Federal Government Stories: 1) Arctic sovereignty anchors federal plans to upgrade Canada’s military; 2) Federal minister says nuclear power is key part of renewable energy expansion; 3) Conservative motion calls for PM, premiers to have ’emergency’ carbon price meeting; 4) Health minister compares dentists’ ‘fears’ on dental-care program to medicare rollout

1) Arctic sovereignty anchors federal plans to upgrade Canada’s military

April 8, 2024, Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Source Canadian Press

By Sarah Ritchie

Defence Minister Bill Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are releasing the long-awaited update to Canada’s defence policy in Trenton, Ont. Blair speaks during a media availability in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, March 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Updated April 8, 2024 @ 2:41pm

Canada’s military will take a bigger role in the North over the next two decades as climate change and increasingly aggressive foes threaten Arctic sovereignty, says a new defence policy document released Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was flanked by Defence Minister Bill Blair, Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland as he announced the policy at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. 

“Climate change is rapidly reshaping Canada and reshaping our North,” Trudeau said. 

The government is planning to buy new vehicles adapted to the frozen conditions in the North, along with building an Arctic satellite ground station and setting up northern operations hubs. 

In addition to air and land, Canada needs to be prepared to defend itself under the ice, the document said. 

Back in 2021, the Royal Canadian Navy launched a long-anticipated push to replace the country’s four Victoria-class submarines, which will reach the end of their lifespan in the mid-2030s.

The updated defence policy calls for the purchase of conventionally powered submarines — but the prime minister left the door open Monday to a nuclear-powered option.

“That is certainly what we will be looking at, as to what type of submarines are most appropriate for Canada’s responsibility in protecting the longest coastline in the world, and certainly the longest Arctic coastline in the world,” he said.

Along with that, Trudeau said Canada is exploring the possibility of joining the second phase of AUKUS, the U.S.-led alliance with the United Kingdom and Australia.

The initial pillar of the alliance was focused on developing nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. Its second phase is focused on advanced capabilities like quantum computing, AI and cyber technologies.

The Canadian Armed Forces is setting up a new Cyber Command, which will see the military work with the Communications Security Establishment.

In all, the “Our North, Strong and Free” policy will boost military spending to 1.76 per cent of GDP by 2030. 

That includes setting aside another $8.1 billion over the next five years and spending $73 billion by 2044. 

It allocates $9.5billion over 20 years to start ramping up production of artillery ammunition, $307 million for early-warning aircraft and $2.7 billion to buy long-range missiles. It projects that annual defence spending will have doubled between 2016 to 2026.

All of that still leaves Canada shy of the minimum 2 per cent the NATO allies agreed to spend last July. NATO’s latest figures show Canada is spending 1.33 per cent of GDP on defence and is lagging behind a growing number of countries.

But the cost of buying those new submarines is not yet calculated, Trudeau said, noting the total spend will increase.

The U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, said the policy “appears to articulate a substantial down payment toward Canada’s pledge to meet its NATO commitment.”

The Liberals first promised an updated defence policy more than two years ago, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

It comes at a time when persistent recruitment and retention problems that have plunged the Armed Forces into a personnel crisis, with more than 16,000 positions unfilled. Another 10,000 troops lack adequate training to deploy. 

“Over the past number of years, more people have left than have joined the Canadian Armed Forces, and we’ve done a pretty deep dive into why that’s happening,” Blair said.

The government has pinpointed some of the factors that are keeping Canadians from donning a military uniform: “The burden of frequent postings, a lack of spousal employment opportunities, limited access to health and childcare, an oversaturated housing market, and high costs associated with relocation.”

The government plans to launch a Canadian Armed Forces housing strategy, at a cost of $295 million over 20 years, and to spend $100 million over five years to improve access to child care for military members as a way to tackle those issues. 

It’s also pledging to reform recruitment processes and speed them up, while examining ways to ease some medical requirements if possible.

In a statement, the federal Conservatives called the plan desperate and criticized the plan to spend the bulk of the money in later years.

“Trudeau is once again kicking the can down the road by committing most of the defence spending in today’s announcement until after the next election,” defence critic James Bezan said in a statement. 

Defence officials say they’re reviewing defence procurement, a long-standing issue, with the aim of streamlining it. The policy notes that during consultations, the defence industry said it needed to reset its relationship with government. 

