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Welcome to Ottawa Playbook. We’re your hosts, Maura Forrest and Nick Taylor-Vaisey. Today, we tell you what to expect from Parliament this spring, and we ask whether journalists are helping or hurting the Tory leadership frontrunner. Also, to mask or not to mask?

SPRING OF PABLO — Thirty-nine sitting days separate the Liberal legislative agenda from a summer of community barbecues and R&R for weary staffers (or, for Conservatives, the stressful, exhilarating crescendo of a leadership race).

Heritage Minister PABLO RODRIGUEZ‘s legislative plate is brimming with future acrimony. It’s his job to pass Bill C-11, an overhaul of broadcasting laws, plus new measures that would force Facebook and Google to fork over a share of their advertising revenue to news outlets whose work is shared on those social networks.

Both bills will whip up the Two Minutes Hate from their critics. Bill C-11 is the government’s redo after the former C-10 died in the Senate before last year’s election. Its main goal is to force digital broadcasters to produce Canadian content. Like STEVEN GUILBEAULT before him, Rodriguez is convinced there’s nothing untoward here.

One of his biggest critics, uOttawa law prof MICHAEL GEIST, couldn’t disagree more. He says the legislative rewrite could still regulate user-generated content — say, your friendly neighborhood YouTuber. Rodriguez will deny, deny, deny. But the debate will come to define the heritage minister’s spring.

— And another thing: Geist also hates Rodriguez’s C-18, which he dismisses as a “shakedown” of the social networks “with requirements to pay for nothing more than listing Canadian media organizations with hyperlinks in a search index, social media post, or possibly even a tweet.”

— And another thing: Geist also has set his sights on another forthcoming Rodriguez priority: a bill to fight against online hate. Geist says the government is ignoring free-speech concerns, and concludes this third bill isn’t an “outlier,” but rather “reflective of the government’s plan for regulating the internet.”

— There’s the talking point: Conservatives will feast on the criticism served up by experts like Geist. Anyone who says the big government bogeymen are out to get regular folks will feed question periods from here till eternity.

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A LEGISLATIVE BUFFET — The government has also tabled seven other bills that are somewhere between languishing and law.

— Bill C-5: The justice committee is looking at C-5, the government’s second legislative attempt to repeal mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses.

— Bill C-7: The government hasn’t yet prioritized C-7, which would increase allowances for senators who lead parliamentary groups and enshrine consultation on the appointment of officers of Parliament.

— Bill C-8: The bill that would implement various pieces of CHRYSTIA FREELAND‘s December fiscal update, C-8, is back from committee and was last debated April 4.

Highlights include a tax on vacant foreign-owned property, a business tax credit for ventilation expenses, and a tax credit for farmers facing fuel charges. The bill would unlock federal funding to improve ventilation in schools and for Covid tests (as well as proof-of-vaccination programs, though many provinces have already dropped those requirements).

— Bill C-9: Justice Minister DAVID LAMETTI‘s C-9 would change the rules on how judges’ conduct is reviewed, and how they’re removed from the bench. The government has so far not prioritized its passage.

— Bill C-13: Official Languages Minister GINETTE PETITPAS TAYLOR‘s C-13 overhauls the decades-old Official Languages Act — and responds to concerns about the declining state of the French language in Canada. Every opposition party agrees the bill is long overdue. Both the Tories and New Democrats hope to pack it with amendments.

— Bill C-14: The House should have no trouble passing C-14, which would ensure no province ever loses seats after a riding redistribution process. The Conservatives and NDP will both support the legislation. (Tory MP TOM KMIEC even claimed the bill was part of STEPHEN HARPER‘s legacy on representation.) The Bloc doesn’t think it goes far enough.

— Bill C-17: The government tabled C-17 on March 25. It’d be a law with two goals: pay the provinces C$2 billion to clear surgery backlogs, and another C$750 million to cities to help cover budget shortfalls for public transit.

— Also to come: The government will soon introduce its budget implementation bill. And, of course, we’re waiting on an announcement about the official inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act. As CP’s LAURA OSMAN reports, the Act requires the government to call an inquiry within 60 days of revoking the declaration. That deadline is … today.

BUDGET TALK — The Liberal-NDP effort to vanquish parliamentary brinkmanship with a supply-and-confidence deal could support as many as four budgets. The cooperative well could run dry long before then, but this spring’s fiscal plan is all but a done deal.

Foregone conclusions notwithstanding, Bloc Québécois MP GABRIEL STE-MARIE‘s subamendment to the budget motion will still see debate in the House today.

— Brass tacks: The sovereigntist Quebecers don’t hold much leverage in the shadow of the two-party deal, and their subamendment is doomed to failure.

But for the record, Ste-Marie hopes to persuade the Commons to substantially boost health transfers to provinces, increase the old age pension for those aged 65 to 74, take “concrete action” against climate change, “offer solutions” to the rising cost of living, and a reliable old chestnut: “consult and respect the jurisdictions of Quebec, the provinces and territories.”

The House will also debate the budget on Tuesday and Wednesday.

