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politics briefing

Finance Minister William Morneau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Thursday, October 19, 2017.Adrian Wyld

Good morning,

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government is tabling its third budget today. Due to the time-honoured tradition of leaks and some good old-fashioned reporting, we have a good sense of what to expect. (Though there could always be a surprise or two.) Here's what we know so far:

  • Gender equality and science. These are expected to be the two major themes of today’s budget. Pay-equity legislation is said to be in the budget and measures that encourage women’s participation in the workplace, in management roles and in STEM, according to a government source who spoke to The Globe.
  • Small-business tax. Finance Minister Bill Morneau is expected to release long-awaited details on the Liberals’ tax reforms aimed at small businesses. A former Finance Canada official expects that the government will announce changes to its approach, which was widely criticized last year.
  • National pharmacare. Eric Hoskins resigned as Ontario’s health minister yesterday, and sources tell The Globe that he will be named as head of a project looking to establish a national pharmacare program. It is set to be announced in the budget.
  • Funding for media. A Liberal official told The Globe that $10-million a year will be directed towards local journalistic outlets through an arm’s-length organization. The government is also looking into whether news outlets could get not-for-profit or charitable status.
  • No-fly list. Mr. Morneau has signalled that the budget may include funding for an independent no-fly-list computer system. Parents of children who share names of individuals on the current list have been invited to a stakeholder event. The Department of Public Safety estimated that it would cost $78-million annually for such a system.
  • Long-term resiliency. The budget is expected to include measures that buffer Canada’s economy from the volatility south of the border in the long term.
  • Paternity leave. Last week, Mr. Trudeau floated the idea of establishing a use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave policy for new fathers, modeled after the current model in Quebec. The system in the province provides a maximum of five weeks paid leave that pays up to 70 per cent of a new parent’s income.
  • Environment. The federal government is overhauling how it assesses major energy projects, with an eye to both increase protections for the environment while also making the process faster. The new National Energy Regulator will replace the National Energy Board, and the government plans to spend roughly $1-billion over the next five years to make the changes.
  • Research. A report released last year called for $1.3-billion in additional research funding, primarily through three national granting councils for health, social and natural sciences. The federal government has recently signalled it is open to putting more money into academic research, 0n top of the $3.5-billion it already does.
  • And if you’re a fan of all things data, The Globe’s prepared a statistics-heavy preview of six key things to watch: the deficit, gender equality, parental leave, innovation, small business tax reform and the newspaper business.

And here's what some columnists think:

  • Campbell Clark argues that the finance minister needs to shine after a year of being in the spotlight for the wrong reasons: “Mr. Morneau is virtually the only voice for (limited) spending restraint, apart from a few sympathizers such as Treasury Board Secretary Scott Brison. And the Liberals do best politically when there is a prominent voice of restraint to reassure the public. Mr. Morneau’s budget won’t slash the deficit, but the test of his influence will be its constraints. The Liberals have to hope that his political education will rebuild his reputation, because they need someone to put an economic spin on their politics.”
  • Margaret Wente on paternity leave: “Despite the spread of paternity leave, the issue of work-life accommodations for families remains a tremendous challenge, especially for women. But the social engineers in Ottawa are missing the boat. They persist in believing that they can re-engineer human nature so that men and women will behave alike. Along the way they make a lot of assumptions that are deeply demeaning to many women’s values and choices.”
  • Business columnist Barrie McKenna has seven things that Mr. Morneau should do in the budget (but probably won’t). On his list: a Netflix tax, scrapping special-interest tax breaks and exploring a national basic income. (for subscribers)

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa, Mayaz Alam in Toronto and James Keller in Vancouver. If you're reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


On Jan. 25, Patrick Brown resigned as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. On Feb. 16 he was ousted from the party's caucus. He then put his name in for the leadership race to claim his old role. Yesterday, 10 days later, he dropped out. He's being investigated by the integrity commissioner over his finances following a complaint by Tory MPP Randy Hillier and a nomination process in a Hamilton-area riding is being investigated by police for alleged fraud and forgery, according to the Toronto Star. Tanya Granic Allen, Christine Elliott, Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney remain in the race to lead Ontario's official opposition into the provincial election later this year.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his party would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel if it won power in next year's election.

A leading NATO researcher says Canada should assume that Russia will try to interfere in next year's election.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has convened a summit on guns, gangs and drugs in Canada to help find cross-governmental solutions to deal with various types of crime. The Summit will be on March 7 but a full list of attendees hasn't been released yet.

The federal New Democrats could become the first major political party in Canada to run on a platform of decriminalizing all drugs. The party passed a resolution earlier this month to end the criminalization of the personal possession of all drugs. NDP MP and health critic Don Davies says it's clear punitive responses to illicit drug use have not worked.

