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Hello,

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.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole opened the week, urging the federal Liberal government to go much further on banning travel to Canada during the pandemic.

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Mr. O’Toole says flights from all “hotspot” countries should be stopped, and everyone tested at the border. “No exceptions,” he told a Monday news conference.

He did not elaborate on specific hotspots. Last week, Ottawa announced it would ban passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days amidst the resurgence of COVID-19 case counts in India and concerns about the B.1.617 variant left many on both sides of the world in limbo. The announcement came shortly after India had reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections in the previous 24 hours.

“We need a serious approach at the border to keep these variants out,” Mr. O’Toole said Monday. “The government needs to secure the border by stopping flights from all hotspot countries and, in fact, perhaps all international travel temporarily until we can rectify and secure our border.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said that while only 1.8 per cent of all air travellers entering Canada are found to be COVID-19-positive, federal data show people travelling from India made up 50 per cent of all positive tests.

The Tory leader did say he supports helping India through its COVID-19 crisis by supplying ventilators, and equipment.

At the beginning of the crisis, he said it wasn’t appropriate to disperse such supplies, “but we have been able to build up some of that so let’s help our friends in India but let’s also have an approach of stopping international flights until we can get a handle on keeping the variants out of Canada.”

Mr. O’Toole set the tone for the official opposition approach to the issue this week, saying the Conservatives will push for “smarter and swifter” action on the border, rapid tests, and emergency preparedness.

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On another note, Mr. O’Toole said the Conservatives will not vote for the federal Liberal budget given the levels of debt associated with the spending plan, and concerns about tax policy and its “band-aid solutions” approach to job creation.

He said the Tories will propose amendments, “but we will not be supporting a budget that really puts at risk our future” given the possible direction of interest rates in coming years.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

PORT STRIKE IN MONTREAL: Canada’s biggest eastern port has ground to a near-halt for the second time in less than a year after dock workers walked of the job early Monday, further raising tensions ahead of possible intervention by the federal government in the days to come. According to the CBC, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle Sunday night, said small companies will suffer during a strike because they won’t get the goods they need. The Prime Minister’s appearance on the high-profile Quebec series is here.

CLC LEADER EXIT: Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff is stepping down in June after forging relationships with both Conservative and Liberal governments to expand pensions for seniors and wage subsidies to help workers cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TEEN’S COVID-19 DEATH: The devastating story of 13-year-old Emily Victoria Viegas, one of the youngest people in Canada to die from COVID-19.

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VACCINE SUPPLY: The federal government says it expects Canada to receive around 1.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week, including its very first shipment of single-dose shots from Johnson & Johnson.

BANK GOVERNOR ON PATH AHEAD: Thirteen months into a pandemic and 11 months into Canada’s top central banking job, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem looks to the other side of the crisis in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

FREELAND APOLOGIZES: From Global News: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is apologizing to ‘any woman’ who experienced harassment while serving in the military — though she says she never knew about the allegations against former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

COVID-19 AFFECTS PARLIAMENT HILL RENOVATION: From the Ottawa Citizen: A rapid testing program will soon to be deployed for on-site workers on the sprawling renovation of Parliament Hill’s iconic Centre Block rehabilitation project after an entire work unit was sent home earlier this month following a positive COVID-19 test.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. Virtual roundtable, with Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, on homelessness. Virtual discussion, with Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, representatives from Shelter Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, and Coordinated Access South Shore Association on housing investment from federal budget, Chairs cabinet meeting.

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LEADERS

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a news conference on Parliament Hill, and speaks virtually to the Regina Chamber of Commerce.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet holds a news conference on the port strike in Montreal.

POLLING

Philippe J. Fournier/338Canada says the Liberals are winning over older - normally Conservative - voters, raising the prospect of a “blowout” majority for the party.

The Angus Reid Institute says its polling suggests 52 per cent of Canadians willing but yet to be vaccinated now say that they are comfortable receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine - an 11-point increase in comfort levels in just two weeks.

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OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan needs to take responsibility for the Vance controversy: “Maybe the Liberals hope it will get lost in a pandemic. They insist that what matters is fixing the problem for the future. But there is no credible way to do that without accountability for the past.”

Allan O’Dette (The Globe and Mail) on the unacceptable threats that Canada’s public-health officials are dealing with:In Ontario, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, says his e-mail inbox is, at times, a torrent of hatred every single day. Let me give you a flavour of the hate mail he is receiving, because perhaps reading the actual words of these horrible messages will make people think twice before posting an angry tweet or firing off an incendiary e-mail. “Greetings Dr. Loh. You are a sad excuse of a person and I want nothing but pain and suffering for you. The same pain and suffering you have caused the citizens of this region. I hope I never run into you in person. Fuck you.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem ruling out plans for climate activism by the Bank of Canada:The climate crisis has been a topic that Mr. Macklem is happy to talk about, even with some enthusiasm, when asked; but he has generally kept it fairly low key in his formal comments about the central bank’s policies and priorities. When he has spoken at any length on the topic – notably, in a pair of speeches last fall – his focus has been in the context of managing financial system risks.”

Don Braid (The Calgary Herald) on a new challenge for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney - the provincial NDP out-fundraised Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party in the first quarter of 2021: “There are many stories of UCP riding board members and loyal supporters — the kind who typically give the $4,000 maximum — now refusing to donate anything at all. All this really matters both to the party and to Kenney. They can dismiss weak opinion poll ratings (and they have those, too) when an election is still years away. But a buck’s a buck no matter when you look at it. Today’s bank account is an early measure of how much cash the party will actually have when it comes time to fight a campaign.”

DO YOU HAVE A POLITICAL QUESTION?

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Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

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