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Ontario will boost the number of surgeries at private health care clinics, starting immediately with cataract procedures, in hopes of clearing a backlog intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones announced a three-step plan Monday that would expand the types of surgeries that can be offered at private independent health facilities, including hip and knee replacements starting next year.

The first phase is focused on addressing the backlog of cataract surgeries and intends to add an additional 14,000 procedures in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa through new partnerships with private surgical and diagnostic centres.

The province is also providing $18-million to existing private clinics to increase hours of MRI and CT scans and boost the number of surgeries with a goal of reducing wait lists to prepandemic levels by March. There are an estimated 206,0000 people waiting for procedures in Ontario, according to figures from the province, up from 200,000 prior to the pandemic.

The Ontario program comes as provinces, including Nova Scotia - story here - are facing health care challenges that have prompted them to seek increased funding from the federal government as well as a meeting with Mr. Trudeau to discuss the issue.

Queen’s Park reporters Jeff Gray and Dustin Cook report here.

During a news conference in Saskatoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the Ontario announcement, and about provinces using for-profit clinics for surgeries.

Mr. Trudeau said it is one of the primary responsibilities of the federal government in health care matters to ensure that the Canada Health Act is always respected.

“That’s what we’re going to continue to watch across the country as people are responding in different ways to delivering better services to Canadians in health care,” Mr. Trudeau said.

He said he has discussed health care improvement with premiers, including Mr. Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

“And I can say we’re all very much on the same page.”

During a news conference in Montreal, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said he could not comment on the Ontario proposal because he had not seen it.

The official opposition leader said his policy on health care would be to work with the premiers guided by three priorities, namely shorter wait lines, more doctors and nurses and faster approvals for proven new cutting-edge treatments and medications that are available in what he described as other advanced countries, but not in Canada.

He also said he is pushing the provinces to consider faster recognition of immigrants who are doctors and nurses, with provinces committing to approve or reject their appeal to work in their field within 60 days based on their tested abilities and not where they are from. He also said future immigrants should be allowed to seek credentials before they arrive in Canada.

Meanwhile, Premier Moe says he’s disappointed he was not made aware of the Prime Minister’s visit. Story here. Asked about the lack of notice, Mr. Trudeau told Monday’s news conference, “We’ve had lots of opportunities to make great announcements with Premier Moe over the years. The government of Saskatchewan is an important partner on many different issues,” he said. However, Mr. Trudeau added there is work to be done to encourage the provincial government to see the opportunities that companies and workers are seeing in cleaner energy projects.

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.


PM NOT RULING OUT TANKS FOR UKRAINE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t ruling out sending Canada’s German-made battle tanks to Ukraine, saying Ottawa would consider such a request from Kyiv. Story here.

FORMER UNION LEADERS TRANSFERRED FUNDS TO ENRICH THEMSELVES, OPSEU SUIT CLAIMS - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is accusing three former executives, including ex-leader Warren (Smokey) Thomas, of improperly using millions of dollars in cash and assets for personal enrichment. Story here.

HOME SALES, PRICES EXPECTED TO FALL IN 2023 - The national real estate association is forecasting another year of housing market declines, as home prices sank for the 10th straight month in December and households continue to struggle with higher borrowing costs. Story here.

QUEBEC LITHIUM MINE CAN PROCEED: GUILBEAULT - Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says a new lithium mine in northern Quebec can go ahead with more than 270 conditions to protect wildlife and respect Indigenous use of the lands of traditional purposes. Story here.

MULTIPLE ASSAULT-STYLE FIREARMS DEFINITIONS CAUSE CONFUSION - The federal government’s marquee gun-control legislation simultaneously relies on three different definitions of what counts as an assault-style weapon, resulting in a tangle of banned firearms that experts are struggling to understand, and that the government has not fully explained. Story here.

BANK OF CANADA SURVEYS FIND BUSINESS AND CONSUMER SENTIMENT SOURING - Canadian business and consumer sentiment continues to sour in the face of rising interest rates, while expectations of future inflation have levelled off. These factors could influence the Bank of Canada as it considers slowing, or perhaps pausing, interest rate hikes in the coming weeks. Story here.

HAITIAN MIGRANT’S DEATH RENEWS DEBATE ON ASYLUM SEEKERS - The death of a Haitian migrant near Quebec’s Roxham Road has reignited a debate in the province about how to respond to an increase in asylum seekers entering the country through the irregular border crossing. Story here. Meanwhile, police in India say two men are facing charges in the deaths of a family who froze a year ago while trying to cross from Manitoba into the United States. Story here.

AFTER FIVE YEARS, ACCESS REQUEST YIELDS MEDIA-COVERAGE E-MAILS - Five years after being asked to release internal reports on a controversial loan to a South African business whose owners are accused of massive state corruption, Export Development Canada has acceded to an access request by giving up only a package of e-mails consisting mainly of staff discussing “negative” news coverage. Story here.

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NEW NAME IN THE WORKS FOR OTTAWA’S SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD PARKWAY - A proposed new name for the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway in Ottawa will be unveiled this week. The National Capital Commission’s board of directors meeting on Thursday includes an item called a “proposal to rename the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway” along the Ottawa River in Ottawa’s west end. Story here from CTV.