— Pet project hour: Liberal MP KEN MCDONALD‘s private member’s motion on long-term care will also see an hour of debate today.

McDonald wants the feds to work with provinces and territories to “improve the quality and availability” of beds, implement strict infection prevention and control measures, and develop legislation that guarantees a level of care for seniors everywhere in Canada.

Later in the week, the Commons will debate four private member’s bills:

— Green MP ELIZABETH MAY‘s attempt to create a national strategy to “address the harm caused by environmental racism.”

— Tory MP KEVIN WAUGH‘s effort to add the prohibition of public Holocaust denial to the Criminal Code.

— Tory MP CLIFFORD SMALL‘s bill that would set a federal framework on the conservation of fish stocks and management.

— Liberal MP ANJU DHILLON‘s proposal to require judges to consider electronic monitoring devices as a condition of a release order for those accused of intimate partner violence (and mandate that judges receive continuing education on intimate partner violence).

Ottawa Playbook’s fourth virtual trivia night is set for May 4 at 8 p.m. Gather up your nerdiest friends and fire us an RSVP.

IS IT OVER YET? — When will the Liberals stop wearing masks in the House of Commons? This might not be the most pressing political question du jour, but would there be any surer sign the pandemic is over? When is the right moment?

To be clear, we know the pandemic is not actually over. Just last Friday, Ontario extended its mask mandate for high-risk settings, and the province’s top doctor warned of a “difficult” week ahead. We know that. But politically at least, isn’t it maybe, kind of… over?

It’s been interesting to watch premiers and public health officials sticking to their mandate-lifting guns this time around (Quebec is an exception), even as we’ve lost all sense of how many people are being infected. In February, Ontario Premier DOUG FORD announced we were all “done with it” and hasn’t looked back.

— On Friday, the province’s chief medical officer of health, KIERAN MOORE, was asked about imposing additional restrictions during the sixth wave. “Absolutely do not see that on our radar whatsoever as we learn to live with this virus,” he said. It’s a far cry from the language of waves past.

— Federally, the approach seems to have been to lift restrictions gradually without saying too much about it. On April 1, as cases were climbing, the requirement for pre-travel Covid tests was lifted. As of today, travelers don’t have to wear masks in public places after their return, though masks are still required on planes and trains.

— Back at the start of all this, there was a big popularity bump for any leader who emerged several times a week, grim-faced, to announce new pandemic restrictions. Not so today. Politicians know, of course, that most people now have either caught the virus or have lost count of how many of their friends and family have had it, and that Canadians are among the most vaccinated in the world. There’s nothing that alleviates fear of a disease like seeing your aging parents survive it. Politically, then, there’s probably little to be gained from more angst.

— So what’s the message? None of this means that masks are about to disappear. The official recommendation for MPs is still to wear masks in the House, and presumably the Liberals will adhere. And sure, that’s fine. It’s just that federal and provincial policies alike seem to imply there’s nothing left to fear. So… is there?

What do you think? Let us know at [email protected]

IS ALL PUBLICITY GOOD PUBLICITY? — Are the media anointing PIERRE POILIEVRE or hobbling him? On the one hand, there’s been unending coverage of the Tory leadership candidate’s crowd sizes. On the other, there’s the hand-wringing about his populist approach and the inevitable comparisons to Trump. For your consideration:

On The Hub Roundtable, editor STUART THOMSON suggests JEAN CHAREST is “generally the candidate of the media” … “they’re going to give him a break on a lot of things because the dislike of Poilievre is so strong.”

On The Bridge pod, PETER MANSBRIDGE, CHANTAL HÉBERT and BRUCE ANDERSON discuss the media’s treatment of Poilievre and compare it to the treatment Donald Trump got in 2016.

Hébert argues the dynamics of Poilievre’s bid mirror JUSTIN TRUDEAU’s path to the leadership of the Liberal party a decade ago — a notion she also explores in her latest column. 

Related listening: On the Front Burner pod this morning — Inside a Pierre Poilievre Conservative leadership rally.

More reading: The CBC’s AARON WHERRY writes: Poilievre seems to be tearing a page from Trudeau’s ‘middle class’ agenda.

9:30 a.m. Mental Health Minister CAROLYN BENNETT will announce funding for mental health crisis support services in Toronto.

10:30 a.m. Defense Minister ANITA ANAND will release a report on ending systemic racism and discrimination in the Department of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces.

11 a.m. Bank of Canada Governor TIFF MACKLEM will appear before the House of Commons finance committee.

4:15 p.m. Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU will meet with members of the Parliamentary Internship Programme.

— The Globe reports: RCMP considered whether to charge Justin Trudeau over Aga Khan trip, documents show.

— Top of POLITICO this morning: Heavy weaponry pours into Ukraine as commanders become more desperate.

— From TONDA MACCHARLES and ALEX BALLINGALL: The inside story of how Steven Guilbeault became an environmental pragmatist.

— POLITICO’s CLEA CAULCUTT reports from Paris: Macron reelected but Le Pen’s big score shows France increasingly divided.

