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Politics Briefing: Space, the final frontier for Canada’s budget

Good morning,

Picture in your mind the most iconic Canadian inventions and you’ll soon think of one that’s emblazoned on our five-dollar bills: the Canadarm.

Since the 1980s, the robotic arm of NASA’s space shuttles has been an emblem of Canada’s cutting-edge technology.

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But as science reporter Ivan Semeniuk writes in today’s Globe, Canada is, in fact, falling far behind in space science. This fall will see a flurry of activity – but with little else in the pipeline, it’ll be a very quiet few years after that.

“Without a strategy, we don’t know where we’re going,” Michelle Mendes, outgoing executive director of the Canadian Space Commerce Association, said.

And on another scientific note: Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s most famous physicists, has died at the age of 76. If you’ve never read A Brief History Of Time, it’s worth a shot; it’s a remarkably clear explanation of a very complex and foundational topic.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa, Mayaz Alam in Toronto and James Keller in Vancouver. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


Prosecutors in Manitoba have decided not to file an appeal following the acquittal of the man accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine. A jury found Raymond Cormier not guilty last month of second-degree murder in a case that became a rallying call in the push for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke at a 2015 “sovereigntist rally” in San Francisco where speakers denounced India and advocated for an independent Sikh state.

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The sons of an Iranian-Canadian professor who died under mysterious circumstances in a Tehran prison are asking the Canadian government to help their mother leave the country. So far the Iranian government has barred her from doing so.

Veterans say a new education benefit has turned out to be worth a lot less than was promised.

A Vancouver real estate developer is pitching a $14-billion plan to use federal funding to build 50,000 units of affordable housing primarily in Toronto and Vancouver. Ian Gillespie, a prominent Vancouver real estate developer, has established the Creative Housing Society, an independent non-profit to be based in Toronto, to handle the proposal.

The B.C. government has launched a review of the sale of the province’s largest retirement home operator to Anbang Insurance, a Beijing based company that was recently taken over by the Chinese government. Ottawa approved the sale last year, and the B.C. government can’t change that, but the province does have the power to refuse to give health-care contracts to foreign companies.

Alberta’s legislature has passed a unanimous resolution backing Premier Rachel Notley’s battle to push through the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The United Conservative Party under Leader Jason Kenney backed the motion, though an Opposition motion — which was defeated — was critical of exactly how the NDP government is carrying out the fight.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the fate of the federal Ocean Protection Plan doesn’t depend on the Trans Mountain pipeline project — despite comments from the Prime Minister that seemed to indicate that was the case. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested during a visit to B.C. last month that the ocean plan and the pipeline were an all-or-nothing package, but Mr. Garneau insists that’s not the case.

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Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says he wants to simplify the party’s platform for the summer election, and may push to open up private sale of alcohol and marijuana in the province.

The Trump administration is hitting Canadian newsprint producers with steep anti-dumping duties, the latest protectionist measure from a government that has already targeted Canadian softwood lumber.

Does the federal Liberal government have a recurring problem with issues management?

And Kevin O’Leary is using an Olympics charity to help attract donors to a fundraiser to help him pay off his final leadership campaign debts.

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Rex Tillerson losing his job as Secretary of State: “From the Canadian perspective, the change is hardly a welcome one. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had carved out a good rapport with Mr. Tillerson. They aligned on a number of files. The former ExxonMobil chief supported - to the extent that he could - the Canadian position on trade and open markets. He leaned more toward Ottawa’s view on environmental issues, pushing unsuccessfully to have Mr. Trump adhere to the Paris accord on climate change. He was more in sync with Ottawa on maintaining the nuclear deal on Iran, on racial diversity, on Russia.”

Justine Hunter (The Globe and Mail) on B.C.’s new luxury home tax: “There has been little empathy for those who may have generated wealth on paper, but who don’t have the means to foot the bill that the government now expects them to pay.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on a Doug Ford administration: “Imagine all-out, no-holds-barred warfare between a Conservative government in Ontario and a federal Liberal government over a tax that Ottawa has imposed on the province. Imagine the heat of the language, the impact on political brands, the damage to national unity. We could face that reality in a matter of months.”

John Michael McGrath (TVO) on the upcoming Ontario election: “Progressive voters in Ontario are pretty evenly divided between the two centre-left parties, but they could stampede to one party or the other on election day as a means of stopping [Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug] Ford at all costs. The 2011 federal election showed — through Michael Ignatieff’s disastrous defeat and Jack Layton’s ascent — that there’s no guarantee voters will flee to the Liberal brand just because someone says ‘there are only two choices’ over and over.”

Mischa Caplan (Ottawa Citizen) on political branding: “The federal government long ago threw out the concept that a government budget should resemble anything close to what most people would consider an actual budget. But in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, our federal budgets have become so devoid of substance, such blatant displays of political branding, that they are now little more than exercises in sloganeering and ideological signalling.”

Lori Turnbull and Edward Greenspon (The Globe and Mail) on political advertising: “With the 2019 federal election approaching, it is time for Parliament to put an end to anomalies that allow third parties access to sources of money denied to the actual contestants. We’re hardening our electoral system against cyber attacks. We also need to harden it against privileged access for those individuals and organizations that push their political agendas from the sidelines.”

Help The Globe monitor political ads on Facebook: During an election campaign, you can expect to see a lot of political ads. But Facebook ads, unlike traditional media, can be targeted to specific users and only be seen by certain subsets of users, making the ads almost impossible to track. The Globe and Mail wants to report on how these ads are used, but we need to see the same ads Facebook users are seeing. Here is how you can help.

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