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politics briefing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, holding his son Hadrian, waves as he steps off the plane with his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau during a welcome ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 9, 2016.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

The Prime Minister has hired a new chef for his official residence: Neil Dhawan, formerly of Earnscliffe, the home of the British High Commissioner to Canada.

A cabinet order sets out his salary as between $67,168 and $76,151. Mr. Dhawan, who also recently worked for the Farm Boy grocery chain, is already listed as a member of the prestigious Club Des Chefs Des Chefs, who craft food for world leaders.

Mr. Dhawan replaces Timothy Wasylko, the executive chef of 24 Sussex Dr., who was let go by the Trudeaus shortly after the election. (The Trudeau family, of course, has moved into Rideau Cottage pending renovations of 24 Sussex, the home of prime ministers from Louis St. Laurent to Stephen Harper.) Mr. Wasylko now cooks for interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and her spouse at Stornoway, the home of the official opposition leader.

In the fall, the Trudeau family hired two special assistants to, among other things, serve as nannies for the three children. The prime minister's residence has usually had six staff members, and Justin Trudeau's office said in December that the number of staff wouldn't grow beyond the usual size. His office would not confirm this week if that was still the case.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> Investors and rating agencies say they are not concerned about the Liberals' $29.4-billion deficit and increasing public debt over the next few years. "And so by any international comparison standard, it's not a large deficit and it's going to be falling and the debt ratios will improve – if you take their forecasts at face value – and basically we think they are reasonable forecasts," said Moody's Investors Service vice-president Steven Hess.

> Mr. Trudeau, at a Washington nuclear summit for a few days, will call for more countries to submit to voluntary inspections of nuclear facilities and better disposal of radioactive materials. The Prime Minister told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this morning that Canada is open for business and will make heavy investments in infrastructure.

> Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons says it's his province's turn to have a representative on the Supreme Court. The top court's bench usually has one seat informally reserved for a judge from the Atlantic provinces, and Justice Thomas Cromwell, of Nova Scotia, is retiring this fall. There has never been a Supreme Court judge from Newfoundland and Labrador since the province joined Confederation in 1949. (Even PEI has had one judge, Louis Henry Davies, who served from 1901 to 1924, including a term as chief justice.)

> Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she endorsed Mr. Trudeau last year because she thought her provincial Liberals would co-operate well with the federal party. She made the comments at her annual fundraising dinner, one of many big events the party is holding as campaign finance comes under scrutiny in the province.

> Third parties spent more than $6-million in last year's election, which is a huge increase over previous votes, according to Elections Canada figures.

> A new Abacus Data poll still has Peter MacKay as the most popular choice for the next Conservative Party leader, but Kevin O'Leary is nipping at his heels.

> Inside the battle over Toronto's Trump Tower and whether it will survive. (for subscribers)

> And Americans puzzled by strategic voting in the Republican primaries are looking north to how strategic voting worked in Canadian elections.

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"Worse still, the days when the big banks wrote a single cheque to each party have been replaced by a sinister system of relentless solicitations of corporate executives by quota-filling cabinet ministers (or their surrogates) offering 'invitations' to private fundraisers. It's a form of extortion, pure and simple. Attendance is optional, but any fool who RSVPs his or her regrets knows that a rival who attends will earn a friendlier ear from the minister. Check out Ontario's electricity sector or the sale of beer in the province for a lesson on how this system works." – Konrad Yakabuski.

Robyn Urback (National Post): "The fact other parties engage in the same dubious [fundraising] practices does not make it acceptable or ethical. And only the the Liberals, with their majority government, are in a position to repay donors with favourable decisions on how much teachers are paid, or who will recycle Ontario's tires, or how much of Hydro One the Liberals will sell off. And it's the Liberals who have explored ever-more questionable frontiers in bartering for their favour."

David Reevely (Ottawa Citizen): "It is awkward, when you're a premier who has just promised to reduce the power of money in your province's politics, to put on a good frock to hoover up several million dollars from your party's richest donors."

Andrew Jackson (Globe and Mail): "Somewhat ironically, the new [Canada Child Benefit] program is an unintended consequence of the regressive policies of the Harper government which opened up the needed fiscal room for progressive change." (for subscribers)

David Bercuson (Globe and Mail): "When we deploy our men and women in arms to some brutal civil war somewhere soon, to earn United Nations brownie points for our campaign to regain a seat on the Security Council, everyone will hope that none of them are killed. But if that were to happen, someone inside the Ottawa bubble may feel better proclaiming that the dead Canadian was not killed in a war."

Programming note: There will be no Politics Briefing on Friday, April 1. The newsletter will return the following Monday.

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