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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled this month’s federal budget will include new spending aimed at easing cost-of-living concerns, after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for an extension of a temporary GST rebate boost for low-income Canadians.

Mr. Trudeau was asked at a Wednesday news conference in Clarenville, N.L., whether the budget would include the GST rebate extension.

“We recognize huge pressures around affordability,” Mr. Trudeau replied, listing the six-month GST measure, along with dental care and housing supports as examples of previous government moves on that front.

“In our budget, we’re going to be putting forward measures that will directly help Canadians: measures around affordability, measures around continuing to deliver on improvements in health care that Canadians are so urgently needing and measures that will continue to create great jobs for Canadians right across the country.”

Deputy Ottawa bureau chief Bill Curry reports here.

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AGENCY TO PROBE CRA AFTER COMPLAINTS FROM MUSLIM CHARITIES - The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency is launching a formal review of the Canada Revenue Agency after complaints that it unfairly targets Muslim charities. Story here.

FACING SOARING FOOD COSTS AND NO NATIONAL PROGRAM, SCHOOLS STRUGGLE TO FEED STUDENTS - With food costs soaring and no national program, Canadian schools are struggling to feed students. Among G7 countries, Canada is the only one without a national school food program. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an election commitment in 2021 of investing $1-billion over five years, and tasked his Agriculture Minister and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to build a school food policy. Advocates are hopeful that a federal government plan could lead to a universal school food program. Story here.

DEBATE ENDS FOR ASSISTED DYING FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL DISORDER: SENATOR - The senator who pushed for Canada’s assisted dying regime to include people whose only condition is a mental disorder says the debate about that policy is now over. Story here.

GUILBEAULT CRITICIZES ONTARIO POLICY - Ontario is failing to effectively protect some of the critical habitat for boreal caribou, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has warned in a letter to the province. Story here.

FRONTRUNNER IN ONTARIO BYELECTION FACES ANTISEMITISM ACCUSATIONS - The race to replace former Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath in a Hamilton by-election on Thursday has morphed into accusations of antisemitism against the frontrunner while others say she is simply standing up for Palestinian rights. Story here.

POILIEVRE PROMISES TO SUE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES - Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says that if he became prime minister, he would sue pharmaceutical companies as a way to fund drug treatment – but he won’t say what he would do about supervised consumption sites. Story here.

CANADA STALLING DELIVERY OF ARMED VEHICLES: HAITI GOVERNMENT - Haiti’s troubled government is accusing Canada of stalling in its promised delivery of armoured vehicles, and argues the delay is hindering a plan to clear violent gangs from Port-au-Prince. Story here.

SOME MISUNDERSTAND HARM REDUCTION: BENNETT - The federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions says she is concerned some may misunderstand the role harm reduction plays in reducing overdose deaths after the Manitoba government introduced legislation that would require licensing for supervised drug consumption sites. Story here.

CANADA AND ALBERTA TO WORK TOGETHER ON REMEDIATING OIL SANDS TAILINGS PONDS - The Canadian and Alberta governments will establish a federal-provincial working group to accelerate remediation of oil sands tailings ponds, the Alberta government said on Wednesday, as investigations continue into a continuing tailings leak at Imperial Oil’s Kearl project. Story here.


ON A BREAK - Both Parliament and the Senate are on breaks, with the House of Commons sitting again on March 20 and the Senate sitting again on March. 21.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD -Mental Health Minister Carolyn Bennett, in Winnipeg, announced $13-million in funding to help people in the Prairies, Northwest Territories and Yukon access greater prevention, harm reduction and treatment services including access to safer supply programs. Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, in Regina, visited the city’s Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service base. Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings and Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr., in Clarenville, N.L., participated in an announcement and news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with Mr. O’Regan also attending a subsequent town hall event Mr. Trudeau did before members of the local business community. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly hosted a visit, in Ottawa and Montréal by Greece’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias. The pair held talks in Ottawa, and met in Montreal, with members of Hellenic community groups. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, in North York, Ontario, and acting for Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, announced funding in support of Canada’s National Dementia Strategy. International Trade Minister Mary Ng continued her women’s trade mission to the United Kingdom, with a stop in Cambridge to participate in a keynote address and armchair discussion on Canada-U.K. trade relation as well as Canada’s IndoPacific Strategy. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, in Saskatoon, delivered remarks to the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, and made a funding announcement.

