Ottawa, on Tuesday, was awaiting the fall economic statement from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland that is expected to provide an overview of the Liberal government’s spending plans.
Details of the statement are to be released at 4 p.m. EST as Ms. Freeland delivers her speech. At mid-afternoon, Ms. Freeland said, in a tweet, she would be presenting the update virtually after two members of her staff received positive COVID-19 results to rapid antigen tests.
“They are self-isolating at home. I have not had direct contact with them. The rest of my staff in Ottawa have had negative antigen tests today. I have had two negative molecular tests today. However, out of an abundance of caution I will be presenting the economic and fiscal update virtually,” Ms. Freeland wrote.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, earlier on Tuesday, was coy on the contents of the statement as he entered a federal cabinet meeting.
“Very much looking forward to the fiscal update today, where we’re going to be sharing not just where we are as an economy in our recovery but also how we’re going to continue to help people into the future,” Mr. Trudeau told journalists.
But one major item was previewed on Monday. As Parliamentary Reporter Kristy Kirkup and Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Bill Curry report here, the federal government will earmark $40-billion to compensate First Nations children and families for the failures of Canada’s child welfare system and to pay for long-term reform.
The goal is to settle the matter out of court before the end of the year.
As Ms. Kirkup and Mr. Curry report, the federal government, in April, estimated last year’s federal deficit would hit $354.2-billion, while the deficit for the current fiscal year was projected to be $154.7-billion.
As Finance Minister in a minority Parliament, Ms. Freeland is facing calls from the Opposition Conservatives to curb planned spending, while the NDP and the Bloc Québécois press her to reverse recent moves to end direct COVID-19 supports for individuals.
Official Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole has scheduled a news conference to speak to the contents of the statement once Ms. Freeland has spoken to the House.
Please check The Globe and Mail for news, analysis and commentary on the statement.
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ANAND ISSUES APOLOGY – Defence Minister Anita Anand apologized on Monday to people who have experienced sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, but noted the apology is one step along the path of dealing with the issue. Story here.
FEDS URGE BANK OF CANADA FOCUS ON FULL EMPLOYMENT – The federal government has directed the Bank of Canada to put more emphasis on full employment as it aims to keep inflation low and stable. It is the most significant change to the central bank’s mandate in three decades, and reflects evolving ideas about the nature of the economy and monetary policy. Story here.
FEW PROBES INTO RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL ATROCITIES – Today, despite growing demands across the country for a school-by-school investigation of residential school atrocities, B.C. remains the only province that has come anywhere close to answering the call. The RCMP is giving no indication that it will direct any future residential school probes from Ottawa, saying discretion lies with the provinces and individual communities. “Any support undertaken by the RCMP would be Indigenous-led, community-based, survivor-centric and culturally sensitive,” force spokeswoman Robin Percival said in a statement. Story here.
LEGAUT ON BILL 21 – “I don’t see how the federal government can intervene in so touchy a subject for our nation,” Quebec Premier François Legault reacting to the controversy on Bill 21. From CBC. Video clip here.
TRUDEAU PITCH ON ELECTRIC-VEHICLE INCENTIVES – Canada would be willing to “align” its own electric vehicle incentives with those south of the border if the United States were to ensure Canadian-built cars and trucks would be eligible for U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed tax-credit scheme, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.
TRUDEAU LOOKS BACK AT THE YEAR – As Omicron case numbers continue to rise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed, during a year-end interview with CTV News’ Evan Solomon, that his government will be able to deliver vaccine booster shots and support Canadians through rising inflation. The interview aired on CTV’s Question Period this Sunday at 11 a.m. EST. Story here.
COVID-19 SURGE LOOMING: TAM - The country’s top doctor says Canada is about to experience a major surge in COVID-19 cases and that health officials need to step up the use of rapid antigen tests, booster shots and other public-health tools in order to prevent closings, lockdowns and overwhelmed hospitals. Story here.
DECEASED MANITOBA MLA REMEMBERED – Members of the Manitoba legislature held a small ceremony this week to remember an NDP MLA who was killed in a car crash last week. Story here from CBC.
B.C. MAYOR FACING CRIMINAL CHARGE – The twists continue in Surrey, British Columbia’s second most populous city, as the mayor has been charged with public mischief after he complained his foot was run over during a confrontation with a critic of his council’s plans to replace the Surrey RCMP with a municipal force. Story here.
HAASSMENT OF PUBLIC FIGURES ACROSS CANADA – The Charlottetown Police Service is considering criminal harassment charges against protestors who gathered outside the house of Prince Edward Island’s Chief Health Officer in what the police chief said was “not an isolated incident.” Story here from CBC. Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, a member of the B.C. legislature called it “completely unacceptable” that members of the public, opposed to public-health orders, protested outside her home. Story here, from CHEK News.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected order of business at the House of Commons, Dec. 14, accessible here.
