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A lot of Jason Kenney’s claims about the oil and gas industry are cherry-picked, misleading or wrong

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If there’s one topic Jason Kenney loves to talk about, it’s the oil industry.

And understandably so.

Oil, of course, is a major driver of Alberta’s economy. Despite tens of thousands of layoffs in recent years, the industry remains a massive employer. Until royalties shrivelled in the wake of the latest downturn, it was a substantial source of direct revenue for the provincial treasury. Hopes of ever balancing Alberta’s budget remain pinned on those royalties bouncing back, to some degree, at some point in the future.

So it’s no wonder the Alberta premier makes oil such a frequent topic of conversation.

But some of Kenney’s recent comments about the size, scale and state of the industry have raised eyebrows among people who closely follow these things. And comparing the premier’s rhetoric to the available evidence doesn’t always result in a perfect match.

Kenney has made some strong claims that, when scrutinized, appear less than accurate. When traced to their source, some of the numbers he likes to cite seem exaggerated, cherry-picked or rounded up. Others look better, however, under the light of external evidence. And much of that evidence comes from one of Kenney’s frequent foils — the federal government.

In general terms, there’s little doubt about the overall point the premier so often makes: oil continues to be a major component of not just the provincial economy but Canada’s economy as well. And despite the headwinds the industry faces, it will likely remain that way for some time to come.

The devil comes in the details.

Here are some recent examples.

Claim: ‘Canada’s largest industry — the energy sector’

Kenney made this claim, most recently, after the federal throne speech.

In a written statement issued to the media, the premier said the speech failed to recognize “the crisis facing Canada’s largest industry — the energy sector that supports 800,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First off, the language. “Energy” and “oil” are often used interchangeably in Alberta, but Kenney’s choice of words here is important. What, exactly, does he mean by “the energy sector,” and where is he getting these numbers from?

The premier’s issues manager, Matt Wolf, referred that question to Alberta’s energy ministry, who referred detailed questions to the Canadian Energy Centre (commonly known as the “war room“), which said it took its definition of “energy” from Natural Resources Canada.

“This includes oil and gas extraction and support activities, utilities, petroleum and coal products manufacturing and pipelines, warehousing and transportation support activities, renewables and utilities,” Mark Milke, the Canadian Energy Centre’s research director, said in an email.

Specifically, he cited this section of the Natural Resources Canada website, which indeed supports Kenney’s claim about jobs: “In 2018, Canada’s energy sector directly employed more than 282,000 people and indirectly supported over 550,500 jobs.”

Add that up, and you get 832,500 jobs — slightly more than the 800,000 figure Kenney cited.

But does that make the energy sector Canada’s largest industry?

It’s more difficult to see how the premier arrives at that conclusion, as other industries employ far more people. Nearly 1.6 million people worked in the manufacturing sector last year, according to Statistics Canada data. And more than 2.8 million people worked in wholesale and retail trade.


Of course, there’s more to an industry than the number of people it employs and, in terms of productivity, fossil fuels have made an outsized contribution to the national economy. Mining, oil and gas contributed more than $200 in value added to Canada’s GDP per hour worked, according to a 2016 paper by University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, making it by “far and away the most productive sector in the Canadian economy.”

When you add up all the direct and indirect economic activity of the “energy sector” as a whole, it represented 11.1 per cent of Canada’s total GDP in 2018, according to Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Fact Book.

So does this make it Canada’s largest industry?

It’s hard to say definitively. Not only are there different ways of defining the industry; there are also different ways of measuring and reporting GDP.

According to this data from Statistics Canada and its definitions, the “energy sector” accounted for 9.4 per cent of GDP in 2018, which was less than manufacturing (10.4 per cent) and real estate (12.6 per cent). And remember, the “energy sector” includes more than just fossil fuels. Taken alone, mining and oil and gas extraction were 8.1 per cent of GDP.

Crude oil, by itself, accounted for 2.8 per cent of national GDP, according to the Natural Resources Canada accounting.

