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A month and a half after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named his cabinet, his office has, on Thursday afternoon, released to-do lists for his ministers in the form of mandate letters.

There’s a letter for each of the 38 ministers named to cabinet near the end of October, more than a month after the federal election that saw the Liberals win a minority government.

Each letter covers general priorities of the Liberal government such as the pandemic, climate change and reconciliation, dealing with societal inequities and maintaining “professional and respectful relationships with journalists.”

Then there are specific policy areas for each minister to work on.

For example, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is, among 21 priorities, mandated to develop and launch a comprehensive Indo-Pacific strategy to deepen diplomatic, economic and defence partnerships and international assistance in the region.

Defence Minister Anita Anand has a list of commitments to deal with issues of harassment, discrimination and violence in the armed forces through reforms that include modernizing the military justice system, and expanding services and resources available to survivors of sexual misconduct. .

And Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair is tasked with acting to help Canadians prepare for and recover from the impact of floods in high-risk areas - an order that comes after devastating floods and landslides in British Columbia.

Items linked to that order include creating a “low-cost” national flood insurance program to protect homeowners who are at high risk of flooding and do not have adequate insurance protection, and co-chairing the joint Committee of British Columbia and Government of Canada ministers on disaster response and climate resilience.

A statement released with the letters notes that “Mandate letters are not an exhaustive list of all files a minister will work on.”

Copies of the letters are available 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.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

OMICRON IN ONTARIO - New modelling from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table warns the province could see 10,000 cases a day or more in just days as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus takes over. But the experts say a “circuit breaker” of stricter public health restrictions announced immediately could help avoid the worst.

TRUDEAU ON QUEBEC BILL-21 - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he strongly opposes Quebec’s law that bans some public servants from wearing religious symbols at work, as the issue was heatedly debated across Ottawa on one of the final sitting days in the House of Commons before MPs break for the holidays. Story here.

MAYORS ON BILL- 21 - Meanwhile, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says she’d like Calgary to join a new city-led effort to help fund the legal challenge of Quebec’s Bill 21. Story here from The Calgary Herald. And Toronto Mayor John Tory is taking a stand against the legislation as well, declaring in a tweet that Toronto City Council has unanimously approved his motion to express its opposition to Quebec Bill 21 and to authorize a contribution of $100,000 to assist with legal expenses to challenge the law. “We cannot simply stand by as Torontonians and Canadians and see a law like this diminish the protection and respect accorded religious and other basic freedoms by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Mr. Tory tweeted.

OTTAWA REASSESSING TRAVEL BAN - The federal government is reassessing its travel ban on 10 African countries, as one of Canada’s top doctors said he couldn’t explain the rationale for the measure and another said it should be re-examined.

LIBERALS REOPEN BOOKS TO ADD SPENDING - The Liberal government reopened last year’s audited books in November to add nearly $10-billion in spending, a move that required a second sign-off by the Auditor-General for the first time under current public-sector accounting rules. Story here.

BLOOD SERVICES MOVE TO END DONATION BAN - Canadian Blood Services on Wednesday recommended an end to the ban on sexually active gay men donating blood in a submission to Health Canada. Story here.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS - Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Dec. 16, accessible here.

ANAND IN ISOLATION - Defence Minister Anita Anand is self-isolating after one of her staff, on Wednesday, tested positive for COVID-19 after using a rapid antigen test. In a tweet, Ms. Anand said she had received two negative tests at the time of posting. She also said “out of an abundance of caution,” she postponed a trip to Washington and met virtually with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

MENDICINO TESTIMONY - Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was scheduled to testify Thursday before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. You can watch the hearing here.

NDP DRUG BILL - First reading has been completed on a private members bill by the NDP’s Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) to decriminalize drug possession for personal use, provide criminal record expungement, ensure a low-barrier access to safe supply and expand access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery services. You can read C-216 here.