CABINET COMMENTS – The federal cabinet met Tuesday, and ministers had some things to say to the media on arrival and departure, including:
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser – He said 5,400 Afghan refugees are now in Canada, with more arriving. “I expect there’ll be a few hundred more potentially by the end of the day. I expect with the flights that are arriving in the next couple of weeks, we’ll likely be in excess of 6,000, but in that ballpark, one way or the other.”
Government House Leader Mark Holland – On contingency planning for Parliament in case COVID-19 cases increase, Mr. Holland said the issue was to be discussed at a Tuesday afternoon meeting of House leaders. “We are in a rapidly evolving health situation as a result of Omicron so we will have a conversation today at House leaders about what appropriate measures need to be taken to keep everybody safe on the parliamentary precinct.”
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino – The minister said arrival testing is ramping up at every airport, “so we can learn as much as possible about returning travellers to Canada, including returning Canadians who have a right of return.” However, he added the most significant pandemic risk for Canadians will be within our borders.
NWT PREMIER VISITING OTTAWA – Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane will be in Ottawa this week to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal cabinet ministers to discuss territorial priorities that include infrastructure, roads, broadband, cleaner sources of energy, and affordable housing. She will also meet with the Governor-General. Details here.
THE DECIBEL - Ethiopian freelance journalist Lucy Kassa speaks to The Globe and Mail’s podcast about the civil war in that country, pitting the federal government against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. You can access the podcast here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings. The Prime Minister chaired a cabinet meeting. He was scheduled to meet with Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok, and attend the economic and fiscal update speech delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in the House of Commons. An interview with the Prime Minister aired on RED FM Toronto, and also on RED FM Calgary and on RED FM Vancouver.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
The Deputy Prime Minister delivers the economic and fiscal update speech.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, on Parliament Hill, held a news conference on Bill 21.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole was scheduled to hold a media availability after the fall economic statement in the House of Commons.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh , on Parliament Hill, held a news conference and later attended Question Period.
Data Dive with Nik Nanos, chief data scientist at Nanos Research: Canadians recognize racism is a problem, both online and off, so support an array of measures to improve racial equality – and they don’t see inaction as an acceptable option. Details here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why 25 million Canadians need a COVID-19 booster, and they need it now: ”But here’s the thing: Vaccines are rocket science; getting them into arms isn’t. The hardest part of this job is already done. We’ve got the doses. Which leaves the relatively easier part: restarting hundreds of recently shuttered mass vaccination clinics; allowing people who aren’t physicians or pharmacists to give shots, as the British are doing; and sending millions of doses to pharmacies and family doctors. It’s not impossible. It’s not even that hard, as Canada showed last spring and summer.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Jason Kenney vs. Brian Jean: “This past weekend, Mr. Jean easily secured the United Conservative Party nomination for the riding of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, comfortably defeating Mr. Kenney’s favoured candidate, Joshua Gogo. A byelection must be called by mid-February. This would mean that, presuming Mr. Jean wins (as he’s expected to), he could have a seat in the legislature before the end of March. That’s before Mr. Kenney faces a leadership review in April. Mr. Jean is on the record as saying that Mr. Kenney needs to resign. And he insists that all his energy will be devoted to this cause once he’s a legitimate member of the UCP caucus. Mr. Kenney could refuse to allow Mr. Jean to stand as a candidate in the byelection by not signing his papers. But almost no one believes that will happen. It would be viewed extremely poorly inside the UCP.”
Éric Blais (The Ottawa Citizen) on how federal Conservatives must focus on what they stand for, not who the leader is: “The party should pick a lane by either moving the brand to where the market opportunity is or attempting to move the market to where the brand is. As private-sector organizations often do, it should seek objective, fact-based strategic advice on which lane is most likely to get it elected to form the government.”
Kathryn May (Policy Options) on how COVID-19 could bring about a downtown Ottawa revival as remote work for the federal civil service frees up downtown real estate: “No other city will feel the impact of the federal real estate shift like the National Capital Region where the government is the largest employer and landlord. The government employs about 260,000 people in 102 departments occupying 75 million square feet of leased and Crown-owned space across the country. Half of that is in the National Capital Region, where headquarters for most departments are located and where 140,000 employees went to work pre-pandemic in offices occupying 38 million square feet. Real estate and market experts say the government will need less space and that what remains will be reshuffled from old Crown-owned or leased buildings downtown toward a network of suburban satellite offices or hubs.”
Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on how many B.C. NDP members are upset at government’s ‘impossible balancing act’ on the Coastal GasLink pipeline: ”Not content with accusing the NDP government of complicity, hypocrisy, obfuscation and promoting genocidal policies in dealing with Indigenous people, she also blasted it for pursuing “Christy Clark’s LNG pipeline.” Coastal GasLink will feed the LNG Canada terminal now under construction at Kitimat. Both are supported by the NDP government. “The LNG debate is what should be on the floor today, is way overdue and is at the heart of this issue,” said Zarbatany. “Members have tried to bring forward LNG debate for over two years, but we’ve been blocked every time. “Now we’re losing some of our best activists over this issue, alienating an entire generation of young people who are relying on us to address the climate emergency.”
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