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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.

Canada’s Auditor-General Karen Hogan will be releasing two performance audit reports related to COVID-19 today.

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One report from Karen Hogan - an officer of Parliament who aids in oversight of financial operations - deals with securing personal protective equipment and medical devices.

According to a statement from Ms. Hogan’s office, that audit report’s focus includes whether the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada, before and during the pandemic, helped meet provincial and territorial government needs for selected personal protective equipment and medical devices.

The second deals with pandemic support to Indigenous Communities.

In the same statement, the Auditor-General said the audit deals with whether Indigenous Services Canada provided sufficient personal protective equipment, nurses and paramedics to Indigenous communities and organizations in a co-ordinated and timely manner in order to protect Indigenous peoples against COVID-19.

The reports - to be available here - were scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. EDT.

Asked, in advance, about the latter report, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said he was “very proud” of his department’s work.

Mr. Miller told a news conference he was pleased that the department responded quickly with resources they had, but acknowledged what they didn’t have.

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“I think most of us wake up every morning trying to figure out how we can get faster and beat a virus that goes – that moves faster than government. And so, that’s been our thinking every step of the way and we hold each other to account more than perhaps external folks might,” he said.

“But any report from the auditor is welcome insofar as it allows us to move forward and to fix things that weren’t right. So I’m going to have more to comment about the detail on the report later on today.”

Wednesday’s reports are not the first Ms. Hogan has filed during the pandemic. Others include a look at the level of Ottawa’s readiness for the pandemic - story here - and whether Indigenous Services Canada has provided adequate support to First Nations and progress on Ottawa’s pledge to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve. A story on that second report is here.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

DAIRY LEADS TO FIRST BIDEN-ERA TRADE DISPUTE - President Joe Biden’s administration is launching the first trade dispute under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, accusing Canada of breaking a deal to partly open its protectionist dairy market to U.S. imports.

PM CRITICIZES BELARUS - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Belarus regime’s behaviour in arresting an opposition journalist “outrageous, illegal and completely unacceptable” on Tuesday as the Eastern European country said it would shutter its embassy in Canada come September.

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NO PANDEMIC-ERA ELECTION: MPs - Members of Parliament from all parties agreed that an election should not be called until after the pandemic is over – but that still leaves open the possibility of voters heading to the polls in the fall.

FACEBOOK DEAL - A new commercial deal struck between Facebook and 14 Canadian media organizations shows the government has been too slow to introduce legislation that makes tech giants pay for news content, according to opposition parties.

DETAILS OF B.C. RESTART - B.C. residents can now return to eating inside restaurants, hosting a handful of friends in their homes and attending small religious services as a deadly third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic abates on Canada’s West Coast. British Columbia Premier John Horgan and Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry announced the lifting of numerous restrictions on Tuesday.

ALBERTA ENERGY LEGISLATION - The Alberta government has introduced a revamped version of legislation that had given the province the power to restrict and control shipments of its energy exports as a means to “fight back” against other Canadian jurisdictions that oppose pipeline projects or otherwise block the province’s oil and natural gas.

DUFFY DEPARTS - On Wednesday, time will finally do what a criminal trial, an expense scandal and a suspension from his colleagues could not; Senator Mike Duffy will leave the red chamber for good. Mr. Duffy turns 75 Wednesday, the mandatory retirement age for senators. From The National Post.

PALLISTER APOLOGIZES - Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has apologized for calling NDP Leader Wab Kinew an “asshole,” after being accused repeatedly Tuesday of failing to prepare his province for the stubborn third wave of the pandemic.

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QUEBEC AND BILL 96

LEGAULT ON BILL 96 - Premier François Legault says he’s not surprised to hear some anglophones in Quebec and the rest of Canada are unhappy with his government’s proposed language reforms. From The Montreal Gazette.

KENNEY ADMIRES QUEBEC; RULES OUT ALBERTA NATIONHOOD - Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been speaking out on this file. Last week, he said he admires Quebec’s attempt to declare itself a “nation” in Canada’s Constitution, and that he feels Quebec is leading the way for Alberta to assert its own powers and identity. The Premier made the comments in an interview with Don Braid of The Calgary Herald. “Rather than fighting Quebec over the exercise of its powers, I look to Quebec with a degree of admiration,” Mr. Kenney said. However, he ruled out declaring nationhood for Alberta. “That’s not the language I would use,” he said. “I wouldn’t call Alberta a nation. The story is here.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister virtually attends the national caucus meeting and also attends Question Period.

LEADERS

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attends virtual caucus meeting, holds a news conference, attends Question Period and speaks at the YMCA Canada Annual General Meeting and virtual conference.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the urgent need in Canada for unused American vaccines:The most obvious source of additional vaccines is right next door: the Americans, world leaders in vaccine manufacturing, and also world leaders in vaccine hesitancy, reluctance and hostility. That leaves the U.S. sitting on a growing pile of unused doses. And a lot of Americans want to share with their neighbours. From North Dakota vaccinating Manitoba truckers, to Detroit clinics offering thousands of idle shots to Windsor, to the New England governors calling for the “sharing of surplus vaccines to Canada,” there’s a will among people, on both sides of the border, to get this done. What there isn’t, so far, is a will in Ottawa and Washington.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the runaway costs, ill-defined risks and mediocre returns of the CPP’s investment strategy: “The real story, then, is that the fund underperformed the market averages by about 10 percentage points. Or in other words, its high-priced managers did about 10 percentage points worse than they would have, according to the laws of probability, if they had just flung the proverbial darts at the stock listings.”

Vivek Goel, Peter Loewen and Janice Stein (The Globe and Mail) on the role of politicians during the pandemic: Over and over, we have heard the calls to take the politics out of the pandemic. But the final authority must rest with politicians. After all, they – not the experts nor the bureaucrats – are the ones who have been elected and are thus accountable to the people, empowering them to make the decisions on trade-offs between competing values and priorities. That means our political leaders have to take responsibility for their crisis-time choices.”

Tasha Kheiriddin (The Ottawa Citizen) on federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his “cold one” after his run:Finally, tweetstorms have another effect: boosting name recognition. One of O’Toole’s biggest issues is that, unlike Trudeau, he’s not a household name. The Victoria Day antics got him modest media coverage, mostly on talk radio and social channels, when he otherwise would have had none. If no-press-is-bad-press is your school of thought, then O’Toole came out ahead.”

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