 

A chart outlining contributions from the ‘energy sector’ to the national economy. (Natural Resources Canada)

 

In the past, Kenney has often referred to oil as Canada’s largest export industry, which is certainly borne out by international trade data.

When speaking off the cuff, this could perhaps be accidentally shortened to just “industry.” But in written remarks like Kenney provided on this topic, it’s harder to see how the claim is justified.

Claim: ‘Even conservative estimates … show the global demand for oil increasing over the next 20 years’

Kenney made this claim in a recent tweet.

And on that point, Sara Hastings-Simon says the premier is simply wrong.

“That’s not what the estimates say,” said Hastings-Simon, who works as a senior researcher with the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines and a research fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

There is “obviously a lot of uncertainty” in the various models that estimate future oil demand, she said, and there is a wide range of educated guesses about when peak oil consumption will arrive.

“But if you look at the set of the most ‘conservative’ estimates — meaning, the closest the peak could be — there are estimates that the peak has already passed,” she said.

BP Energy, notably, came out with one of those estimates in mid-September. In one of three scenarios the company examined, which assumes more aggressive climate-change actions by governments around the world, 2019 marked the year the world consumed the most oil.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which Kenney has described as “the leading global think-tank on these issues,” has also come out with recent estimates which suggest peak oil could be coming soon, if it hasn’t already arrived.

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2019 outlined a future in which “oil demand growth is robust to 2025, but growth slows to a crawl thereafter.” This was under its “stated policies scenario,” which assumes “existing policy frameworks and today’s announced policy intentions” from governments around the world.

Under its “Sustainable Development Scenario,” which assumes an “unprecedented scale, scope and speed of changes in the energy landscape,” the IEA sees “a very different picture,” one in which “demand soon peaks” and drops to less than 67 million barrels per day in 2040. That’s down about 33 per cent from 2019 levels.

Kenney himself, seemed to contradict his own tweet. When he addressed the same topic in person at a press conference in late September, he selected more nuanced words.

 

The Alberta premier talks about how much oil the world might need in the future. 0:56

“Every major expert in energy consumption projects that there will be substantial consumption and demand for oil and gas for decades to come,” Kenney told reporters.

You’ll note the different phrasing here: There’s quite a difference between decades of “substantial” consumption and decades of “increasing” consumption.

Kenney went on to acknowledge that the IEA’s “most bearish scenario” sees global oil demand shrinking substantially by 2040.

Claim: ‘The transportation sector is not where most oil is consumed’

Kenney made this claim in response to a question about how demand for Alberta oil might be affected by plans in places like California to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars by as early as 2035.

“First of all, the transportation sector is not where most oil is consumed,” the premier said at the same press conference.

 

The Alberta premier makes an assertion about how much oil is consumed for transportation purposes. 0:07

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says otherwise.

“The transportation sector accounts for the largest share of U.S. petroleum consumption,” the EIA says on its website.

To be precise, it estimates that transportation accounted for 68 per cent of end-use U.S. petroleum consumption in 2019.

In Canada, the numbers are similar. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says 65 per cent of oil is used for transportation, “including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.”

And globally, transportation accounted for the majority of liquid fuel consumption in 2018, according to data from BP Energy.

Overstating vs. underestimating

Some of these claims in the recent press conference could have been genuine mistakes. Kenney was speaking in an impromptu way, in response to a reporter’s question, at the tail end of a lengthy series of remarks. It’s harder to understand the numbers in his written statements the same way.

But even if Kenney is exaggerating some of these figures, a close look at the data makes clear the magnitude of the oil industry in Canada. And the general point the Alberta premier is trying to make is not out of line with what the federal government is doing with its own reports: both are highlighting the significant economic role the industry plays.

Natural Resources Canada isn’t the only federal organization pointing this out. Just last week, the Parliamentary Budget Office released its latest economic and fiscal outlook, which included an economic damage report, of sorts, on the first half of 2020.

It blamed “the sharp contraction in the Canadian economy” on the public-health restrictions due to COVID-19 and “the record collapse in oil prices.”

