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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.

Federal employees, workers in federally regulated industries and many travellers will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under a policy announced Friday by the federal government.

Dominic LeBlanc, president of the Privy Council said the move is necessary to protect against more dangerous variants of COVID-19.

“This is an evolution of the government’s posture in protecting the health and safety of Canadians since the beginning of the pandemic,” LeBlanc said. “We have scientific data but also real-world evidence on how remarkably effective are the vaccines that have been approved for use by Health Canada.”

It’s not yet clear when the mandate will come into effect for public servants, though Mr. LeBlanc said the government is developing the policy as quickly as possible.

Story here.


CANADA AND THE CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN - Canadian special forces will deploy to Afghanistan where Canadian embassy staff in Kabul will be evacuated before closing, a source familiar with the plan told The Associated Press. Also, the Canadian government is facing urgent calls to speed up its effort to save hundreds of former Afghan interpreters and their families as Western countries step up plans to evacuate Afghanistan after 20 years of war. In Regina, on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is “very concerned” about the situation In Afghanistan and that the government is committed to protecting Canadian diplomats there as well acting on a “moral duty” to support and protect Afghans who helped Canada. “We owe it to them to take care of them.”

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTS ON DEFENCE LEADERSHIP - Chief of the Defence Staff Art McDonald, who sought a return to work after an investigation into sexual-misconduct allegations against him ended with no charges, has been placed on administrative leave in an extraordinary move by the federal government. On Friday, the federal government announced it was promoting Wayne Eyre, the acting Chief of Defence Staff. Story here.

RCMP PROBE ON MATTERS AROUND KEY LAB- The RCMP are investigating whether two scientists dismissed from Canada’s top-security infectious-disease laboratory passed on Canadian intellectual property to China, including to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole is seeking intervenor status in a court battle over unfettered access to government documents that, if they were released unredacted, would offer insight into the firing of the two scientists.

SASKATCHEWAN SIGNS ON - Saskatchewan is signing on to the federal government’s plan to implement $10-a-day child care for families. Story here.

FORMER DEFENCE MINISTER PASSES AWAY - Paul Theodore Hellyer, the influential former federal defence minister under prime minister Lester Pearson, has died at the age of 98. Story here.


CANDIDATE BANNED OVER VACCINATION STAND - The Conservative Party of Canada is barring its candidate in the Yukon from running as its Yukon candidate in the upcoming federal election over his unwillingness to support public-health guidelines. Jonas Smith has said he opposes calls for mandated workplace vaccinations and vaccine passport requirements. CBC story here.


The Politics Briefing newsletter reached out to Health Columnist André Picard for this thoughts on the election ahead. Here’s his response: “A U.S. study, available here, estimated that Donald Trump’s rallies during the U.S. election campaign resulted in an additional 30,000 COVID-19 cases and 700 deaths. On the other hand, provincial election campaigns in Canada have gone off largely without a hitch. The lesson here is that large, unmasked rallies must be verboten. If protocols like masking, physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings (especially indoors) are respected, the federal campaign should not fuel the spread of the coronavirus.

“Another concern is whether debates about COVID-19 passports, certificates and mandates – which are already quite politicized – will take on a more partisan tone. The last thing Canada needs is a situation like the U.S. where support for public health measures is split along party lines. The co-operation and solidarity between parties in response to the pandemic has been one of Canada’s greatest strengths and it would a shame if that were undermined for political gain.”


Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the dynamics of the Liberal pitch to voters in the coming election: “Times have changed. That’s the idea Justin Trudeau will put to the test as he is set to launch an election campaign Sunday. For starters, it will serve as the basic pretext for calling an election two years before his official term ends. You can expect he will argue that the pandemic has changed the country so much it is time to seek a new mandate. Beyond that, the entire Liberal campaign will be a political gamble that times have changed. It is based on the idea that the pandemic has altered the mindset of Canadian voters – that they have been given a sense of vulnerability not just about COVID-19 but what comes after, that government has to do more, and that they are in no mood to count the costs.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the issues that should be debated this federal election, but probably won’t: “Soon, perhaps as soon as this weekend, the Prime Minister will pitch the country into another election, less than two years after the last – in the teeth of a worsening pandemic, in the absence of any plausible justification and in defiance of the fixed-date election law. He will do so for one reason: because he thinks he can win. Probably he will, if the polls are any guide, though the pre-election polls may prove even more misleading than usual. Pollsters are having a difficult enough time of it lately, without a deadly pandemic to deter what few voters might otherwise have roused themselves to go to the polls in a largely pointless election. Certainly they can have no clue about one thing: what the issues of the election will be. Every election pollsters ask people this question, and every time people dutifully give the answers they think are expected of them – jobs, health care, that sort of thing. And then they decide who to vote for based on a hundred other factors that have nothing to do with any of them.”

Jen Gerson (Maclean’s) on Jagmeet Singh, the case for second chances: “Former CPC leader Andrew Scheer made significant gains in the 2019 election, in fact winning more ballots than Trudeau. Yet in the face of perhaps too-high expectations, and a messy campaign for the Liberals, this was deemed insufficient to save the Conservative leader from the internal machinations of his own party. Meanwhile, Singh barely treaded water in the last election, and despite whispers of disaffection the NDP maintained him at the helm. Two years have passed, and which party now seems in better shape? No doubt, Scheer made mistakes—but so too has Singh. Only one got another chance to lead his party in an election, and the Conservatives would now trade a few miserly souls for Singh’s personal approval ratings. And what does that tell you? Perhaps shuffling a new leader off at the first sign of electoral wobbliness is not, actually, a great strategy.”


Private meetings. The Prime Minister will speak with Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan.


Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine where he holds a press briefing and visits a wind power plant.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole - No schedule provided by Mr. O’Toole’s office.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul - No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh - No schedule provided by Mr. Singh’s office.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why politicians have to level with Canadians that our vaccination target is too low: What governments need to do is suck up their courage and get this over with already. Spit out the truth. It’s time to say, clearly and repeatedly, that we must aim for new, higher targets. Then let’s move on to figuring out how to hit them. Canada’s problem is that our vaccination rate is still too low, it’s rising at a snail’s pace, and the official immunization targets are likely not ambitious enough to beat the Delta variant. Unless political leaders level with Canadians about this, the public won’t understand why the old finish line didn’t mark the end of the race.”

Andrew Griffith (Policy Options) on the need for an in-depth and independent inquiry that addresses the discomfort behind diversity: Racism is a concern in Canada, present and future, given the rapidly increasing Indigenous and immigrant-origin population. An in-depth and independent examination of the issues, challenges and possible solutions is needed, and there must be broad consultations and engagement with all affected groups. The overall approach should be akin to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, held between 1963 and 1969. At that time immigrants formed about 16 per cent of the population, compared with 21.9 per cent in 2016.”

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