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Politics Politics Briefing: In Quebec, SNC-Lavalin affair takes a toll on Trudeau

Good morning,

Public perception of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a hit in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin affair. In his home province, things are more complicated.

Quebeckers’ response to the controversy over alleged pressure faced by former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Quebec-based engineering giant avoid a criminal trial has been more measured than in other parts of the country.

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But a new survey from Léger shows a strong majority of Quebeckers – 68 per cent – say Mr. Trudeau has mismanaged the file. Backing for the Liberals dropped four percentage points since Feb. 2 to 35 per cent, the survey said.

Mr. Trudeau and others have denied that Ms. Wilson-Raybould faced inappropriate pressure, while noting that the government was concerned about the potential of job losses – many of them in Quebec – and economic risks if SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. faced criminal prosecution on bribery charges.

Most Quebec voters said they would prefer SNC-Lavalin not face a criminal trial. Fifty-nine per cent of Quebeckers surveyed by Léger said they believe that fining the company is the best way forward, while 21 per cent said they would prefer to see a trial. Other surveys have shown a preference for prosecution in regions outside Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Meanwhile, Ms. Wilson-Raybould reaffirmed her commitment to the Liberal Party on Thursday. Addressing a crowded party event in her Vancouver-Granville riding, Ms. Wilson-Raybould spoke about the SNC-Lavalin spotlight.

“It’s been incredibly hard − this is me getting a little bit personal here − for me and for my family, and I know for many of you,” she said.

“I never asked for this. ... I was just doing my job and doing that job resulted in this. I honestly can say I don’t know how we got here. I know that there is a path forward beyond the place that we’re at."

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Aron Yeomanson. 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.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Forty-nine people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

A Globe and Mail examination of records raises questions about Mario Di Tommaso’s distance from Ontario’s Ford government and his role in the events that led to the failed appointment of Premier Doug Ford’s friend, Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, as the next OPP commissioner.

Ontario MPP Randy Hillier says he was suspended indefinitely from the Progressive Conservative caucus last month for clashing with some of the Premier’s most senior advisers.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is hinting strongly that Tuesday’s federal budget will announce new measures aimed at helping older workers upgrade their skills or train for new jobs.

The federal government’s pre-election budget is also expected to include subsidies for Canadians to purchase electric cars.

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Canada is contributing $50-million in foreign-aid funding to international organizations in support of humanitarian efforts in the Middle East and in response to the Syrian crisis

British Prime Minister Theresa May won Parliament’s backing to seek a delay in pulling the country out of the European Union for at least three months.

The U.S. Senate rebuked President Donald Trump by voting to end his border emergency declaration. The President quickly pledged a veto.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Andrew Scheer’s challenge: “If Mr. Scheer wants to become prime minister, he must offer a modern Conservative Party, a party that is more urban – especially suburban – than rural; a party that welcomes immigrants enthusiastically.”

Neil MacDonald (CBC News) on Andrew Scheer: “If Scheer ever does achieve power, it’s a safe bet he’ll exercise the same sort of top down control every other prime minister does. Does anyone believe he won’t? That he wouldn’t, perhaps, order Tory MPs on the justice committee to abruptly adjourn rather than take more political damage? I humbly suggest he would.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Beto O’Rourke’s presidential hopes: “As part of his mystique, Beto O’Rourke must invoke hope and optimism to have people believe he is a candidate of transformation. That’s the way you catch a wave and he is better positioned than any other Democratic contender to do so.”

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Robyn Urback (CBC News) on Ontario’s education funding announcement this week: “A procedural change, sold as additional funds for students with autism. The government coupled it with a few small, but legitimate, resource boosts, and hoped no one noticed.”

Kelly McParland (National Post) on Ontario Premier Doug Ford: “There is a lot of room, and plenty of time, for the Ford government to get the big things right. But they diminish their political capital and supply of goodwill with needless stumbles over less critical issues. Good fortune will only take the Premier so far if he keeps tripping over himself.”

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