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Hello,

In what could be a game-changer for Canada’s vaccination strategy, federal and provincial health authorities are looking at new research that just one dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine may be enough for most Canadians.

Currently, two doses are required to prime a person’s immune system to fight off the novel coronavirus in more than 90 per cent of cases.

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However, Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, told reporters at a briefing this morning that new research suggests one dose may be just as good.

That would be a boon for Canada as it seeks to substantially ramp up its vaccine efforts after weeks of supply problems. Procurement Minister Anita Anand promises Canada’s international ranking on vaccinations – which is quite low at the moment – will rise substantially over the spring.

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

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a morning news conference that he condemns Facebook’s decision to pull news services from its platform in Australia in protest over an Australian law that would require it to share revenue with news outlets. “I think what Facebook is doing in Australia is highly irresponsible and compromises the safety of many Australian people,” Mr. Guilbeault told reporters.

The Liberal government tabled a justice-reform bill today to repeal many mandatory minimum sentences and to direct police and prosecutors not to charge those accused only of simple possession of illicit drugs.

As governments and health authorities struggle with Canada’s other public-health crisis – rising deaths from opioid overdoses – one option being increasingly used is safe supply, prescriptions that help those struggling with addiction. But advocates warn it’s just one part of the solution.

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The Senate has passed an amended version of a bill that reforms medically assisted dying, the amendments open up access to the procedure even more. The bill is now headed back to the House of Commons for review.

A panel of fiscal-policy experts assembled by the C.D. Howe Institute warn of the dangers of the government piling on too much debt from pandemic stimulus spending.

The House of Commons is set to vote soon on whether China’s persecution of the Uyghur minority constitutes a genocide.

Texas is grappling with a major power outage that is leaving millions without electricity or water for days. Many observers are saying this crisis is building to be the worst domestic natural disaster – and worst emergency response by a government – since Hurricane Katrina. In the midst of the disaster this week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz took his family to a Mexican vacation spot to escape the disaster.

And this feels like a story worth keeping an eye on for policymakers: the real estate market continues to climb and climb, with houses selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking due to limited supply and artificially low interest rates. One Toronto-area agent, who says the buying frenzy is extending out into small towns around the GTA, described the current market as “full-on madness.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Trudeau declaring Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people a genocide, but not China’s treatment of Uyghurs: “By labelling his own country genocidal but declining to recognize what is patently genocide elsewhere, he has weakened the moral authority Canada has to censure China and other nations committing human-rights abuses by confessing to the worst human-rights abuse of all.”

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Nina L. Khrushcheva (The Globe and Mail) on intrigue in Moscow: “Mr. Putin’s fears are compounded by the possibility that a slow-motion palace coup may be unfolding. Since the annexation of Crimea, Western sanctions have been choking Russia’s economy, fuelling resentment among the country’s political elites, who long for access to their Swiss bank accounts and Italian villas. They may now seek to oust Mr. Putin, much in the same way Nikita Khrushchev was ousted in 1964. And a humiliated Mr. Putin would presumably be much easier to overthrow than a popular one.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on how governments can help small businesses: “There’s little question that a broad swath of small business has been in the direct line of fire from the pandemic; legions of mom-and-pop retailers and restaurateurs have been forced to close their doors, not once but now twice, to help contain the spread of the virus. While statistics show consumers who lost their jobs were remarkably well supported by the government’s income-replacement measures, small businesses have relied on borrowing and deferrals that have compounded their obligations.”

Rob Carrick (The Globe and Mail) on what will happen to Canadian homeowners when interest rates rise: “When today’s buyers renew their mortgages years down the road, they will likely find their expensive mortgages paired with higher mortgage rates. A return to the rates of early 2020 could increase monthly payments by hundreds of dollars each month over current levels. A competitive five-year fixed mortgage in early 2021 goes for 1.69 per cent, which is freak-show low. Just eight years ago, a federal finance minister lectured a bank for being too provocative in cutting its five-year fixed rate to 2.99 per cent. In early 2008, a discounted five-year mortgage would have been in the high 5-per-cent range.”

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