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Thanks for reading the Ottawa Playbook. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey with Maura Forrest and Andy Blatchford. Today, dentalcare goes to committee. Plus, STEVEN GUILBEAULT and CHARLIE ANGUS tussle over the speed of climate action. And a pension expert sorts out truth from fiction on the politics of CPP contributions.
Oh, and JUSTIN TRUDEAU and PIERRE POILIEVRE square off for the first time in question period. Tune into CPAC at 2:15 p.m.
DENTAL DAY — Raisins are terribly unhealthy, cavity-producing time bombs for the kids who snack on them. That’s part of the message LYNN TOMKINS, the president of the Canadian Dental Association, will send to the House health committee at 11 a.m.
Tomkins’ point is the same one you’ve heard from every dentist who’s ever poked around your mouth: brush your teeth twice a day, kids. And floss. Develop good habits early, and kids can avoid a lot of toothaches.
Tomkins wants as many kids as possible to have regular check-ups — and for youngsters who can’t afford treatment to get a little help from their friendly federal government.
The CDA calls the nascent dentalcare program a “game-changer” for healthy teeth.
— High stakes: Tomkins’ top priority could decide the fate of this Parliament.
The federal dentalcare program outlined in a confidence-and-supply deal with the NDP will be implemented in several phases, and each step along the way until full implementation in 2025 (note: that’s roughly seven cleanings) offers the NDP an opportunity to pull the plug.
At this point the New Democrats are claiming victory. JAGMEET SINGH will boast of his party’s pressure on the government at a noontime appearance in front of cameras.
Enter Tomkins, who will testify at the health committee in the middle of a study on children’s health.
But the elephant in the room is obvious. The committee is meeting two days after the government tabled legislation to implement the program’s first phase. It’s gonna come up.
The proposed law would create a two-year annual benefit worth between C$260 and C$600 for uninsured kids who qualify, depending on their household income. Tories will vote against the measure, arguing it’ll only pad families’ pockets with inflationary cash.
In theory, it’s a simple process. Parents will log on to a Canada Revenue Agency portal, check a few boxes and receive the cash payment in a matter of days if they qualify. (Keep your receipts, parents. The CRA might come calling.)
But this is Canada, where nothing about health-care funding is simple.
— The devil’s in the details: Many provinces already provide limited dental coverage — but not for every procedure. What happens when parents can’t afford the care their kids require?. Will the federal benefit cover the difference? Tomkins isn’t sure.
“That’s really for the CRA to figure out,” she tells Playbook.
But Tomkins does want to avoid one uncomfortable situation.
“We don’t want dentists to have to be determining who’s eligible and who’s not on the spot,” she says. That would place an administrative burden on already understaffed offices, and could mean dentists turning away patients who need care.
— Headaches for the CRA:JENNIFER ROBSON, director of the political management program at Carleton University, spotted red flags that could make life difficult for hapless CRA employees who need to verify kids are definitively uninsured.
Robson’s read is bureaucrats will be forced to get in the weeds on fraught family matters — say, sorting out which parent in a shared-custody agreement is responsible for a trip to the dentist.
Not really what the taxman is trained for.
Robson’s conclusion: “The wrong lesson to take away from the pandemic benefits is that CRA is ready, willing and able to be a social worker to modest and middle-income Canadians,” she told Playbook.
— Back to the committee room: Tomkins plans to focus her testimony on policy, not politics. “I’m going to talk about what I know. That’s dentistry, oral health, children, dental care,” she tells Playbook. “The politics is up to the politicians.”
TOO FAST OR TOO SLOW — STEVEN GUILBEAULT voiced a bit of frustration on Wednesday. He’s caught between those who want more action on climate change, and those who want to slow things down.
“What I hear systematically is there’s too many consultations and it’s going too fast,” the environment minister told a panel on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “And I’m also hearing you have to go faster.”
He was answering a question about increasing ambition under the Paris Agreement. In essence, he said he’s doing as much as he can. “Everyone is telling me that we’re doing too much, including my own department, from time to time,” he said.
— So many foes: Guilbeault noted the various lawsuits the Liberal government has faced over its environmental policies — the federal carbon tax and the upcoming ban on certain single-use plastics, for example. As for the Liberals’ promised emissions cap for the oil and gas industry? “Pretty safe assumption we will be sued, by companies or provinces or both,” he said.
Trying to push through the Liberal climate agenda any faster might backfire, he warned. “If we start losing in the courts, the consequences would be tragic.”
— On the other hand: Back in Ottawa, NDP natural resources critic CHARLIE ANGUS told reporters his party is going to push the Liberals to get moving on a just transition for energy workers as Canada moves toward a low-carbon economy.