Taken together, the PBO says the “pandemic and oil price shocks” are expected to have “a permanent impact on the Canadian economy,” pushing real GDP 3.6 per cent lower by the end of next year, and 1.6 per cent lower by the end of 2024, compared to its outlook from November 2019.

Oil may not be largest industry in the nation, but it’s big enough to drag down the national economy when it goes through tough times. It may not be the largest employer, but it’s the most productive. Demand for oil may not grow for much longer, but the world will almost certainly consume tens of millions of barrels daily for decades to come.

So while the Alberta premier may overstate the importance of the oil industry in Canada, it’s important to not underestimate it, either. At the same time, a realistic assessment of its future may foresee better days ahead while also expecting the best days have likely already come and gone.

Source: – CBC.ca

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The United States must stick to a two-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post.

Fauci said delaying a second dose to inoculate more Americans creates risks. COVID-19 has claimed more than half a million lives in the United States, and states are clamouring for more doses to stem cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Fauci’s remarks come as different jurisdictions — including several Canadian provinces — consider extending the interval between the two doses.

The U.S. expert warned that shifting to a single-dose strategy for the vaccines could leave people less protected, enable variants to spread and possibly boost skepticism among Americans already hesitant to get the shots.

“There’s risks on either side,” Fauci was quoted as saying by the Washington Post in a report published late on Monday.

He said that he spoke with U.K. health officials on Monday. Health officials there have decided to offer people their second dose of its approved COVID-19 vaccines 12 weeks after they receive their first jab.

“We agreed that there is a risk of making things worse by doing that — balanced against the risk of not getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as you can,” Fauci told the Post.

He said the science does not support delaying a second dose for those vaccines, citing research that a two-shot regimen creates enough protection to help fend off variants of the coronavirus that are more transmissible, whereas a single shot could leave Americans at risk from variants such as the one first detected in South Africa.

“You don’t know how durable that protection is,” he said.

Fauci has encouraged Americans to accept any of the three available COVID-19 vaccines, including the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot.

The U.S. government authorized Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, making it the third to be available in the country following the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that require two doses.

Health Canada has not yet approved the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine but did recently approve the two-dose product from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, bringing the number of vaccines approved for use in Canada to three.

B.C. to delay 2nd dose 

Fauci’s comments to the Post about the two-dose regime were reported the same day as an announcement from British Columbia’s provincial health officer about a change in dose timing.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months as it ramps up its age-based immunization plan to free up doses so all residents could get their initial shot by July.

Henry said Monday the change is based on the “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.’s decision, which is also based on similar data from Quebec and countries including Israel and the United Kingdom. 

“The important thing that we have learned is that these vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection, and that protection lasts for many months,” Henry said on Monday. “Extending this second dose provides very high, real-world protection to more people, sooner.”

In Canada, the current recommendations advise intervals from three to 12 weeks between the first and second vaccine dose, depending on the product.

Ontario, meanwhile, is asking the federal government if it can extend the interval between the first and second dose of its COVID-19 vaccines to four months.

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones made the request Monday in a joint statement. They said there is growing evidence to suggest that the intervals between the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be safely extended.

Prince Edward Island is also looking at delaying the second dose of the vaccine, Premier Dennis King said.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I’s chief public health officer, said at a briefing on Tuesday that the province plans to offer every Islander over the age of 16 a single dose of vaccine by the end of June.

Morrison said this approach would allow the province to achieve herd immunity more quickly and protect more residents from COVID-19.

“If all adults are vaccinated with one dose by July 1st, we will have a better summer than last year,” she said.

WATCH | Canada’s chief science adviser talks about B.C.’s plan:

In response to B.C. extending the gap between first and second doses, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor says “partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of. And it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.” 2:18

Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, however, told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos on Monday that the studies so far and the “vast majority” of the data on the Pfizer and Moderna products “are from studies where they were given three to four weeks apart, not three to four months apart.”

Nemer cited concerns about a lack of data and variants of the virus, saying that “it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert and member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, said Tuesday that given the current public health emergency, people should expect to see more debate about how far the second dose can be extended. 

