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Canada’s cyberspy agency is warning of Moscow-backed cyberattacks on Canadian critical infrastructure as Western countries prepare economic sanctions in the growing expectation that Russia will invade Ukraine.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security joined its counterparts in the United States and Britain on Thursday in urging Canadian companies, such as electrical utilities and energy firms, to watch out for cyberattacks from Russia.

The agency said in a statement Thursday that it is aware of foreign cyberthreat activities, including by Russian-backed actors, to target Canadian critical infrastructure network operators and their operational and information technology.

Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and Senior Parliamentary Reporter Steven Chase report here.

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 sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

UKRAINE

UKRAINE MILITARY TRAINING MISSION TO BE EXTENDED – Ottawa is poised to extend a military training mission in Ukraine for another six months and is mulling whether to expand the number of soldier-trainers deployed and provide Kyiv with defensive weapons and gear, two government sources say. Measures under consideration by the Liberal cabinet include small arms as well as night goggles, helmets, armoured vests and military radios for Ukraine’s armed forces. Also on the table is providing intelligence and cybersecurity advice, likely through Canada’s signal intelligence agency known as the Communications Security Establishment.

CANADA PLANNING SANCTIONS: JOLY – Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada will join allies in imposing severe sanctions on Russian officials if the country takes further military action to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty. Story here.

`SWIFT, SEVERE’ U.S RESPONSE IF RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: BLINKEN – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Thursday that there would be a “swift, severe” response from the United States and its allies if Russia sends any military forces into Ukraine. Story here.

UKRAINE DEBATE LOOMING – Government House Leader Mark Holland says he agrees with a call from nine Liberal MPs for an urgent debate in the House of Commons on Ukraine and Russia’s military buildup on its borders. “We will support prioritizing an urgent debate as soon as the House returns.” Liberal MP Yvan Baker, who represents Etobicoke Centre, and eight other Liberal MPs wrote to Mr. Holland, requesting the debate.

OPINION - UKRAINE

Eric Reguly (The Globe and Mail) on how the EU may have other ideas than the economic disaster President Joe Biden has promised for Russia if it invades Ukraine: ”Several European countries already face a cost-of-living crunch due to rising consumer prices, rising taxes needed to pay for the pandemic recovery programs, the prospect of higher interest rates and – now – possibly crippling energy costs if a sanctions war breaks out between Russia and the West. That’s why EU leaders, some of whom, like Mr. Macron, face re-election in 2022, may resist launching severe sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine. Mr. Draghi said as much the other day, noting that the EU was in no position to end its reliance on Russian gas. “It would not be the right moment,” he said, referring to possible energy sanctions. Mr. Biden has vowed “disaster” for Russia if Mr. Putin orders an invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Macron and Mr. Draghi have signalled that the EU might not fully support Mr. Biden’s effort to wreck the Russian economy.”

CANADA

PACT SIGNED ON RESIDENTIAL-SCHOOL DOCUMENTS – The federal government and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation signed an agreement on Thursday that lays out how Canada will share historical documents related to residential schools. Story here.

ONTARIO HEALTH RESTRICTIONS TO BE LIFTED: FORD – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province will start what it says is a gradual easing of its pandemic health restrictions on Jan. 31. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen for indoor dining but at 50 per cent of their normal capacity. Further relaxing of public-health rules will follow in late February, according to plans released Thursday, with most capacity limits lifted by mid-March. Story here.

CRACKDOWN TO DEAL WITH ATHLETE ABUSE – Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge said she plans to close a loophole that allows national sport organizations to appoint their own investigators when it comes to complaints of athlete abuse within their own ranks. Story here.

LIBERAL MP PONDERING RUN TO BE MAYOR IN SURREY, B.C. - Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal says he is “seriously” thinking of running to be the mayor of Surrey, British Columbia’s second most populous city. Mr. Dhaliwal has won a federal seat in Surrey for the Liberal Party five times, and has held the Surrey–Newton seat since its creation in 2015. Story here from CBC.

NEW SASKATCHEWAN CARBON PLAN COMING: MOE - Premier Scott Moe says Saskatchewan will submit another carbon pricing plan to the federal government in the coming months. Ottawa rejected the province’s first proposal last July. Story here.

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.

PMO ANNOUNCES MEMBERSHIP OF INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE – The Prime Minister’s Office has announced the appointment of members of the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians for the 44th Parliament. The multiparty committee, created in 2017, reviews national security and intelligence activities carried out across government to ensure that the legislative, regulatory, policy, administrative and financial framework for national security and intelligence is, in the words of a PMO advisory, “sound.” According to that PMO statement, Official Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole chose not to recommend the participation of any Conservative MPs. In a Dec.17 letter to Mr. Trudeau, Mr. O’Toole rejected Mr. Trudeau’s appeal for Conservative nominees to the committee. The Conservative Leader cited the dispute over access by the opposition to documents on the firing of two scientists from Canada’s highest-security laboratory, the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. (The Conservative Leader is referring to a situation detailed in a story here.) “As it stands presently, NSICOP has become a committee of the Prime Minister’s Office and not of the Parliament of Canada,” Mr. O’Toole writes. “It has become obvious that statutory changes are required to the framework legislation to establish NSICOP as a standing committee of Parliament, which, like other committees, reports to Parliament rather than the PMO.” The committee is chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty. The latest appointees are Stéphane Bergeron of the Bloc Québécois, NDP MP Don Davies, Liberals Iqra Khalid, Patricia Lattanzio and James Maloney as well as senators Dennis Dawson, Frances Lankin and Vernon White.

