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OPINION | On COVID-19, Jason Kenney refuses to take responsibility

This column is an opinion from Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the University of Alberta. It’s a tough time to be Jason Kenney. As premier of Alberta, he’s dealing with a provincial economy hobbled by oil price declines and cratered foreign investment, provincial books further in the red than the province has ever seen, and a pandemic well into its second wave. He promised jobs, economy and pipelines 18 months ago. At least the Trans Mountain pipeline still looks likely to be completed. But, if you ask him, none of the bad news is his responsibility. The oil sector’s troubles? Blame OPEC, Russia, Trudeau and maybe soon Biden. The red ink? The same, plus the NDP’s legacy of a bloated public service. The pandemic? Everyone but his government. The man who demands you take personal responsibility refuses even the smallest measure of it for himself or his government. COVID-19 cases hit record levels nearly every day now — a startling 919 new cases were identified on Nov. 7. But it’s not the case counts that hit hardest, it’s what the numbers signal. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, reports almost daily now that our medical system is bending under the strain of new COVID cases, with more restrictions on elective procedures announced nearly every day. Health-care workers speaking out Doctors and nurses on the front lines are speaking out. We know that hospitalizations follow new cases with a lag, and with more than four times the active cases we had a month ago, we have to hope that the system can cope with the coming surge. And, worse still, we know that increased numbers of deaths will follow in the wake of the ever-increasing new cases. It was Premier Kenney who decided we should wait until our hospital system was strained to consider more actions to prevent transmission and, when anyone questioned this approach, the premier’s army of issues managers were quick to ask why they didn’t trust the province’s chief medical officer of health. Honest advice, loyal implementation and please don’t mind the rapidly approaching bus, Dr. Hinshaw. I’m sure Premier Kenney will stand behind you when things start to get ugly. On Nov. 6, Premier Kenney joined Dr. Hinshaw at her COVID briefing for the first time in months. He started, incomprehensibly, with a victory lap, claiming that his government had created one of the best testing and tracing systems in Canada. You’d be forgiven for thinking that everything was working just fine and according to plan. We learned that it wasn’t. It had been announced only a day earlier that AHS was giving up on effective contact tracing for most cases, downloading that responsibility to Albertans as well.   This didn’t have to be the case. We’ve seen rising case counts here and elsewhere for months. We knew that, with the measures our government was prepared to implement, cases were doubling rapidly and would continue to do so. More new cases, and thus the need for more contact tracers was predictable, but rest assured it’s not the premier’s fault. No one should be surprised that calls for personal responsibility alone could not solve a provincewide collective action problem. Last week, we also learned that many people with COVID-19 travelled, worked or attended social events while symptomatic. To some degree, that responsibility lies with the people, but as far as working is concerned, that’s not an easy choice for some people to make. Dr. Hinshaw, concerned as ever, asked that employers “support their staff to [take time off] wherever possible.” The federal government has provided emergency benefits for this, which were oddly not mentioned. Mention of any help provided by Premier Kenney’s government was also absent from the briefing, because they’ve not provided much at all, other than a provision to allow employees to take unpaid leave without risk of being laid off.  Schools could be next The next shoe to drop is likely going to be schools. As schools reopened in the fall, there were concerns with Alberta’s already-rising case counts. While there is no magic number for safe schools, metrics proposed by Harvard’s Global Health Institute hold that safe school openings can happen, with appropriate safeguards, if a jurisdiction is seeing fewer than 25 daily new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Over the past four days, we’ve averaged 17.5 new cases per 100,000 across the province, with numbers expected to rise in the coming weeks. More cases mean more contacts, more students and staff in isolation, more strain on teachers, and eventually the system will not be able to cope. If schools can’t operate consistently, that’s going to place a heavier and heavier price on parents with kids, especially single parents and those with jobs that can’t be done remotely. As case counts have risen, we’ve heard that “it’s time to up our game,” and that some among us need to “knock it off,” but even Premier Kenney and his ministers can’t make that happen. WATCH | Jason Kenney tells Albertans to stop having gatherings at home  About 48 hours after asking Albertans to give up their social gatherings and to be personally responsible, there was the premier at an indoor event in Grande Prairie. Other ministers’ social media accounts routinely show similar gatherings. Knock it off, indeed. Many of us have given up a lot of things that matter to us for months now, and the premier couldn’t muster enough personal responsibility to pass up the chance to give a speech as the second wave of the pandemic spirals out of control. There is no trade-off between health and the economy — the economy is the people, and the virus is what’s keeping things from getting back to full speed. Just as a government can create economic activity with debt-financed spending, we can stimulate economic activity in the short term by avoiding public health guidance, but it won’t last. Just like so much borrowed money, the public health bill is coming due in Alberta. The question is, who is going to pay it? If things keep going down the path we’re on, we’re going to see costs fall disproportionately on the backs of some Albertans, while the premier and his government resist taking on costs on our behalf. Fear and goodwill not enough Premier Kenney is banking on a combination of fear and goodwill being enough to keep new case counts from continuing to grow exponentially. So far, that’s not working, and I can’t find any evidence of such things working elsewhere once case levels are as high as they are here. Rather, we’ve seen plenty of examples, notably in the U.K., where a delayed reaction saw growing case numbers quickly close off less draconian options than a hard lockdown. We do see evidence of success from other policies, from relatively early lockdowns in Australia reducing community transmission to zero, to aggressive tracking, tracing and isolation measures in jurisdictions like New Zealand keeping the virus largely at bay thus far. There is no one best solution, and certainly no magic solution that comes without costs of its own. As we allow the number of active cases to grow, we’ll quickly come to face more and more extreme choices. The role of government is to co-ordinate collective action toward a common goal and to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of the freight. And right now, that’s not happening. We can afford millions to fund a war room and a witch hunt, and billions for new oil and gas projects, but we can’t muster more than a good scolding to fight the pandemic? It’s time to knock it off, and take some personal responsibility, Premier Kenney. This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.