“Industry and experts also called for faster and more flexible defence procurement, secure supply chains, and investments to modernize defence infrastructure,” the document said. 

The government is also committing to reviewing its defence policy every four years. 

2) Federal minister says nuclear power is key part of renewable energy expansion

April 6, 2024, Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian Press

By Chuck Chiang

The federal minister responsible for innovation and industry says Canada could be at risk of losing out on attracting green industries globally if it does not consider all options for expanding renewable power generation, including nuclear plants. Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne speaks with reporters as he makes his way to cabinet, Tuesday, March 19, 2024, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The federal minister responsible for innovation and industry says Canada could be at risk of losing out on attracting green industries if it doesn’t consider all options for renewable electricity, which he says include nuclear power.

François-Philippe Champagne said in an interview with The Canadian Press that he considers nuclear power part of the renewable energy portfolio that needs to grow to support the country’s lean into “the economy of the 21st century.”

“Nuclear, definitely,” Champagne said on Friday. “For me, we have to look at hydro, we have to look at nuclear, we have to look at small modular reactors, we have to look at wind, we have to look at solar.”

Small modular reactors are a type of advanced nuclear power plant that the International Atomic Energy Agency says can be prefabricated and shipped to sites unsuited to larger conventional reactors. The federal government has previously said it wants to become “a global leader in SMR deployment.”

“I can tell you when investors are calling me, they are not looking for subsidies,” said Champagne. “They are looking for renewable energy, they’re looking for talent, they’re looking for the right ecosystem, they’re looking for access to market. So, I would say that today, renewable energy is key to attracting investment, and that’s why we’re going to be there.”

Canada has announced a number of new investments designed to integrate into global green supply chains in recent years. They include a billion-dollar battery plant expansion in Maple Ridge, B.C., that was unveiled last November and is aimed at producing up to 135 million batteries a year.

Officials from battery maker E-One Moli said one of the reasons its Taiwanese parent company chose Canada for the expansion is the availability of sustainably produced electricity.

3) Conservative motion calls for PM, premiers to have ’emergency’ carbon price meeting

April 9, 2024, Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian Press

By Mickey Djuric

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre talks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Poilievre says his argument to get rid of the carbon price on pollution has the upper hand with Canadians, as the Tories look to garner support from other parties. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Updated April 9, 2024 @ 4:26pm

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is challenging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to defend his carbon pricing policy in a televised “emergency meeting” with the country’s premiers.

The Conservatives introduced a motion Tuesday demanding that Trudeau sit down with provincial and territorial leaders within five weeks.

MPs are expected to vote on the motion Wednesday. 

Poilievre said he believes Trudeau is “too scared” to hold the televised meeting because he knows the Liberal government is losing the carbon pricing debate.

“Trudeau is in hiding,” Poilievre said Tuesday. 

“There’s going to be a carbon tax election, and whether Trudeau hides from me or not, he’s going to have to face me in a carbon tax election.” 

The Conservatives insist the carbon price is making life less affordable for Canadians, while the Liberals say their rebate scheme means most Canadians actually end up with more money at the end of the day.

Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden responded to Poilievre’s motion in the House of Commons by calling him a “petrol puppet” who is campaigning for Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and oil and gas companies.

4) Health minister compares dentists’ ‘fears’ on dental-care program to medicare rollout

Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian Press

April 10, 2024, By Canadian Press Staff

Minister of Health Mark Holland speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Canada’s health minister says the “concerns and fears” dentists are expressing about his government’s new dental care plan are similar to the ones doctors had when the country launched Medicare decades earlier. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Health Minister Mark Holland says “concerns and fears” dentists are expressing about a national dental-care plan are similar to those doctors had when Canada launched medicare in the 1960s.

He is defending his government’s back-and-forth negotiations with dentists after dental associations said some of their members are hesitant to participate.

The program is expected to provide dental coverage to uninsured families who earn a household income of under $90,000. 

It is being rolled out in phases, beginning with the eldest Canadians and expanding to all seniors 65 and older in May, when applicants are expected to begin receiving coverage. 

The program, which the government forecasts will cost $13 billion over five years, is a key part of the Liberals’ political pact with the NDP. 

Dentists and hygienists’ associations have raised concerns about Ottawa’s pay structure, saying the proposed fees are lower than what patients are currently being billed. 

Patricia Dent

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