NO END TO PEI POTATO BAN THIS YEAR - Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says a resolution to the export ban that has stopped the flow of P.E.I potatoes to the U.S. is unlikely before the end of 2021. Four weeks ago, Canada banned all exports of fresh potatoes after fungal potato wart was found in two fields in the province, causing economic hardship in the island province. Asked on Thursday where things stand, Ms. Bibeau said, at a news conference, that “I think it would be ambitious to think it could be solved by the end of the year considering the date we are, but I can tell you it’s my top priority.” She added, “We will do everything to resume trade of fresh PEI potatoes to the U.S.”

THE DECIBEL - The Globe’s Asia correspondent James Griffiths talks on the Globe and Mail podcast about how Hong Kong’s normally boisterous election has been quieted by the new national security law, and why it’s still going ahead despite critics calling it a sham. The Decibel is available here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister speaks with Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Private meetings. The Deputy Prime Minister virtually attended Question Period, and was scheduled to appear virtually at the Senate Committee of the Whole to discuss Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19. You can watch the hearing here.

LEADERS

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

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh participates virtually in Question Period.

No other schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why a national booster-shot campaign needed to beat Omicron won’t, by itself, be enough: The evolving evidence is that this waning versus Omicron begins to kick in after three months. And the vast majority of Canadians got their second shot back in June or July – well over three months ago. These people need a top up. By our count, about 25 million doubled-dosed adults have not had a booster shot. They are less vulnerable to Omicron than the unvaccinated, but more vulnerable to infection and serious illness than if they’d recently had a third shot. That’s why Ontario, as of Monday, is opening up booster shot eligibility to everyone over the age of 18 (in most provinces, boosters are still largely reserved for seniors). Ontario is also halving the gap between second and third doses to just 12 weeks, and aiming to ramp up the daily number of boosters going into arms to at least 200,000. Other provinces should immediately follow suit. Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says that Canada has 16 million booster doses on hand and is buying millions more. There is no reason to delay.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how the federal Liberals’ lack of concern about the economy is bound to catch up with them: “Polls have shown over the years that when the economy is the top concern among voters, Conservatives move ahead of the Liberals. But when other concerns push the economy down the list, the Liberals do better. “Concern about the economy could be the sleeper issue of 2022,” says pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research. “Canadians have seen a Trudeau Liberal government that has spent funds to help Canadians and Canadian enterprises get through the pandemic,” he told me by e-mail, “but there is less of a sense of how it would invest to create jobs and prosperity. Canadians today are more pessimistic about the future than at any time since we have started tracking this.” The day the economy matters more to voters than the pandemic is a day the Liberals should worry about.”

Jillian Horton (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how, in Manitoba, a lack of political will has allowed things to get as nutty as the Can-D-Man’s club: Manitoba is a province I can’t readily explain to people who have never been here. Our boasted attractions include a giant chair, a huge pipe and one massive psychedelic mushroom. But my favourite endearingly bizarre landmark is an image tattooed on the psychological heart of anyone who has ever called our capital city home. In Winnipeg’s old Exchange District, on an avenue named for the Pioneers, there is a building that was once home to a nut-and-candy factory. The wall is painted with a disconcerting portrait of a grinning man made of candy cane known as Can-D-Man, who appears to be the commander-in-chief of the Nutty Club. That Nutty Club mural is just a short walk from the wards of Winnipeg’s two largest hospitals, which have descended into a state of dysfunction never before seen in most of our lifetimes.”

Don Braid (The Calgary Herald) on Alberta Premier Jason Kenney taking quick action against Omicron, but blurring his message again: The Premier’s office was working on a statement to MLAs firmly advising against foreign trips over Christmas and New Year’s. The details weren’t quite finalized Wednesday but said to be coming soon. “We are reviewing the federal travel restrictions and will be providing updated guidelines to government staff and caucus members shortly,” Kenney’s press secretary, Harrison Fleming, said in a statement. NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she’s already told her MLAs not to travel. Some were unwinding personal plans. The NDP politicians won’t go travelling, count on it. But Kenney’s caucus is an unruly beast. Some people in there would go to Vegas just to spite the premier. And yet, the COVID-19 decision-makers have learned hard lessons in the past year.”

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