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Quebec vows to hold out as provinces sign health deals with Ottawa

CANADIAN NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW

The Liberal government has approved the sale of a large chain of B.C. retirement homes to a Chinese insurance giant with a murky ownership structure. U.S. regulators have tried to probe the company, but questions have not been resolved about who really owns it and whether it has ties to the Chinese state. A spokesperson for the federal department responsible for the approval said they had no national security concerns with the deal.

The Ontario government is calling on Ottawa to get rid of preliminary inquiries in a bid to speed up the court system. Ontario Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi says he wants to convene a meeting with his provincial counterparts so they can figure out how to properly respond to a Supreme Court ruling that set strict time limits on court proceedings.

The Canada Revenue Agency will start recording the fingerprints of anyone charged with tax evasion – even if they aren't convicted – and sharing them with police and foreign agencies.

The federal government doesn't really have a plan to deal with an influx of refugees coming across the Canada-U.S. border, though border agencies are moving staff around to compensate.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland insists Canada will not sell out Mexico during free-trade talks with the U.S. "The United States does not even have a team in place to begin those negotiations. So let's not put the cart before the horse," she said.

Former diplomats tell The Hill Times that it is "impossible" for a single person to do an adequate job as ambassador to both the European Union and Germany – a dual role that Stephane Dion is about to take on.

As the Canada-EU trade deal begins to take effect this year, the federal government is investing in a new fisheries innovation fund to help Atlantic industries adapt to the new market.

The government has set aside about $545-million to finance deals reached with unions that represent about three-quarters of public employees.

The Liberals have defeated a Conservative motion condemning racism so they can pass their own version, which highlights Islamophobia.

In the Conservative leadership race, Kevin O'Leary is both the most well known and the most disliked candidate, according to an Abacus Data poll.

And a CBC count shows that Liberal MPs vote unanimously about 79 per cent of the time. The governing party's solidarity is comparable to the Conservatives while they were in power, according to a Globe analysis at the time.

ISSUE BRIEFING: HEALTH DEALS

By Gloria Galloway

The federal health minister says she is getting better value for Canadians as her Liberal government strikes consecutive 10-year deals with provinces and territories on health-care funding.

After federal and provincial ministers failed to come to a national deal on health care in December, Ottawa has signed individual agreements with provinces and territories that will see federal transfers increase by a minimum of 3 per cent annually over the next decade – down from 6 per cent – plus additional new money for home care, mental health, and a side deal or two.

Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta are the remaining holdouts as federal officials hold closed-door negotiations to convince provinces to take what is being offered in time for their upcoming budgets.

British Columbia signed last Friday and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has indicated that her province is getting close.

Jane Philpott, the federal health minister, said Tuesday she does not understand why any jurisdiction would be surprised if Quebec's resolve does not quickly fade.

"It would be weird to me that a province would be offered significant amounts of money – in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars – and not want to access those resources to be able to improve care," Dr. Philpott said of Quebec. "So I certainly will be surprised if we're not able to reach an agreement soon."

The federal plan to invest more money into the targeted areas of mental health and home care could defray future costs and lead to care that's more effective even if it costs less, she said. "We know that there's a certain amount of waste in health systems and people aren't always getting value for money," Dr. Philpott said.

Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Tuesday that he is disappointed to see the provinces fall away, one by one, from the unanimity they professed when health-care talks with the federal government broke down before Christmas.

"I know precisely why those agreements were signed and they were all either under pressure, threats, or side deals," Dr. Barrette told reporters.

"So we will see what will happen in the near future and the future is getting closer and closer since we all have to table budgets," he said. "They, in Ottawa, do not care about Canadians and they are prepared to reduce their participation in health care and the consequence to that is that we will have less access. It's simple as plain daylight."

U.S. NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW

The White House has greatly increased the number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, who will be targeted for deportation. Immigration officers will have greatly expanded powers to enforce one of Mr. Trump's signature campaign promises, leaving heavily-immigrant communities bracing themselves for a new crackdown

After a rise in hate crimes targeting the Jewish community, Mr. Trump says anti-Semitism is "horrible." The President's relationship with the community hasn't been easy recently:

He was criticized for his interactions with a Jewish reporter and for not mentioning Jewish victims in the White House's statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Mr. Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon, formerly the CEO of Breitbart, has previously been accused of holding anti-Semitic views.

Have $200,000 (U.S.) lying around? You, too, could be a member of Mr. Trump's high-end country club, Mar-a-Lago. The 'Southern White House' has doubled its membership fees since the election, with the presidency being used as a value-add for prospective members.

Campaigning for special elections (the American equivalent of by-elections) has already begun. The five expected contests vary in their expected level of competitiveness as well as their geography.

And if you've been wondering what Mr. Trump did during his first month in office, you finally have your answer. The Washington Post did an hour-by-hour tracking of what he's been up to. According to their analysis, Mr. Trump spent more time tweeting than in intelligence briefings.

LUNCHTIME LONG READ

Tim Hortons has an unusual place in our national psyche: a private company whose perfectly unremarkable coffee and doughnuts are up there with Mounties and moose as a symbol of Canadiana for many of us. But, as Marina Strauss writes in Report on Business Magazine, new corporate owners are purging the backrooms and seeking new mergers to increase Timmy's bottom line. It may only be a matter of time before the behind-the-scenes drama spills out into your double-double. "You can't cost-cut your way to retail nirvana," one analyst said.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "At the moment, Canada has a don't ask, don't tell policy for asylum seekers who cross the U.S. border: If they don't ask to come in, we won't tell them to go home. That loophole has existed for 13 years but more people are using it now – as more asylum seekers in the U.S., worried that President Donald Trump's policies will mean they can't stay, seek refuge in Canada. And the bigger numbers make it a much bigger problem."

Globe editorial board: "What has Ottawa got in place to deal with a flood of humanity probing the world's longest unprotected border? Do we have the manpower and resources to handle it?"

Chris Selley (National Post): "Private members' motions compel the government to do precisely nothing. They are not the soil in which legislation grows, nor are they fertilizer. They are farts in the wind. And on thorny issues like Islamophobia or Israel or transgender rights, their primary purpose is often to expose one's political opponents as holding unsuitable positions and then denounce them."

Jeet Heer (The New Republic): "If Trump continues to campaign as president, the normal moderating effects of assuming high office won't materialize. By holding rallies, he can refuel the resentment and anger that brought him into power, while also avoiding the sobering effect of office. He is still drunk on his popularity, limited though it is."

Lawrence Martin (Globe and Mail): "Our leaders' relations with Russian bosses have often been good. Mr. Mulroney went hunting with Boris Yeltsin. They shot wild boar. Pierre Trudeau struck up a secret back-door channel to Soviet ambassador Alexander Yakovlev, who, profiting from his Canadian experience, became Mikhail Gorbachev's top strategist in taking down totalitarianism. But it's so different now. In dealing with Moscow and Washington, precedent can be thrown to the dogs."

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Written by Chris Hannay and Mayaz Alam.

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