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Canada will continue to help people in Afghanistan, ministers say


Welcome to The Hub’s Federal Election 2021 Policy Pulse, where we’ll be tracking all the policy announcements from the major parties, with instant analysis from our crew of experts.

With the election scheduled for Sept. 20, we’ll be monitoring 36 days worth of policy ideas, so watch out each morning for the day’s live blog where we’ll be tracking every announcement as it happens.

5:45 p.m. — Daily recap: Liberals promise to fund provincial vaccine passport systems

The Liberals promised to fund provincial vaccine passport systems and the Conservatives announced a plan for enhanced sickness benefits. Here’s the rundown, with more news and analysis below.

  • Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Mississauga to promise a $1 billion fund for provinces that create a vaccine passport system and $100 million to study the long-term health effects of COVID-19.
  • Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was in Newfoundland this morning to announce an increase in employment insurance sickness benefits. The current limit of 26 weeks will be boosted to 52 weeks, which will provide a safety net for people undergoing treatment for serious illness, said O’Toole.

4:15 p.m. — Canada will continue to help people in Afghanistan

Since yesterday’s deadly bombing, international evacuations have continued, especially by the US.

The count of people who died and injured In yesterday’s attack has been updated: more than 170 Afghans and other nationals, including 13 U.S. service members have died, and at least 180 people were injured.

U.S. President Joe Biden has been advised of more potential terrorist attacks as the mission comes to a rapid close.

Below are the updated approximate totals of evacuees per country:

  1. US: 105, 000+
  2. UK: 13,700+
  3. Germany: 5,347
  4. Italy: 5,011
  5. Australia: 4,100
  6. Canada: 3,700+
  7. France: 2,600+
  8. Netherlands: 2,500+
  9. Spain: 2,206
  10. Turkey: 1,400

In a press conference yesterday, Biden said the following: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” ISIS-K took responsibility for the bombing.

The President has since ordered the Pentagon to “develop operational plans to strike [ISIS-K] assets, leadership and facilities.”

It is believed the Taliban is not responsible for the attack. Questions now surround whether the US will work with the Taliban to target ISIS-K.

There are big challenges ahead including reports that al Qaeda operatives have been set free in recent weeks. At the moment, the Haqqani network, a group that mediates between al Qaeda affiliates and the Taliban, is highly influential in Kabul.

As for Canada, Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino told reporters that the government is “going to continue to exhaust every option” to help people to leave Afghanistan. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said Canada had secured 500 seats on an American airlift yesterday and are now out of Kabul.

Canada is working and coordinating with regional partners to put pressure on the Taliban to allow people to leave. The Canadian government has also expediate the visa process for Afghans who worked with the CAF. Mendocino stressed the visas that his department has approved for Afghans will remain valid, even if they are in a third country.

In an official statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the terror attack near Hamid Karzai International airport.

3:30 p.m. — Canada’s peacekeeping missions suffer from a lack of public attention, experts say

The Hub’s associate editor Amal Attar-Guzman looks at two of Canada’s major peacekeeping missions:

Canada’s peacekeeping missions in the Balkans are suffering from a lack of resources and public attention, argued foreign policy experts at a Macdonald-Laurier Institute webinar yesterday.

The panel explored concerns about the state of Canada’s interests in the Balkan region and threats directly posed by Russia and increasingly indirectly by China.

With these challenges, and as the U.S. is steadily pivoting its attention and resources away from the region, “Canada and its allies [will] need to pay closer attention to the region,” said Balkan Devlen, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who moderated the panel.

Currently, Canada is involved in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. Two main missions are in Latvia (Operation REASSURANCE) and Ukraine (Operation UNIFIER). In the former mission, Canada contributes in NATO collective defence and allied solidarity, and in Operation UNIFIER, Canada is involved in training of security services, democracy and governance, and institutional development. Canada is deeply invested in the missions, especially Ukraine, said Jill Sinclair, the Canadian representative to the Ukraine Defence Reform Advisory Board.

Despite some progress, there are still ongoing challenges. The first is the lack of resources and investment. Canada has shown commitment to Latvia and NATO but at the moment there is a need of greater capabilities, said Christian Leuprecht. With a lack of financial investment and resources, NATO and Canada cannot expand its capabilities and initiatives can only go so far.

