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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.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

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Two Ontario universities, York and Queen’s, have been collaborating with a major Chinese artificial-intelligence company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. government for supplying surveillance equipment used against Muslim Uyghurs.

The situation comes as Canadian university collaboration with China has become a focus on federal and provincial governments.

Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and Senior Parliamentary Reporter Steve Chase report on the situation here.

Reporter’s Comment, Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife: “For the last 20 years, universities were encouraged to collaborate and accept funding from Chinese entities. Universities largely turned a blind eye to the rise of an aggressive China under the one-man rule of President Xi Jinping. Brutal repression of Muslim Uyghurs and the harsh crackdown in Hong Kong were ignored. Nor was much attention paid to China vacuuming up Canadian intellectual property and scientific data. This is clearly no longer acceptable but it requires strong leadership from Ottawa to set down criteria for collaboration with China and fields of scientific study that should be protected. We await a federal report on this issue on June 25 to see if the federal government will finally act.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

PM SUPPORTS U.S .COVID-19 PROBE - Canada backs U.S. President Joe Biden’s effort to identify the origin of COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday. This week, Mr. Biden ordered U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of COVID-19, including any possibility the trail might lead to a Chinese laboratory.

BILL-96 WORRIES QUEBEC CORP. SECTOR - Quebec’s most ambitious language law overhaul in nearly half a century is weighing heavily across the province’s corporate landscape as many business leaders express support for reinforcing French even as they warn the proposed legislation could saddle companies with new costs and complicate their hiring efforts at a pivotal time. “As a society, we’re trying to do something here for which there’s no textbook,” said Michel Leblanc, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, who supports the objective of the law.

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AMOS FACES NEW EXPOSURE ISSUE - Liberal MP William Amos has once again been caught unawares on webcam. In a statement posted to Twitter , the Quebec MP said he urinated, without realizing he was on camera, while attending a House of Commons proceedings virtually in a non-public setting. Last month, Mr. Amos made headlines after he appeared naked on an internal parliamentary feed of virtual Question Period, without his image being broadcast on the public feed. Now he says he is temporarily stepping away from his role as parliamentary secretary to the industry minister and his work as a member of the House of Commons veterans’ affairs committee so that he can get help.

TRAVEL BAN EXEMPTION SOUGHT - Advocacy groups are urging the federal government to exempt refugees from the pandemic travel ban as many are left waiting in limbo.

NDP BACK C-12 - Federal New Democrats are ensuring the survival of a key piece of Liberal legislation aimed at keeping Canada accountable to its target of achieving net-zero carbon-related emissions by mid-century. Parliamentarians are currently discussing Bill C-12 at a committee voting on a series of changes to the proposed climate law tabled late last year.

IRAN HARASSMENT LINKED TO FLIGHT 752- A human rights group says in a new report that Iran has harassed families of passengers killed aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. In a statement issued late Thursday, Global Affairs Canada welcomed the report’s “efforts to investigate and publicize the completely unacceptable harassment of PS752 families by the Iranian regime.” Meanwhile, an RCMP spokesman wrote, the force “is aware of reports relating to victim experiencing threats, harassment and intimidation.”

QUESTIONS ON FEDERAL SUBSIDY PROGRAM - Ottawa launches its hiring subsidy program in just under two weeks, with the aim of speeding the rebound in employment as vaccinations allow the economy to lurch to a reopening this summer and fall. But there’s one small wrinkle in that plan: the Canada Recovery Hiring Program doesn’t require that qualifying businesses actually hire any new employees.

CBC Analysis by Chris Hall: Why (almost) nobody in Ottawa wants to talk about Quebec’s new language bill. “All the other party leaders are doing their best to deprive Bill 96 of oxygen — to escape another divisive debate over Quebec’s place in Canada and to avoid a public showdown with the province’s popular Premier, François Legault.”

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PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister speaks to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland participate in a virtual conversation with families to discuss the Canada Child Benefit. Interviews with the Prime Minister air on OMNI News Italian Edition, Ora Qui, on CHIN TV, and on TLN TV.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on government’s failure to keep stock of PPE reserves: “The haphazard management of the stockpile wasn’t a new thing. Internal audits in 2010 and 2013 raised those issues. Citizens might think a decade of disregarded warnings is a scandal that will shake the halls of power in Ottawa. But for a politician, it is cause for relief. The best kind of failure is one that was going on long before you took office. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s advisers will be happy enough that the Auditor-General credited the government for responding after the crisis hit.”

Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the $2.6 billion Canada Greener Homes Grant to give Canadians up to $5,000 for energy-efficiency retrofits to their homes:In an interview, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said the government projects the program will help cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1.5 megatonnes by 2027. While significant, that would be less than 1 per cent of the reductions needed for Canada to reach its latest target for shrinking its national carbon footprint by the end of this decade. But the Liberals clearly see upside beyond just the direct emissions reductions. Mr. O’Regan cited several potential benefits that explain why they’re drawn to the retrofit grants program – a smaller version of which existed under Stephen Harper’s government a decade ago – as a way to achieve both environmental and economic benefits while reducing Canadians’ cost of living.”

Gerald Butts* (Maclean’s) on the real problem with Quebec’s new language bill: “I’ve spoken with several leading legal beagles since Bill 96 was tabled. Most say the constitutionality of the Quebec government’s gambit is uncertain, but few were convinced it would be dismissed outright if it makes its way to the Supreme Court. I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll take their word for it, but it’s an idea that would have saved the country a lot of trouble had it occurred to Brian Mulroney and Robert Bourassa 30 years ago. No, the truly invidious aspect of Bill 96 is neither of these temporary controversies, but its breezy invocation of Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the so-called “notwithstanding” clause.” *Mr. Butts is the former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Shachi Kurl (The Ottawa Citizen) on how the crisis in Canada’s military could make recruitment even harder: Fixing the culture problems in Canada’s military, re-earning confidence in its perceived ability to handle allegations of sexual misconduct — or worse — isn’t just some performative, woke pursuit in the name of equality. If it is to remain a prepared, fighting force in the future, it must literally be able to renew and replenish its ranks. And that means attracting the very people so wary of this institution today.”

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