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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.

When Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland released the government’s Fall Economic Statement on Nov. 30, the big reveal was a plan to spend between $70-billion and $100-billion over three years. The government promised to provide details on this plan in the 2021 budget. The November statement said the size and timing of the stimulus would be based on “fiscal guardrails,” including the employment rate, total hours worked and the level of unemployment in the economy.

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In a report Wednesday, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux projects a $363.4-billion deficit and challenges the Liberal government’s stimulus spending plan. The report notes that the economy appears to be bouncing back more quickly than expected, which will be reflected in key measurements such as the employment rate.

“Based on our projection for the guardrail indicators the government identified in its Fall Economic Statement, almost all of the ground lost in the labour market due to the pandemic will be made up by the end of 2021-22, the first year in which the earmarked stimulus would be implemented,” the PBO stated. “This would again suggest that the size and timing of the $70-to-$100 billion for stimulus may be miscalibrated.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Canada’s border guards have not seized any imports made with forced labour since the federal government changed customs legislation nearly nine months ago to prohibit such goods from entering the country.

The federal and Ontario governments announced funding Wednesday for a new influenza vaccine manufacturing facility at Sanofi Pasteur Ltd.’s Toronto location. The federal government is contributing $415-million and Ontario is providing $55-million. The company said it will contribute $455-million.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole told a B.C. audience questioning his climate-change plan on Tuesday that he has consulted with Gordon Campbell, but the former premier told The Globe and Mail he supports the kind of carbon tax the Tory leader opposes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he did not personally know about allegations of sexual misconduct against then-chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance that were brought to the attention of his office in 2018.

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Canada is set to receive five million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than expected this spring, adding to hopes the country will speed up a sluggish vaccine rollout that has failed to prevent a surging third wave of COVID-19 and potential additional lockdowns.

The federal government will provide $49.5-million to assist Syrian refugees who are internally displaced as well as those living in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon, as the civil war enters its 11th year.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister attends private meetings. Also participates in a virtual fundraising event with Anita Anand, procurement minister and Oakville MP.

LEADERS

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole speaks to a Fredericton Chamber of Commerce event.

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Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a virtual news conference and media availability regarding vaccine prioritization.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a news conference.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the federal government’s contempt for Parliament:As originally drafted, Bill C-13, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, would have allowed the government “to spend all money required to do anything” it saw fit to deal with the pandemic – to borrow, to tax, even to change the legislation, all without Parliament’s approval. For two years. It never came to that, thank heaven. The opposition kicked up a great fuss, the government relented, and the bill was amended to stipulate that the government’s emergency powers would be in effect only until Sept. 30. All the same, the episode was revealing of a certain habit of mind – that Parliament is at best an afterthought, a tiresome formality that prevents ministers from getting on with the job. It seems to infect all governments, but none more than this one.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Brian Mulroney’s proposal that Canada aspire to achieving a population of 100 million by the end of the century: “Canada’s willingness to aggressively recruit newcomers leaves us better positioned to weather the demographic storms ahead than just about any other country. Taking immigration from 300,000 a people a year to a million, along with enhanced supports for child care and parental leave, would reduce labour shortages and help pay for the health care and pension needs of older Canadians, while boosting creativity and innovation. Imagine the contribution that a Toronto that was the size of New York or London or Tokyo would make to this country and to the world.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on provincial budgets highlighting the need for equalization reform: “While griping about equalization has long been a national pastime, there is an increasing sense that an excessively technical equalization formula needs to be reworked to reflect changing economic dynamics within the federation. For Alberta and Ontario, it may be their only hope.

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