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Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says Ottawa and the provinces and territories have made “significant progress” on a multi-billion-dollar health care funding deal and he’s optimistic an agreement can be unveiled at the first ministers meeting within weeks.

“We are confident we are going to get to a good place. I am personally very optimistic and I am looking forward to significant and positive developments in the weeks ahead,” Mr. Duclos told a news conference on Friday.

Mr. Duclos was responding to a report in The Globe and Mail that Ottawa and the provinces and territories are inching closer toward a 10-year funding deal that would provide a hefty increase in federal health transfers, along with bilateral financial agreements in areas such as long-term care. The Globe had reported the deal is expected to be unveiled at a first ministers meeting in February, before the federal budget is tabled in March or April.

In recent negotiations, Mr. Duclos said there has been a “change in tone and direction” from the provinces and territories to accept Ottawa’s demands to modernize data sharing, reduce backlogs in surgeries and diagnostics, retrain and hire more nurses and use medical clinics to handle 6.7 million Canadians without family doctors.

Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reports here.

Reporter’s Comment from Mr. Fife:After months of back and forth negotiations on a new long-term health care deal, it looks like the logjam has finally been broken. For months the premiers presented a united front, insisting there shouldn’t be any strings attached to federal funding. But as The Globe reported Friday, a deal is now in the works that is expected to be unveiled a first ministers meeting in February.”

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.

TODAY'S HEADLINES

ALBERTA PREMIER’S STAFFER ACCUSED OF CONTACTING PROSECUTORS - Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office says it would be wrong if a staffer contacted prosecutors about cases involving a U.S. border crossing blockade, but isn’t saying whether it will investigate to determine if that happened. Story here.

ANTI-GOVERNMENT VIEWS WERE MOTIVE FOR B.C. BANK ROBBERS: POLICE - Police say two brothers killed by police in a shootout outside a Victoria-area bank were there for a gunfight, not robbery. Investigators said Friday that the men had strong anti-government and anti-police views and their goal was to kill and harm as many officers as possible. Story here.

CANADA READY TO APPROVE COMMERCIAL SPACE LAUNCHES - The federal government has announced it is ready to approve commercial space launches on Canadian soil on an interim basis as it moves to put regulations in place to support a nascent domestic launch industry. Story here.

B.C. GOVERNMENT-FIRST NATIONS AGREEMENT APPLAUDED - Natural gas producers applauded a landmark settlement between the British Columbia government and the Blueberry River First Nations that will give the Indigenous group significantly more sway over projects in the province’s resource-rich Montney region, as other First Nations made ready to unveil similar deals. Story here.

‘CATCH AND RELEASE’ SYSTEM FAILING VICTIMS OF RANDOM ASSAULT - Vancouver Reporter Mike Hager looks at how B.C.’s “catch and release” system is failing victims of random assaults and repeat offenders with the case of one man offering a case study in the way B.C.’s courts treat the tiny number of people who repeatedly assault strangers – often people they encounter on the street, or retail workers trying to stop them from shoplifting. Story here.

B.C. GOVERNMENT CHARGE CUTS FOI REQUESTS BY JOURNALISTS, OPPOSITION - After British Columbia started charging $10 for each request for secret government information, media outlets dropped their applications by 80 per cent while opposition political parties halved their number, according to a new report from the provincial privacy watchdog. Story here.

MANNING TAKING ROLE IN REVIEWING ALBERTA COVID ACTIONS - Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has appointed conservative stalwart Preston Manning, who has expressed interest in hearing “alternative scientific narratives” regarding the coronavirus, to chair a panel that will review the legislation and governing processes the province used to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Story here.

CANADA TO REPATRIATE WOMEN, CHILDREN SUSPECTED OF ISLAMIC STATE TIES - The federal government has agreed to repatriate six Canadian women and 13 children who have spent years in northeast Syria, where they have been detained in camps for people suspected of having ties to the Islamic State. Story here.

NDP MAY PULL SUPPORT FOR LIBERALS DEPENDING ON PHARMACARE ACTION - Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the party will continue to prop up the Liberal government but warns that support could be withdrawn if a national pharmacare framework isn’t unveiled by the end of this year. Story here.

SECOND, CONSECUTIVE YUKON PREMIER FROM N.S. - Ranj Pillai has become the second Nova Scotian in a row to serve as the Yukon’s premier. Story here from CBC.

THIS AND THAT

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

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY - Chrystia Freeland, in Davos, Switzerland, attended a meeting of the World Economic Forum board of trustees, held meetings with business leaders and other participants at the forum, and departed for Toronto.

ALSO AT THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM - International Trade Minister Mary Ng met with Kemi Badenoch, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Among the issues they discussed is a women-focused Canada trade mission to the United Kingdom planned for March 2023. Ms. Ng participated in a Thursday panel, Bricks or Clicks: What Kind of Investment do Economies Need? that you can watch here.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD - Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Longueuil, Que., announced Canadian policy for commercial space launches in Canada. Defence Minister Anita Anand, at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, attended the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting. Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, also minister for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario, in North Bay, made an announcement on support for innovation, job creation and economic growth in Northeastern Ontario. (Also attending was Anthony Rota, the Liberal MP for Nipissing–Timiskaming, and the Speaker of the House of Commons.) Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, also minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, in Springbrook, P.E.I., made an announcement on ACOA efforts to help businesses and communities affected by Hurricane Fiona.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL ACCEPTS DIPLOMATIC CREDENTIALS - Governor-General Mary Simon accepted credentials from ambassadors and high commissioners from Costa Rica, Mauritius, Angola, Laos and Samoa.

