This Week In Ottawa May 26, 2023

Top news

  • The government’s Special Rapporteur David Johnston released his first report on the federal government’s handling of intelligence related to foreign interference in Canadian elections. Johnston concluded that an independent public inquiry is not the appropriate way to proceed. He found that such an inquiry could not function due to the national security requirements around the materials that would be reviewed. He is instead proposing that during the second phase of his work, he conduct more general public hearings on the issues around foreign interference and how the government should address it from a policy standpoint.
  • All three opposition leaders rejected Johnston’s main recommendation and repeated calls for a public inquiry. However, with Jagmeet Singh indicating he will not consider making an inquiry a condition of his continued support of the Liberal government, the opposition lacks the leverage to force an inquiry on an unwilling government.
  • Johnston suggested that opposition party leaders could be given a security briefing to review the classified intelligence his report was based on. This proposal was quickly rejected by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and BQ Leader Yves-François Blanchet, who argued that the strict security rules that come with a briefing would leave them unable to talk openly about what they learned. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said he will take the briefing.
  • Johnston has been invited to appear at the Procedure and House Affair Committee next week, where he will face questions from skeptical opposition members.
  • Michael Sabia is reportedly leaving his position as the Deputy Minister of Finance to take on the leadership of Hydro-Quebec. Sabia joined the federal government to serve as Minster Freeland’s Deputy in 2020, following a career where he led Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec and was CEO of BEC Inc.

Government announcements

  • Minister Alghabra announced the new Verified Traveller program, which will allow eligible travellers to have a faster screening process in selected airports once the program launches in June.
  • Minister Ng has launched public consultations on a Canada-Africa Economic Cooperation Strategy. Stakeholders have until July 31st to make submissions.
  • The government announced a $2.5B investment to modernize the Canadian Coast Guard’s small vessel fleet. Through the National Shipbuilding Strategy, the Coast Guard will be able to replace up to 61 small vessels.
  • Minster Joly announced that Canada had appointed a new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, marking a return to full diplomatic between Canada and Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2018.
  • Minister Duclos announced Health Canada would spend $43M under the National Adaptation Strategy to deal with the health impacts of climate change.
  • The government has opened a call for proposals under the Energy Innovation Program requesting  proposals for research, development and demonstration projects that “will help lower or eliminate emissions from the on-road transportation sector.”
  • Minister Champagne announced the federal government is contributing $225M from the Strategic Innovation Fund to support pharmaceutical company AbCellera’s construction of a biotech campus in Vancouver.
  • The Competition Bureau has offered recommendations to improve the competitiveness of Canada’s legal cannabis industry to the Expert Panel reviewing the current legislation. The Competition Bureau’s suggestions include simplifying the licensing process and allowing higher THC limits in edibles to let legal producers better compete with the black market.

In the House of Commons

  • Bill C-13: The bill to amend the Official Languages Act passed 3rd reading in the House and was sent to the Senate.
  • Bill C-21: The government’s gun control bill has been passed at 3rd reading in the House and sent to the Senate. Two Liberal MPs voted with the Conservatives against the final version of the bill, which got support from the rest of the Liberal caucus and other opposition parties.  
  • Bill C-22: The bill to create a Canadian disability benefit was passed by the Senate with amendments meaning the bill has now returned to the House to consider whether it will accept or reject those changes.
  • Bill C-45: An Act to amend the First Nations Fiscal Management Act passed 3rd reading in the House and was introduced in the Senate.
  • Bill C-48: This bill was introduced in response to recent requests by provinces and police officials that the federal government revise Canada’s bail regime. The bill would expand the use of reverse onus for offenders charged with using a weapon or domestic violation.
  • Bill S-5: This bill to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was approved at report stage in the House.  
  • Bill C-280: MP Scot Davidson’s bill to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in regards to the treatment of perishable fruits and vegetables passed 2nd reading in the House.
  • The Conservative Party used an opposition day to call on the government to rethink its policy on providing “safe supply” to drug users and redirect funding to treatment options instead.

Economic numbers of the week

  • 0.2%: Statistics Canada’s flash estimate of manufacturing sales in April found a decline of 0.2%, with the biggest decreases coming in the food and primary metals sectors.

Coming Up

  • The House of Commons returns on May 29th to start its final sittings before it rises for the summer break.

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