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Andre De Grasse Day: Hometown hero celebrated in Markham, Ont. after gold-medal win – CTV Toronto



Andre De Grasse has finally added a gold medal to his collection—and the entire Greater Toronto Area is celebrating, with his hometown even declaring the athlete would get a day named in his honour.

The 26-year-old from Markham, Ont. sprinted to the top of the podium during the 200-metre dash at the Tokyo Olympics Wednesday morning, with a Canadian-record time of 19.62 seconds.

Andre De Grasse now has five medals—he captured a bronze in the 100-metre race Monday and has a silver and two bronzes under his belt from the 2016 Olympic Games—but it is his first gold.

It’s also Canada’s first gold medal in the sport since 1928.

Speaking to reporters from her home in Pickering, Ont., Andre De Grasse’s mother Beverly said that she is “super proud” of her son.

“I feel like I’m on a high,” she said. “Even though l was expecting it, it was just so like so surreal to really witness it, at least over the television.”

Beverly De Grasse said that when her son first said he wanted to run in track and field at school, he just thought he wanted a day off from his lessons.

“I never thought this would have been happening today … being in the Olympics or anything like that,” she said. “I just thought he wanted to skip school, have fun with his friends, you know.”

Coach Tony Sharpe said he shed “tears of joy” after watching the gold-medal race.

“It’s what we wanted,” he said. “I always kid around with Andre—I’m tired of silver, bring me some gold—and he brought it home.”

“He’s just a good person. And that’s the thing that inspires me about him, it’s not necessarily the numbers on the on the on the scoreboard,” Sharpe added, calling Andre De Grasse “the most talented sprinter” he’s ever seen.

But it wasn’t just De Grasse’s family celebrating his win—all across Canada politicians, athletes and everyday citizens offered their congratulations.

Speaking on CP24 Wednesday, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said the he would be proclaiming Aug. 4th as “Andre De Grasse Day” in the city.

“What a moment,” Scarpitti said. “Certainly a lot of expectation that he’d come first, let’s just say he didn’t disappoint.”

The Markham gateway sign at Steeles Avenue and Markham Road, as well as the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square, will also be lit gold to celebrate the win.

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Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet pen emotional farewell messages to Kyle Lowry – NBA CA



8h ago

Toronto Raptors

While a number of reports indicate that Kyle Lowry will soon become a member of the Miami Heat via a sign-and-trade, it hasn’t quite set in yet.

MORE: Appreciating Lowry’s impact | Where Lowry stands in Raptors’ record books

Making the reported deal feel much more real is the reaction of Lowry‘s soon-to-be-former teammates Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, each of whom took to Instagram to pen farewell messages to the man that took them under his wing five years ago.

“The GROAT (Greatest Raptor of All-Time),” VanVleet wrote. “Thank you for everything bro you already know what it is,” he added, along with a few aptly-placed goat emojis, an artistic rendition of a picture of the two as well as a picture of the two celebrating the 2019 NBA title together.

