canada, by The Globe and Mail's team of political reporters.

A challenging day for Harper

For a Prime Minister who likes his events scripted and the outcome worked out in advance, today will be a very challenging day for Stephen Harper. Having agreed last week to meet first nation leaders Friday, details around the event have shifted dramatically. After a public debate late yesterday, Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo announced he would attend the meeting, even as a large number of chiefs said they will boycott the event unless it includes joint participation by Mr. Harper and Governor-General David Johnston.

By the end of the day Friday, relations between Ottawa and Canada's aboriginals could easily land in two very different places.

Mr. Atleo has a very good working relationship with Mr. Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan. Mr. Atleo was also easily re-elected as national chief last year. That combination of popular support and good relations could be enough to produce a positive outcome.

But Mr. Atleo is also aware that frustration among grassroots first nations could easily boil over if Friday fails to produce concrete gains. Many aboriginals are already highly skeptical when it comes to news releases from Ottawa.

This will be a day of high stakes politics in Ottawa that is anything but scripted.

- by Bill Curry in Ottawa

Background reading

A lot has been said and proposed this week for today's meeting between first nations leaders and the Crown. There are as many opinions on aboriginal issues as there are Canadians, but here are a selection of views we've published this week:

  • Aboriginal-issues blogger Chelsea Vowel gives a few concrete recommendations for improving relations with first nations;
  • Hayden King, a Ryerson University professor and Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation, says there’s nothing wrong with Idle No More being divided;
  • Columnist John Ibbitson dismisses the need for the Governor-General to be at today’s meeting;
  • Frances Widdowson, a professor at Mount Royal University, argues a focus on resource exploitation will do nothing to help aboriginal youth;
  • David McLaughlin, a chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney, says “I told you so” over the failure of the Charlottetown Accord.

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