The second challenge is the lack of Canadian public knowledge of these missions, said Roman Wachuk, the former Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine. Though very important, they do not garner the same amount of attention as immediate crises or disasters. Because these missions are running smoothly and are not new, they “do not attract policymakers and practitioners.” As a result, Canadian and Balkan interests are sidelined and as a result make them susceptible to Russian geopolitical threats.

The third challenge is the lack of concern about Russia’s attempts to subvert western democracies — from the 2016 U.S. presidential elections to COVID-19 disinformation operations in Canada, and ongoing activities in the Balkan states, such as the 2007 cyberattacks against Estonia, said Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

So, what can Canada do to defend its interests and protecting allies in the region? First, Canada can invest more money and resources to increase capabilities in peacekeeping missions and NATO. Second, the Canadian government can clearly express the geopolitical and moral importance of these missions to the Canadian public including why NATO matters for our national interests.

And third, Canada needs to do a much better job of learning from its eastern allies. These states, Ukraine and Latvia especially, face daily threats and constant attacks from Russia. Because of that, they are prepared to protect their institutions. Canada can learn a lot from them to protect its own democratic institutions at home.

With the current and upcoming challenges in mind, Canada and its allies must be prepared.

If you want to watch the full webinar, you can watch it here.

2:30 p.m. — Party leaders should move beyond the ‘incrementalism’ that has defined Indigenous policy

After a week-and-a-half of mostly flying under the radar, Indigenous issues are starting to get some attention on the campaign trail this week.

And with government buildings continuing to fly the Canadian flag at half-mast since unmarked graves were discovered outside a former Kamloops Residential School three months ago, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was asked when it might be time to raise them again.

“We as Canadians owe it to the families and to First Nations to provide a path to healing. It’s not a time to tear down Canada, it’s a time to recommit to build it to be the country we know it can be,” said O’Toole.

O’Toole said he has met with Indigenous leaders since becoming party leader and that, in government, reconciliation will be important to him.

The next government will need to make progress on a wide range of issues affecting Indigenous peoples including housing and infrastructure, education and employment.

A new report by Ken Coates, the Munk senior fellow in Aboriginal and Northern Canadian issues at Macdonald-Laurier Institute, sets out a framework for dealing with these issues that will “strive to move past the incrementalism that has defined Indigenous policy for generations.”

Some recommendations include:

  • Set all Indigenous policy under the common goal of improving government services and infrastructure to the national standard.
  • Commit to negotiating more self-government agreements with those communities that are interested in such arrangements.
  • Fundamentally overhaul the federal government’s approach to resolving legal disputes, seeking inspiration from solutions such as New Zealand’s Waitangi Tribunal.
  • Consider additional land and resource transfers to Indigenous peoples, as has already occurred in Northern Quebec, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.
  • Develop a fair and transparent process to better tie funding for Indigenous governments to the general development of the Canadian economy, with local Indigenous authorities ultimately setting priorities for how to allocate their own budgets.

It’s a radical change, but in the wake of the recent discoveries at residential school sites, Coates believes the country is ready for it.

1:00 p.m. — With vaccine passports on the way, who are the people who haven’t gotten shots?

L. Graeme Smith, The Hub’s content editor, takes a look at some polling on vaccine hesitancy:

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s promise of a $1 billion fund to help provinces and territories to create vaccine passport was presented as much as a way to induce the vaccine hesitant to get their jabs as it is to enable the vaccinated to go about their lives with minimal further restrictions.  

Currently, about 73 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose (and about 84 percent of eligible Canadians older than 12), and about 66 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated (and about 76 percent of eligible Canadians). After a slow start in our vaccine procurement efforts, these numbers are now the best in the G7. 

But who are those who have still not gotten their shots?

A Public Policy Forum report from May, Reaching the Vaccine Hesitant, provided data on who is likely to still be holding out, as well as insights on how we can better reach them. 

The study found that concern about COVID-19 was the highest single factor influencing vaccine willingness. Trust in institutions also matters, as those who exhibit signs of anti-intellectualism are markedly less likely to be willing to be vaccinated. Though comparatively smaller in effect, reading news about COVID-19 is positively associated with willingness to be vaccinated while being misinformed is negatively associated with willingness.

