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Although COVID-19 vaccines are starting to trickle into Canada, health officials are warning that things will get worse before they get better.

The pace of new COVID-19 infections continues to climb across the country. Hospitals in high-risk areas of Ontario were told yesterday to start freeing up bed space in preparation for a possible holiday spike from people gathering with families.

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The situation is even worse in some remote First Nations communities. The virus can spread more easily due to overcrowded homes, and health care is hard to access.

Red Sucker First Nation Chief Samuel Knott told The Globe the situation is “overwhelming.”

“I dreaded this day from happening to our community, knowing where our community is at ... that we won’t be able to cope if we were to have an outbreak,” he said.

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

The federal government is releasing its long-awaited hydrogen strategy today, that calls for a mix of tax credits and subsidies to develop the sector in the coming years.

A report commissioned by the Canadian government into why the Iranian military shot down a Ukrainian flight back in January says Iran has still provided few answers for the incident after nearly a year.

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Some recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are confused by Canada Revenue Agency messaging about whether or not they have to pay the benefit back.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is facing criticism for comments he made about residential schools. Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde says the comments were “disappointing” and a bid to “score meaningless politcal points.” Mr. O’Toole’s office says he takes the “horrific history of residential schools very seriously,” and his comments were just aimed at “cancel culture.

A Canadian sailor on the HMCS Winnipeg has been lost at sea off the coast of California.

Political staffers are stressed out.

And Canada is planning to finally send a person to the moon. (Well...near the moon, anyway.)

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Finance Deputy Minister Michael Sabia: “But Mr. Sabia’s first order of business is the $70-billion to $100-billion stimulus plan for the spring budget. [Chrystia] Freeland said it would be ‘time-limited,’ so it is supposed to roll out quickly and stop in three years. Liberal innovation programs haven’t worked that way. Infrastructure programs just won’t.”

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Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the Liberals’ climate plan: “But never mind: $170! Isn’t that a bold number? Again, maybe; $170 is, to be sure, a great deal more than $30, but is that the appropriate benchmark? Sweden already charges as much today, never mind 10 years from now. In terms of the price at the pumps, $170 a tonne works out to another 33 cents a litre. Added to the current average price of about $1 a litre, that would take the price of gas to levels not seen since … the spring of 2019. Proportionately, that’s an increase of 33 per cent over 10 years. It has increased by nearly that much since April.”

Tasha Kheiriddin (Ottawa Citizen) on vaccine hesitancy: “Given the mistrust, politicians may need to step back and let others do the asking. Friends, neighbours, medical professionals and faith leaders could have more influence in changing reluctant minds than officials will. The tendency of left-leaning politicians to deploy government to solve every problem risks backfiring, deepening suspicions among skeptics who sense they are being compelled to get an injection.”

Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on Pornhub and calls for Canada to crack down on sexual exploitation online: “Finding that Quebec is a hub for the sex trafficking of women and minors, the National Assembly panel made 58 recommendations to stamp it out, from tougher penalties for pimps and clients to better education to protect adolescents.”

Hannah Alberga (The Globe and Mail) on celebrating Hanukkah during the pandemic: “A lockdown means we are anchored to our homes, not fleeing to the hills for decades. However, like the Jewish people of more than 2,000 years ago, we are estranged from our former lives. The Jews of that time looked to religion to navigate their days, from dusk till dawn. In a parallel sense, our sacred routines of rushing into crammed subway cars and breathlessly lunging into meetings – maskless and without a container of hand sanitizer in sight – seem foreign and mythic now. But as we remain tucked away at home for the holidays, the ancient story can serve as a reminder that patience and hope can push us through.”

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