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.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says criticism of his government’s pandemic response reflects the tense times, and that he takes no offense at it.
“We’re in a situation where everybody is exhausted, not just families, workers, small businesses, front-line workers, but also leaders. This has been a very, very long year. As a federal government, we’ve not engaged in pointing fingers or laying blame, or judging,” he told a Tuesday news conference.
“Have we done everything perfect? No. Of course not,” Mr. Trudeau said, but added, among other measures, the government is trying to bolster vaccine supplies, and help provinces get them out in support of a “Team Canada approach.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has previously criticized the ability of the federal government to secure sufficient vaccine doses. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also been critical of Ottawa.
The Prime Minister said he would, later Tuesday, be speaking to Mr. Ford, likely about what spikes in cases mean for hospitals, and the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible. Mr. Trudeau also said he would be holding talks with all premiers on Wednesday about pandemic support.
He warned that Canadians need to hold on through the continuing third wave. “COVID-19 isn’t done with us yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that if his party forms government, there will be a public inquiry on every aspect of the pandemic response.
During a news conference, Mr. O’Toole also said the government should appoint a special monitor from the Office of the Auditor General to track the pandemic response to ensure “valuable lessons learned " are captured for future use.
“When the pandemic is over, we need answers, we need to know what worked and what didn’t. We need complete transparency and accountability.”
Health Minister Patty Hajdu, asked about the issue of an inquiry, said a review is a necessity.
“The Prime Minister and I have both said that every country should do a full review of their pandemic response when we are though this crisis. Clearly every country has a lot to learn, including Canada, and we have committed to that,” she told the same briefing Mr. Trudeau attended.
Gig workers and EI - The place of gig workers has become a key issue in continuing deliberation on how the decades-old employment insurance system will be updated. There is general agreement that the social safety net program created eight decades ago needs to be adapted to cover gig workers when they fall on hard times. The April 19 budget could signal where the government is heading, particularly as it lays out federal expectations for premiums paid by employers and employees, and benefits to be paid out, over the coming years.
Digital immunity certificates - The Ontario government considered plans to issue digital “immunity certificates” to people as they received their COVID-19 vaccinations, handing them a pass that could be stored on their smartphone and potentially checked by long-term care home attendants, employers or airline staff.
New Democrats vet resolutions - Rank-and-file New Democrats have begun voting on hundreds of motions that include a call for a 100-per-cent tax on billionaires and the removal of all statues honouring Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The party will hold a convention this weekend to come up with planks for a platform Leader Jagmeet Singh can take into a possible election campaign this year.
Worker transitions - Three-quarters of the Canadians employed in oil and gas could lose their jobs as the country pursues aggressive climate targets, according to a new report that warns governments must develop worker transition plans now to prevent disastrous consequences.
From The National Post: Liberals will debate proposals to create a network of high-speed rail lines across Canada, a green new deal for the country and a universal basic income at the party’s virtual convention this week.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings. News conference with, among others, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam, on the COVID-19 situation. The Prime Minister also virtually hosts the Prime Minister’s Science Fair, where he will meet with the winners of the 2019 Canada-Wide Science Fair.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole holds a news conference. Also delivers remarks to an event held by the Terrace (B.C) and District Chamber of Commerce.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a virtual roundtable and media availability on essential workers and vaccine prioritization.
The latest 338Canada projection puts the Liberals as 50-to-one favourites to win the most seats in a federal election and the Conservatives failing to turn the tide postconvention. “The Liberals have slowly creeped back up above the majority threshold (of 170 seats), but barely.”
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Canada’s housing frenzy: “What’s happening today is strong demand – powered by ultralow interest rates, Canadians hungry to buy and a market psychology of buyers desperate to get ahead of rising prices by buying ASAP – smashing up against a low supply of homes for sale. In this unhinged market, there are many dangers, from overindebted buyers to a broader economy that is overreliant on real estate and would be shaken by a sudden fall in prices or jump in interest rates.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on the continued failure of governments to effectively deal with the pandemic: “Every time someone talks about how “Canada” is doing in its fight against COVID-19, I stifle an eyeroll – as if we’re one amorphous country battling this disease. That, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. There hasn’t been anything resembling a cohesive response to the virus and its mutant relatives. We might as well have been 13 separate countries. It’s pretty much been a jumbled, disjointed mess from the start.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the prospect of Mark Carney entering elected politics: “Mr. Carney has been away from the Bank of Canada for eight years. He is superbly qualified for public office. He has views on the role of markets and governments in combatting climate change. If he wants to enter the arena, good on him. The political class in Canada needs all the talent it can find. That said, Mr. Carney should bear a few things in mind (and is certainly already bearing them). First, he could seek to become a Liberal member of Parliament, only for the Liberal Party to lose the next election. Would he enjoy four years on the backbench?”
David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on interprovincial trade barriers: “While tariffs between provinces are prohibited under the terms of Confederation, provinces still throw up walls of regulations, government procurement restrictions and licensing requirements that drive up the cost and complication of doing business across provincial borders. Statistics Canada has estimated those barriers are equivalent to a nearly 7-per-cent tariff.”
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.