Overall, those with a higher income and/or more education are more willing to be vaccinated, as well as those living in urban areas (although the author notes that the effect of living in a rural place is measurably reduced once accounting for attitudinal differences between individuals).

Age is weakly correlated with willingness (with the higher age groups more willing), while being female is negatively correlated, particularly after taking account of non-demographic factors.

In addition, racialized people indicate a statistically significant lower willingness to be vaccinated than non-racialized people. 

What is the sum of these various demographic and other characteristics?

Bruce Anderson, of Abacus Data, has described the average vaccine hesitant Canadian as someone about age 42, who describes themselves as in the centre ideologically.

“If they were voting in a federal election today, 35 percent would vote Liberal, 25 percent Conservative, 17 percent NDP, 9 percent Green — pretty similar to overall voting intentions for the entire population. However, compared to the vaccinated, they don’t have a lot of trust in government,” Anderson wrote.

The Liberal Party’s focus on vaccine-related issues (including mandates and passports) seems to be banking on the public at large running out of patience and sympathy for those who are still unwilling. Recent data shows that may indeed be right.

Polling from the Angus Reid Institute highlights that three-quarters of Canadians (75 percent) say they have “no sympathy” for unvaccinated individuals who contract COVID-19. This number is 83 percent among fully vaccinated Canadians.

As for how to induce higher vaccination rates, again three-quarters of Canadians support the use of regulations — even including mandatory vaccinations in order to enter certain public spaces in their province — as a way to convince the unwilling. 

One-third (33 percent) of those who intend to support the Conservatives in the coming election, however, oppose the use of either incentives or regulations at all.

12:00 p.m. — Several provinces are tackling health-care backlogs with private options. The results are good

The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer takes a look at health-care backlogs after the pandemic:

Today Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau announced new, pandemic-related funding for the provinces and territories, including $100M to study the long-term health impacts of COVID-19.

While the pandemic will doubtless have various long-term effects (including for vulnerable populations and children as the Liberal policy backgrounder observes), one of the biggest may be to provincial and territorial health-care systems themselves in the form of significant, pandemic-induced backlogs.

These backlogs are a result of health authorities scaling back normal health-care services — including surgeries and testing — in order to dedicate attention and resources to COVID-19 caseloads. Some observers have described them as the “crisis behind the crisis.”

Take Ontario for instance. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario has estimated the province’s backlog may reach nearly 420,000 for surgical procedures and 2.5 million for diagnostic tests by next month.

But these numbers may not even tell the full story. As the pandemic subsides and people return to normal health-care consumption, we may discover “an invisible wait list” that results from delayed diagnosis, testing, and treatments. Consider, for instance, the Quebec government has reported a 24-percent drop in requests to be placed on a surgical wait list during the pandemic compared to a non-pandemic year.

Eliminating these backlogs will take years and cost billions of dollars. The risk is that, in the meantime, Canadians face significant health consequences in the form of delayed diagnoses and treatment, protracted suffering, and even death.

Several provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec, are leveraging private delivery options to augment the capacity of the public health-care system to reduce their surgical wait times.

Early signs are generally positive. The B.C. government, for instance, reported that as of March 2021, it had delivered surgeries to 97 percent of the 15,154 patients who surgeries were postponed during the first wave of COVID-19.

It is important to emphasize that this use of private health-care providers to boost provincial health-care capacity is being paid for by public insurance and isn’t compromising the principle of universality. That it involves a combination of governments from across the political spectrum (from the NDP in British Columbia to UCP in Alberta) is a sign that it’s being driven by pragmatic concerns rather than ideological ones.

This, of course, stands in stark contrast of the political rhetoric thus far on the federal election campaign which has suggested that any form of private service delivery ought to be fully prohibited from provincial and territorial health-care systems.

Perhaps one of the positive outcomes of the study proposed by the Liberal Party is that our federal party leaders would gain a better understanding of how provincial and territorial health-care systems work and well-regulated private health-care providers can be a boost, not a blow, to both the efficiency and equity of health care in Canada.

