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politics briefing

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne waits outside the Ontario Legislature on Feb. 20, 2018.Chris Young

Good morning,

The whirlwind of Ontario politics continues today, with Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell set to give Kathleen Wynne's Speech from the Throne at about noon.

The speech will lay out the Ontario Liberals' agenda for the final weeks in office before this summer election. The government is tabling their budget next week, which is sure to contain a host of promises and ideas that they will use to court voters in a few weeks.

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.


Former Canadian spymasters are urging the federal government to listen to the alarms being sounded by U.S. intelligence over Chinese telecom giant Huawei. The former directors of Canada's spy agencies say the Chinese smartphone maker could pose a national security threat by being an integral part of the communications infrastructure.

The federal government will announce funding today for a "5G corridor" in Ontario and Quebec. Essentially, the funding will help startups and small businesses gain access to next-generation 5G technology. If you're wondering what 5G technology means for you and your life, The Globe's Telecom reporter Christine Dobby breaks down how it's set to change your life in a handy interactive explainer.

The government is also set to announce today that it will send up to 250 soldiers to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

On Tuesday, the Liberals are set to table new gun control legislation.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is warning that politicians in a number of provinces are "waiting in the wings" to reverse the national climate plan. Ms. McKenna offered the assessment as she warned that the ongoing fight over the Trans Mountain pipeline project risks driving Alberta out of the national climate plan — which would put the entire initiative in peril. Opposition parties in Ontario and Alberta, which have elections scheduled this June and next May, respectively, both oppose carbon prices.

The push to create a national securities regulator is in doubt amid delays among provinces to push through legislation (not to mention provinces that have no intention of joining) and an ongoing Supreme Court of Canada case.

The federal government has begun to roll out what is expected to be a series of lucrative funding infrastructure agreements with provincial and local governments. Ottawa announced billions of dollars in funding last week for transit projects in Vancouver and Toronto, and similar agreements are expected throughout the month.

A new Nanos Research poll indicates Canadians like the Liberal government's plans for national pharmacare and expanded parental leave, but don't want new taxes or deficits to pay for them.

Prosecutors in Alberta are warning of a shortage of Crown lawyers and recent attempts by the province to add new hires won't be enough.

And is Ottawa's supercluster funding initiative a superboondoggle in the making? It remains to be seen. But the federal government's plan to improve productivity and innovation through the promotion of five regional economic groups is both ambitious and expensive. It may provide the spark the country needs – unless it proves to be a fat subsidy for global technology giants.

Globe and Mail Editorial Board on opioids: "It's time for a federal summit on opioids, with a focus on fentanyl poisoning, chaired jointly by the Public Safety and Health ministers. It would signal seriousness and draw attention to a crisis that too often plays out in the shadows. It would also bring together public health and law enforcement communities, which have a history of mutual mistrust on this issue, in order to find creative solutions to the problem."

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on the World Cup in Canada: "This week, B.C.'s NDP government made one of the smartest decisions of its brief time in office: It told FIFA to stuff it. More precisely, it allowed a deadline for participating in a three-country bid to play host to FIFA's 2026 men's World Cup soccer championships to pass."

Vicky Mochama (Metro) on Jagmeet Singh: "No person who chooses a public life is exempt from accountability. But — and perhaps I'm being overly credulous — I simply assume that the man who wants to become prime minister in 2019 is not a violent extremist. This is true for all of them. I may vehemently disagree with some or all of their ideological stances but none of them strikes me as a violent revolutionary. Yet neither Justin Trudeau nor Andrew Scheer has been put under this particular spotlight. Even when Andrew Scheer failed to muster enough courage to denounce Rebel Media unequivocally as racist, I questioned his moral leadership rather than whether he, too, was a violent white nationalist."

Help The Globe monitor political ads on Facebook: During an election campaign, you can expect to see a lot of political ads. But Facebook ads, unlike traditional media, can be targeted to specific users and only be seen by certain subsets of users, making the ads almost impossible to track. The Globe and Mail wants to report on how these ads are used, but we need to see the same ads Facebook users are seeing. Here is how you can help.


