WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING
> Justin Trudeau's top lieutenants -- chief of staff Katie Telford, principal secretary Gerald Butts and ambassador David MacNaughton -- have been holding high-level talks with Jared Kushner and Stephen Bannon, two of Donald Trump's closest advisers. "This is big stuff we are trying to navigate here," a senior Canadian government insider told The Globe.
> Trump strategist Kellyanne Conway has cancelled her trip to visit Alberta's oil sands.
> Two indicators that might be related: the number of front-line workers at the Veterans Affairs department continues to decline steeply from 2010, just as the department says it's having trouble keeping up service standards.
> Former House speaker Andrew Scheer continues to lead his rivals in the Conservative leadership race in the number of his endorsements from colleagues.
> And the talk among unnamed Liberals is that Stéphane Dion would be the most likely cabinet minister to lose his portfolio -- foreign affairs -- in a cabinet shuffle, according to iPolitics.
WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT
Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "Kevin O'Leary, the TV personality who keeps hinting he'll run, has come up with bizarre excuses for why he wouldn't need to speak French, including the assertion that it's not necessary because many young Quebeckers are bilingual. Lisa Raitt, the veteran former cabinet minister, took a simple question in French last week but had to answer in English. Presumably, they're hoping that Tories haven't noticed that things have changed. Quebec is now crucial to their electoral fortunes."
Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail): "However, the provinces cannot do much more than complain about the federal government's decision to embrace financial prudence. The Liberals now face a far larger deficit than projected. Although the gap between Ottawa's offer and the provinces' request is less than two percentage points, the dollars involved are substantial, given that this year's Canada Health Transfer is worth just over $36-billion."
Roméo Dallaire (Globe and Mail): "I have spent decades fighting for injured veterans, including myself, as we continue to destroy ourselves and too many others in our wake. The wars that soldiers fight do not end when we return home; they stay alive within us, and without urgent treatment our injury – PTSD – will destroy us. Just like an injury to the body will become gangrenous, fester, and infect, so too does this injury to our brains and moral centre."
Chris Selley (National Post): "By all accounts the Aga Khan is a fine fellow and his foundation does wonderful work. And he is, as [the PMO] said, a close friend of the Trudeau family. But there is a reason his foundation is formally registered as an organization that lobbies the federal government: it's competing for Canadian taxpayers' money with which to do those good works, and that competition is supposed to be reasonably transparent."
Ghaith Hannibal El-Mohtar (Montreal Gazette): "That said, any electoral reform should be done with a holistic view of Canada's bi-cameral parliamentary system. In particular, the Senate could be used to balance the government's extensive powers that result from a distortion of the popular will, while keeping the current system for the House of Commons and the stability it brings. Making the Senate rather than the Commons the place for proportional representation, like with Australia's Parliament, would accomplish this."
Vicky Mochama (Metro): "For the vast portion of Canadian history, indigenous communities have been stripped of their rights. Underfunding students, bickering over health costs, and allowing children to slip into child welfare cracks is how those rights continue to be abridged. According to a report last week in the Globe and Mail, over the next year, the federal government plans to spend nearly half a billion dollars on Canada 150. While some of that money will go towards promoting truth and reconciliation, spending millions on a party while indigenous children, families and communities fight for equitable services is a hypocrisy."
Written by Chris Hannay. Edited by Lara Pingue.