Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government won’t be drawn into conflict with Alberta over the province passing its sovereignty act.
Overnight, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government passed the legislation - story here - that would give it a legal framework to fight federal laws or policies that it believes will negatively affect the province.
Mr. Trudeau was asked Thursday about the passage of the legislation as he arrived for the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We are not going to get into arguing about something that obviously is the Alberta government trying to push back at the federal government,” Mr. Trudeau told journalists on Parliament Hill.
“We are going to continue to work as constructively as possible.”
Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, one of two Liberal MPs in Alberta, said the act won’t help Albertans through the affordability crisis, and sends a signal to the investment community that the Alberta government is picking instability over certainty at a time of global uncertainty.
Asked what the federal government might do about the legislation, Mr. Boissonnault said, “We’ll see, wait and see.”
There’s a Globe and Mail explainer here on the legislation.
Meanwhile. David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada who previously served as a deputy minister in the federal finance department, says the sovereignty act would create uncertainty and unnerve investors. Story here.
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.
FIX ACCESS REGIME: JOURNALISTS - Elected officials must find the political will and courage to fix this country’s access-to-information regime once and for all, the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists told a federal standing committee. Story here.
LIBERALS LONG-TERM DAYCARE ROLE - Families Minister Karina Gould introduced legislation Thursday in an attempt to secure a long-term role for Ottawa in the new national daycare system. Story here.
INTEREST RATE HIKE PAUSE POSSIBLE - The Bank of Canada could pause interest rate hikes as early as next month as it shifts to a more “data-dependent” approach to monetary policy, deputy governor Sharon Kozicki said on Thursday. Story here.
LUXURY TAX COULD CUT FEDERAL INCOME - Rather than raising revenue, a new report warns that Ottawa’s luxury tax on aircraft will reduce federal income by $29.9-million a year and cause the loss of at least 2,000 direct jobs. Story here.
TOUGHER FOREIGN-TAKEOVER SCRUTINY PROPOSED - The Canadian government is proposing to toughen scrutiny of foreign takeovers, citing national security concerns, just weeks after its new Indo-Pacific policy identified China as an “increasingly disruptive” power. Story here.
RCMP CONTRACT UNDER SCRUTINY - Ottawa is reviewing an RCMP contract for secure radio-communications equipment that was awarded to a subsidiary of a Chinese telecommunications company banned in the United States on national-security grounds and facing charges of espionage. Story here.
ONLINE STREAMING BILL REVISED - Senators have removed controversial wording from the federal government’s online streaming bill that digital video creators feared could have led to the regulation of user-generated content on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. Story here.
BC CABINET LINEUP SET HOUSING AS PRIORITY - British Columbia Premier David Eby’s new cabinet lineup cements housing affordability as one of his government’s top priorities, with the creation of a standalone ministry responsible for boosting rental opportunities and fast-tracking the construction of middle-class homes. Story here.
OVERVIEW OF SASKATCHEWAN LEGISLATURE SITTING - The fall sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislature started with controversy and ended quietly on Wednesday with confirmation $500 affordability cheques have been mailed. There’s an overview here from CBC.
QUEBEC MINISTER DENIES MISCONDUCT ON PHEASANT SHOOT - Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said on Thursday he did nothing wrong when he participated in an exclusive pheasant shoot on a private island attended by businesspeople who have received government grants. Story here from The Montreal Gazette.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Dec. 8, accessible here.
NEW POILIEVRE STAFF - Sebastian Skamski is the new director of media relations in the office of Pierre Poilevre, the leader of the official opposition, and the federal Conservative leader. Mr. Skamski, who confirmed his appointment, comes to the post after working as director of communications for Ontario’s ministry of government and consumer services. Word of Mr. Skamski’s assignment comes a day after Mr. Poilievre held his first news conference for members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in more than 80 days.
COMMONS CLERK RETIRING - Charles Robert is retiring as clerk of the House of Commons on Jan. 13. Mr. Robert announced his exit plans Thursday during a meeting of the Board of Internal Economy that deals with the management of the Commons. The clerk is the senior permanent official in the Commons, with responsibilities that include maintaining records on the proceedings and authenticating all House decisions with their signature. There’s an overview here on the clerk’s responsibilities. Mr. Robert was appointed as clerk in 2017, and he has had a 42-year career on Parliament Hill that has included assignments in the Library of Parliament, House of Commons, and the Senate, where he was appointed interim Clerk of the Senate in 2015.