THE DECIBEL – On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, senior international correspondent Mark MacKinnon is back in Ukraine, as officials from Canada and the U.S. – as well as military equipment from Britain – are flown in to show support for Ukraine and try to dissuade Russia from invading. There’s not much indication it’s working, and as Mark explains, while there are more talks scheduled for later in the week, hope of a peaceful solution seems to be fading fast.

Excerpt:

Menaka Raman-Wilms, host: “Mark, from what you have seen do you think that there’s a chance there’s a way out of this that doesn’t involve some kind of military conflict here?”

Mark MacKinnon: “This could all be a massive bluff by Mr. Putin. This could all be described as military exercises at the end of the day. I mean, until something happens, nothing’s happened. And so yes, it’s possible. You know, we saw in the spring this great big ramping up of a similar size Russian force, a slightly not-quite-this-level of rhetoric, but something similar. And then we had the summit meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin that led to a de-escalation. So right now, we’re waiting for the West, NATO and the United States [to respond]. ... It’s supposed to be in a written form with its replies to Russia’s big demands. We’re still waiting for that as of this minute. Maybe the West is going to make some great concession to Russia. I don’t sense a willingness in any of the Western capitals to do so. We saw in the last 24 hours British military aircraft are landing here and and dropping off anti-tank missiles like they think a war could begin in the morning. I don’t sense diplomatic momentum right now. I sense military momentum on both sides, and that’s really concerning.”

The rest of the Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister received a COVID‑19 briefing from Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada.

LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attends virtual caucus retreat.

No schedules released for other party leaders.

PUBLIC OPINION

Ahead of a June election, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party is slightly trailing the NDP, according to new research from the Angus Reid Institute. The NDP led by Andrea Horwath has taken a three-point lead in vote intention in Ontario. Results here.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on today’s inflation being a problem the Bank of Canada can’t tackle alone: ”On Wednesday, Statistics Canada said the headline inflation rate in December was 4.8 per cent, slightly higher than in November, which was already the highest since the early 1990s. The average of three core inflation measures, used to adjust for short-term volatility, was 2.9 per cent. That’s not a crisis, given the bank’s target inflation is the midpoint of 1 per cent to 3 per cent. But it, too, is at a three-decade high. There’s inflation everywhere, from food to refrigerators. But much of it is powered by things that aren’t easily corrected by raising interest rates – things such as high oil prices and global supply chain crunches. Higher interest rates won’t unclog the Port of Long Beach in California or lower the global price of crude.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on a warning sign of government bloat: “In the corporate world, there can be signs management doesn’t have a tight grip on the organization. Costs rising without clear goals, or CEOs buying company jets for a firm with a sky-high debt ratio. In government, where the mission is more complicated than making a profit, there are still indicators that could be warning bells. One is when the government displays a growing predilection for pricey consultants while its own work force is expanding at a rapid clip. Another is when the boss shrugs it off, the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did on Wednesday. The figures suggest government is not just getting bigger but bloated. It’s worrying that the PM doesn’t seem to think that is even worth thinking about.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on whether, if the BBC can move to a pay model, the CBC can be far behind: ”Perhaps the changes coming to the BBC will shake us out of our policy inertia. The way to revitalize the CBC is not to spray more and more public funding at it, even as its audience grows smaller and smaller. Rather, the CBC needs to move to a subscription model: first to wean it off of advertising, but in time to replace much of its public subsidy as well. The CBC already derives a quarter of its revenues from subscription fees on various of its ancillary services. Putting the main network on pay as well would complete the transition. Defunding? Think of it rather as re-funding.”

Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on Kevin Falcon, the front-runner to lead the BC Liberals, and the reality that a win isn’t in the bag for the former finance minister:The attacks on Falcon confirmed his status as the presumed front-runner for the B.C. Liberal leadership. But the gang-up also indicates why Falcon may stall on the way to winning the balloting. Leadership candidate Gavin Dew highlighted the challenge when he asked party members to support him or “make me your second choice.” The B.C. Liberals use a preferential ballot in their leadership contests. Members can mark first, second, third choices, and so on. If no candidate wins a majority on the first count of the ballots, the lowest vote-getter is dropped. Members’ second choices are then added to the tallies of the remaining candidates. The process is repeated until one candidate assembles a majority. The transfers mean that a candidate who is behind on the first ballot can put together a win in subsequent rounds. Nor is that a hypothetical outcome, as Falcon well knows.”

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