11:00 a.m. — Navigating the legal grey zone of vaccine mandates

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced a new fund to help the provinces create vaccine passports this morning. Although the passport model doesn’t quite go as far as a government-imposed vaccine mandate, it does raise one of the biggest questions remaining for a post-COVID world: how much of everyday life will involve showing proof of vaccination? And how would the courts feel about the imposition of vaccine mandates?

The short answer is that it’s complicated.

Earlier this month, Gerard Kennedy, an assistant professor in the faculty of the law at the University of Manitoba, explained the nuance behind the legality of vaccine mandates:

The number of Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 may be insufficient to guarantee a return to normal life. An obvious way to encourage higher vaccine take-up is restricting the liberty, including taking away the jobs, of the unvaccinated. But with few, if growing exceptions, politicians, as well as other decision-makers such as university presidents and business leaders, have been reluctant to pursue this route.

But this legal grey zone can become black-and-white. Governments can pass legislation, regulating use of vaccine mandates, noting where they are to be: mandatory (e.g., staff front-line heath care, elementary schools); permitted (most places); and prohibited (e.g., customers at grocery stores, pharmacies). Exceptions should, of course, be made for those who cannot be vaccinated, such as if they are too young, undergoing chemotherapy, or are otherwise immuno-compromised.

And this legislation should be crafted by invoking section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, also known as the “notwithstanding clause”.

Read the full column at The Hub.

9:40 a.m. — Trudeau promises $1 billion fund for provincial vaccine passport systems

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Mississauga this morning to promise a $1 billion fund for provinces that create a vaccine passport system. Trudeau also pledged $100 million to study the long-term health effects of COVID-19.

9:35 a.m. — O’Toole announces plan for enhanced sickness benefits

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was in Newfoundland this morning to announce an increase in employment insurance sickness benefits.

The current limit of 26 weeks will be boosted to 52 weeks, which will provide a safety net for people undergoing treatment for serious illness, said O’Toole.

7:00 a.m. — Where the leaders are today

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will make an announcement at 9 a.m. in Mississauga.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will be in Newfoundland to make an announcement at 11:00 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. ET).

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will be in Thunder Bay to make an announcement at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Canada’s evacuation mission in Afghanistan has ended


Welcome to The Hub’s Federal Election 2021 Policy Pulse, where we’ll be tracking all the policy announcements from the major parties, with instant analysis from our crew of experts.

With the election scheduled for Sept. 20, we’ll be monitoring 36 days worth of policy ideas, so watch out each morning for the day’s live blog where we’ll be tracking every announcement as it happens.

5:00 p.m.

5:00 p.m. — Daily recap: The Conservatives offer some relief for gig workers

The Conservatives tackled the gig economy, the Liberals made an appeal to seniors and the NDP kept its focus on housing. Here’s the rundown, with more news and analysis below.

  • Conservative leader Erin O’Toole would require gig-work companies to make contributions equivalent to CPP and EI premiums into a portable, tax-free savings account when they pay their workers. This money can be withdrawn by the worker at any time.
  • NDP leader Jagmeet Singh promised that an NDP government would double the first-time home buyers’ credit and turn it into a rebate, allowing home buyers to get the money immediately, rather than at tax time.
  • Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Quebec City this morning to announce a plan to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by up to $500 per year for Canadians aged 65 and older.

4:30 p.m. — Canada’s evacuation mission in Afghanistan has ended

Early this morning, it was announced that Canada’s evacuation mission in Afghanistan has ended. Overnight, an additional 1,000 were airlifted out — half by a Canadian C-17 and half by the US. With these new numbers, Gen. Wayne Eyre confirmed that over 3,700 Canadian citizens, permanent residents, Afghans, and other nationals have been evacuated by the CAF.

Below are the updated approximate totals of evacuees per country:

  1. United States: 95,700+
  2. UK: 11,000+
  3. Germany: 5,100+
  4. Italy: 4,400
  5. Australia: 4,000
  6. Canada: 3,700+
  7. France: 2,500+
  8. Netherlands: 2,500
  9. Spain: 1,584
  10. Turkey: 1,400

As observed from the figures above, Canada remains at 6th of 10 countries in total evacuations. Among G7 countries, Canada still remains at 5th place out of seven countries, only just ahead of France and Japan, with the latter only promising to evacuate 500 people from Afghanistan.

