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Last night felt like the first real night of the minority government.

Two vote results showed that the Liberals no longer have total control of the agenda with only a minority of seats in the House.

First up was a call from the Conservatives for a special committee to study Canada’s strained relationship with China. It was the first official vote of the new Parliament and the Liberals lost: all the opposition parties – Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, NDP, Greens and Jody Wilson-Raybould – voted to form the group against the Liberals’ wishes. The committee, whose members are to be named by Jan. 15, is empowered to call the Prime Minister, the ministers of public safety and foreign affairs, and the ambassador to China “from time to time as the committee sees fit.” And because membership on committees is proportional to representation in the House, the Liberals will also not have a majority of voting members on the committee, so they could lose future votes there, too.

But after that, a Liberal supply bill – usually a matter of confidence – sailed through all stages with the support of the Bloc, NDP and Ms. Wilson-Raybould. The Conservatives voted against. (Of the two Green MPs who were there, one voted for and one voted against.)

The first vote shows that the opposition parties are willing to flex their muscles to keep the Liberals to account. But the other five votes in the House last night show the opposition isn’t willing to topple the government just yet.

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.


Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended her country’s military at The Hague this morning, saying that the international community was wrong to label actions against the minority Rohingya Muslims a genocide. A United Nations report has charged that the military campaign has killed 10,000 people and displaced another 700,000 from their homes. The actions against the Rohingya have marred Ms. Suu Kyi’s image as a peacemaker. She is a past winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and was once given honorary Canadian citizenship – a designation that was stripped by Parliament last year.

An American researcher warns that clothing made in China may be increasingly produced through “coerced labour” by imprisoned Uyghurs, a minority Muslim population in China.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney indicated his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was positive, though he says he is waiting to see what actions the federal government takes to help the province, which has struggled at times since the price of oil dropped five years ago. A readout of the conversation that was released by the Prime Minister’s Office suggested that the two leaders talked about everything from the Trans Mountain pipeline, carbon pricing, the fiscal stabilization program, environmental assessments and methane regulations.

In Blackfalds, Alta., a Grade 4 teacher’s lesson about the oil sands that included messaging from both the government and Greenpeace sparked a debate among parents so intense that police were called and a school dance was called off.

And Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate wunderkind, has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Ms. Thunberg, who is in Madrid for the climate summit, gave a fairly blunt view of the work of international negotiators, saying the talks were “some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.” “She is an inspiration to me and to people across the world,” Al Gore said.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the deal after the USMCA trade deal: “Relief. That has been the strategic goal of Canada’s North American trade negotiations since Mr. Trump came to office. The USMCA, signed last year, was a sort-of victory because it didn’t involve major concessions.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s lobbying for a United Nations Security Council seat: “The futility underlying it all is that Canada is lobbying to be a passive observer on a rather dysfunctional council, which can be hijacked at the whim of any of its five permanent members. Back in October, the council failed to produce a statement condemning Turkey’s incursion in Syria, thanks to stonewalling from the U.S. and Russia. A month earlier, Russia – backed by China – vetoed a resolution for a ceasefire in northwest Syria, which only matters to the extent that resolutions are actually honoured or enforced. And although the continuing conflict between Beijing and Hong Kong has gripped the world as a paragon for the global struggle for democracy, the Security Council, at least according to its public agenda, seems to have not heard what’s going on.”

Aaron Wherry (CBC) on the need for a review of Canada’s role in the Afghan mission: “Maybe there were no such shortcomings in Canada’s contributions to the military and development campaigns. But here we are, five years after the Canadian mission ended, and we still have no comprehensive public examination of that mission and its successes and failures. That omission is now harder to ignore.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the Liberals’ not-so-middle-class tax cut: “What we are left with is a $6-billion handout to just about everybody except those who need it most. And all of it is borrowed. With the deficit already in excess of $20-billion and headed higher, the government is proposing to borrow another $6-billion annually, and give much of it to people in the top half of the social register.”

Rita Trichur (The Globe and Mail) on provincial cannabis markets: “Sadly, putting consumers first isn’t the Canadian way. Turns out, New Brunswick plans to replace its government monopoly with a private one. Open markets be damned. Although the proposed privatization is one of the country’s largest cannabis retail opportunities since legalization, it’s already shaping up to be a boon for illicit dealers and a blight for consumers eager to stay on the right side of the law.”

Don Braid (Calgary Herald) on the LNG industry and Canada’s emissions targets: “[Environment Minister Jonathan] Wilkinson, who’s from North Vancouver, doesn’t seem to be a clone of his predecessor Catherine McKenna, thank heavens. He hasn’t actually declared the industry an enemy of the state that wants to gut environmental regulation. But what he did say is arguably more damaging. He puts into doubt the future of LNG as a viable, abundant and long-term energy export.”

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