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Good morning,

Like the groundhog who pokes his head out of a hole in the ground every February to find out how long winter will last, Canada’s Finance Minister will leave Parliament Hill soon to meet with private-sector economists and find out what shadows are being cast on the nation’s economy.

The meeting happens each year in the weeks leading up to the federal budget, and the economists' projections help underscore the numbers in the fiscal plan.

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This year, Finance Minister Bill Morneau is meeting with the economists on Friday, Feb. 22. That suggests the budget is likely to land in March – which means it will probably be during the week of March 18, as that is the only time that month that the House of Commons is sitting. (Of course, the government can really table the budget any time it wants, so take any predictions with a grain of salt.)

It’ll be a big budget for the Liberals, as it comes in the months leading up to a federal election and could provide some proposals that will become part of Justin Trudeau’s re-election strategy.

If you’d like to know more about the budget, the process of putting it together and the process of covering it, you can call in to a special Globe and Mail subscribers conference call next Tuesday, Feb. 12, where you’ll speak to me and our finance reporter Bill Curry. Registration and more info here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. 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

For years, residents of Quebec have had to fill out their income tax returns twice: once for the province and once for Ottawa. The Quebec government says it wants to do all the tax-collecting, and the federal Conservatives say they’d be open to that if they were in power. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says such a move would lead to layoffs in Quebec and that he would only entertain the idea of a single tax return if it was the Canada Revenue Agency administering it.

First Nations and Métis groups are welcoming a new Liberal bill to protect Indigenous languages, but Inuit groups say it doesn’t go far enough to help them protect Inuktuk in Nunavut.

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Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says Canada will ignore the U.S. call to immediately repatriate foreign fighters in Syria who are Canadian citizens.

The Canadian government is now advising against any travel to Venezuela because of “the significant level of violent crime, the unstable political and economic situations and the decline in basic living conditions, including shortages of medication, food staples, gasoline and water.”

Senators studying the Liberal government’s contentious environmental-assessment bill are hitting the road on a national tour to hear from communities where big resource projects are happening.

A deadly freight-train crash in B.C.'s mountains started when the train started rolling downhill on its own, according to investigators.

The B.C. government says it will implement new measures to boost accountability after serious allegations of misspending at the province’s legislature.

Fake stories have been popping up online claiming that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh owns a luxurious mansion. He does not, New Democrats say.

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Vern White, who was the chief of the Ottawa police until he was named to the Senate in 2012, kind of wants his old job back.

And a city councillor in Gatineau, Que., who got in trouble for denying the existence of Islamophobia is now in trouble for denying that the world is round.

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Americans and taxing the rich: “Opinion polls show a shift in attitudes. Americans are becoming fed up with the power exercised by the ultrawealthy, and the Democrats are poised to take advantage.”

Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on Quebeckers caring about the environment: “Grassroots efforts to push the Quebec government to make climate change its top priority have only been gathering steam since the fall when an international report warned the worst effects will be felt sooner and at a lower temperature than previously believed.”

David Moscrop (Maclean’s) on former NDP leader Tom Mulcair: “The defence of Mulcair’s turn from politician to commentator is that he’s an expert: he’s lived what he’s discussing and now he’s offering his experience as insight. More to the point, he isn’t saying anything that’s indefensible or implausible. He’s just doing the job (a job he didn’t have to take) for which he’s paid. That may be true. Still, the commentary itself violates the boundaries of decorum implied and adopted by those who serve or have served as a leader that limit hostile incursions into party territory post-tenure—which is to say, it’s bad form to trash your side from the bleachers after coaching the team.”

Kevin Page, a former parliamentary budget officer, in the Ottawa Citizen on Michael Ferguson, the auditor-general who died last weekend: “Why would anyone want to be Auditor General of Canada? I think people like Michael Ferguson take on the challenge because of the call to serve Canadians. They have the skills to lead a department whose job is to help parliamentarians hold the government to account on issues of financial control and the performance of government programs and services. Ferguson had the courage to lead and the thick skin to handle the inevitable critiques that came his way.”

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Giselle Portenier (The Globe and Mail) on female genital mutilation: “There’s been a law against FGM in Canada since 1997, but there hasn’t been a single prosecution. Unlike other Western countries, in Canada there are no protocols to save girls from FGM; no training for teachers, no systems in place to spot girls – and save girls – who are in danger. For survivors who came here already cut – and that includes young women who arrived here as small children – there is virtually no specialized help. No specific counselling, no specially-trained doctors, nurses or midwives. Nothing. Contrast this with other Western countries: In Britain, survivor activists have forced the government into action. There are now helplines for girls at risk; specialized clinics for survivors; training for teachers to spot vulnerable girls; a mandatory reporting requirement of FGM cases for all health and social services professionals and teachers. And just last week they had their first conviction, of a mother who forced her three-year-old daughter to undergo FGM.”

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