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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expects the newly appointed special representative to fight against Islamophobia to clarify remarks she has made about Quebeckers and the issue.

Heading into a Liberal caucus meeting on Friday, Mr. Trudeau said he did not agree with the remarks of human rights activist Amira Elghawaby and he expected them to be clarified.

Mr. Trudeau’s comments came after La Presse reported that Ms. Elghawaby has previously written that Quebeckers seem “influenced by anti-Muslim sentiment,” referring to a 2019 column in The Ottawa Citizen. The LaPresse story is here.

La Presse reported that Ms. Elghawaby said, in an interview, that she does not believe the vast majority of Quebeckers are Islamophobic, and that her column had been misunderstood.

Asked about the issue, federal Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen told journalists that the position is independent, and the representative will deal with media questions on the issue.

“Our government’s position is very clear. We recognize the leadership of Quebeckers and Canadians against Islamophobia,” he said. “We recognize Quebec as a welcoming society.”

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office on Thursday, Ms. Elghawaby is to serve as “a champion, adviser, expert, and representative to support and enhance the federal government’s efforts in the fight against Islamophobia, systemic racism, racial discrimination, and religious intolerance.”

Also Friday, Mr. Trudeau and federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre criticized each other in duelling speeches.

In remarks to the Conservative caucus, Mr. Poilievre accused Mr. Trudeau of being oblivious to the suffering of Canadians.

“Let me tell you something, Justin. There is pain in the faces you do not see. There is suffering in the voices you do not hear. And there is distress, and even chaos, in the places you do not go,” Mr. Poilievre said.

“We know what you will do in this session of Parliament. You will divide to distract. You will try to make people afraid of each other because you think that, if an average Canadian is afraid of his neighbour, he’ll forget that he can’t feed himself or pay the rent.”

Mr. Trudeau told his caucus that Mr. Poilievre has been advocating for investments in bitcoin to opt out of inflation after he watched videos on YouTube about it. “We all like YouTube, but it matters what content you watch, and what you choose to amplify” Mr. Trudeau said.

Of the parliamentary session ahead, he said, “This is a pivotal world, not just for our country, but the whole world and as we head into this new sitting of Parliament, we, all of us. We must be ready to meet this moment. We must remember to always put Canadians at the centre of everything we do.”

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 sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY'S HEADLINES

BARTON TO APPEAR BEFORE COMMONS COMMITTEE – McKinsey & Company’s former global managing partner Dominic Barton, who is also a former senior policy adviser to the Trudeau government, will appear Wednesday before a parliamentary committee reviewing the spike in federal outsourcing to the New York-based consulting giant. Story here.

ABOUT 500 EXPECTED AT FREEDOM CONVOY ANNIVERSARY GATHERING – The Parliamentary Protective Service expects 500 people to gather this weekend to mark a year since the so-called Freedom Convoy occupied downtown Ottawa. Story here.

MANITOBA FINANCE MINISTER STEPPING DOWN TO SEEK COMMONS SEAT – Manitoba’s finance minister is stepping down to run for a seat in the House of Commons. Cameron Friesen said he informed Premier Heather Stefanson on Friday morning of his plan to leave cabinet. Story here.

FEDERAL DEFICIT AT $3.6-BILLION – The federal deficit stood at $3.6-billion as of November with just four months left in 2022-23 fiscal year, suggesting federal finances are outperforming official projections. Story here.

SMITH WRITES TO TRUDEAU – Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who won support from United Conservative Party members by treating the federal government as an adversary, on Thursday deployed a more diplomatic approach: writing a letter to the Prime Minister arguing the environment would be better protected if Canada increased its fossil fuel output. Story here.

LIBERAL MP DENOUNCES GOVERNMENT ACTION ON ABUSE IN SPORT – A Liberal MP and former sport minister, Kirsty Duncan, is again calling for a public inquiry into abuse in sport – and is accusing her own government of not doing enough to tackle the problem. Story here from CBC.

CALLS FOR MORE EDUCATION ON HOLOCAUST – Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. But educators say Holocaust remembrance must also be integrated into elementary school curriculums, because instilling that knowledge in young students is a way to combat antisemitism across schools. Story here.

DATA LEAK PROMPTS GREEN REVIEW – Elizabeth May says the Green Party will investigate and conduct a “root to branch review” of all of its data-retention systems after member information was mistakenly posted online. Story here.

THREE-QUARTERS OF CANADIANS HAVE HAD COVID-19: BLOOD DATA – Almost three-quarters of Canadians have now had COVID-19, although far fewer seniors have caught the coronavirus, tests of blood donations show. Story here.

GUILBEAULT RAISES PROSPECT OF ONTARIO GREENBELT ACTION – Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says he might try to stop some of the development that could result from Ontario’s plans to allow housing on once-protected Greenbelt lands, warning that the province’s move defies efforts to prepare for climate change. Story here.