There is “emerging data from multiple sources, from multiple groups, that do demonstrate that it is OK to extend the second dose,” Bogoch told CBC’s Heather Hiscox. He pointed to Ontario as an example, saying the second doses of Pfizer and Moderna shots were delayed by up to 42 days in certain cohorts. 

WATCH | Public needs open, honest discussion to maintain trust in vaccines, says specialist:

Open communication about evolving decisions around COVID-19 vaccinations is very important to keep public trust, says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 task force. 8:14

-From The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:10 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 871,596 cases of COVID-19, with 30,198 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,036.

In Quebec, health officials reported 588 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 628, with 121 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

Ontario on Tuesday reported 966 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital stood at 677, with 284 in intensive care units.

In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — including two cases of the B117 variant. The province is currently in a circuit-breaker lockdown as it tries to clamp down on two clusters of cases, one in Summerside and one in Charlottetown.

WATCH | Vaccine advisory committee contradicts Health Canada on AstraZeneca vaccine:

Just days after Health Canada approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for all adults over 18, a committee that advises the federal government on immunization says it shouldn’t be given to people over 65. 3:30

Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both reported one new case.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 — its lowest daily case number in months — and one additional death on Monday. In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.

Alberta, meanwhile, reported 291 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Monday. The province is easing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor fitness centres and libraries.

However, it is delaying lifting measures for hotels, banquet halls, community halls and conference centres. Premier Jason Kenney says there has been a sharp decline in hospitalizations and cases in long-term care homes. However, he said caution is needed because the test positivity rate and cases of new, more transmissible variants are rising.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 1,428 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday to Monday, for a total of 80,672 cases in the province since the pandemic began.

Across the North, there was one new case reported in Nunavut and no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories or Yukon.

Here’s a look at what else is happening across the country:

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 114.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 64.6 million of the cases listed on the Johns Hopkins database as recovered. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million, the U.S.-based university reported.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China aims to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population by the end of July, a senior health adviser said, requiring a significant increase in shots even as it ramps up vaccine exports.

Indonesia says it has detected two cases of the more infectious variant first identified in Britain.

A medical officer prepares a dose of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination program on Tuesday in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

South Korea’s decision to allow more doses to be extracted from vaccine vials sparked controversy as it ramped up its vaccinations of health-care workers and the elderly.

In the Americas, Ecuador named a new health minister, after the previous minister resigned following accusations of irregularities in a vaccination pilot program.

Argentina received 732,500 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, while Nicaragua is set to begin its inoculation campaign on Tuesday.

Colombia on Monday became the first country in the Americas to receive a vaccine shipment from the UN-backed COVAX initiative.

Brazilian health officials are urging nationwide lockdowns and curfews because hospitals are running short of intensive-care unit beds as COVID-19 claims more than 1,000 lives each day in the country.

“The return of the pandemic in several states is making their private and their public assistance networks collapse and has brought imminent risk of spreading it to all regions of Brazil,” Brazil’s National Council of Health Secretaries said Monday, noting that the nation is experiencing its worst moment since the pandemic began.

In the Middle East, Iraq received its first 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has announced that Muslims who want to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage this year will need to prove that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The government says it will consider coronavirus vaccination as “the main condition for participation” in the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims who can are obliged to make once in their lives.

The statement did not specify whether the hajj, which traditionally draws some two million Muslims from across the world, would again exclude pilgrims from outside the kingdom to prevent contagion.

In Europe, Spain’s jobless total reached four million in February, as COVID-19 restrictions led to the first month of job destruction since last May.

Austria’s leader says his country and Denmark intend to stop relying solely on the European Union for coronavirus vaccines and will work with Israel to produce second-generation vaccines.

A worker tests a French national going to Germany at the German-French border near Saarbrucken on Tuesday. Germany announced Sunday that travellers from France’s northeastern Moselle region will face additional restrictions because of the high rate of variant coronavirus cases there. (Jean-Francois Badias/The Associated Press)

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz plans to visit Israel with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Thursday and confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on vaccine research and production co-operation.