HOUSE ON A BREAK – The House of Commons is on a break until Jan. 30.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY - Chrystia Freeland is attending a Liberal party fundraiser held by the Mississauga East-Cooksville Federal Liberal Association. The listed donation amount is for $0 to $1,000.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD - Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Belledune, N.B., announced new funding for the village port. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, in Stellarton, N.S., with provincial Communities Minister Pat Dunn announced joint funding of up to $869,650 to enable the Central Highlands Association of the Disabled, a non-profit organization in Pictou County, to purchase five new vehicles. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, in London, Ont., and accompanied by London Mayor Josh Morgan, announced the city will receive $3.09-million from the Building Safer Communities Fund announced in March, 2022 to prevent gun crime and gang violence in the city. Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, in Vancouver, announced a partnership with Ocean Wise to amplify youth voices at the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress next month. Seniors Minister Kamal Khera was in Cambridge, Ont., as well as Kitchener to announce support for seniors. Filomena Tassi, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, was in Oldcastle, Ont., to announce support for manufacturers and in Tecumseh to announce support for a local manufacturer.

BANK OF CANADA APPOINTMENT - Nicolas Vincent, an economics professor in the applied economics department at the HEC Montréal HEC university, has been appointed an external, non-executive deputy governor of the Bank of Canada. Monday’s announcement is for a two-year term effective March 13, 2023. Announcement here.

FORMER GOVERNOR-GENERAL ON EMPATHY - David Johnston, Canada’s 28th governor-general, is scheduled Monday night to participate in an on-stage conversation with Catherine Clark on his new book, Empathy: Turning Compassion into Action. The book, based on Mr. Johnston’s personal experiences, is being described by its publisher as being about learning to be empathetic and then turning that empathy into action. The event is being held at the Library and Archives Canada building in Ottawa.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Saskatoon, held private meetings and was scheduled to visit a rare earths element processing plant, with Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark attending. Mr. Trudeau was then scheduled to hold a media scrum. At 5:10 p.m. CST, an interview with Mr. Trudeau was scheduled to air on CBC’s Blue Sky radio show with Garth Materie.


Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre attends a party fundraising event in Montreal, organized by Agop Evereklian, who once ran for a Montreal seat for the party, and is now an assistant director-general of the Centre de transfert d’enterprise du Quebec. Tickets are $1,700.

No schedules released for other party leaders.


On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, transportation reporter Eric Atkins explains the problems behind the incredibly tumultuous holiday travel period during which passengers were stranded, bags lost and thousands of flights cancelled. Mr. Atkins also tells The Decibel about other factors that led to this chaos, how airlines are responding, and whether this is likely to happen again. (Spoiler: It is.) The Decibel is here.


Ontario’s sitting Lieutenant-Governor says David Onley, who held the same post for seven years, has died. He was 72. Story here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how a shooting war concentrates the mind, and Ottawa needs to end the military procurement paralysis: It took just a few weeks for the federal cabinet to approve the purchase and dispatch of an advanced air defence missile system to Ukraine, at a price tag of $406-million. Ukraine has urgent need of those defensive weapons to shoot down the waves of missiles and drones that Russia is using in an attempt to terrorize the Ukrainian government and population into surrender. Meanwhile, Canada’s army – including infantry stationed in Latvia near Russia – has no air defence capability, and would be forced to rely on NATO allies for protection in the event of an air strike in a fighting war.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how, with a few simple words, Ontario Premier Doug Ford might finally get health-care funding talks moving: After all this time, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has finally applied real pressure on Justin Trudeau to make a deal on health care funding. He did it by agreeing to talk about health care. If a few more premiers follow suit, we might have a ball game. If the premiers of British Columbia and a couple of Atlantic provinces were to echo Mr. Ford’s words, Mr. Trudeau wouldn’t have much of a choice but to grind out a deal quickly.”

Janice MacKinnon (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how there is just transition without provincial collaboration: “The federal government’s plan to introduce “just transition” legislation to help move oil and gas workers to low-carbon jobs has raised alarm bells in Alberta, Canada’s largest energy-producing province, and reflects a pattern of federal-provincial relations that helps to explain our limited progress in addressing climate change. An obvious question is: Why single out oil and gas as the sector for a just transition? Workers in many other sectors of the economy will face career changes, whether because of climate-change measures or technological change, such as digitization.”

Don Tapscott (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on what the World Economic Forum at Davos really does: “For years, critics have viewed the annual Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum as a cabal of the rich and powerful, conspiring to bend the world to corporate interests. Today, the political right leads the criticism, spinning up conspiracy theories on how the global elites seek to run the world. Plots range from forced vaccinations and mandatory ID cards, to radical limits on property rights and wealth ownership, to chips implanted in people’s brains. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has aligned himself with the some of these theorists – saying he opposes the WEF’s “socialist agenda” and declaring that, if elected prime minister, he would ban cabinet members and other top officials from any involvement with the forum. So what’s the real story?”

Nate Wallace (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how service cuts to public transit are just the first steps in a death spiral: Good, reliable service is the key to bringing back transit riders; instead, with public-transit systems in a fragile state, many Canadian cities are choosing to launch a vicious death spiral, in which diminished service and higher costs chase riders and revenue away, leading to further cuts. This spiral will also push people into their cars, and lead to a less equitable and more carbon-intensive future.

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