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B.C. premier-designate David Eby’s intellect clear to rivals and supporters alike



VANCOUVER — Supporters of British Columbia’s next premier admire it, while his rivals are wary of it.

Both agree that David Eby’s brain is not to be taken lightly.

Eby has developed a reputation for tackling some of the most complex and contentious portfolios on the B.C. government’s plate while in cabinet and bringing fierce arguments to the table against his opponents.

Soon, he’ll test that experience as the province’s leader at a time of overlapping crises in health care, housing, public safety, and climate disasters.

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“He takes on big challenges and delivers, and I have full confidence that that’s what he’ll do when he goes forward,” said Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery, and innovation.

Eby became the leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party Friday, paving the way for his swearing-in as premier at a date that has yet to be determined.

He will replace John Horgan, who announced in June he would be stepping down after defeating cancer for the second time and saying it left him with little energy for the job he loved.

Eby was first elected to the legislature to represent the affluent neighborhood of Vancouver-Point Grey in 2013 when he defeated former premier Christy Clark, a giant-killing feat that forced Clark to seek a seat in a Kelowna byelection.

After gaining attention as a passionate critic in the Opposition, he joined the cabinet when the NDP took power in 2017. Some of his files as attorney general and minister responsible for housing have included a crackdown on money laundering, driving debate for housing policy reforms, and revamping the cash-strapped Crown-owned Insurance Corporation of B.C., which he memorably labeled a “dumpster fire”.

He also ushered in the establishment of a Human Rights Commissioner for B.C.

Kahlon described Eby as a “natural leader” in cabinet and committee who is thoughtful and caring.

“You can see that he’s actively listening. You often can see him shift his position if he hears good arguments. Those are signs of good leadership,” said Kahlon, who was Eby’s leadership campaign co-chairman.

Before entering politics, Eby worked as a human rights lawyer specializing in constitutional and administrative law. He worked as an adjunct law professor at the University of B.C. and led the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, where he authored “The Arrest Handbook,” a guide on what to expect from the police and how to act if you’re arrested.

He told a news conference Friday that his work with Pivot Legal Society as an advocate for people living on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was formative.

“It was very clear to people in that neighborhood if I was acting in their interests in delivering for them or not because if I did, they kept their home, and they didn’t become homeless. But if I didn’t, then their life wasn’t better and they weren’t sure why we were talking,” Eby said.

That work taught him the importance of focusing on listening to community members and paying attention to what their priorities are instead of his own, he said.

“If I wasn’t doing that, then I wasn’t doing my job. That is what it is all about for me and that remains true in government.”

Katrina Chen, minister of state for child care, said Eby has played an encouraging role since she joined the government, suggesting to her that she had an important perspective to contribute as an immigrant from Taiwan, a single mother, and someone who learned English as a second language.

“There were times that he’ll ask for my feedback on issues, even on things like housing where he is an expert,” Chen said, adding he seemed interested in looking at the issue from a multicultural lens.

She would give him her honest input about how a policy might affect her, and he would take that seriously, she said.

Sitting across the aisle in the legislature from Eby has demanded a certain level of alertness.

“When you’re dealing with someone as clever and intelligent and partisan as David Eby, you’d better be prepared,” said BC Liberal Mike de Jong, who served as Eby’s critic on the attorney general file before he left his cabinet duties.

De Jong, a former finance minister, was also regularly questioned by Eby when the Liberals were in power.

On a personal level, he described their relationship as “cordial and professional.’

However, the pair have exchanged jabs over the years and de Jong took a more skeptical view of Eby’s approach to politics, describing him as an “ultra-partisan political combatant.”

By that, de Jong clarified, he meant Eby could be “very accusatorial, very dismissive of opponents.”

“For example, David Eby’s assertion that his political opponents simply didn’t care is incorrect,” de Jong said.

He said when Horgan announced he would leave his role, there wasn’t much surprise within the Liberal caucus when Eby quickly emerged as the front-runner to succeed him.

“When our roles were reversed and I was in government and he was in Opposition, I once teased him about being the dauphin, the chosen one to succeed,” de Jong said, referring to the historical French term for the heir to the throne.

“I think I said that seven years ago. It turns out he was more of the chosen one than even I thought. So the dauphin has now taken his place.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2022.


Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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Canada commits $800 million to support Indigenous-led conservation projects



Ottawa will spend up to $800 million to support four major Indigenous-led conservation projects across the country covering nearly one million square kilometres of land and water, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.

Trudeau made the announcement at the Biosphere environment museum in Montreal accompanied by Indigenous leaders and federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault as a UN meeting on global biodiversity, known as COP15, takes place in the city.

Trudeau said the four projects — which will be located in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, northern Ontario and Nunavut — will be developed in partnership with the communities in question.

“Each of these projects is different because each of these projects is being designed by communities, for communities,” he said.

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Chief Jackson Lafferty, of the Tlicho government in the Northwest Territories, said Indigenous groups have long been working to protect their lands and water but have lacked the resources and tools to fully do so.

