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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.

BREAKING - Admiral Art McDonald says he plans to resume his role as chief of the defence staff – Canada’s top soldier – after an investigation into an allegation against him found no evidence.

Adm. McDonald’s plan was outlined in a statement issued Wednesday by his lawyers.

The admiral “has decided [to] return to his duties and functions immediately,” said Michael Edelson and Rory Fowler.

The only change between February, when the matter arose, and now “is that there is now a compelling reason to conclude that the allegations were without merit,” said the statement.

“Now that he has been exonerated, it is appropriate for Admiral McDonald to return to his duties as [chief of the defence staff],” said the statement. “Given that it was his decision to step aside, it is now his decision – indeed obligation – to return to his duties.”

Story here.

SENTENCING OF MICHAEL SPAVOR

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is today condemning the espionage conviction and 11-year sentence China has handed businessman Michael Spavor as “absolutely unacceptable and unjust.”

In a statement this morning, Mr. Trudeau said the trial “did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law.”

Mr. Trudeau’s statement is available here.

Meanwhile, Senior Parliamentary Reporter Steven Chase reports here that Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau told reporters Wednesday that Canada’s ambassadors to China and the United States remain engaged in “intense discussions” aimed at securing the release of both Mr. Spavor and fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig, whose treatment by Beijing is widely seen as retaliation.

During a policy announcement in Waterloo, Ont., federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the news abut Mr. Spavor is “horrific” and completely unacceptable.

“The Communist regime in China is using one of our citizens as a diplomatic ploy, and it’s unacceptable. And we need to stand up clearly and have our allies stand up against this type of conduct by Communist China,” Mr. O’Toole said during a news conference.

“Canada is a smaller nation [than China] in population and economic size, but we are a giant when it comes to our values and we will stand up,” said Mr. O’Toole.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

FEDERAL HOUSING FUNDING FALLS SHORT - The federal government has spent less than half of the funding earmarked for a pair of flagship housing programs as the need for affordable homes grows along with a yawning “affordability gap,” says Canada’s budget watchdog.

REPORT RAPS GOVERNMENT ARMS SALES POLICY - The Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s watch is flouting international law by refusing to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a new report by two watchdog groups says.

PALLISTER ANNOUNCES EXIT - Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he won’t seek re-election and a new Progressive Conservative leader will be chosen before the next provincial election. Mr. Pallister, who has been premier since 2016, hinted for nearly a year that he might leave office before the next election, slated for October 2023, but pressure for his exit recently began to mount after he came under fire for comments he made about Canadian history. Manitoba’s former Indigenous relations minister says Mr. Pallister made the right decision not to seek re-election. The CBC’s Bartley Kives writes here about how, by leaving early, Mr. Pallister put his party’s future over his own pride

NO FINANCIAL STATEMENT YET FROM NDP - The NDP is the only major federal party that has not submitted its 2020 financial statement to Elections Canada and now has an extension to do so before the end of the summer.

QUEBEC DETAILS VACCINATION PASSPORT PLAN - Unvaccinated people in Quebec will be denied access to non-essential public spaces such as bars, restaurants and gyms as of Sept. 1, the province’s Health Minister announced on Tuesday as he revealed details of the most sweeping vaccine passport policy in the country.”

ICEBREAKER COST NEARS $1B - The cost of three second-hand icebreakers that the federal Liberal government is buying from Quebec shipyard Chantier Davie is inching closer to the $1-billion mark as Ottawa keeps quietly adding money to the controversial deal.

THE LOOMING ELECTION

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to work today after a few days described as “Personal” on the schedule circulated by his office. His return comes ahead of a federal election call widely expected to come within days. it’s unclear whether the Liberal leader would want to visit the Governor-General to precipitate a vote on Friday, Aug. 13. Expectations are that the election call will be this Sunday though it is Mr. Trudeau’s call. Opposition leaders have raised concerns about a vote during the continuing pandemic.

Senior members of the government have been cautious about commenting on the expected election. However, in a tweet posted a day ago, and still up at this writing, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu appeared in a photo with a dog named Jack. The text says Jack is “pretty bummed he can’t come door knocking with us tonight,” adding that those reading the tweet could, and directing them to an e-mail to “get details on all things campaign.” Ms. Hajdu is seeking re-election in her Thunder Bay-Superior North riding.

Meanwhile Yukon’s chief medical officer says he plans to run as a Liberal. Story here.

THE LOOMING ELECTION - OPINION

Peter Donolo, director of communications to former prime minister Jean Chrétien, in the Globe and Mail, on how vaccine passports could win Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a majority:In seeking a mandate to introduce a pan-Canadian vaccine passport, the Prime Minister would be acknowledging that he is proposing an unprecedented step. And that is exactly why governments should seek new mandates. Instead of an election about nothing more than whether the Liberals can wheedle a majority from a groggy and resentful electorate, it would be about whether voters give them the go-ahead to move in an important, if not uncommon, direction.”

Thomas Mulcair, the former federal NDP leader, in The Montreal Gazette on climate looming large on the list of Justin Trudeau’s broken promises: “During an election campaign, you learn a lot about the other side. In my run as leader of the NDP in 2015, we heard that the Liberals were doing a new focus group every day. It showed as they veered from one policy announcement to the other with very little ideological consistency. The only common thread was the desire to tell people what they wanted to hear. It works. They won.”

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister is scheduled to speak to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, as well as Kelsey Mitchell, the Canadian Olympic gold medalist in track cycling.

LEADERS

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits the ridings of Rimouski–Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basque and Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole makes an announcement in Waterloo, Ont.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burill hold a media availability in Halifax, and Mr. Singh subsequently visits a community rapid testing site.

PUBLIC OPINION

The Angus Reid Institute has a new poll out on the new Governor-General, Mary Simon, and her inability to speak French. While the poll suggests seven in 10 Canadians agree with her appointment, it also says half of Quebecers surveyed agree with her appointment while over a third disagree. Details here.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the key to Canadian economic prosperity that no one’s talking about: “The election campaign, assuming it is imminent, will take place in the shadow of an enormously important decision about government policy: the Bank of Canada’s mandate, whose five-year term is up for renewal this fall. Probably nothing that will be discussed during the campaign will have more potential to affect Canadian lives, for good or ill.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on lingering hope for Alberta to strike a childcare agreement with Ottawa: “It’s unclear how close we are to a federal election call. But any child care deal not signed with the remaining provinces and territories will all be pushed off until well after voting day. A cherry-on-top for the federal Liberals would be finding agreement with vote-rich Ontario before the campaign is full-on. Even in Alberta, the federal Liberals have some desire to pick up a few seats. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said in an interview on Friday that she’s unhappy that she was told no province was going to get a no-strings-attached deal – right before Quebec was given exactly that. But still, she said, her working relationship with Mr. Hussen is cordial and she’s hopeful a deal can be reached soon, even before an election. The province submitted a new proposal, just on Thursday, with more details about what it plans to do with the federal dollars.”

Monica Gattinger (Policy Options) on ensuring Paris isn’t the next Copenhagen, Kyoto, or Rio: “The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underscores yet again the urgency to act, noting that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. In Canada, there is far more consensus and support for taking action in business and society than there was even five years ago, and we have a comprehensive plan to reach our 2030 emissions reduction targets. But will it be enough? Not likely.”

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