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Politics Briefing: Skating rink to open on Parliament Hill

Construction continues on the skating rink on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. The rink is part of a $5.6 million budget that includes a contest to bring 32 peewee house league hockey teams from across the country to Ottawa for a tournament after Christmas.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Good morning,

It's too chilly for yoga, so the government's offering another way to get fit on Parliament Hill: skating.

An ice rink has been erected in the shadow of the Peace Tower, and it will be open to the public for three weeks in December. It will also host a hockey tournament for kids in the week between Christmas and New Year's. (Worth noting, though, that during public skate times you're supposed to keep the puck and sticks at home.)

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The NHL, which had wanted to host a game on the lawn of Parliament but was denied, might still have an "Old Timers" game or a Senators practice while the rink is operational. Officials at a background briefing yesterday said plans were still being worked out.

And, in fact, that wasn't the only question mark about the rink. Though some MPs are raising concerns about the $5.6-million price tag and the fact that it's only operational for three weeks,  the government and the Ottawa International Hockey Festival – which is running the rink –  say it will ultimately be put to good use by being donated to a community once it's had its time on the Hill. Which community gets the skating rink, though, is apparently still up for grabs.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa 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.

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TODAY'S HEADLINES

The Trudeau government's announcement of a $40-billion housing strategy sets off negotiations with provinces to determine where the funding will end up – and how much provincial governments will need to chip in. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heralded the plan as a chance to have a "lasting impact" on the national housing picture, with programs such as a $4-billion housing benefit for low-income renters. But the 10-year program assumes provinces will be willing to match federal spending plans in some areas, and key elements, including the renters' housing benefit, won't begin until 2020. Several premiers quickly praised the announcement but stopped short of saying what their governments are prepared to contribute.

In British Columbia,  where a tight real estate market has pushed the housing market into crisis, politicians and advocates say the federal announcement was simply too vague to determine who will benefit.

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B.C.'s premier is inviting supporters and opponents of the Site C hydroelectric dam to make last-minute pitches as the NDP government approaches a self-imposed deadline to decide what happens to the project. Premier John Horgan says he still needs answers to key questions before making his decision, which could impact the province's energy grid for decades and affect the employment of thousands of construction workers.

Corporate leaders say they're concerned what climate change will do to their bottom lines.

Inuit in Nunavut and Greenland are asking for more control over an ice bridge and a nearby patch of ocean, which are being threatened by industry and warmer waters.

Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough says it might be easier to pay public servants if the thousands of rules in their collective agreements were simplified.

Apparently even a cabinet minister has to wait in line: Maryam Monsef still hasn't had her government documents updated a year after the Globe revealed she was born in Iran and not Afghanistan.

"The Stamps know that this weekend they can win it all, and unlike the federal deficit, the Argos are sure to fall": Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, from Calgary, offered a poetic Grey Cup prediction in the House of Commons.

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And "Canadian networks are easy to hack," says a cyber security expert who hacked into a Member of Parliament's cellphone with the help of Radio-Canada. (Don't worry – the MP was in on it.)

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the national housing strategy: "The rise of housing costs in some places, notably Toronto and Vancouver, makes the pressures felt by lower-income families seem obvious. Still, Wednesday's announcement doesn't quite meet the billing of a National Housing Strategy. To fulfill that grand promise, you'd have to expect an examination of the broad range of housing."

Toronto Star editorial board on the national housing strategy: "This is the kind of portable benefit that housing advocates have long been calling for. But under the federal strategy it won't kick in until after the next federal election (scheduled for 2019), and it will be contingent on provinces agreeing to pick up half the cost. Trudeau says it will take that long to figure out the details and negotiate agreements. Fair enough, but a lot could go off the rails while all that is being worked out."

Zheger Hassan (The Globe and Mail) on Canada in Iraq: "Iraqi Kurdistan's economy is mismanaged and its political and military institutions are divided between the KDP and the PUK. This is where Canada could make a difference. Canadian officials can work with the Kurds to unify the parallel administrations currently governing Iraqi Kurdistan. Before resolving disputes with Baghdad, the Kurds must get their house in order."

Melanie Randall (The Globe and Mail) on free speech on campus: "The discussions over transgender rights seems to have ignited some especially intense, ferocious and vituperative reactions. Why is respectful discourse over how to resolve the complicated issues, often over language and pronouns, in this area so difficult to achieve? Of course there will be unease and resistance to the radical and sweeping transformation being proposed to the conceptual gender schema that organizes how we recognize, think and speak about ourselves as human beings. Isn't that to be expected? Isn't it possible that there are multiple valid ways to proceed, and that we can move past apparent deadlocks? Doesn't more speech facilitate this? We need a realm of public reason in which appeals to emotions and identities are neither the starting, nor the end points."

Emmett Macfarlane (CBC) on free speech on campus: "The view that people need to be protected from harm caused by free debate and discussion is pervasive, far more pervasive than the handful of highly visible free speech controversies might suggest. Yet because a particular set of far-right-wing commentators and anti-'political correctness' advocates have seized on free speech as one of their primary calls to action — and and because many of the campus controversies involves heroes of the alt-right, like [Jordan] Peterson, it has literally become uncomfortable for some to defend free expression."

Housing strategy aims to make ‘lasting impact’: Trudeau (The Canadian Press)
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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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