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Good morning,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues his world tour today with a visit to Singapore for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But his cabinet ministers have had a busy time of their own in the region’s largest economy: China.

A parade of cabinet ministers have been through Beijing in recent days, touting the benefits of Canada-China trade. The biggest issue on the table is a possible free-trade deal between the two countries.

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Last week, Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum (himself a former Trudeau cabinet minister), said the two countries were looking at some sort of deal that would include some sectors but not others, an agreement that would be somewhat short of sweeping. Treasury Board President Scott Brison backed up that proposal in an interview with The Globe.

Now Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet says it still wants the broad strokes. “In the long term, a comprehensive trade agreement is the right objective,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told The Globe’s Nathan VanderKlippe.

But the short term might be a different matter.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is exclusively available only to our digital subscribers. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff intervened in the inner workings of Ontario Power Generation, a public-owned power utility, by directing them to fire a new vice-president, sources tell The Globe. The executive is Alykhan Velshi, a former top operative for the federal and provincial Conservatives – which makes the move all the more puzzling. Mr. Velshi was the chief of staff for Patrick Brown, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives before Mr. Ford took the post earlier this year. No one involved was able to provide an explanation for the termination.

Mr. Ford wants to make his opposition to the federal carbon tax a central part of the province’s fall fiscal update, which will be tabled on Thursday.

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Political partisanship has hurt the standing of the U.S. Supreme Court, one of its justices told a Canadian Supreme Court judge at a Toronto event.

Brexit negotiations continue to not go well. Britain has not yet struck a deal with the European Union on the terms of its exit from the economic pact. Prime Minister Theresa May is running out of time to make an agreement and get it approved by Parliament before her country strikes out on its own on March 29. The current sticking point is the border between Ireland (a country in the EU) and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom), the site of brutal violence for much of the latter half of the 20th century. The whole Brexit issue, which has consumed British politics for more than two years, was triggered by a public referendum in which “Leave” won with less than 52 per cent of the vote.

And residents of Calgary are casting their ballots today in a non-binding plebiscite about whether the city should go ahead with its bid to host the 2026 Olympics. The biggest concern is cost: The bill for hosting the Games is already at $5-billion, and could easily balloon from there.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Maxime Bernier: “His language was not as extreme as Donald Trump’s – this is Canada, after all – but he made it perfectly clear, at least to this listener, that the implicit motto of the People’s Party is: Canada First. For however many believe that the Canadian economy and social fabric are being undermined by environmentalists, do-gooders and immigrants, Mr. Bernier promises he will be their voice.”

Senator Kim Pate, in The Globe and Mail, on solitary confinement: “Ottawa cannot declare that segregation has been eliminated, while failing to address the horrors associated with this practice and gutting what minimal restrictions courts have placed on its use.”

Stephen Maher (Maclean’s) on the extortion attempts against Tony Clement: “This is not how a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee is supposed to behave, and the spies must be fuming, and urgently trying to make sure they are not blamed for this. After all, they screened Clement.”

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Frank Ching (The Globe and Mail) on human rights in China: “In short, the Chinese government is trying to stop Uyghurs from being Muslims, despite the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. It is cutting Uyghurs off from their culture and, in effect, trying to turn them into Han Chinese.”

The Guardian editorial board on Theresa May’s Brexit plan: “There is no clarity over what the UK’s connection with the single market will be; nor whether it will be in a customs union or not; nor if Brexit Britain will have a concrete plan for dealing with concerns about migration. Yet this suits Mrs May, who prefers to stay in office with a fix than go down fighting for a principle. Such a strategy relies on continuing with an inward-looking, divisive and ultimately corrosive politics.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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