Last night, most CAF left Kabul. A small coordination team remained with allies on the ground and will stay there for a day or two.

Gen. Wayne Eyre said that the government “wished [they] could have stayed longer and rescued everyone who was so desperate to leave.” He added that Canadian personnel will have to reflect about their efforts in Afghanistan, but that Canadians still made a difference in the lives of thousands.

Despite the end of the mission, Canada will continue to help. A senior official from Global Affairs stated that the Canadian government will continue working closely with allies and other countries in the region to support Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and Afghans who had worked with Canadian military and governmental personnel.

Under a special Afghan immigration program, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada received 2,500 applications, including 8,000 people. Close to two-thirds of applications are processed and approved, and the rest will be finalized by immigration officials.

Hours after the announcement, an explosion went off outside of Kabul airport, as confirmed by Sec. of State John Kirby. A second explosion erupted near the Baron hotel, close to the airport. At least 60 Afghans and 12 U.S. service members were killed, and 15 others were injured. All CAF members are safe and accounted for.

It is believed that the Islamic State carried out the attacks.

Note: The evacuation numbers issued by France yesterday were incorrect. The correct numbers are now reflected in this list.

3:00 p.m. — Money for health care, and the autonomy that goes with it, tops Legault’s ‘grocery list’

Antonia Maioni, a professor at McGill University, looks at Quebec’s health-care wishlist:

Quebec Premier François Legault just presented his “grocery list” of issues to the federal political parties in this fall’s election race. To no one’s surprise, an increase in health care transfers tops the chart.

While this may be a common theme for provincial premiers, in Quebec’s case it means not just more money but, just as important, lots of autonomy.  Legault seemed to signal out Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s promise to dedicate money to hire more family doctors and nurses as absurd. And he has a point. Health care, whether in Quebec or elsewhere, is a primarily provincial jurisdiction.

The federal government can’t actually “hire” anyone to deliver care in provincially governed health care systems nor can they train doctors or nurses in provincially funded medical schools.  

Will it matter? The health care card has long been a winning hand for Liberal leaders in Ottawa. But, after a long pandemic experience in which Quebecers have relied on Legault’s CAQ government to bring them through this public health crisis, they may be more attentive to their premier’s wish list. And to the political party that can ensure not just money for health care but the autonomy that goes with it.   

2:00 p.m. — Conservative animal welfare policies are modest, but symbolically significant

The Hub contributor Dean Tester examines the Conservative animal welfare policies:

For the first time, Conservatives have included a plan for animals in their platform.

Since Boris Johnson became leader, the U.K. Conservatives have campaigned on animal protection. And it’s been a vote winner for them because it helps show the compassionate side of a party that is often branded as not. Their Action Plan for Animal Welfare has made them a world leader on the issue.

The Canadian Conservative proposals are very modest in comparison, but as a symbol, their plan is a huge step for animal welfare.

Their commitments include:

  • Cracking down on puppy mills and inhumane breeders;
  • Banning cosmetic testing on animals;
  • Strengthening the CFIA’s ability to enforce current regulations and seize animals imported under poor welfare conditions; and
  • Supporting the closure of global wildlife markets that increase the risks of future pandemics.

The plan mostly focuses on protecting pets and pet-owners. It largely ignores animal welfare issues in the domestic animal agriculture industry.

Nonetheless, they are the first party to release a plan for animal welfare — making them the leaders in this space in Canada.

This may not be a game changing policy in this election, but expect animal issues to get more attention over time. These issues play extremely well with pet owners — according to the Conservatives, over 90 percent of pet owners view their pets as a family member. But on a broader scale Canadians are also starting to recognize the damage being done by large-scale factory farming. Animal suffering is immense in the industry, and animal agriculture is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of climate change.

Elections in other countries have shown there is real value for politicians who campaign on protecting animals.

If the Conservatives and other parties want to do more, they should consider farmed animals. There would be considerable backlash from industry, but there are also many votes to win from those who care about animals. A more ambitious plan would likely resemble the U.K. Conservative plan.

