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Hello,

The Liberal government already had to prepare a new budget while the coronavirus was wreaking havoc with the global economy. Now the budget drafters have to contend with the freefall in the price of oil.

Yesterday Saudi Arabia and Russia essentially launched a price war on oil because of an OPEC dispute. That’s driven down the price of oil globally, with the main Alberta benchmark below US$23 a barrel.

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Prices that low will blow a hole through Alberta’s provincial budget, which was banking on crude values more than twice that high. It will put pressure on the federal government to do much more for the province’s residents. And if those low prices are sustained, it could mean negative economic growth.

But hey – at least the price of gas is cheap?

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

Governments and public health agencies continue to grapple with how to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam today urged Canadians to stay off of cruise ships, as the government prepares to fly home 230 Canadians on board the Grand Princess in California. The first death has been recorded in Canada, at a B.C. care centre.

The one Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief who had previously been neutral on the Coastal GasLink pipeline has now come out in favour of its construction. Herb Naziel, who goes by the hereditary name Samooh, said the blockades and protests have been misguided.

A majority of Canadians polled by Nanos (for The Globe and CTV) disapproved of the blockades and said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took too long to deal with them.

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Robert Blair, U.S. President Donald Trump’s pointman on Huawei, is in Ottawa today to press the Liberal government to keep the Chinese telecom out of Canada’s next-generation 5G mobile network.

Steven Del Duca is the new leader of the Ontario Liberals. Mr. Del Duca has a big challenge ahead of him before the next election in two years: The party, which had formed government for 15 years, is now millions of dollars of debt and only has eight seats in the legislature.

And Eric Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP, says he hopes to be an inspiration for people like him in rural communities who may not be comfortable coming out. He said the party’s discomfort in talking about social issues clearly weighed on them in the last election. “We weren’t with the times,” Mr. Duncan said.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how Trudeau has handled a challenging 2020: “Mr. Trudeau isn’t having a crisis-management crisis, but he may be having a bit of an identity crisis. Since last October’s chastening election, he hasn’t really given Canadians a clear sense of where he is headed. When he hits a fork in the road, he plows down the middle.”

Justine Hunter (The Globe and Mail) on the rough ride Indigenous MLAs are getting from would-be supporters: “British Columbia has never before had so many Indigenous voices in the legislature at one time. There has never been a better time for members of the house, who last fall unanimously passed legislation to commit to human rights for Indigenous people, to listen with empathy to the concerns of the youth outside. But the protesters demanded complete allegiance with their position, dismissing alternative perspectives within Indigenous communities on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en themselves are divided on the issue, and are in the midst of a sensitive consultation process on issues of rights and title.”

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, in The Globe and Mail, on putting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in legislation: “If what stands at the end of a formal regulatory process is a blockade, or just another politician with an agenda, companies and investors with the vision and resolve to place capital at risk will simply not embark on that process at all. Canadians will lose.”

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Kelly McParland (National Post) on why the Liberals might pay attention to investors pulling out of Quebec’s LNG industry: “Without Quebec, Justin Trudeau wouldn’t still be prime minister. Without its solid support his father would never have lasted so long in the same office. Between them, Quebec and Ontario are the Liberal party’s bread and butter. Any time it loses the love of one or the other, it finds itself on the opposition benches. Liberals hate being on opposition benches, so they are very careful to accommodate themselves in every way possible to the whims of Quebec voters. There was a very good reason Trudeau bent himself into pretzelian configurations over the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Not, as he repeatedly said, to protect jobs. But to protect jobs in Quebec.”

Debra Soh (The Globe and Mail) on the end of Elizabeth Warren’s bid for the presidency: “The sexism explanation is a potent source of comfort for those who have bought into the idea that society’s cards are inevitably stacked against women, and Americans’ inability to elect a female president is rooted in a deep-seated hatred for female leaders. However, individuals defending this perspective, especially in reference to Ms. Warren’s decision, come across as misguided.”

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