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The federal government might have a spending problem – though not the one they are often accused of.

Programs like the Canada Infrastructure Bank or the Superclusters Initiative were announced in the Liberals' last mandate with a big splash. They were new programs given multibillion-dollar budgets to solve pressing problems facing the country.

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But as recent stories have shown, the programs have struggled in the follow-through. Here, now, is one more: an innovative way to finance foreign aid was announced by the Liberals in early 2018, but has to date disbursed just $120,000 of its $1.5-billion budget.

“Innovative approaches are a lot easier to announce than to implement, especially in a very bureaucratic and risk-averse institution such as Global Affairs Canada," Stephen Brown, a University of Ottawa political scientist, told The Globe’s Geoffrey York.

Government spokespeople say the programs are still being worked on, it’s just taking more time to set up than originally anticipated.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. 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

With a second wave of COVID-19 already upon us in some areas of the country, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem says the next few months will be “crucial” to seeing how businesses and households can withstand more financial pressures. Many people and businesses were forced to rack up substantial debt to get through the first wave, and it’s not clear how much capacity they will have to take on more.

First Nations weathered the first wave of COVID-19 relatively well, but cases have picked up dramatically in the past few weeks.

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Alberta’s government is eyeing geothermal energy as another way for the province to diversify its resources sector.

The federal and Ontario governments announced today they are each investing $250-million into the Ford plant in Oakville to help the auto maker pivot to producing electric vehicles.

Arms-control advocates are asking why Global Affairs Canada is reviewing the export of Canadian-made targeting equipment to the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, given the department is the same one responsible for promoting the international sale of weapons in the first place.

Two-thirds of Canadians disagree with the idea that there is too much immigration into the country, an Environics Institute survey suggests, the highest figure the pollster has found when periodically asking the question.

2019 saw the lowest percentage of women in recent years welcomed into the Order of Canada, research shows.

And the U.S. vice-presidential debate last night featured Republican incumbent Mike Pence sparring with Democrat challenger Kamala Harris. Ms. Harris landed some criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, while neither candidate really wanted to talk about taking over the White House if their septuagenarian bosses have to leave office next term. It looks like the next presidential debate could be called off – Donald Trump has refused to take part in a virtual debate necessitated by the fact he is still contagious with the novel coronavirus.

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Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on politicians' handling of the COVID-19 crisis: “Canada’s two most populous provinces have premiers that are among the most popular in the country. Quebec’s François Legault and Ontario’s Doug Ford both impressed voters during the first wave by taking a reassuring tone. Now both should expect to be measured on how well they prepared for the second wave. And they might well find the crisis surge in their popularity deflating.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the slow results of the federal superclusters program: “[Innovation Minister Navdeep] Bains made it sound like he was on to something huge that no one before him had thought of, when ideas of the sort had been tried elsewhere for almost three decades with underwhelming results. But a government that believes in the guiding hand of the state as much as this one was not about to let evidence get in the way of its ideology.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on the economic dangers of a second shutdown: “A second-wave lockdown could well mean sacrificing pieces of the economy that may not come back once we reopen. It’s what economists call capacity destruction. And it’s a big problem – not just for corporate interests, but for all of us.”

Kathryn Marshall (National Post) on the rise of violence against women during lockdown: “One of the issues is that the justice system’s approach to dealing with domestic violence is backward. We should be stopping domestic abuse before it turns violent, not afterward. A big failure of the system is that it doesn’t properly address the ‘red flag’ conduct that often precedes domestic violence and homicide. By the time the police get involved in a domestic incident, there has often been a long pattern of frightening, obsessive behaviour.”

Mohammed Adam (Ottawa Citizen) on the difficult decisions in a crisis: “No doubt there’s a lot to criticize and we should not hesitate to do so and offer alternatives. But let’s realize that in the fight against COVID-19, there are no perfect solutions. Finding the right balance amid all the competing interests may be the biggest challenge of pandemic response. Let’s not underestimate it.”


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