Potential ideas include:

  • Ending live animal exports for slaughter
  • Increasing monitoring and penalties for animal cruelty on farms
  • Improving conditions for farmed animals, by setting minimum standards for journey times, space allowances, and temperature controls
  • Subsidies to help farmers transition from animal agriculture to plant-based farming

1:00 p.m. — On National Dog Day, take a deep dive into Conservative animal welfare policies

The Hub’s content editor L. Graeme Smith takes a look at the animal welfare section of the Conservative platform:

It is National Dog Day. How are you planning to celebrate? Ample pets, pats, scratches, walks, belly rubs, and treats, surely. Perhaps take the afternoon off and bask in the theatre glow of our country’s most popular pet-themed CanCon export. 

Or you could take the day to read the 160 page Conservative Party platform document. Sure, it may be a dog’s breakfast, but so far in this campaign only one party is looking to corner the Rufus, Spot, Daisy, and Bella constituency.

The platform contains a host of pooch-approved promises you may have missed, as well as a host of pledges to improve animal welfare, fight cruelty, and mitigate the abuse of both animals and humans. These include: 

  • Banning puppy mills 
  • Stopping unethical breeders and dealers from misleading the public by claiming to offer rescue animals or pets bred humanely when that isn’t the case. 
  • Banning the importation of animals bred inhumanely. 
  • Strengthening the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s ability to enforce current regulations and seize animals when imported under poor welfare conditions
  • Covering the cost of PTSD service dogs for veterans and creating training standards for them
  • Banning cosmetic testing on animals and amending the Food and Drug Act and its regulations to implement a ban modelled on the European Union ban
  • Addressing the links between violence against animals and violence against people, including providing $10 million per year to train judges and prosecutors on the links between violence against animals and violence against people
  • Increasing cross-reporting between animal welfare and child welfare agencies
  • Adding animal cruelty as an aggravating factor in domestic violence prosecutions to go after abusers who hurt their spouse by hurting their spouse’s pet
  •  Supporting pet owners fleeing violence by working with the sector to ensure that there are better options for women to leave abusive homes without having to abandon their pets
  • Supporting and encouraging the closure of poorly regulated wildlife markets globally that carry an elevated risk of becoming sources for future pandemics
  • Ending the importation of and trade in wild or exotic animals and their products that carry an elevated risk of spreading zoonotic diseases

We’ll have more analysis on the animal welfare side of the election campaign later this afternoon.

12:10 p.m. — Erin O’Toole announces Conservative plan for gig workers

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was in Ottawa this morning to make an announcement about the gig economy.

The Conservatives would require these companies to make contributions equivalent to CPP and EI premiums into a portable, tax-free savings account when they pay their workers. This money can be withdrawn by the worker at any time.

The Conservative platform says 1.7 million Canadians are currently engaged in this kind of work.

11:30 a.m. — Singh promises to double the first-time home buyers’ credit and turn it into a rebate

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was in Winnipeg today to talk about a familiar topic on the campaign trail: housing affordability.

Singh promised that an NDP government would double the first-time home buyers’ credit and turn it into a rebate, allowing home buyers to get the money immediately, rather than at tax time.

10:30 a.m. — Hub Dialogue: How your brain is constantly making predictions about the world

Looking for a break from the election campaign? In this Hub Dialogue, The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer speaks to Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of Seven and a Half lessons about the Brain.

Here’s an excerpt from the fascinating conversation. You can read the full discussion at The Hub.

Sean Speer

The book observes that most of the brain’s activities happen outside of our awareness. You even explain how the brain is constantly making predictions about what it expects to see – something you describe as “carefully controlled hallucinations.” How do our brains anticipate what’s going to happen or what will see next?

Lisa Feldman Barrett

As a person, if somebody told me, “You know, you’re not really reacting to stuff in the world, your brain is predicting everything,” I would be like, “What? How can you say that? That’s not my experience.”

But even as a really skeptical scientist, I experienced something really interesting when I was reading research in neuroanatomy. It suggested that the way a brain is structured is to predict what’s going to happen next. It’s not waiting to be stimulated by the world. It’s actually neurally-generating its own predictions, meaning it’s changing the firing of its own neurons, to anticipate sights, sounds, smells, and so on. At the same time, I was reading work in electrical engineering on signal processing, because the brain is a signal processor – there’s a lot of electrical drama going on in your neurons – and it suggested that the brain is predicting, not reacting. And I was reading other literatures that suggest prediction, too.

