Politics Briefing: Trudeau holding COVID-19 conference call with premiers – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is holding a conference call with Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers on Monday – his 36th on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The call comes after meetings between Mr. Trudeau and, individually, the premiers of the Northwest Territories, Ontario and British Columbia since the last discussion on Dec. 14.
And it comes as the Omicron variant is challenging health-care systems across Canada, with expectations for increasing calls from the provinces and territories to Ottawa to provide help.
Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc forecast aspects of the discussion during a Friday news conference that also featured Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer.
“As we regularly do, we will be speaking with all of Canada’s premiers early next week to discuss the changing realities we are seeing and how we can continue to work collaboratively to keep Canadians safe,” Mr. LeBlanc told the news conference.
But the Minister warned there were limits to available federal health-care resources. “So, our job is to take absolutely everything we can and allocate it in the most effective way to support all of our partners and Canadians to come through the other side, particularly of this urgency around the Omicron variant.”
Mr. Duclos said federal assets include health-trained people in the Canadian Armed Forces as well as vaccines, tests – 140 million are being distributed to provinces and territories this month on a per-capita basis – personal protective equipment, and tracing support.
He said he had, Thursday, met with other provincial and territorial ministers to talk about collective efforts to deal with Omicron.
Amid pandemic concerns, provincial governments have called for an increase in the Canada Health Transfer payments that the federal government provides for health care.
Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup reported here on Mr. Duclos views, expressed Friday.
Please check The Globe and Mail later for reports on the talks between Mr. Trudeau and the premiers.
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
CALL FOR BARTON PROBE – The federal Ethics Commissioner has been formally asked to investigate whether Canada’s former ambassador to Beijing, Dominic Barton, violated ethics rules when he accepted an offer to become chair of Rio Tinto, a global mining company that does much of its business in China. Two New Democratic MPs wrote to the commissioner, Mario Dion, on Friday. Story here.
SPORT MINISTER LOOKING AT ABUSE – Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge is reviewing how national sport organizations deal with abuse within their own ranks, following a Globe and Mail investigation that detailed a troubling number of eating disorders among Olympic athletes, and coaches driven by dubious sports science. Story here.
STRIKING A BALANCE FOR CLIMATE-CHANGE ADAPTATION STRATEGY – Climate Change columnist and Feature Writer Adam Radwanski looks at what Canada has to do on the climate change adaptation strategy promised in 2022. Story here.
CANADA OFFERS HELP WITH UKRAINE CRISIS – Canada has told the U.S. that it’s willing to help with potential deterrence measures against Russia, which could include sanctions, to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, CBC News has learned. Story here from CBC.
FORTIN FIGHT FOR REINSTATEMENT CONTINUES – Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin’s fight for reinstatement as head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution campaign is proceeding on after a critical decision by the Federal Court of Appeal. Story here from Global News.
MINISTER’S TWEET BRINGS MOCKERY – A Manitoba cabinet minister is making international headlines over a tweet that features his wife shovelling snow in extremely cold temperatures after a 12-hour overnight shift as a front-line health-care worker. Story here from CBC.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.
THE DECIBEL – On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Independent Business Reporter Chris Hannay talks about which industries are feeling hardest hit during the pandemic, how the government’s guidelines and support for workers and workplaces have changed, and why, for some, the timing of these new lockdowns really couldn’t have been worse. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings. The Prime Minister hosts a call with the provincial and territorial premiers.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
No schedule released for the Deputy Prime Minister.
LEADERS
No schedules released for party leaders.
PUBLIC OPINION
REGIONAL RESENTMENT NOT ON RISE – Philippe J. Fournier, in Maclean’s, notes that a new survey looking at federal-provincial attitudes suggests that even in Quebec and Alberta, regional resentment is not on the rise. The analysis is here.
OPINION
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on the challenging year ahead for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: Even before the leadership review, the next three months will play out like a fast-paced political obstacle course. Besides the Omicron wave, there will be a fraught new session of the legislature come February, with a Throne Speech and then a budget by the end of that month. In presenting a budget that could nearly eliminate the provincial deficit, the UCP will be under immense pressure to make sure the stronger economic numbers — based on higher oil demand — aren’t simply a boost to government and energy companies’ financials. An improving economy must translate into jobs and a wee bit of optimism.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on letting cities sprawl as the answer to the housing crisis: “Urban sprawl is blamed for taking prime farmland out of production; for encouraging people to use cars – which contribute to global warming – rather than public transit; for creating dreary, cookie-cutter communities devoid of human connections. But more than two-thirds of us live in suburbs. They are where young people, for generations, have purchased a housing foothold. Limiting growth on the urban fringe limits social mobility and increases inequality.”
Shachi Kurl (The Ottawa Citizen) on how Canada’s relations with China are at a critical crossroads:New data soon to be released by the Angus Reid Institute show a portrait of self-conflicted Canadians. While a majority say they wish they could trade less with China, a majority are also worried about the economic consequences, and tellingly, are skeptical that any steps Canada takes to protest or push back against the Beijing regime’s various bad actions are unlikely to make a difference. The problem with this kind of public resignation and morass is that it carries the potential of allowing continued political inertia and lack of leadership on a file Canada cannot ignore. And while the appointment of a highly qualified, extremely experienced national security advisor (and let’s be very clear, that’s exactly what Ms. Thomas is) may be helpful, it is not a magic bullet. She is the sixth such adviser since 2008.”
Kathryn May (Policy Options) on the biggest shuffle of federal deputy ministers in memory: “As one senior bureaucrat who was not authorized to speak publicly said, a bank or another large company wouldn’t change the leadership of so many of its operations at once. “This was a long time in coming,” said Michel Vermette, a former CEO of the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada. “You have to wonder why they are so slow to fill these positions. Some of these departures have been known for quite some time. What took so long?”
Jeffrey Simpson (Literary Review of Canada) on “That Ever Governed Frenzy” through the eyes of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Michael Wernick: “Wernick insists there has never been more publicly available information. That is perhaps how matters look to him, but from the outside, the government is like a sound machine on autopilot, spinning the same messages, phrases, and clichés. The Trudeau Liberals, in those pre-2015-election days, promised to do politics differently after the gloomy, tight-lipped Stephen Harper years. The past two minority governments suggest that the Liberals, for many reasons—and only a small one being Wilson-Raybould’s saga—have lost their lustre.”
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