Serbia’s epidemiologists have called for the government to introduce a state of emergency and a strict lockdown to halt a surge in coronavirus infections in the Balkan country.

The numbers of daily new cases have been rising sharply in the nation of seven million despite a mass inoculation campaign that has reached one million people already.

Chief epidemiologist Predrag Kon on Tuesday told the state RTS television that “we must ban contacts or we will break, and then realize what it means when the health system collapses.”

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET

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Why Canada's pandemic experience has been easier than some – CBC.ca

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Although difficult months remain ahead — especially for poorer countries lacking the resources to buy vaccines — the end of the coronavirus pandemic in the developed world is now in sight.

Virus variants remain an unpredictable element but trendlines suggest that the great majority of deaths anticipated in developed countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic have occurred already.

The range of impacts on different countries can be seen in the statistics as the first full year of the pandemic draws to a close.

These statistics compare how Canada has fared to the experiences of five other Western countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.

When historians look back on this pandemic, the first yardstick they’ll apply to measure its severity is, of course, the number of people it killed.

How bad did it get?

The United States is now coming down from its third wave of COVID infections. Canada has only had two so far. The peak came at different times in different places — but each of the six countries in this comparison experienced one week that was worse than any other.

In France and Italy, the pandemic peaked in November 2020, but in North America and the U.K. the first two weeks of 2021 were the worst.

On January 8, Canada reported a single-day record of 9,214 new cases. The following day, the U.S. reported a single-day record of 315,106 new cases.

A health care worker walks through the post-vaccine waiting area at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Peel Region in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, March 1, 2021. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The peak of intensity is measured here by the highest recorded daily caseload, per capita. At the pandemic’s height in the U.K., U.S. and France, COVID-19 was infecting almost one person in a thousand every day. In Canada, that number never reached one in 4,000.

Canada had the least intense pandemic of the six.

Immunizations vs infections

Vaccinations are the magic bullet that will end this pandemic. Some countries have done far better than others in administering them. 

The U.K.’s vaccination effort started strong and stayed that way. Germany and the U.S. showed steady increases week over week. France was slow to start but soon caught up. Italy and Canada faltered and lost ground.

But vaccinations don’t tell the whole story. Vaccines entered the picture as much of the western world was racing to get ahead of a new wave of infections.

Canada placed last among this group of nations in terms of doses per capita. But it also has posted the lowest per capita caseloads through 2021.

The U.K. was the undisputed winner of the vaccine race but posted the worst per capita caseloads and death rates of the six. And the nation with the second-best record on vaccinations — the U.S. — had the second-worst caseloads.

Given this strange inversion, how should we measure each nation’s overall performance?

The next graph attempts to do that by dividing each nation’s total number of vaccines administered, week over week, by the number of new cases it recorded in the same week, to give an overall score — call it the “O Factor” — that may offer a clearer picture of how much progress each country has made so far in 2021.

The O Factor penalizes countries for failing to control infections in the present, but gives credit for the future caseload reductions they can expect to achieve by getting needles in arms now.

The damage to economies

Historians will one day study the pandemic’s social and economic effects. Some of those effects aren’t clear yet.

By killing a vast number of European peasants, the Black Death transformed the labour market, allowing workers to demand more for their work and ultimately helping to free them from feudalism. Perhaps this (far less apocalyptic) pandemic will free workers from the bondage of commuting and cubicles.

Whatever changes it leaves in its wake, it’s clear the economic blow of the pandemic has not fallen evenly on all nations.

The six countries we’re comparing here have taken different approaches to pandemic-related shutdowns and layoffs. Some (such as Canada) went big on public spending, while others held back. And some countries will struggle more than others with the debts they have accumulated.

All six of the nations measured here saw nearly unprecedented spikes in the number of unemployment claims as the pandemic took hold.

But some were hit harder than others and some bounced back faster than others.

The graphs shown here only offer snapshots of a pandemic that isn’t over yet. Although immunization appears to offer a path out of this global disaster, new mutations and new variants have the potential to delay that.

Unless Canada can improve its vaccination performance, other countries probably will be quicker to bend their rates of death and hospitalizations downward, closing a gap that currently favours Canada.