— APTN’s DARRELL STRANGER explains Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, the project that will see the Hudson’s Bay Company’s flagship store in Winnipeg newly transferred to First Nations leadership and transformed into affordable housing, assisted living units, child care center, museum, art gallery, restaurants and healing center.

— “In its most charitable interpretation, the folks who have been peddling the ‘truck tax’ nonsense are merely too vacuous to understand the difference between an independent advisory body making non-binding recommendations to the federal government, and official government policy,” SUPRIYA DWIVEDI writes in The Star. 

— Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying propaganda battles are a stark reminder that the first casualty of war is truth, SUSIE ALEGRE writes for CIGI. 

— Can MARK CARNEY keep his green finance push on track? JEFFREY JONES asks for the Globe and Mail.

For Pro subscribers, POLITICO Canada’s daily policy newsletter by ZI-ANN LUM: The week ahead: Your guide to the spring sprint.

In other headlines for subscribers:
— How carbon pricing gained momentum with the gas industry.
Big Tech firms set to face tough EU content rules.
Are EV tax credits back on the table? Maybe.
EU prepares to hit Putin with new sanctions.
Navy planning HALO, a new hypersonic weapon.

TELL US EVERYTHING — What are you hearing that you need Playbook to know? Send it all our way.


Spotted: Maclean’s publisher KEN HUNT, uh, subtweeting his own magazine.CHRYSTIA FREELAND shaking hands with World Bank president DAVID MALPASS PIERRE POILIEVRE calling the Bank of Canada “financially illiterate.” … Russian Ambassador to Canada OLEG STEPANOV accusing the West of trying to “liberate itself from guilt for its dark past.”

Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist MARIA RESSA speaking remotely at Massey College after the Philippine government effectively barred her from traveling to Toronto.

ERIN O’TOOLE,watching Jeopardy.STEVE LAFLEUR, leaving the Fraser Institute. … Global’s ABIGAIL BIMMAN in D.C.

KORY TENEYCKE, recovering from a minor concussion after crashing a vintage Ferrari in Gatineau. … COLE HOGAN and GREG MACEACHERN at The Met: “Ottawa meets Saskatoon!”

Former Privy Council Clerk MICHAEL WERNICK sharing his thoughts on a possible bigger, grander replacement for 24 Sussex: “A flawed concept.” The OTTAWA CITIZEN’s editorial board disagrees.

Media moves: KATHRYN BLAZE BAUM and GREG MERCER are joining the Globe and Mail’s investigative team… The Toronto Star’s BEN SPURR is moving to the paper’s City Hall bureau, while JENNIFER PAGLIARO is returning to the crime beat.

Finalists for the JUDITH-JASMIN journalism awards were announced last week.

Movers and shakers: MAHEEP SANDHU is joining Natural Resources Canada to work as a communications adviser to the minister. … TARAN WASSON has left Shared Services Canada to work as acting senior adviser of regulatory affairs at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Farewells: The tributes poured in on Friday after the death of hockey legend GUY LAFLEUR was announced. From the PM: “He was unlike anyone else on the ice — his speed, skill and scoring were hard to believe.” Lafleur was 70.

Premier FRANÇOIS LEGAULT announced Sunday that Quebec will hold a state funeral for Lafleur on Tuesday, May 3 at the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral.

TRIVIA NIGHT, IN REAL LIFE — Playbook Trivia is going non-virtual: Thursday, June 9 at the METROPOLITAIN in Ottawa! Gather your team, then send us an RSVP, because space will be limited.

Keep up to House committee schedules here.

Find Senate meeting schedules here.

11 a.m. Minister CARLA QUALTROUGH will appear at the House Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

11 a.m. Pfizer Canada President COLE PINNOW and AstraZeneca Canada President KIERSTEN COMBS are among witnesses at the House foreign affairs committee as it studies vaccine equity and intellectual property rights.

11 a.m. The House transport committee is studying the state of Canada’s supply chain.

11 a.m. Macklem and Carolyn Rogers appear at the House finance committee.

2 p.m. The Senate committee on national security and defense meets to discuss geopolitical competition in the Arctic.

3:30 p.m. The House health committee continues its study of Canada’s health workforce.

3:30 p.m. Canadians for Nuclear Energy, the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, Electric Mobility Canada and Nuclear Innovation Institute are at the House natural resources committee during its first hour.

3:30 p.m. Recruitment and retention in the Canadian Forces is on the agenda at this meeting of the House defense committee.

3:30 p.m. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will appear at the House international trade committee to discuss Indo-Pacific trade.

6:30 p.m. The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying holds a three-hour session.

Friday’s answer: JACK DAVIS was Canada’s first minister of the environment.


Monday’s question: Who said: “If people like me keep trying to fit into spaces like the House of Commons, which run according to a narrative of power and privilege designed to exclude us, how can we expect those spaces to change?”

Send your answers to [email protected]

Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Alejandra Waase to find out how: [email protected].

Playbook wouldn’t happen without Luiza Ch. Savage and editor Sue Allan.

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