Undrafted in 2016, VanVleet developed into a starter in the NBA under Lowry’s mentorship, a special bond that’s evident anytime you see the two interact. While they may no longer share the backcourt together, VanVleet’s post is a reminder that the two share a bond that extends beyond the game of basketball.

The same applies to Siakam, who also came to the league in 2016 as the No. 27 pick in the NBA Draft. It’s evident that the bond is much bigger than basketball.

“Beloved!!!” Siakam began, along with more aptly-placed goat emojis. “Appreciate you taking us in and showing us the way!! Thank you for all the lessons on and off the court! True legend.”

Part of the caption is an ode to Lowry often referring to Siakam as “my beloved Pascal,” as he did following the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. Siakam made sure to include a photo of the two at the All-Star Game in Chicago, in addition to a number of other photos, including the two celebrating Game 6 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals together.

No matter what uniform Lowry suits up to wear in the 2021-22 season, he will always have the connection of being a 2019 champion with Siakam and VanVleet.

As part of being the Greatest Raptor of All-Time, Lowry has imparted his wisdom upon these two and OG Anunoby, the trio of players that will be looked upon to carry the torch and usher in the new era of Raptors basketball, passing their wisdom along to rookie Scottie Barnes and the recently re-signed Gary Trent Jr., among others.

It’s the manifestation of an immeasurable impact that Lowry has made on the franchise over an unforgettable nine-year run.

Deals can only be agreed upon in principle until Aug. 6 at 12:01 p.m. (ET) when they can be signed and made official.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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'I finally did it, Mom,' Andre De Grasse told his mother after his Olympic gold medal win – Toronto Star



Andre De Grasse’s biggest supporters held a news conference Wednesday afternoon celebrating his golden victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

The sprinter’s mother, Beverley De Grasse, along with his coach Tony Sharpe and Helen Manning, a representative from Athletics Canada, spoke to media in front of a home in Pickering.

“We were smiling with each other, one of the reporters in Tokyo called me and I was able to talk to him… we just smiled…I can’t believe you did it. He was so excited, so happy. ‘I finally did it, I finally did it, Mom,’” Beverley De Grasse said.

His mother said that he’s always been a calm and confident athlete. She knew he would win gold, but also felt that there was a stronger force supporting him despite not being able to attend.

“He has a family now of his own, he has kids. It’s kept him grounded. He’s not just doing this for himself. He’s doing this for his family, his kids so they can look to him and he can be a role model to them,” she added.

Reflecting on her son’s first track meet, Beverley never knew her son would become a gold medal Olympian. In fact, it was more about getting a day off.

“I never thought this would be happening today, being in the Olympics or anything like that. I just know he wanted (to) skip school and have fun with his friends,” she told reporters. “I really never expected anything like this. Even when I spoke to (his coach) Tony Sharpe (in high school), he’s telling me all this talent he sees in my son and I’m like ‘What is he talking about?’”

Canada’s Andre De Grasse has raced to a gold medal in the men’s 200 metres at the Tokyo Olympics.

De Grasse’s coach recalls the first time he saw the Olympian in high school. “It’s a god-given gift he was born with. I’ve been in the game a long time and what Andre was able to accomplish in the first year of formal training… it just doesn’t happen,” he said. “To come along and break records early you knew the guy was going to be special.”

Beyond his athletic prowess, Sharpe also talked about his ability to inspire young talent.

“Andre is the ultimate role model. Kind, respectful, all the things you look for in a young man. and a lot of my guys are inspired and look up to him. More so with this, I hope people won’t wait four years to care about track and field again. I’m hoping this will inspire some young athletes to say ‘I can run, let me give it a try,’” Sharpe said.

Sharpe and Beverley also both agree that this isn’t the end for the sprinter. “I think he should have at least two more Olympics in him, hopefully,” De Grasse’s mother said, adding that there’s one more gold medal he still hasn’t gotten yet. “I think he’d work toward that 100 metre gold medal. I know that’s his favourite. I’m pretty sure he’ll get that before the end of his career.”

With COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, one of the most difficult things for Beverley was being away from her son. “Every time I here there’s a new case… it’d make me cringe. That was the most difficult thing for me, not being there.”

But soon enough, celebrations with loved ones are in order. When asked about future plans to celebrate when he returns, Beverley De Grasse told reporters, “We’re going to throw a big party. With all the family and friends.”

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti declared Aug. 4 as Andre De Grasse Day in Markham and said in a tweet the city plans to light the gateway sign at Steeles Avenue and Markham Rd gold on Thursday night.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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