The Liberals promised a Just Transition Act in their 2019 election platform, but the legislation has yet to materialize. Angus said the government needs to put “a major financial commitment on the table” to ensure workers aren’t left behind.
Just transition legislation is one of the conditions of the Liberal-NDP confidence-and-supply agreement, but Angus didn’t say whether his party would consider withdrawing its support for the Liberals based on slow progress.
— Cry me a river: Angus had some choice words for Guilbeault and his predicament. “Poor Mr. Guilbeault. Didn’t he climb the CN Tower or something like that? Now it’s so difficult. Should he speed up, should he slow down?” he said. “We don’t need Goldilocks policies now, we need someone who’s decisive.”
ON THE PAYROLL — On Tuesday, PIERRE POILIEVRE used his first Question Period as Conservative leader to hammer JUSTIN TRUDEAU on what he calls the government’s incoming “payroll taxes.”
The brand-new leader has been accusing the government of piling extra costs on Canadians who are already reeling from surging inflation and rising interest rates.
Among his criticisms, Poilievre has warned that forthcoming increases in Canada Pension Plan premiums — the latest stage in the program’s enhancement — will “shrink” workers’ paychecks.
“What is the prime minister’s solution? It is to reduce their paychecks by taking a bigger bite out of them with higher payroll taxes?” Poilievre asked in the House.
Get used to the theme. The issue of affordability is far and away the biggest political battleground in Ottawa.
Let’s ask an expert: Who is responsible for the CPP enhancement? And is it a payroll tax?
KEITH AMBACHTSHEER, director emeritus of the International Centre for Pension Management.
Did the Trudeau government impose this plan? No.
To launch the phased-in increases of the CPP premiums, Ambachtsheer reminds Playbook that Ottawa needed the backing of at least seven provinces representing, at minimum, two-thirds of Canada’s population.
An agreement was struck back in 2016 when eight provinces — all except Quebec and Manitoba — signed on the enhancement plan put forward by then-finance minister BILL MORNEAU.
“It showed a lot of consensus,” Ambachtsheer said. “This is not a federal thing, this is a collective Canadian thing.”
Is CPP enhancement a payroll tax? No.
“To call it a tax increase is ridiculous — this is a benefit increase that has to be funded,” Ambachtsheer said, noting employees and employers split the premiums 50-50. “And the whole notion and the principle of this increase is to fund it through increased contributions.”
The goal behind raising premiums is to boost the CPP benefits Canadians will be eligible to receive down the road, starting at age 60. Younger contributors today will draw more benefits from the enhanced CPP decades from now because they will have paid more into it.
One Playbook reader wondered if current CPP recipients who are still in the workforce will pay more premiums and receive less in benefits.
We put the question to Ambachtsheer, who said individual cases can be complex. But he stressed the “general principle is nobody’s getting screwed,” and that increased contributions are matched with increased benefits.
Don’t expect that to mollify Poilievre.
12 p.m. NDP leader JAGMEET SINGH will speak about Bill C-31, the legislation that would create the dental care benefit and Canada Housing Benefit top up.
12:30 p.m. NDP MPP MARIT STILES makes a “special announcement” in Toronto — rumored to be an Ontario NDP leadership bid.
2 p.m. Trudeau will attend question period.
3 p.m. Trudeau will deliver remarks in the House to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.
4 p.m. Singh and MP TAYLOR BACHRACH speak at a Hill rally on changing the voting age.
4:15 p.m. Trudeau chairs a Cabinet meeting.
4:15 p.m. Natural Resources Minister JONATHAN WILKINSON will hold a media availability from the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh.
7 p.m. Former PM BRIAN MULRONEY will be the guest of honor at a Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy discussion in Toronto.
— CP sets up tonight’s second and final Quebec leaders’ debate.
— La Presse has a bombshell inside story about an “extremely tense” showdown between CBC and Radio-Canada over the on-air use of the N-word.
— The Sun’s BRIAN LILLEY reports that Poilievre hosted Mulroney at Stornoway.
— “I tried, oh did I ever try, to unpack DANIELLE SMITH’s sovereignty act,” the CBC’s JASON MARKUSOFF says of his outing on the Front Burner pod. Judge for yourself.
— University of Calgary prof LISA YOUNG makes her Substack debut. “Much as it’s entertaining to follow the soap opera, and speculate on what happens next, the coming months of Alberta politics are likely to be a stress test for democracy and rule of law in this province, and for Canadian federalism.”
— With just weeks left in his tenure as Alberta premier, JASON KENNEYsat down with The Logic to talk about his province’s tech sector.
— POLITICO freelancer TANYA GOLD has the read you were waiting for on the funeral of QUEEN ELIZABETH II. And ERICA IFILLhas another.
— Finally via BLOOMBERG: From the boom to crypto winter, is there a way to determine the true value of digital assets?
