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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says six members of his team have tested positive for COVID-19.

During a news conference Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said three members of his staff and three members of his security detail have contracted the virus.

“They’re following all public-health guidance. So am I,” Mr. Trudeau said. “It’s a reminder that the virus is all around us. It’s very much a threat. We have to keep our guard up.”

Several Canadian politicians have disclosed their infections, including Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, Bloc Québécois deputy House leader Christine Normandin and MP Kristina Michaud, as well as the mayors of Montreal and Ottawa.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who appeared at the virtual news conference with the Prime Minister, delivered her recent fiscal and economic update virtually after two members of her staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Mr. Trudeau said his team has been working with public-health officials on the situation affecting his inner circle, and the recommendation has been for him to reduce his contacts as much as possible, self-monitor, and do rapid tests regularly.

“So far, it’s all been negative. You will know if ever it becomes positive – I promise you that,” he said.

Given the nature of his contacts with the affected staff, he said there has been no recommendation for him to go into full isolation.

Mr. Trudeau’s comments came as his government announced an adjustment to COVID-19 benefit programs in light of the Omicron variant.

Deputy Ottawa bureau chief Bill Curry and parliamentary reporter Marieke Walsh report here on the federal government expanding eligibility for pandemic support programs to address the current wave of capacity restrictions in various regions across the country.

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.

PLEASE NOTE: The Politics Briefing newsletter is taking a holiday break. After today, we will be back on Jan. 5. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the holidays. See you in 2022.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

TORY MP DEFENDS UNVACCINATED - Alberta Conservative MP Rachael Thomas posted false information about vaccines and their efficacy as she defended people who choose not to be vaccinated, saying they are being “demonized.” Story here.

OTTAWA FACING WORKER DRAIN - Canada’s capital was once abuzz with thousands of employees who commuted into its downtown core to work, including in many government buildings. But nearly two years into the global pandemic, it remains unclear when and if many of those workers, previously drivers of the local economy, will return to their offices – creating enormous unknowns for downtown businesses and concerns for the city’s mayor. Story here.

TOUGH INVESTMENT-PROPERTY POLICIES COMING: HOUSING MINISTER - Canada’s Housing Minister says the federal government plans to take a tougher stand on investment properties to help cool housing prices. The broad strokes of the agenda were outlined in the mandate letter the Prime Minister gave to Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen.

TORY ELECTION REVIEW TO BE COMPLETED SOON - Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, who is under some pressure for an early leadership review, is expected to receive the much-awaited campaign review next month on why his party lost the last election to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Story here from The Hill Times.

ALBERTA NDP MLA LEAVES CAUCUS DUE TO CRIMINAL PROBE - A member of the Alberta Opposition has left the NDP caucus after reporting he is involved in an RCMP investigation into a computer privacy breach. Story here.

QUEBEC MAYOR DENOUNCES CITIES’ ADVOCACY AGAINST BILL 21 - Quebec City’s mayor has criticized other Canadian cities, including Quebec’s sister city of Calgary, for wanting to finance legal challenges against the province’s state secularism law, Bill 21 . Story here from The Montreal Gazette.

KENNEY REBOUND? - Could Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stage a rebound from his current political challenges? CBC reporter Elise von Scheel and academic Brooks DeCillia reflect here on how it might happen.

MILITARY PROCUREMENT CHIEF STANDS BY HELICOPTERS - The Defence Department’s top procurement official says he would feel safe flying on one of the military’s new naval helicopters despite the fleet’s rash of recent problems. Story here.

$6.8M FOR FAIRY CREEK POLICING COSTS - According to documents obtained by Global News, the RCMP has spent more than $6.8-million enforcing a court injunction against anti-logging protesters camped out at Fairy Creek in B.C., which has led to nearly 1,200 arrests this year. Details here.

THIS AND THAT

GARNEAU HAS `SPARE TIME’ TO WRITE BOOK - Former astronaut Marc Garneau, also the ex-foreign affairs minister, says he is thinking of writing a book as a fun “spare time” exercise. “I was asked to write a book after my first flight in 1984. My answer: I’m 35 and too busy living,” he tweeted. “Now I’m finally starting to think about a memoir for my children. Could be fun in my spare time.” The Liberal MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount first flew in space as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Challenger in October, 1984. He is now chair of the standing committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs and chair of the subcommittee on agenda and procedure of the standing committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

GG’s NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE - Mary Simon will be delivering her first New Year’s message as Governor-General on Dec. 30. It will be delivered in three languages: English, French and Inuktitut.

COMMONS ON A BREAK - The House of Commons has adjourned until Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, at 11 a.m. ET.

THE DECIBEL - In the latest edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, feature writer Ian Brown speaks with Al Etmanski about a proposed federal fund to help top up disability benefits offered by the provinces and territories. Mr. Etmanski, who has spent his life working to help improve life for Canadians with disabilities, also talks about why poverty among disabled people has been ignored for so long, and his career as a parent activist for people with disabilities. Listen here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister spoke with Gabriel Boric, the president-elect of Chile, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Prime Minister also virtually addressed Canadians on the COVID-19 situation, and made an announcement with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough. Also participating were Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

From Toronto, the Deputy Prime Minister participated virtually in an announcement with the Prime Minister.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on why something is bound to break when the PMO tries to run everything: “Is it just me or is there something a little off about the Prime Minister’s Office lately? I don’t mean the Prime Minister himself, who has always had, needless to say, an erratic streak to him. I mean the people around him – the brain trust, the pros – the people who are supposed to keep the ship tight and the clocks wound. Because some of the decisions coming out of there of late have been more than a little odd. Again, there will always be strange decisions coming out of any prime minister’s office from time to time. But usually these show some evidence of being the product of, well, not thought exactly, but at least intent. Whereas I’m not sure the current PMO is even aware of some of the things they’re doing.”

Kelly S. Thompson (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on what the Canadian military’s sexual-misconduct apology means to her: “But if this apology is to be the start of powerful change, then our Prime Minister – the leader of our country – should have been standing next to his representatives. Yes, these problems existed before him; each prime minister has unfortunately, at one point or another, empowered alleged harassers or abusers with positions of authority. But someone will always be left holding the proverbial hot potato. If Justin Trudeau isn’t ready to accept that kind of accountability, I don’t know how the survivors are meant to trust his government’s assurances. We said we’d die for our country. Survivors are owed a similarly weighted pledge in return. So while I’m hopeful, I remain guarded.”

Jason Thistlethwaite and Daniel Henstra (Policy Options) on how Canada’s flood-risk management needs stronger leadership: “Politicians comfort flood victims, pledging money to rebuild and promising that life will soon be back to normal. Although welcome in the immediate aftermath of catastrophic flooding, this rhetoric distracts Canadians from the fundamental responsibility of governments to prevent flooding before it happens. It’s too easy to pass the buck in Canada’s federal system, where responsibility for flood-risk management is informally and opaquely divided between national, provincial and municipal governments.”

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