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Hello,

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.

The chief public health officer of Canada says the country may be at a turning point in its battle against COVID-19.

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“On a national level, we’re seeing hopeful signs that we have passed the peak of the third wave,” Dr. Theresa Tam told a Friday news conference in Ottawa.

She said the latest seven-day moving average of daily case counts is more than 20 per cent lower than the peak in April, dropping to fewer than 7,000 cases daily for the first time since early April.

Dr. Tam also said there have been reductions in the number of people experiencing severe and critical illness, with fewer than 4,000 people being treated in hospitals for COVID-19 each day, including fewer than 1,400 in intensive care and an average of 48 deaths being reported daily.

“This is important progress, but the numbers are still too high. We must drive infection rates down much lower while getting our vaccine rates as high as possible.”

To date, more than 17 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across Canada, she said, noting it’s still important to stick to public-health measures. Procurement Minister Anita Anand, also at the news conference, said 42 per of all Canadians have now received at least one dose.

Ms. Anand said that as of Thursday, more than 20 million doses of vaccine have arrived in Canada, with Pfizer delivering 2 million doses per week this month and 2.4 million doses each week in June.

On another subject, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, attending the news conference, said the federal government will take its time to formulate a response to Quebec plans to use the notwithstanding clause as part of an effort to initiate language reforms in the province.

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Me. LeBlanc said he became aware of the proposal as it was released and hopes to speak to his Quebec counterpart over the weekend, and that the government is awaiting guidance from Justice Minister David Lametti and Official Languages Minister Mélanie Joly.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

QUEBEC LANGUAGE REFORM - Quebec Premier François Legault’s government has introduced sweeping changes to provincial language laws that would amend the Canadian Constitution to recognize Quebec as a nation and French as its only official and common language. Business reaction here from the Montreal Gazette. A look here, from CBC, at where the reform leaves bilingual municipalities.

TRUDEAU ETHICS - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not breach the Conflict of Interest Act in the WE Charity controversy, but former finance minister Bill Morneau did, the federal Ethics Commissioner has ruled. Commissioner Mario Dion found that Mr. Trudeau was in an apparent conflict of interest, but that perception did not amount to a violation of the federal law. The report on Mr. Trudeau is here and the report on Mr. Morneau is here.

NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CANDA - U.S. President Joe Biden has selected Pennsylvania powerbroker and Washington lobbyist David Cohen as the next ambassador to Canada, sources say.

AIR-CRASH FAMILIES - The federal government will ease the way for families of victims of two major air disasters – including last year’s downing of a passenger plane by Iranian forces – to become permanent residents in Canada.

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BILL C-10 - A Charter review completed by the Justice Department has found that there are no concerns related to freedom of speech in the updated version of Bill C-10, which amends the Broadcasting Act.

INCLUSIVE RECOVERY - Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said the central bank remains focused on an inclusive economic recovery that brings women, youth and racialized Canadians back into the work force, even as it begins to tighten its monetary policy.

ALBERTA UCP TURMOIL - As Alberta struggles with a high rate of COVID-19 infections, internal strife in Jason Kenney’s government burst into the open Thursday, with caucus members voting to remove two of their own members.

FUREY DETERMINED - Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier says he’s prepared to make decisions that may cost him re-election in order to get the province out of debt.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Private meetings. Prime Minister delivers remarks at the Annual Meeting of the Union des municipalités du Québec. He virtually visits the Thunder Bay Alstom plant, which has built street cars for Toronto. Also participates in the Christchurch Call Second Anniversary virtual leaders’ Summit, co-chaired by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.

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LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet speaks to the annual meeting of the Union of Quebec Municipalities.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a virtual discussion on representation as a vehicle for change in municipal elections with members of the Quebec organization Vague Écologiste au Municipal.

PUBLIC OPINION

A global study involving more than 540,000 people shows that vaccine hesitancy and concerns about safety have declined steadily over the past year, but people in many countries, including Canada, have become more unhappy with how their governments have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPINION

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The Editorial Board of the Globe and Mail on Ottawa’s $12 billion bet on transit as a winner despite a collapse in transit ridership: Lashing storms can feel permanent. Thick fogs seem like they may never abate. But while the pandemic will not be easily forgotten, it will end, and transit will still be an essential pillar of Canadian cities. With climate change and population growth, it will also become a more important one.”

Douglas Coupland (The Globe and Mail) on the AstraZeneca fiasco as the latest example of the Gen X curse: I love vaccines. Throw them at me. Five weeks ago I got AstraZeneca and was feeling pretty stoked about it. Then I began to notice that when I told people I got AstraZeneca, their faces morphed into masks of pity. I consistently got the impression that people – mRNA people, mostly – view AstraZeneca as something ladled out of Donald Trump’s jacuzzi that was then shipped to India in a Ziploc bag stored beneath someone’s armpit, and once in India left to mellow at just over room temperature for three weeks before being sent to Canada and dumped into your arm.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on the inspired change Alvin Fiddler could bring to the Assembly of First Nations as national chief:As he stood outside, a pick-up truck drove by slowly. Someone yelled: “Fuck you, Indians.” Mr. Fiddler was himself unfazed. How many times had he faced this hatred, born out of a lack of understanding? But what wounded him was that his daughter had to hear the hate. That is why Mr. Fiddler has decided to enter the race.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on the farce of Canada’s COVID-19 hotel-quarantine program:Forcing only some travellers into poorly supervised hotels for too-short quarantines never really made sense, but now it’s a potentially harmful joke. Canada should scrap the program for good.”

Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on Quebec Anglophones averse to another language war, but braced for one given new language reform in the province: “We’ve been dismissed as angryphones for putting up our elbows every time there’s a new attempt to bolster the primacy of French in Quebec. These efforts have often come at the expense of the English community, after all. Yet over the years we’ve also evolved, accepted that French is the language of Quebec, done our best to learn French and tried to ensure our children are fluent. We’ve accomplished this while nurturing our institutions and carving out a place within Quebec society. Although we acknowledge that French is fragile and deserves protection, we want the same respect for the survival of our own community.”

Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on accountability in the deaths of long-term-care residents during the pandemic:More than a year of writing about anxiety and uncertainty, difficulty and pain still leaves this writer feeling ill-equipped to adequately capture the pain so many Canadian families experienced watching — from afar — their loved ones in long-term care facilities deteriorate and disappear, powerless to stop it... Eventually, however, and as it must, conversations about long term care will transition from what happened to what happens next.”

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READERS’ POLITICAL NEWSLETTER QUESTIONS

Anton Wagner of Toronto writes: “Why is the federal government refusing to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and have the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs [held] public hearings on the Treaty?”

Details on the treaty are here. Negotiated in 2017, the treaty includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. There are currently 86 signatory states.

We reached out to Global Affairs Canada. Spokesperson Grantly Franklin said in a statement that Canada is committed to advancing nuclear disarmament with a “pragmatic and inclusive approach,” but the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty “does not contain the mechanisms that are necessary to achieve verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament.” Also, joining the treaty “would be incompatible with Canada’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” On the other hand, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, detailed here, is “at the root of every aspect of Canada’s nuclear policy.”

As for the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, a representative of Sven Spengemann, a Liberal MP and committee chair, said in a statement that the most recent committee meeting on nuclear disarmament was held in 2011. The statement does not rule out future hearings on the subject, but says the agenda of the committee is determined by “the will of its members.”

READERS QUESTION

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