All these different literatures that don’t talk to or mention each other are pointing in the same direction, which is this really counterintuitive idea that brains are not structured and don’t function to react to things in the world, because that is metabolically inefficient. Instead, brains are structured to run an internal model of the world – to predict what to do next and what will be experienced next – and then adjust when that model is wrong.

10:00 a.m. — Trudeau announces boost to Guaranteed Income Supplement

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Quebec City this morning to announce a plan to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by up to $500 per year for Canadians aged 65 and older.

Trudeau also took the opportunity to highlight some previously announced policies, such as a pledge to double the home accessibility tax credit and a new tax credit for multi-generational home renovations.

8:30 a.m. — Our superficial debate about health care will only lead to more privatization

The Hub’s editor-at-large Sean Speer examines the debate around two-tier health care:

We’ve reached that predictable point in the federal election campaign when we have a superficial debate about the role of the private sector in Canada’s health-care system.

Earlier this week, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau accused Conservative leader Erin O’Toole of supporting “private, for-profit health care” and fact checkers and other journalists have since speculated that this could ultimately undermine Medicare.

There are various problems with this kind of analysis but let’s just unpack one: Canada’s Medicare model of compulsory, single payer insurance is already a hybrid model.

Single-payer insurance only covers “medically necessary” services that are narrowly defined as those provided by a physician or in a hospital. It doesn’t extend to other parts of Canadians’ health care including prescription drugs, long-term care, or home-care services. For these non-insured services, we have a combination of public subsidies (usually based on age or income level), employer-provided insurance, or out-of-pocket spending.

What portion of overall health care is covered by single-payer insurance? Less than half. The parts of the health-care system not subject to Medicare now represent about 55 percent of all health-care spending in Canada. (A big part of the explanation here is that prescription drugs surpassed doctor billings as the second-largest expenditure in the 1990s and have generally been the fastest-growing expenditure across the health-care system.)

One way to think of it as follows: Canada has 100-percent, first-dollar public coverage for physician and hospital services and a mostly private model for the majority of health-care spending such as drugs, dental and home care.

This two-tier design of our public health insurance makes us an outlier around the world. The Medicare system of public insurance can be characterized as a “mile deep and an inch wide.”

Most other countries with universal health coverage, by contrast, are able to provide some amount of public insurance across a broader range of health-care services by relying on a mix of cost-sharing (such as co-payments or co-insurance), regulation, and public subsidies for private insurance. These jurisdictions in effect have systems of public funding that are less deep than Canada’s but extend across a wide set of health-care services.

There are pros and cons of these different designs of public health insurance. The Canadian model may better protect against out-of-pocket spending for acute care but it’s less egalitarian in other areas because it dedicates so much of its resources to spending on hospital and doctors.

It would be useful for our political parties to debate these trade-offs and what, if any, adjustments that we ought to make to the Medicare model to improve its efficiency, equity and sustainability. I’ve previously written, for instance, in favour of amending the Canada Health Act to enable means-tested co-payments for hospital and doctors services and in turn redirecting some of the fiscal savings to expand public support for drug coverage.

The political rhetoric thus far in the campaign though suggests that such a reasoned and dispassionate debate is unlikely and Medicare will remain unchanged from its current form.

This could produce an ironic outcome: all things being equal, Canada’s Medicare model is likely to become more private and less public over time due to a combination of its two-tier design and health-care consumption patterns — namely, the projected growth of prescription drug and long-term care spending over the coming years due to aging demographics.

The result could be that, for all of the talk about the ills of private health care, our inability to have something beyond a superficial debate about these issues may ultimately lead to the precise problem that the party leaders claim they want to solve.

7:00 a.m. — Where the leaders are today

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will be in Quebec City to make an announcement about seniors at 9 a.m.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will be in Ottawa to make an announcement at 12 p.m.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will make an announcement on housing at 9:30 a.m. local time in Winnipeg (10:30 a.m. ET).