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Hello,

The Liberals have agreed to the creation of a special parliamentary committee to oversee COVID-19 emergency spending – of which there is a lot.

The agreement from the governing Liberals comes after a week of wasted committee meetings, in which opposition members pressed for more disclosures related to the WE controversy and Liberal MPs responded with endless points of order.

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Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said on Twitter that the mandate of the committee would include the Canada Student Services Grant – a $912-million program that was at one point to be administered by WE – but would include other spending, too.

The committee is similar to an NDP proposal to consolidate other committee studies, but differs from a Conservative pitch for an “anti-corruption” committee that would focus solely on WE and other ethical quandaries.

“A special committee should be focused on real issues and not Conservative partisan games,” Mr. Rodriguez said in a series of tweets announcing the committee.

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

A federal Fisheries scientist who studies B.C. salmon says industry holds too much control over what kind of research is conducted by the government. “If it is an inconvenient truth there is a good possibility if it is industry funded that doesn’t come out,” Kristi Miller-Saunders said.

The federal government is holding a virtual meeting of 200 participants, including Indigenous doctors and other health experts, to discuss the problem of systemic racism in health care.

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The Bank of Canada is ending three emergency programs to improve liquidity during the pandemic.

The federal government’s new Canada Recovery Benefit may have punitively high tax rates for the self-employed.

The American CEO of Costco got a special pass on the mandatory 14-day quarantine when he visited Canada to tour some of his stores in the summer, and the federal government now admits that exception should not have been made.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country is likely to leave the European Union on Jan. 1 without a formal arrangement, due to stalled Brexit talks with EU negotiators.

And TV events held in lieu of a presidential debate were dominated by the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. President Donald Trump defended his decision to hold an in-person event before, and rallies after, contracting the virus. “Hey, I’m President - I have to see people, I can’t be in a basement,” he said.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on why a long-delayed bill on sexual-assault training for judges needs to be passed post-haste: “Parliament has some big, complicated justice legislation to consider in the weeks ahead, including changes to the rules surrounding medical assistance in dying and banning conversion therapy. These bills would benefit from close parliamentary scrutiny, especially in committee. Bill C-3 and its predecessors have been studied and debated to death, in both the House and the Senate, for almost four years. It does not require any further consideration.”

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Michael Geist (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s efforts to tax web giants: “While the allure of free cash may be enticing, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The plan for mandated licensing for links could result in social-media platforms blocking news-article sharing altogether, resulting in reduced traffic and advertising revenues for Canadian media organizations. It would also cede the field to less reputable services, risking increased misinformation and a less informed public.”

Aaron Wherry (CBC) on the lack of federal help for airlines: “Transport Minister Marc Garneau has had to fend off questions already about compelling airlines to refund customers for flights that were cancelled by the pandemic. At the time, Garneau’s stated reason for not forcing airlines to offer refunds seemed practical. Some struggling airlines might have collapsed completely if they were forced to pay back that money, he said. But if (or when) the federal government offers airlines support, the political conflict over refunds will come roaring back.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on suggestions the Trump administration is pursuing a “herd immunity” strategy for COVID-19: “Even at the current U.S. death rate of about 1.4 per cent of confirmed cases – much reduced from the spring – that means another 500,000 dead, minimum. At the overall ‘case fatality ratio’ of 2.7 per cent, the number of additional deaths would be more like 1.1 million. All of the suffering, all of the dead, all of the grief and pain and loss Americans have endured thus far, times five.”

Elizabeth Renzetti (The Globe and Mail) on the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the veneration of motherhood: "As a mother, this has always made me uncomfortable. Do I know more, or make better decisions, because I’ve had children? I’m certainly less organized than 95 per cent of people, and if you could find my sink under the pile of dirty dishes it would agree. Even if I did have seven impeccably turned-out kids, it would no more recommend me for an important job than if I had seven impeccably groomed cats.

John Doyle (The Globe and Mail) on the duelling Trump and Biden TV specials Thursday night: “Only in Trump’s America could a voting public be faced with the choice of watching one candidate or the other as they yakked away on competing networks at exactly the same time. Turns out it was like trying to choose between The Apprentice and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.”

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