The Alberta government is pledging roughly $1-billion in loan guarantees and grants to development technology to make bitumen easier to transport through pipelines. The announcement is aimed at turning partial-upgrading technologies into commercial-size projects, which the government says could increase pipeline capacity by 30 per cent.

British Columbia's Crown-owned electricity company says it has suspended work on a portion of a massive hydroelectric dam until the courts can hear a legal challenge from a First Nation. The Site C dam is already behind schedule and over budget, now projected at $10.7-billion, and BC Hydro says the new delay could add substantial costs.

Calgary's mayor wants to keep the Olympic spirit out of the debate about his city hosting the Winter Games. Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city should stick to hard evidence when deciding whether to commit to a $4.6-billion bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

And The Globe's Atlantic correspondent Jessica Leeder has the story of how the Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation, divided by the TransCanada highway, is turning things around through municipal partnerships. When the highway was built in the 1960s, it split the nation apart, hindering its economy and cutting off its direct access routes to the rest of the area.

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on harassment legislation for Parliament: "It should at least create crystal-clear rules around a workplace where employer-employee relationships typically extend beyond the normal nine-to-five workday. It should also create a system for safely and anonymously lodging a sexual-harassment complaint. Lots of other workplaces in Canada are saddled with such issues, but Parliament happens to be the seat of Canadian democracy. If any place should be reliably hospitable and respectful to everybody who works in it, it's the people's house.."

André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on Quebec's doctors: "Quebec will spend $4.7-billion on specialists and $2.9-billion family docs this year, and there are roughly 10,000 in each category. This gap underscores one of the most pressing issues in medicine, and in Canadian health policy more generally – fee relativity. Health care is a hands-on business, and nothing matters more to care than health professionals. We should pay workers, including physicians, well, but also fairly."

Gerald Caplan (The Globe and Mail) on Ontario's politics from left to right: "Shed a tear with me for my poor old Ontario. You'd think, with 14 million people – nearly 40 per cent of all Canadians – some honourable and talented women or men would emerge as political leaders. But look at what we have instead. Have our political rulers ever been quite as pathetic and disappointing as they are now?"

Marci Ien (The Globe and Mail) on race: "Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world, but racism permeates every aspect of our society. We like to point fingers at the racial discord in the United States, but fail to acknowledge our shortcomings here at home. Our country has to get its own house in order before patting itself on the back for being a paragon of racial harmony."

Ewan Reid (The Globe and Mail) on the final frontier: "Canada has been a leader in niche space technologies such as robotics, remote sensing and communications, and is becoming a leader in relevant emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing. We, as Canadians, have all the ingredients to be a force on the new frontier of space, but to do so requires the political will to make the long-term commitments this requires."

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Cyril Ramaphosa, the new president of South Africa who replaced longtime leader Jacob Zuma recently, has unveiled his new cabinet and is building a team that compromises between his party's various factions while also attempting to purge any of Mr. Zuma's loyallists.

Germany's centre-right ruling party is officially backing the deal to form a new coalition government with the primary centre-left party several months after an inconclusive election that left the country in limbo. With the agreement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is another step closer to beginning her fourth term. Following the vote by the Christian Democratic Union to move forward the deal will be voted on by members of the Social Democrats. Ms. Merkel also announced her choices for cabinet, including some new faces and a potential chancellor-in-waiting in Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has been dubbed "mini-Merkel" by some in the German media.

Russia says it will establish a humanitarian corridor in Ghouta, the Syrian region that has been subject to daily bombardments by forces backed by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia, of course, is one of Mr. Assad's allies and has helped in its military campaigns.

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an economic report that rebukes his own views on trade and Canada. For example, Mr. Trump has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada. In fact, as the "White House Economic Report of the President" states, the U.S. runs a surplus in the trade of goods and services with Canada, a distinction that very few other countries share.

China is pushing back against criticism of its plan to scrap presidential term limits, that would enable President Xi Jinping to stay beyond two terms. The constitutional reform is part of package that intends to strengthen Mr. Xi's grip on power, including creating a tougher anti-corruption body and adding his political ideology to the country's constitution (it was added to the party constitution last year).

And in Nigeria, the kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls and the subsequent inaction by political and military leaders is making the country recall the Chibok crisis, when nearly 300 girls were captured by Boko Haram extremists.

Charles Burton (The Globe and Mail) on Xi's dictatorship: "Any naive hopes for a peaceful evolution to democracy are shattered against the reality that China is now a one-man dictatorship yearning to restore the archaic political norms of China's imperial past: subjects instead of citizens, the destiny of the country instead of individual or minority and collective entitlement to protection of their rights."

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