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Hello,

The first of what could be many parliamentary committee hearings into the WE Charity controversy begins this afternoon. The Liberal government has been under fire for sole-sourcing the management of a $900-million program to the charity that has ties to the Liberals and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family.

Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger is taking questions for the government, followed by senior bureaucrats from the heritage and employment departments.

So far it seems unlikely that Mr. Trudeau himself will testify, though the opposition parties have been insisting he should.

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Mario Dion said this morning that he will examine Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s role in awarding the contract. Mr. Trudeau, who has already apologized for not recusing himself from cabinet discussions about the program, is also under investigation by the commissioner.

The controversy has also sparked a closer examination of WE, which operates internationally and has closely tied charity and for-profit arms. WE Charity announced last night it would begin a major restructuring. The board of the organization has seen an almost-total turnover in the last few months.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

The federal government is encouraging and helping small businesses sign up for 90-day trials with Shopify to help them sell goods online.

Canadian, British and American researchers were the target of Russian hackers trying to steal secrets about a COVID-19 vaccine. That charge is being made today by the security services in Canada, Britain and the U.S.

Experts say the federal government should step up its coronavirus screening measures at airports to match places like Taiwan that conduct actual medical checks for those arriving into the country.

A Federal Court judge has delivered a scathing ruling against Canada’s spy agency, saying it did not properly disclose when evidence was likely obtained illegally.

And Bob Rae, Canada’s incoming ambassador to the United Nations, says the institution’s effectiveness is being undermined by the United States, Russia and China, but he believes it can still be a positive force for multilateralism.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on projections of global population decline: “Although falling fertility is something to celebrate – it results from women acquiring greater control over their lives and bodies – the economic strain is great, with ever-fewer young people around to drive growth and pay for the needs of old people.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on reopening schools during the pandemic: “The primary obstacle to getting kids physically back to school in September appears not to be concerns about the children’s safety, but that of the teachers and support staff who, as adults, could face a higher risk of coming down with a serious coronavirus infection. Yet, the data show that adults are far less likely to contract the virus from children than another adult. Your average supermarket employee, who comes into contact with countless adult strangers on any given day, faces a far greater probability of getting COVID-19 than any classroom teacher.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Ontario’s reopening priorities: “Ontario’s path to relative normality starts with a return to in-school learning. Without that, parents can’t meaningfully get back to work, so they won’t be able to reliably pay their bills, which also means they’ll have less for discretionary spending. Because the province cannot do everything at once, it needs to weigh the risks of certain high-risk behaviours against the potential benefits of those actions, along with public health’s capacity to mitigate the damage should something go wrong.”

Amy Rosen (Maclean’s) on the case for dining out while you can: “Today, Canada’s restaurants are on the brink of closing and they need our help. I would argue that dining out is as important to a city’s culture and heritage as its galleries, arenas and museums. They are also part of our collective memories: The big birthday dinners, the bended-knee dessert engagements, the chicken wing binges while watching the Raptors win the NBA championships. From Newfoundland to Tofino, many of my fondest travel memories have happened in restaurants.”

Chris Selley (National Post) on what the Liberal Party would be left with if Trudeau actually resigned: “But mostly you have a flaky centre-left operation that doesn’t know how to do anything better than spend money and broadcast its own self-styled virtue.”

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