LONG EXIT - After eight years as MP for the New Brunswick riding of Saint John—Rothesay, Wayne Long says he will not run again in the next federal election, but is considering a run for a seat in the provincial legislature. “I believe change is good and I want to pursue other opportunities where I have an opportunity to play a more senior role. The federal Liberal said Wednesday in an e-mail exchange he is exploring options in provincial politics. “I feel I have an opportunity to play a more “front bench” role provincially.” Before entering politics, Mr. Long worked as a seafood executive and was president of the Saint John Sea Dogs major junior ice hockey team. He sits on the standing joint committee on the Library of Parliament and the standing committee on human resources, skills and social development and the status of persons with disabilities.

NAQVI QUITS PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY ROLES - Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi has quit his parliamentary secretary role as he considers a bid to seek the leadership of the embattled Ontario Liberals, now in third place in the provincial legislature with eight of 124 seats. The former Ontario attorney-general has been parliamentary secretary to Bill Blair, the president of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and minister of emergency preparedness. Mr. Naqvi, who represented Ottawa Centre in the provincial legislature, was first elected to the House of Commons in 2021, said, in a statement issued by his office, that he remains committed to working hard for his constituents.

REAPPOINTED LIBRARIAN AND ARCHIVIST OF CANADA - Leslie Weir has been reappointed as Librarian and Archivist of Canada for a four-term term starting at the end of August, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Wednesday. Ms. Weir was appointed in 2019 to the post, which involves providing corporate leadership for the management of the resources and assets of Library and Archives Canada, the former National Archives of Canada.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Clarenville, N.L., joined Premier Andrew Furey to meet with parents and discuss health care, and later made a child-care announcement with the Premier and took media questions. (Story here.) Later, Mr. Trudeau participated in a town hall with members of the local business community, hosted by the Clarenville Chamber of Commerce. An interview of Mr. Trudeau by Ben Murphy aired Wednesday morning on the VOCM radio station.


Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre attended an evening party fundraising event in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island.

No schedules released for other party leaders.


On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Rachelle Younglai , who covers real estate for The Globe, talks about concerns about the growing number of mortgage-holders with monthly payments that no longer cover the principal or even the interest portion of their loan. Ms. Younglai recently reported that at CIBC, 20 per cent of mortgage-holders are seeing their loan balances grow instead of shrink. This represents $52-billion worth of mortgages. The Decibel is here.


MEASURING PREMIERS’ PERFORMANCE - The premiers of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Quebec are riding high in public approval according to the latest assessment of support for premiers and territorial leaders by the Angus Reid Institute. Details here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Canada’s cult of confidentiality:Too often, in too many different contexts and for utterly indefensible reasons, the position of official Canada is that Canadians are delicate children who can’t be trusted with information of clear public interest. The spectre of Beijing meddling in our elections – and the prim scolding aimed at those impertinent enough to raise serious questions about the issue – is only the latest and perhaps the weightiest example.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how campaign-finance laws should strive for fairness between people, not parties: “You may have missed it in all the hubbub over foreign election interference, but last week a court struck down Ontario’s law restricting spending by unions and other “third party” advocacy groups in election campaigns: “foreign” election interference of another kind. This is an issue that has bedevilled Canadian politics for decades. Governments have wobbled back and forth, from the total free-for-all that prevailed in Ontario until not long ago to the near-total ban that has applied at other times in other jurisdictions.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on how we should be paying attention to foreign interference in our provincial elections: Alberta’s vote this spring will mark the first major provincial election after a series of news reports on intelligence that Beijing meddled in the most recent federal election. But recommendations that the province’s independent chief electoral officer made last year to bolster Alberta’s legal guards against the rapidly evolving challenge of disinformation, including from foreign actors, won’t be implemented in time for voting day on May 29.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on how, for Thomas d’Aquino, the dream of a North American community is dead: But as President Joe Biden gets set – finally, after two years – to come to Ottawa next week to meet with Justin Trudeau, Mr. d’Aquino sees little hope for a closer coupling and contends we’ll be the worse off for it. “I did believe,” he said in an interview, “that we could agree on a continental external tariff that would bring us more fully inside, so that we would never again have the bilateral fights we are having to this day.”An incredibly powerful regional economic block could have been created, securing, he thought, our defence partnership as well. But while there was some support, the administration of Barack Obama “showed no interest,” and the idea was dropped. And now? For the foreseeable future at any rate, says Mr. d’Aquino, “the dream of a North American community is dead.”

Jessica Scott-Reid (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the death of Kiska the killer whale exposes the limits of Canada’s animal captivity laws: “In recent years, debates have grown louder over the ethics of holding animals in captivity for human entertainment. Today, Kiska’s death has solidified the importance of Canada’s ban on captive whales and dolphins, and it has renewed interest in pending legislation to protect other animals in captivity. In 2019, Canada banned the keeping and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises in what came to be known as the “Free Willy” bill. However, the law only applies to future animals.”

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