But the numbers suggest that one thing won’t change: when compared with its peers in Europe and North America, Canada’s pandemic experience has been less intense — and less deadly.

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COVID-19 vaccination ramps up in several provinces as supply worries ease – CTV News

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Several provinces began expanding their COVID-19 vaccination programs to members of the general population on Monday, as new recommendations on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine suggested it should be targeted at younger Canadians.

A national panel of vaccine experts said provinces should not use the newly approved vaccine on people 65 and over out of concern there is limited data on how well the vaccine will work in older populations — even though Health Canada approved the vaccine for all adults.

Rather, the recommendations issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine could help speed up vaccination for younger age groups, who otherwise would have to wait longer for protection.

The arrival of a third vaccine raises the prospect of further accelerating Canada’s efforts to inoculate the general population, which hit a new gear Monday in several provinces.

Ontario, Quebec and B.C. started or announced plans to start vaccinating older seniors living in the community on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care.

In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city.

The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province has already finished vaccinating long-term care residents with a first dose and was almost finished in private seniors homes, the premier said Saturday.

There were long lineups and some frustration among vaccine recipients at the Olympic Stadium, but at another site, Montreal’s downtown convention centre, people reported a swift process.

Julie Provencher, a spokeswoman with the regional health authority asked people not to be too harsh. “For the first day of the biggest mass vaccination in the history of humanity, I think it’s going OK,” she said in an interview.

Several Ontario health units were also set to begin giving COVID-19 vaccines to their oldest residents after a provincial website for appointment bookings opened in six regions.

Some health units reported thousands of bookings and high call volumes, as regions such as York, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton began taking appointments for seniors aged 80 or 85 and up, depending on the region.

In York Region — where those aged 80 and older could start scheduling and receiving their shots on Monday — vaccination clinics were fully booked just two hours after they started taking appointments, according to a spokesman.

“At this time residents are urged to remain patient and will be notified as more appointment bookings become available,” Patrick Casey said in a statement.

A similar problem occurred in Nova Scotia, where the COVID-19 vaccination-booking web page was taken off-line Monday after it experienced technical issues the first day it opened to people aged 80 and over. The Health Department said high traffic to the site prompted the slowdown and suggested people could book by phone in the meantime.

In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined the next phase of the province’s immunization plan, which covers all seniors 80 and over and Indigenous seniors 65 and up.

Despite the good news, Horgan warned that the province still has several difficult months to come. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we’re far from out of this,” he said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is expecting delivery of about 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and none from Moderna — numbers that are down from last week’s all-time high.

It’s unclear when the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in the country, but a senior government official told The Canadian Press on background Sunday it could be as early as midweek.

The advisory committee’s recommendations raise the prospect of younger Canadians getting vaccine much earlier than originally planned.

There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe, but the panel said the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred, especially for people 65 years old and above, “due to suggested superior efficacy.”

The advisory committee said AstraZeneca should be offered to people under 65 as long as the benefits of getting a good vaccine early outweigh any limitations the vaccine may have in terms of effectiveness. It also noted that because AstraZeneca, unlike the first two vaccines, is stable at normal refrigerated temperatures, it allows for “a variety of alternate vaccination sites.”

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reported about 95 per cent effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 overall, while AstraZeneca reported its vaccine to be about 62 per cent effective.

B.C. announced it would extend to four months the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine in order to allow the province to vaccinate more people sooner. Henry said the decision was based on evidence that showed the first two approved vaccines provide “a high level of real-world protection” after one dose.

Ontario confirmed Monday that it is considering following suit, adding that it’s asking the federal government for guidance on possibly extending the intervals between doses.

Despite the positivity surrounding vaccines, some Canadians were returning to lockdown on Monday.

Those included residents of the Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka health regions in Ontario as well as Prince Edward Island, which entered a 72-hour, provincewide lockdown Monday meant to stop two clusters of COVID-19 cases from spreading.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

— With files from Mia Rabson, Stephanie Marin and Holly McKenzie-Sutter

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