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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.

Federal Liberals are bracing for a possible election this year as they gather virtually for a convention beginning today.

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The three-day gathering begins amidst Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s declarations that he is not thinking of an election, but rather is focused on managing Canada’s response to the pandemic.

But his party is getting ready just in case, nominating candidates and laying the groundwork for a campaign.

Marieke Walsh and Kristy Kirkup report on the Liberal convention here.

In a scheduling change announced Thursday morning, former prime minister Paul Martin is unavailable for an online conversation with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland due to what party spokesman Braeden Caley described as an “unforseen personal commitment.”

Instead, Ken Dryden, the former social development minister and hockey great, will replace Mr. Martin for the evening event on Thursday.

Meanwhile federal New Democrats begin their 2021 virtual convention on Friday. It comes as the party faces challenges in Quebec, previously a political base that yielded 59 seats in 2011 under former leader Jack Layton.

Now there is only one seat. The NDP’s Quebec challenge is detailed here.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

No “laundry list”: Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says his pending climate-change plan will go further than the “laundry list” of environmental commitments the party advanced in the last election, where they fell short of winning government.

Sex-trafficking: Most Canadians support introducing mandatory curriculums that would ensure teachers educate their students about sex trafficking in schools, a new Nanos Research survey shows.

Pandemic deaths: More than 22,000 Canadians have died in the pandemic, leaving friends, partners, children and other family members in mourning – but without the usual rituals of grief. The stories of six people who died are here.

Newfoundland Premier/cabinet sworn in: From the CBC: After an election that ran into overtime due to the pandemic, Andrew Furey was sworn in Thursday as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, and named a new cabinet that includes former Liberal MPs Siobhán Coady - now Finance Minister - and Gerry Byrne, Minister of Immigration, Population Growth and Skills.


PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister, along with president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed, co-chairs the virtual meeting of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.

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LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet holds a news conference on forestry policy.

Green Leader Annamie Paul holds a virtual news conference on the COVID-19 situation in Canada.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh participates virtually in a Canada Cleantech Alliance’s fireside chat about NDP job-creation policy.


OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on closing Canada’s vaccine gap:It’s never been enough to simply make a vaccine available in order for people to take it. Factors like complacency, distrust, lack of information and fear all play a role, and they can’t be overcome by standing at a podium and urging people to sign up for a jab.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s politicians doing the best they can during the pandemic: “Best” doesn’t mean excellent, or even good. But if you’re looking to blame base political calculation for the sluggish rollout in vaccines, for the on-again, off-again, back-on-again lockdowns, for the overall inconsistency of Canada’s response to the pandemic, you should probably look again.”

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Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on how Canada benefits from President Joe Biden’s spending spree: “With the sprawling infusion of infrastructure funds, there are potential dividends for Canada. It stands to benefit, [John D. Porcari, co-director for infrastructure planning on the Biden transition team] and Canadian officials agree, on electric-car manufacturing, on clean energy exports, on enhanced trade corridors, on cross-border rail projects.”

Andrew MacDougall (The Ottawa Citizen) on the possible political future of Mark Carney: " Whether Carney ultimately runs or not, we can’t afford for public life to become another preserve for the well-to-do and well-connected. We need more people to become civically engaged, not fewer. We need more of Edmund Burke’s little platoons, not atomized citizens doped up on Netflix and the illusion of online community, content to let others settle their affairs.”


READERS’ POLITICAL NEWSLETTER QUESTIONS

Terry O’Grady of Chelsea, Que., writes: I am wondering if there have been studies or reportage on any systemic bias in the Canadian electoral system. I wonder about the role of the educational system, for example, or the social impact of poverty.

We reached out to Elections Canada for an answer. Here’s the response of spokesperson Matthew McKenna.:

The National Register of Electors does not keep demographic information about electors’ socio-economic status or racial identity, and votes are, of course, secret. As such, voter turnout data and the data in the register do not, in-and-of themselves, tell us much about barriers faced by particular groups.

Generally speaking, though, we have conducted research that identifies certain demographic groups who we know face barriers. Namely, they are First Nations, Métis and Inuit electors; people with disabilities; youth, and new Canadians. Here is more in-depth information about those groups of electors and what our research has shown about the specific barriers they face, and how they impact their participation.

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With respect to the specific question from your reader, while we haven’t looked specifically at the impacts of the education system as a whole, we have conducted research on the impacts of civic education, and on which types of civic education have the greatest impacts on voter participation. That research shows there is a link between increased political knowledge and interest in voting. For example, in response to our 2015 National Youth Survey, young people who voted were much more likely to say that they learned about government and politics in high school and they took part in a mock election

As such, our civic education program seeks to give young people the knowledge, understanding, interest and skills they need to decide how they want participate in democracy. More on that program, here.

With respect to poverty, one aspect that we know does pose specific barriers to the electoral process is homelessness. The lack of an address makes it more difficult for electors experiencing homelessness to be registered and have adequate ID to vote. We work to address these barriers through the Community Relations Officer program. In short, the program tasks returning officers with evaluating their riding to identify the needs of electors known to face barriers. Returning Officers then appoint Community Relations Officers based on those needs. The officers liaise directly with target electors, identifying needs and engaging in activities to help reduce barriers for that group. This can include holding information sessions or setting up kiosks in strategic places (like homeless shelters or soup kitchens), or distributing relevant information directly to the target audience or those that support them.


DO YOU HAVE A POLITICAL QUESTION?

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

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