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Thursday was a townhall day for both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre with each on the road, taking questions from members of the public in Atlantic Canada.

With the House of Commons on a break until March 6, the two leaders had an opening to get out of Ottawa for outreach on key issues.

“Townhalls outside of elections are critical opportunities to trial balloon ideas, tone, and key messages,” Nik Nanos, chief data scientist at Nanos Research, and the official pollster for The Globe and Mail, said in a statement.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that in a minority parliament with the two front running parties, neck and neck in the polls that they are calibrating their tour and messages. These are warm up events for the next federal election.”

After a pair of townhalls earlier this week in York Region, near Toronto, and Longueuil, near Montreal, Mr. Trudeau was in Nova Scotia where the Liberals hold eight of 11 seats to three for the Conservatives.

Over the week, the Prime Minister appeared before the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario and farmers and agricultural producers in Longueuil (where, story here., he said the federal government is looking at how it can provide targeted aid to farmers who are struggling with inflation.) On Thursday, the audience in the room was university students.

Mr. Trudeau was largely talking about health care at Dalhousie University’s Collaborative Health Education Building in Halifax. During the event, Mr. Trudeau mentioned that his government had confirmed health care agreements in principle with five provinces. Story here.

“This is really as much an opportunity for me to hear from you on whatever it is you are preoccupied with. There is a lot going on in the world right now,” Mr. Trudeau said, opening the event.

Meanwhile, Mr. Poilievre was scheduled to hold a townhall in the Newfoundland and Labrador town of Clarenville, about 190 kilometres west of St. John’s.

An advisory from Mr. Poilievre’s office earlier this week said Mr. Poilievre would be holding a “Keep the Heat On, Take the Tax Off” townhall on increases to the cost of home heating.

The Conservatives did not release any details, in advance, on other parts of Mr. Poilievre’s visit to the province where the Liberals hold six of seven seats. However, The Telegram in St. John’s caught up with the Official Opposition leader to learn what he was up to, which is largely outside the provincial capital - and urban centre - of St. John’s. Their story is here.

Alex Marland, a professor and the head of the political science department at Memorial University in St. John’s, said he expects that Mr. Poilievre’s team is seeking, through the event, to bolster the messaging around a recent television spot they have been running in Atlantic Canada to attack federal Liberal policies on pricing carbon. {Global News reports here on the ad effort.}

He also noted that the Tories may see rural Newfoundland, outside the capital of St. John’s, as more promising political terrain. Their sole MP, Clifford Small, won his Central Newfoundland riding by 281 votes over his Liberal rival in the 2021 election.

“It’s a very strategic and targeted thing that they are doing. They’re trying to talk about a particular issue in a particular area where they think it’s going to resonate. [Mr. Poilievre is] not there by accident,” said Mr. Marland.”There’s not a lot of seats in Newfoundland, but he has chosen to be there.”

BREAKING - Toronto’s city clerk says a mayoral by-election to replace John Tory is planned for June 26. Story here.

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.


FIVE PROVINCES SIGN IN ON OTTAWA’S HEALTH DEAL - The federal government has reached health care funding deals with five provinces Thursday, quickly cementing the 10-year spending plan Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced just over two weeks ago. Story here.

DATE SET FOR ONTARIO BUDGET - Ontario is set to introduce its budget on March 23. Story here.

FREELAND RAISES SECURITY CONCERNS ABOUT BANK - Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is raising national-security concerns about Wealth One Bank of Canada, telling three of its founding shareholders that they could be susceptible to Chinese government coercion, according to two sources. Story here.

$37.7-BILLION IN PANDEMIC WAGE SUBSIDIES TO BUSINESSES WITH TAX DEBTS - The federal government paid $37.7-billion in pandemic wage subsidies to businesses with tax debts, and $1-billion to insolvent companies, raising new concerns about the level of screening Ottawa applied to its most generous COVID-19 support program. Story here.

DEPARTING MLA CALLS B.C. LEGISLATURE `TORTURE CHAMBER’ - A former New Democrat cabinet minister who gave what was likely her last speech in the legislature Wednesday, said she was proud of her accomplishments despite working in an institution she called a “torture chamber.” Story here.

FEDERAL HOUSING ADVOCATE REVIEWING HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS - The federal housing advocate is launching a review of homeless encampments in Canada, calling the situation a human-rights crisis fuelled in part by the failure of all levels of government to provide adequate housing. Story here.

STILES SEEKS OPINION ON FORD DAUGHTER’S STAG-AND-DOE - NDP Leader Marit Stiles is asking Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner to issue an opinion on whether Premier Doug Ford’s actions surrounding his daughter’s stag-and-doe event were improper. Story here.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL PERFORMING ARTS AWARDS ANNOUNCED - Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and Alberta singer k.d. lang are among the major Canadian artists being recognized for a lifetime of creative achievement at this year’s Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards at Rideau Hall in the spring, ahead of a ticketed gala in Ottawa on May 27. Story here.

ONLINE NEWS BILL PROMPTS GOOGLE TO BLOCK NEWS WEBSITE ACCESS - Google is testing ways of blocking Canadians’ access to news websites in response to the federal government’s online news bill, which would force the company and other tech giants to compensate news organizations for using their work. Story here.

MP PREPS BID TO LEAD ONTARIO LIBERALS - Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is assembling a team in preparation for a bid for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, which he says needs renewal to beat Premier Doug Ford. Story here.