STRINGER EXIT - The Cable Public Affairs Channel has announced the retirement of host and reporter Martin Stringer after 27 years. “We join Martin’s colleagues and friends in thanking him for his years of dedication and congratulate him on a well-earned retirement!” CPAC said in a Facebook posting. In his own posting, Mr. Stringer said he will miss his friends and colleagues at CPAC as well as the wider family of friends he has made in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. “It was time for a change to a quieter, less public, less pressure-filled life. Retirement is already tasting very, very sweet,” Mr. Stinger wrote.
MINISTERS ON THE ROAD - Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, in Montreal, is attending COP15. Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan, in Washington, announced that Canada will be a founding partner - and a member of the steering committee of - the Multilateral Partnership for Organizing, Worker Empowerment, and Rights Initiative led by the United States to strengthen and support unions and other democratic worker organizations.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, held private meetings, chaired the cabinet meeting, attended Question Period and was scheduled to attend the Special Chiefs Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations and deliver remarks. Mr. Trudeau was also scheduled to meet with members of the diplomatic corps, with Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly attending.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, was scheduled to speak to the FN Special Chiefs Assembly and meet with the Keewatin Tribal Council.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, available here, deals with the conclusion of a report by the Auditor-General that the federal government paid $4.6-billion in COVID-19 benefits to ineligible recipients, but that another $27.4-billion of payouts should be investigated to see if they met the program’s eligibility. The Globe’s deputy Ottawa bureau chief Bill Curry explains what we know about where the money went, and why billions of dollars are at risk of going uncollected.
YOUTH SURVEY ON HEALTH CARE - While 61 per cent of Canadian children and youth were able to access at least one early intervention in mental health care when they went looking for it, more than half said finding it wasn’t easy, a new national survey suggests. Story here.
ALBERTA POLITICS - The United Conservative Party is statistically tied with the Alberta NDP in voter intent, according to research from the Angus Reid Institute. Details here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how it’s long past time to find out if Ottawa could be owed $34-billion in pandemic benefits: “Ottawa made the right call two years ago to expedite payments, a lifeline to millions of individuals and to hundreds of thousands of businesses. The decision to rely on an honour system kept the Canadian economy from crumbling, and staved off bankruptcy, poverty and homelessness for many. But that decision created a responsibility to ensure that benefits were not paid out mistakenly, not to mention fraudulently. Ottawa had a duty to trust, but then to verify with all due speed. As this week’s Auditor-General report on pandemic benefits makes clear, the Liberals failed in that duty.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the government’s claim to be clear-eyed on China is belied by a failure to look: “Just 10 days ago, the Government of Canada was telling us in its new Indo-Pacific strategy that it is now taking a “clear-eyed” approach to China, meaning it is wise to the dangers of a “increasingly disruptive” China. Already, we see the government has had trouble keeping its eyes open. The RCMP, we learned in a report from Radio-Canada, bought communications-security technology from a company called Sinclair Technologies, owned by a Chinese parent company, Hytera Communications, which is accused of industrial espionage in the United States. The response to that report from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to note pointedly that the contract was issued by public servants, not politicians. So instead of asserting again how clear-eyed they are, Mr. Trudeau hid behind the cloak of bureaucratic invisibility. Yet it is important not to miss the lesson in this: Being clear-eyed means making sure everyone in government has their eyes open.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how Ottawa has spent 50 years trying to avoid a constitutional crisis: “The federal government has spent 50 years tiptoeing about, surrendering powers and money to one province or another, apologizing for its very existence – and the provinces are more aggrieved, more determined to wring whatever life remains out of it, than ever: to the point where they are now openly defying not just the feds, but the Constitution. But the federal government must continue to do nothing. To do otherwise would provoke a “constitutional crisis.” Provinces emptying the Charter of any meaning, rewriting the Constitution on the fly, proclaiming themselves federal-free soil, that’s not a crisis. But the federal government responds, then it’s a crisis. All right, then. What might be noticed about previous such crises, on those few occasions – patriation, the secession reference, the Clarity Act – when the federal government has worked up the nerve to proceed over provincial objections, is that it emerged with its authority enhanced, not diminished. Support for secessionism fell, not rose.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on not blaming Carey Price for our gun-control divide: “On gun control, the Liberals and Conservatives have both engaged in crass political tactics to mobilize factions within their respective bases. Both parties have sought to polarize the debate for fleeting political gain. Mr. Price unwittingly served their purposes by expressing his opinion publicly. But he is not the problem. It is the politicians who are making a mess of this debate.”