Facebook is under heavy criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic after a Canadian whistleblower revealed that 50 million users had their personal data mined as part of a political consulting company's campaigns during the Brexit referendum and the 2016 U.S. election. Chris Wylie says he worked alongside former Trump chief strategist and campaign chair Steve Bannon to mine the data. Democrats in the U.S. called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify in Congress while a British Tory accused the company of misleading officials when it came to the risk of data leaks. If you're interested in reading the original reports that unearthed the revelations, you can find them at the New York Times and the Guardian.

Even before polls opened, the results were known by those who voted: Vladimir Putin would handily win the Russian election. In the end, he ended up with around ¾ of the vote against a weakened field of candidates (Mr. Putin's most prominent critic, Alexei Navalny, wasn't allowed to run in the election by the Kremlin). There also appeared to be videos circulating at polling stations in some parts of the country where ballots were stuffed by officials. As he strides into victory, he also finds himself in continued conflict with the West, The Globe's Mark MacKinnon reports from Moscow.

The online Russian troll farm that meddled in the U.S. election also targeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as Canada's oil infrastructure, according to data made public by investigations of the U.S. Congress. The Internet Research Agency posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about pipelines and fracking as well as Mr. Trudeau's views on refugees and Muslims.

David Shribman (The Globe and Mail) on Trump's weekend: "Donald J. Trump serves as President in an age of informality, and he treats the duties and set-piece responsibilities of the presidency with informality. He is chief executive in an era of social media, and his early morning tweets both set and reflect the zeitgeist of the Twitter age. Mr. Trump presides in an age of disruption, and he is a disruptor. All of which helps explain this weekend."

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the nerve agent attack: "No boycott of the World Cup in Moscow, no economy-crippling sanctions, no invoking of Article 5, declaring a NATO member has been attacked. Just some diplomatic expulsions. Once again, President Vladimir Putin, who easily won a rigged re-election on Sunday, can thumb his nose at the West and get away with it. But we are a very long way from the days when the Soviet Union sought to project power around the world and to replace democratic capitalism with socialism as the dominant ideology."

Amy Knight (The Globe and Mail) on Sergei Skripal: "Mr. Putin will continue to enjoy wide popular support at home, regardless of what the West does. But international condemnation of Russia for the poisoning, accompanied by negative economic consequences, could start to erode support for Mr. Putin among members of his political elite, especially those who have residences in Britain. At least some of Mr. Putin's Kremlin cronies must be concerned that Russia's growing isolation from the West not only harms their interests, but those of the country as a whole. And they are probably right."

Yves Tiberghien (The Globe and Mail) on China: "In times of social and economic anger, people are ready to turn to autocrats to protect their well-being. In China, from 1978 to 2017, a diffuse group of 50 to 300 powerful Communist leaders and former leaders collectively called the major shots and kept the leader inside a framework of collective leadership. They did it because they remembered the excesses of Maoism. Why have they suddenly bet the kingdom on Mr. Xi and made him an emperor for life? Because they see the world as entering a dangerous phase and because Mr. Xi appears to be the only one who can steer the policy ship through extremely high-stakes gauntlets."

Robert Rotberg (The Globe and Mail) on the politics of the Nile: "The cradle of human civilization developed in northeastern Africa largely because of abundant supplies of flowing water and the annual floods that submerged fertile soils along the Nile River. But ambitious modern economic-development initiatives threaten the liquid promises of millennia past and urban lives ahead. Ethiopia is now building a massive dam that will slow, if not interfere with, the flow of Nile water. This major clash of expectation versus exploitation is dividing Egypt and Ethiopia, and also inflaming relations among Sudan and South Sudan and the six other nations that are integral to the great basin of the Nile River. Skillful mediation is required to head off war over water in Africa."

Jasmin Mujanovic (Open Canada) on the Balkans: "The essential territorial integrity of the region must be (re)guaranteed. This is a project in which NATO, arguably, has a bigger role to play than the EU, which is why Macedonia's and Bosnia and Herzegovina's membership in the alliance must be a priority. Thereafter, the whole premise of who constitutes local stakeholders must be fundamentally rebooted. When dealing with obviously illiberal regimes, political elites cannot be the exclusive interlocutors of the EU or the international community more broadly. Civil society and the free press have a critical role to play in precipitating, monitoring and evaluating the quality of democratic governance in these polities, as shown by recent events in Macedonia. A failure to do so risks deepening even further the sense of profound political alienation and rage that now prevails across the region."

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