ONTARIO CONSIDERS BUILDING NEW NUCLEAR PLANTS - Ontario is exploring the possibility of building new, large-scale nuclear plants in order to meet increasing demand for electricity and phase out natural gas generation. Story here.


ON A BREAK - Both Parliament and the Senate are on breaks, with the House of Commons returning on March 6 and the Senate on March 7.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY - Chrystia Freeland, also the Finance Minister, is in Bengaluru, India, where she held private meetings, participated in the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, and participated in the family photo for finance ministers and central bank governors attending the meeting. Ms. Freeland was also scheduled to meet with G20 partners throughout the day ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD - Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Peterborough, Ont., and accompanied by Mayor Jeff Leal, provided an update on the High Frequency Rail project that includes a stop in Peterborough. Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, in Abbotsford, B.C., made an announcement on federal disaster recovery funding for the province. Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge, also minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, in Candiac, Que., toured the facilities of a clean-technology company. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, in North Vancouver, announced special measures to support Iranian residents in Canada on behalf of Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, in Winnipeg, announced funding for the province’s early learning and child-care plan along with the province’s Education Minister Wayne Ewasko.

SHARPE TAKES ON PAGE ASSIGNMENT - Teenaged journalist Wyatt Sharpe is taking a break from the political beat as host of the Wyatt Sharpe Show broadcast on YouTube, to serve as a page at the Ontario legislature - details here. He began Tuesday.

But the 14-year-old from Orono, east of Toronto, says he will be back in two weeks chasing stories for his show, which has featured interviews with key political figures including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

He said in an interview on Thursday that work as a page is proving productive. “A lot of the people I see here are people I had already interviewed, but, in addition, I am getting to make further connections for my show when it comes back,” he said.

One of the things he says he has most enjoyed is being among teenagers his own age who share his interest in politics. “It’s not necessarily like at my normal school that I go to everyday where there is not necessarily other kids who are interested in politics. That part has been interesting.”

He said he has pre-recorded interviews for his show, and has a guest host: 19-year-old Jackson Gosnell. Once he is back on March 10, Mr. Sharpe says he will be airing an interview with U.S. Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Halifax held private meetings, participated in a townhall with students at Dalhousie University, and held a media availability.


Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, in Clarenville, N.L., held a townhall on increases to the cost of home heating.

No schedules released for other party leaders.


On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Globe and Mail columnist Konrad Yakabuski explained an agreement between Canada and the U.S. called the Safe Third Country Agreement central to an issue that has seen thousands use an unofficial border crossing between Southern Quebec and New York state called Roxham Road. In December, almost 5,000 people - migrants seeking to claim refugee status in Canada - entered Canada through Roxham Road. The Decibel is here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Danielle Smith’s corporate welfare for the oil industry: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith wants to clean up old wells, ones that haven’t produced any oil or natural gas for decades yet still blight the province’s landscape. She’s got the right goal in mind – industry has been far too slow remediating old wells – but where Ms. Smith goes wrong is the proposed method. The Premier wants to give owners of inactive wells breaks on royalty payments on new wells they drill, in exchange for dealing with the old wells. The plan is corporate welfare, with Albertans bearing the cost of the private sector’s unfulfilled obligations and cleaning up the mess left behind after profits are extracted.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on why we should let the politicians tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why: Let’s hold all our politicians to one simple rule about Roxham Road: Don’t tell us what you want to do about it. Tell us how you would do it. Quebec politicians have been calling for the unofficial crossing on the border between Quebec and New York state to be closed. And Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the feds to do so within 30 days. But as it turns out, there is no switch that opens and closes the border. So what is it they are actually proposing?”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how the Emergencies Act has proved its mettle: The least important part of the report of the Public Order Emergency Commission is the part that attracted the most attention: Justice Paul Rouleau’s finding that Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to quell the lawless occupation of downtownhall Ottawa and other points across the country last February “met the threshold” set out in the act for its use.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road: It is easy to understand why a government that prefers to project a compassionate image would be reluctant to act in any manner that might make it look heartless to some. Turning asylum seekers away at Roxham Road, in effect surrendering them to U.S. immigration authorities, would subject the Trudeau government to a backlash from within Liberal ranks. Yet, it must be pointed out that this government has no problem turning away asylum seekers who arrive at official land border crossings. Are those who arrive at Roxham Road any more worthy of refugee status in Canada than the others?”

Irwin Cotler (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Israel needs to learn the right lessons from Canada’s legal reforms: “Ultimately, I believe that any justice reform in Israel should proceed with the hope of eventually adopting a written constitution – grounded in the existing compendium of Basic Laws, and incorporating its foundational Declaration of Independence – and I am hopeful that the current proposed reforms can be revised toward that end.”

Vicky Mochama (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the best job in politics? Quitting as soon as you start: Politicians can’t be fired like regular employees; they are simply allowed to instigate some paperwork and leave, apparently whenever they choose. The only problem is that actually being a politician seems undignified, usually involving some combination of scandal, burnout or incompetence – a.k.a., the Liz Truss Trifecta. If only I could become an office-holder without sacrificing my remaining dignity. Then, I realized I could – the best time to resign a job is immediately after starting it.”

David Schneiderman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Justice Paul Rouleau’s Emergencies Act report raises troubling questions:In respect of these threshold legal questions, the Rouleau commission report is seriously inadequate. By deferring to the government’s claims without much scrutiny, Justice Rouleau has lowered the very high threshold for invoking a public order emergency. This precedent-setting exercise, regrettably, makes it easier for future governments to invoke this authority despite the best efforts made by the drafters of the Emergencies Act.”

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