LIBERAL CAUCUS RETREAT - The Liberal national caucus will hold a retreat in Ottawa on Jan. 27 and 28 ahead of the Jan. 30 return of Parliament, caucus chair Brenda Shanahan said in a statement. The gathering will be held on Parliament Hill.

WELLSTEAD EXIT - Alex Wellstead, a former press secretary for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now handling communications for Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne. has announced his exit here after six years on Parliament Hill working for five ministers and Mr. Trudeau. No details provided on what’s next.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the National Capital Region, held private meetings.

LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet SIngh, in Ottawa, attended the final day of the NDP caucus retreat.

No schedules released for other party leaders.

THE DECIBEL

Health care in Canada is in the spotlight on Friday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast. First, Queens Park reporter Jeff Gray talks about the announcement this week from Ontario Premier Doug Ford that his government is increasing the use of private clinics for procedures like cataracts, diagnostic imaging and eventually hip and knee replacements, following the lead of other provinces. Then, Vancouver reporter Mike Hager talks about how that strategy is working in other provinces, and why B.C. is now moving away from private health care. The Decibel is here.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Ottawa, and the lessons unlearned in Afghanistan: Two days later, in Canada, news broke that Global Affairs Canada plans to erect a plaque at its Ottawa headquarters to pay tribute to the government employees who contributed to the evacuation of nearly 3,700 Canadian citizens, permanent residents of Canada and Afghans in August, 2021, when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. There is no doubt that dedicated employees put in long and difficult hours during an unprecedented international crisis, and that some of them did so in the harsh and dangerous conditions unfolding in Kabul in the summer of 2021.But erecting a $10,000 plaque as a participation medal in an inept evacuation, and doing it while the Taliban continues to attack women and throttle Afghans’ basic rights, is rightfully being criticized.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s politics are about convincing folks he can force Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do things he doesn’t want to do: Nearly every question NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gets these days is about what it would take to make him defeat Justin Trudeau’s government. His party has roughly the same power to defeat the Liberals in this Parliament as it did in the last one. But since March, when the NDP struck a deal to support the Liberals in confidence votes till 2025 in return for some policy concessions, the ever-present NDP question is when Mr. Singh will trigger an election. Or why he won’t.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how corporate Canada has been protected from competition for too long and it’s time to put consumers first: Lack of competition is a pervasive problem in Canada – not as an accident of history, but as a matter of deliberate government policy. Why is our health care system so expensive, yet produces such mediocre results? Because no one in the system knows what anything costs, certainly – but more because no one has any incentive to find out what anything costs. The hospital administrator does not need to know whether her hospital is charging more or less than its competitors for a tracheotomy: It has no competitors.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on ‘As Alberta Turns’ - The greatest soap opera in Canada: Previously, on As Alberta Turns: Premier Danielle Smith was warning of a coming apocalypse if Ottawa introduced legislation designed to help energy workers gain the skills necessary to transition to a green economy. Even though she admitted to not knowing what was in the pending bill, she was certain it would spell doom for the goose that laid the golden egg known as Alberta’s oil sands. That, of course, has always been the secret agenda of the central Canadian elites who run this country. And then, lo and behold, she got the evidence that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that is precisely what is afoot – or so she told herself. Welcome back to Canada’s greatest soap opera.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on whether the real Pierre Poilievre will really stand up: “As a public service, we are ceding this space to an urgent request from the Quebec provincial police for help in identifying a person calling himself Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who visited the province in recent days. The following is an unofficial translation: The Sûreté du Québec is seeking assistance from the public in establishing the true identity of an individual going by the name of Pierre Poilievre, who held several public events and granted mainstream-media interviews this week in Montreal, Trois-Rivières and Quebec City. The SQ has reason to believe that the person in question may have usurped the identity of the federal Conservative Leader in order to persuade Quebeckers that the real Mr. Poilievre is nothing like the angry cartoon character who won his party’s 2022 leadership contest by promising to blow up Canada as we know it.”

Brian Day (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how private facilities will bring much-needed competition to Canadian health care: “Private insurance and private facilities will introduce much needed accountability and competition and provide Canadians with a comparison to the status quo. A private option will not mean the wealthy get better care than the poor. We can simply emulate other countries and fund or subsidize insurance premiums for lower income groups. Competition will pressure governments to improve the public system and if that occurs, private options may become less necessary.”

Kim de Laat, Carmina Ravanera, and Sarah Kaplan (Policy Options) on making remote work a plus instead of a penalty for gender equality: “The arrival of the federal affordable child-care plan has meant a rise in women’s employment in Canada – a success we should celebrate. But, the way we work has changed over the past few years, mainly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people now work in remote and hybrid arrangements, and research has found that women who use these arrangements are often penalized in their careers. As more women join the workforce, policies facilitating paid and unpaid work must ensure they are not just able to work, but also to thrive. These changes must be embedded in a constellation of employer and government policy interventions.”

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