CRA COMMISSIONER WARY ABOUT PANDEMIC WAGE BENEFITS REVIEW – Canada Revenue Agency Commissioner Bob Hamilton says it is not worth the effort to conduct a full review of more than $15-billion in pandemic wage benefits the Auditor-General has said may have been sent to ineligible recipients. Story here.

TTC RESPONDS TO UNAUTHORIZED TRANSIT ANNOUNCEMENT – The TTC is responding to what they are calling an “unauthorized” transit announcement that apparently came from a frustrated train operator during recent subway delays. In several videos making the rounds on social media, the voice of a transit operator can be heard directing riders to address any complaints they may have toward Toronto Mayor John Tory and TTC customer service. Story here from CityNews.

THIS AND THAT

HOUSE ON A BREAK – The House of Commons is on a break until Jan. 30.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, held private meetings, met with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan, and delivered remarks at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony. Mr. Trudeau also delivered opening remarks at the national Liberal caucus retreat on Parliament Hill and was scheduled to attend the retreat.

LEADERS

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, on Parliament Hill, addressed the national Conservative caucus. He also attended the Ottawa International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Victoria, concluded a tour of Vancouver Island with a news conference on health care.

No schedules provided for other party leaders.

THE DECIBEL

On Friday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Ottawa reporter Shannon Proudfoot discusses what some of the participants in the convoy that descended on Ottawa last year, think about it now, and whether another version of this protest could pop up again. The Decibel is here.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how we aren’t headed towards U.S.-style private health care: It would be nice, as Canada heaves its way through another debate about the provision of health care by for-profit companies, if politicians were more honest about what is being proposed. We’re looking at you, Jagmeet Singh.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how Ottawa can fix health care: first, send less money: The Prime Minister will meet with the premiers early next month. Expectations that they will announce a deal there and then have been played down. But all of the noise over the past few weeks has been to the effect that the two sides are edging closer to an agreement: a sizable increase in federal transfers, in return for provincial acceptance of a handful of federal conditions, including – gasp – that they should publish comparable data on the state of their respective health care systems. No doubt that would be a useful measure, allowing the public and experts to track the provinces’ progress against each other. It might even be worth a federal bribe of some size. But another great dollop of federal cash, on top of the increases the provinces have already received, is not only unhelpful: it is a disaster. It would be a disaster even if Ottawa had the money, which it doesn’t.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre need to stop insulting each other: Republicans and Democrats profoundly disagree on the right to an abortion, on the rights of sexual and gender minorities, on gun rights, on voting rights, on global warming. They disagree so strongly that it’s a wonder the country holds itself together. Britain and many other European countries also struggle with sharp ideological divides. But the social and economic consensus in Canada is broad and deep. Which makes it all the more dismaying that the leaders of the two largest national parties talk about each other the way they do. We are just not that polarized, though we could become so if our political leaders don’t tone things down.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why it’s best to get used to random acts of violence:The NDP government in B.C. has made historic investments in mental health and addiction and yet they have not had a demonstrable impact on reducing the random violence being witnessed on Vancouver streets recently. And likely won’t for years. This isn’t a comforting thought for people, I know. But we must deal with reality. ‘People are terrified,’ Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Ellen Gordon told her courtroom last November while sentencing a man for a random attack. Indeed, they are, and sadly the best advice for many, in Vancouver, Toronto or elsewhere, is simply: Be on your guard. Travel in pairs when possible. Avoid situations where you’re alone at times of the day when you might be most vulnerable. (Many stranger attacks, however, take place in broad daylight in front of others.)”

Christopher Ragan, Rick Smith and Edward Greenspon (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how, with demand surging, Canada must upgrade its electricity grid. Can we overcome our unique challenges to do so?:Electricity demand is set to skyrocket in Canada as the clean energy transition accelerates, which means the country must embark on a historic build-out of its power systems to ensure continued prosperity. By 2050, we will require a lot more electricity – perhaps two to three times more generating capacity than is currently in operation. The federal government has been doing much to encourage the clean energy transition; now, it needs to help accelerate the transformation of the electricity infrastructure on which that transition relies.”

Lori Turnbull (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how protecting the Charter through the courts would be a grim indictment of our democracy: “In a recent interview with La Presse, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his frustration with some premiers’ reckless use of the notwithstanding clause. ‘There should be political consequences to such a decision,’ Mr. Trudeau said, referring to enacting the part of the Constitution that allows Parliament and provincial legislatures to pass laws that infringe on sections 2 and 7 to 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ‘But we are experiencing a certain trivialization of this suspension of rights.’ It is awkward, uncomfortable, and perhaps politically hazardous for a prime minister to put the blame on voters for giving premiers a pass on Charter compliance, but that is his not-so-veiled message. And it’s not an unreasonable one.”

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