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Politics Politics Briefing: $22.8-billion and a lot of yelling

Good morning,

It was difficult to hear Finance Minister Bill Morneau when he stood to deliver his budget speech Tuesday. There was too much yelling.

Mr. Morneau was drowned out by chants from across the aisle of “let her speak” and “cover-up” -- a protest against the Liberal-dominated justice committee’s move earlier in the day to shut down hearings into political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

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Before the uproar, the Conservatives used procedural tactics to delay Mr. Morneau’s budget speech by an hour. "We will not sit idly by while the Liberals destroy the integrity of our justice system,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said.

“It’s disappointing that the Conservatives actually don’t care and don’t know what’s in the actual budget,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

What’s in the budget is $22.8-billion worth of new measures -- and a peek into the Liberals’ strategy to woo key slices of the electorate in the looming federal election.

Here are some of the highlights:

Ottawa is taking aim at housing affordability with billions of dollars in new incentives, including zero-interest mortgages for first-time buyers and subsidized loans for the construction of tens of thousands of rental units.

The federal government outlined its plans to set up a national pharmacare program, setting aside as much as $1-billion for expensive drugs to treat rare diseases and $35-million for a new national drug agency in the budget.

The budget proposes new measures to help workers upgrade their skills and training through a tax credit and employment insurance.

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Ottawa committed $4.7-billion in spending for Indigenous people in Canada, with a promise to end all drinking-water advisories on reserves within two years.

The federal government will commit almost $1.2-billion over five years to address the challenges posed by tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have entered Canada through unauthorized areas along the U.S. border.

The federal government is laying out specific criteria that journalism organizations will have to meet in order to qualify for its $595-million package supporting Canada’s struggling news media.

Ottawa is strengthening its anti-money laundering regime by spending an extra $29-million each year to fund the RCMP and the country’s financial intelligence watchdog.

Ottawa is moving to increase taxation on the stock option gains of some of Canada’s most highly paid executives, a move seen as an attempt to siphon support from the New Democratic Party.

Ottawa is fixing a perceived flaw in its flagship research and development program by lifting a cap on how much income small companies can generate and still qualify for the tax credit.

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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Aron Yeomanson. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has called an April 16 election that will focus on who can pull the province out of a five-year economic downturn. Here’s what you need to know.

A United Conservative Party candidate in the Alberta election who resigned over online comments she reportedly made about white nationalists is begging people to lower the temperature of political debate.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will ask the European Union to delay Brexit by at least three months after her plan to hold a third vote on her fraught divorce deal was thrown into disarray.

U.S. investigators sought warrants to read Michael Cohen’s e-mails in July 2017, nine months before the FBI raided the home and office of President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer.

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U.S. President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the late Sen. John McCain, declaring he will “never” be a fan of the Vietnam War hero and long-time Republican lawmaker who died last year of brain cancer.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is to sign a memorandum of understanding with Chinese President Xi Jinping when Mr. Xi visits Italy for a three-day visit starting March 22.

Rosalie Wyonch (The Globe and Mail) on the federal budget: “If you were expecting the Liberals to launch a much-anticipated national pharmacare plan as part of its election-year budget, you were likely sorely disappointed.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the federal budget: “It’s a blunt argument that spending is good for people, and there’s room for more. They’re daring Mr. Scheer to campaign against that.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on the federal budget: “Politically, it’s pretty bulletproof. But economically, it’s much harder to square. It may ultimately do little to improve housing affordability. And it leans against attempts to rein in the biggest and most conspicuous threat to the country’s economic stability: record-high household debt that is tilted heavily toward mortgages.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the federal budget: “Finance Minister Bill Morneau took advantage of a strong economy and booming tax revenues to spend the windfall, and fund several new initiatives. Are these about long-term economic benefits, or short-term political returns? Is Budget 2019 about investments, or giveaways?”

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John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the SNC-Lavalin affair: “I can’t tell you how this will happen. But the truth comes out. Always.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on the Alberta election: “Alberta is in store for arguably the nastiest election battle in the province’s history.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the politicization of terror attacks: “Mr. Scheer’s failure to repudiate growing anti-immigration sentiment is a huge political mistake that will deepen the stain on the Conservative brand.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Canada-U.S. relations: “Mr. Trump might possibly shaft Canada further. He might secure a deal with China that, while not resolving the Meng case, removes the steel tariffs. In other words, he’d be giving China, an autocratic regime engaged in overproduction and dumping, preferential treatment over Canada, a historic ally.”

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