Lafferty, who attended the announcement, called the funding “a significant step forward on a path to reconciliation across Canada.”

Among the projects to be funded is a marine conservation and sustainability initiative in the Great Bear Sea along British Columbia’s north coast, championed by 17 First Nations in the area.

Another project includes protection for boreal forests, rivers and lands across the Northwest Territories, spearheaded by 30 Indigenous governments.

Funds will also go to an Inuit-led project involving waters and land in Nunavut’s Qikiqtani region and to a project in western James Bay to protect the world’s third largest wetland, led by the Omushkego Cree in Ontario.

Trudeau told reporters that the exact details of the agreements have yet to be worked out — including which portions of the lands will be shielded from resource extraction.

The Indigenous partners, he said, will be able to decide which lands need to be completely protected and where there can be “responsible, targeted development.”

“We know we need jobs, we know we need protected areas, we know we need economic development,” he said. “And nobody knows that, and the importance of that balance, better than Indigenous communities themselves that have been left out of this equation, not just in Canada but around the world, for too long.”

Dallas Smith, president of Nanwakolas Council, said the B.C. funding to help protect the Great Bear Sea would allow Indigenous groups to build on previous agreements to protect the terrestrial lands of Great Bear Rainforest, which were announced about 15 years ago.

“I did media all over the world, and I got home and my elder said, ‘Don’t sprain your arm patting yourself on the back, because until you do the marine component, it doesn’t mean anything,'” he said.

Grand Chief Alison Linklater of the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven Cree communities in northern Ontario, said their traditional territory includes ancient peatlands that store “billions of tons” of carbon, as well as wetlands that are home to many migratory birds and fish, and 1,200 kilometres of coastline.

She said caring for the lands is one of her sacred duties as grand chief and one of the main concerns of the people she represents.

“Without our lands and waters we do not exist,” she told the news conference.

In a statement, the federal government said the program would employ a “unique funding model” bringing together government, Indigenous Peoples, philanthropic partners and other investors to secure long-term financing for community-led conservation projects.

The government did not specify how much of the funding would be allocated for each project.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet



B.C. Premier David Eby to reveal new cabinet with health, safety, housing priorities

Here is a list of British Columbia Premier David Eby‘s ministers following his first major cabinet shuffle since taking over as leader:

Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)

Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)

Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)

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Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare

Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)

Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma

Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne

Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)

Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy

Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston

Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)

Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin

Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)

Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)

Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside

Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang

Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson

Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)

Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)

Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson

Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham

Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)

Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)

Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022

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Tick-borne germs increasingly widespread in Canada: study



Researchers from Quebec and Ontario are calling for better testing to track the spread of tick-borne germs as disease-causing bacteria gain new ground in Canada.

Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that can carry pathogens – bacteria, viruses and parasites – like those that cause Lyme disease. Now, McGill University PhD candidate Kirsten Crandall says pathogens that are local to other regions are beginning to show up across central Canada.

“While the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne pathogen in Canada, other tick-borne pathogens are moving in,” she said in a media release published on Nov. 17.

In a study published in the medical journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases on Nov. 9, Crandall and her co-authors from McGill and the University of Ottawa warned that two pathogens, Babesia odocoilei and Rickettsia rickettsii, had been detected in Canada outside of their historic geographic range.

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Babesia odocoilei causes a malaria-like parasitic disease called babesiosis. Babesiosis can be asymptomatic or it can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea or fatigue.

Rickettsia rickettsii causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis, and is normally found in the United States, Western Canada, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia.

Both bacteria can infect animals and humans, and both were found in ticks and small mammals in Quebec. According to the study, climate change, habitat fragmentation and changes in the abundance of tick populations and their hosts are all driving the spread of emerging tick-borne pathogens like these across Canada.

“The presence of these pathogens changes the risk of disease for Canadians and animals in some densely populated areas of Canada,” Crandall said.

Crandall and her team made the detections using methods that went beyond those normally used in tick monitoring studies. By testing ticks at all life cycle stages, they discovered that female ticks can actually pass pathogens to their larval young. They also tested for pathogens not already listed as nationally notifiable diseases in Canada.

She said the findings demonstrate the need for better testing and tracking to detect the spread and potential risk of tick-borne pathogens to humans and animals throughout the country.

“Only two tick-borne pathogens are listed as nationally notifiable diseases in Canada: Lyme disease and tularemia,” she said. “However, we are seeing increased cases of diseases like anaplasmosis and babesiosis in humans in Canada.”

Jeremy Kerr, a professor and research chair at the University of Ottawa’s department of biology, said the study highlights the importance of funding more research into tick-borne diseases that haven’t historically been common in Canada.

“If we don’t know that pathogens are present, we can’t equip Canadians with the information they need to protect themselves,” he said in a statement released on Nov. 17. “COVID has diverted public health resources away from challenges like this one, and we need to remember that these tick-borne diseases are on the move too.”

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