If you’re a subscriber, don’t miss our latest newsletter:Where is the ‘just transition’ at?
In other Pro headlines:
— The singular career of Mauro Petriccione, the EU’s ‘born negotiator.’
— €5.2B hydrogen project gets EU approval.
— Green groups open fire on EU sustainable investment list.
— IRS puts up ‘help wanted’ sign.
— U.S. decides against national security tariffs on rare earth magnets from China, Japan, EU.
Birthdays: HBD to TIM POWERS of Summa Strategies. Also celebrating today: Gen. MAURICE BARIL (retired), former MNA DIANE LEMIEUX and KIM CRAITOR, now in the running to become a Niagara Falls regional councilor.
HBD + 1 to CETA, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Send birthdays to [email protected].
Spotted: Buzzword du jour at UNGA — SOCIAL PROGRESS RECESSION. “Bandied about to describe how the world is falling off track in efforts to reach the U.N. Global Goals.” (h/t POLITICO’s Global Insider)
Movers and shakers: National Public Relations VP MARC DESMARAIS is repping the Independent Online News Publishers of Canada on the Hill. That coalition includes Canadaland, Vocal Fry Studios, Metro Media, Overstory Media, The Breach, The Resolve Village Media and the Tyee. They say Bill C-18, which would require platforms such as Facebook and Google to share revenue with news outlets, shuts them out.
Meanwhile, News Media Canada — aka Big Newspaper — signed up four lobbyists from Counsel Public Affairs: BRAD LAVIGNE, SHEAMUS MURPHY, DAVID MURRAY and LAILA HAWRYLYSHYN. Top priority: C-18, which it supports. Lobbying targets: MPs.
LORRAINE DIGUER has been named ambassador to Tunisia. SARA NICHOLLS is the new high commissioner in Mozambique. ÉLISE RACICOT will become ambassador to Portugal.
Governor General MARY SIMON will receive credentials from seven new heads of mission to Canada: Paraguay’s RAÚL ANTONIO MONTIEL GASTÓ, Ethiopia’s FITSUM AREGA GEBREKIDAN, Georgia’s KAHA IMNADZE, Estonia’s MARGUS RAVA, Egypt’s AHMED ABDALLAH IBRAHIM HAFEZ, France’s MICHEL MIRAILLET, and Cyprus’s GEORGIOS IOANNIDES.
— Which reminds us: Canada has been without an ambassador to China for 265 days. DOMINIC BARTON left the job on the last day of 2021.
Media mentions: Congrats to the finalists for the 2022 Webster Awards
Farewells: Postmedia announced an end to Monday print editions across several major markets.
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected].
9 a.m.The Senate internal economy, budgets and administration committee meets.
9 a.m. The Senate human rights committee will hold the second of two public hearings in Toronto as part of its study on Islamophobia in Canada.
9 a.m. The Senate agriculture and forestry committee meets to study the stats of soil health in Canada.
11 a.m.The House natural resources committee meets to continue its study of an equitable energy transformation. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs’ Kukpi7 JUDY WILSON will be a witness, as will the International Trade Union Confederation’s SAMANTHA SMITH.
11:30 a.m.The Senate banking, commerce and the economy committee will meet first in camera. The second half of the meeting on senators’ study of the state of the Canadian economy and inflation will be televised.
1:15 p.m. The private members’ business subcommittee of the procedure and House committee have a televised date to talk which agenda items should be considered non-votable.
3:30 p.m. Liberal MP JIM CARR will take MPs’ questions about his Prairie green economy private member’s bill, Bill C-235, at the House industry and technology committee.
3:30 p.m. The House status of women committee meets to hear from Native Women’s Association of Canada’s LISA J. SMITH and Wa Ni Ska Tan: An Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities members as part of its study on resource development and violence against Indigenous women and girls.
3:30 p.m.The House government and operations and estimates committee will launch their study scrutinizing expenses from the office of the governor general’s secretary. Rideau Hall, foreign affairs and national defense officials are on the witness list.
6:30 p.m. The special joining committee on the declaration of emergency meets in the evening to discuss “committee business.”
— Behind closed doors: 11 committees are in-camera today. One that stands out: The national defense committee will hear from three Global Affairs Canada officials and national defense director of staff Maj. Gen. PAUL PRÉVOST. They’ll discuss a threat analysis and the military capability to meet those threats.
Wednesday’s answer: “I have never heard a Canadian refer to an American as a foreigner,” FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT said in 1936 in Quebec City.
Props to PATRICK DION, KEVIN BOSCH, JEFF LABINE, DOUG RICE and ROBERT MCDOUGALL.
Today’s question: Name the current senator who is also a pediatrician and neonatologist.
Send your answers to [email protected]
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