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Hello,

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is the latest politician to be tested for the novel coronavirus.

In a statement released this morning, the Conservatives say Mr. O’Toole, his family and some of his staff are being tested because one of his aides was found to be positive for COVID-19. Mr. O’Toole was travelling with the aide recently. However, he has not shown any symptoms of the virus, his office said.

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Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and members of his caucus are already in self-isolation because of a similar risk of exposure to a staff member with COVID-19.

MPs are scheduled to gather in Ottawa next week for the Speech from the Throne and the new session of Parliament. Tests like this will put more pressure on the House of Commons to work out rules to contain outbreaks and protect the health of members and staff.

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

The Liberal cabinet is meeting today after its two-day retreat to plan for next week’s Throne Speech and the pandemic-related challenges beyond. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government’s top priority is keeping the spread of the novel coronavirus under control, which will also help the nation’s businesses.

Huawei Canada has an internal dossier of “key opinion leaders," including former politicians and professors, who it believes can help shape public opinion about executive Meng Wanzhou and whether the Chinese telecom giant should be allowed into Canada’s 5G mobile network.

The United States backed off its aluminum tariffs, but indicated it might reimpose them in the future if the quantity of imports meet certain thresholds. The Canadian government said no deal was negotiated between the two countries and all the changes have been on the U.S. side.

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The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed a while longer, CBC News reports, until at least Oct. 21.

Peter MacKay said he lost the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party, in part, because he was too focused on appealing to all Canadians, not just the party members who vote for the leader.

In Quebec, small towns are now the source of much of the province’s growth in COVID-19 cases. Provincial authorities pin the blame on large social gatherings, in which the virus can spread rapidly.

And in the city of Ottawa, residents are sharing stories of long, long, long lines at testing centres to find out if they have the novel coronavirus. The testing system has come under extra pressure since school started last week. Hospitals say they are reaching their capacity for testing due to staffing problems, but the province says they hope pharmacists could cover the gap.

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s views on human rights: “After meeting with Premier François Legault on Monday, Mr. O’Toole pledged to do nothing whatsoever about Bill 21, legislation that effectively imposes a hiring ban on observant Muslims and other religious minorities across much of the province’s public sector. Indeed, the Defender of the Rights of All Canadians could not find a disapproving word to say about it.”

Donald Wright (The Globe and Mail) on the New Brunswick election: “When the Liberal leader visited the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market, he wore a mask and kept his distance. It was difficult to watch: entourage in tow, [Kevin] Vickers followed the directional arrows more than he met with voters. For a man who needed to introduce himself to a province that didn’t really know him, campaigning in the middle of a pandemic was frustrating, to say the least.”

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Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the Bank of Canada and the pandemic response: “While there are valid reasons for [Governor Tiff] Macklem to point out that the impact of the pandemic-led downturn has disproportionately fallen on women, low-wage workers and minorities, fixing the problem is beyond the Bank of Canada’s ability or purpose. Setting specific redistributive goals for society is best left to the politicians who control fiscal policy. Unlike monetary policy, government spending and taxation can operate on both the macroeconomic and microeconomic levels. Monetary policy is not so nimble.”

Pam Palmater (Maclean’s) on Trudeau’s policies: “You do not have to be a political scientist to see that if Trudeau doesn’t have a plan to centre human rights in his next Throne Speech, he’ll wish that all he had to worry about was the WE scandal. This pandemic has shown us all how important it is that we pull together — as grassroots Indigenous peoples, Black Lives Matter and non-Indigenous Canadians — and take care of one another. There is no room for social injustice in a just Canada.”

Brigitte Pellerin (Montreal Gazette) on why conspiracy theories should be taken seriously: “I don’t know what to do about people who believe their political opponents are Satan worshippers who sexually abuse children. I fear I am not equipped to help them. But what I do know is that the kind of people tempted by QAnon-style rhetoric are people who have felt unheard by mainstream society for a long time. In a way, QAnon is to adults what street gangs are to teenagers; it’s destructive but it gives them a sense of belonging and a feeling that they matter.”

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