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Good morning,

Ontario’s Liberals tabled their 2018 budget yesterday, going into the red with billions in spending promises months before Ontarians go to the polls. The fiscal plan unveiled on Wednesday marks a departure from the Liberals’ rhetoric last year, which celebrated a balanced budget. A $6.7-billion deficit is forecasted for 2018-2019 and projections show it won’t be eliminated until 2024. The Liberals will be spending big on improvements in pharmacare, child care, housing and transportation.

The budget also beefs up securities enforcement, giving the Ontario Securities Commission new tools to govern capital markets and confront white-collar crime.

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If you’re looking to get caught up on all the most important measures that were introduced in the budget, we’ve picked out 10 highlights in this guide.

David Parkinson writes that this budget is straight out of the Trudeau playbook: “This Trudeau-lite strategy is likely to go over like a lot of sequels – old, tired and well past its best-before date. Three years ago, the concept of putting the fiscal dividend to work was a long-overdue breath of fresh air. But after three federal budgets in which the promise of small, temporary deficits has deteriorated into a reality of deeper-than-expected budget gaps with no end in sight, voters have lost their patience with vague return-to-balance pledges, and their appetite for government promises written in red ink.“

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay Ottawa, Mayaz Alam in Toronto and James Keller in Vancouver. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

Editor’s note: Politics Briefing will return on Tuesday, April 3. Have a great long weekend!

TODAY’S HEADLINES

The federal Liberals’ latest omnibus budget bill includes new cannabis tax rules and the legislation for its carbon pricing regime, among other things.

The next Liberal convention, in Halifax next month, will feature a keynote speech from Obama campaign architect David Axelrod. “I’m hoping he has good stories to tell and that he can help us in our efforts to motivate and inspire and focus our folks on 2019 and the importance of the hard work that will be required between now and then,” said Liberal Party president Anna Gainey.

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The federal government will miss a self-imposed deadline to have deals in place with all provinces and territories on its signature infrastructure program.

The Senate will also not have public testimony from the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser.

IBM, one of the key contractors behind the troubled Phoenix pay system, says it told the government multiple times before the system went live that it wasn’t ready for prime time.

North American free-trade agreement talks are moving forward at a rapid pace, with all three countries trading auto content proposals and angling to agree to a new deal as early as next month. The United States is pushing both Canada and Mexico to reach a deal. Mexico, in particular, has been keen to cut a deal before campaigning for its July 1 presidential election kicks into high gear. Canada’s chief negotiator says that “we’ve got quite a bit of work to do yet,” adding that it would be a challenge to wrap up talks in April.

Some prominent international researchers coming to Canada on the Canada 150 Research Chair program are citing U.S. the political climate as a reason for leaving their country.

Vancouver’s mayor is calling for the decriminalization of all drugs after new statistics showed an estimated 4,000 Canadians died last year of opioid overdoses — about 10 per cent in Vancouver. Mayor Gregor Roberston says the crisis isn’t getting better and it’s time for a “disruptive” solution.

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B.C. Premier John Horgan is predicting a summer of “crisis” due to escalating protests over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Dozens have been arrested already near Kinder Morgan’s terminal in Burnaby, near Vancouver.

British police are saying that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were first exposed to a nerve agent at the front of their home in southwestern England. The poisoning, which was allegedly carried out by Russia, has caused an international firestorm and a co-ordinated response against the Kremlin.

U.S. President Donald Trump has ousted David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs secretary and has nominated Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, his personal physician, to replace him. Mr. Jackson has been a presidential physician since the administration of George W. Bush.

And Ecuador has cut off WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s internet connection at its London embassy. Mr. Assange has been living there under asylum.

Elizabeth Renzetti (The Globe and Mail) on systemic racism: “The systemic racism consultation has been framed as a political problem for the Liberals, which seems like the worst kind of short-term thinking. I don’t actually care whether it’s a political problem; that’s for the Liberals to worry about. It’s a Canadian problem, and it’s not going away, even if we cover our eyes and ears and pretend there’s nothing there.” (for subscribers)

Vicky Mochama (Toronto Star) on systemic racism: “Questions about systemic racism are less about our personal interactions but rather about how the institutions that govern our lives have internalized and implemented racism. A multi-ethnic group of university students may quite like one another but their experience of the school is likely to differ on racial lines.”

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Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on Bill C-69: “There are obvious reasons to be skeptical about the Trudeau government’s promise to speed up the environmental-review process for major resource projects all while broadening its scope. Tougher environmental standards, no matter how appropriate, will not make it easier or faster to get Canada’s resources to market or attract investment to the oil patch. It is disingenuous on Ottawa’s part to suggest otherwise. Just what, then, is Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s real goal in remaking the environmental-review process?” (for subscribers)

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Jagmeet Singh: “The single most important quality in a politician lacking experience is the ability to learn from mistakes and not to repeat them. Is Mr. Singh learning? Will he continue to learn? That’s what really matters. What made Jagmeet Singh attractive to the party in the first place − his youth, intelligence, energy, compassion and, yes, vaulting ambition − are still there. Let’s not write him off too soon.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on lobbying: “There is a new target for lobbyists looking to get the changes they want in government legislation: the newly powerful senators free to move amendments to tinker with, or transform, legislation. That’s a byproduct of the still-evolving changes to the Red Chamber made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and it is a signal of a shift in power: Now, individual unelected senators are more influential as legislators than most backbench MPs.”

Tasha Kheirridin (iPolitics) on transparency and Trudeau: “For the Liberals as for all governments, secrecy suits them just fine. Information is power, and keeping a lid on embarrassing gaffes or compromising reports helps maintain power, by denying the opposition and the media ammunition to take you down. Problem is, when you set the bar for transparency so high, you also set yourself up for a giant fall. Sunlight may be a disinfectant, but it is also merciless. If Trudeau is to avoid the fate of Icarus, he should have promised less – and delivered more.”

Stephanie Carvin (Open Canada) on expelling Russian diplomats: “The steps taken this week against Russia are both symbolic and significant. Hopefully, this is the start rather than the end point of co-ordinated action to contain Moscow. While President Vladimir Putin may be surprised at the scale of the diplomatic expulsions, he, and those in the circle around him, will be more distressed to learn that they could be facing ramped up financial pressure if the UK decides to proceed with further actions (including passing a Magnitsky law that would target anyone involved in human rights violations), and can convince its allies to do likewise. Actions that continue to target the Kremlin, and those around Putin, are likely to bring real pressure on Russia. And the closer the West can stand together in these initiatives, the greater the pressure and the louder the message will be that Russia’s aggressive actions must stop.”

Help The Globe monitor political ads on Facebook: During an election campaign, you can expect to see a lot of political ads. But Facebook ads, unlike traditional media, can be targeted to specific users and only be seen by certain subsets of users, making the ads almost impossible to track. The Globe and Mail wants to report on how these ads are used, but we need to see the same ads Facebook users are seeing. Here is how you can help.

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