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Canada receiving 1.5M COVID-19 vaccine doses from U.S. next week: Fortin – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The dose-sharing deal with the United States has been finalized, and those 1.5 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to arrive next week, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin announced Thursday.

Nearing the end of the first quarter and factoring in the scheduled deliveries for next week, Canada is on track to hit and possibly considerably exceed the total target of eight million COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered by the end of March, depending when next week these U.S. doses land.

“Public Service and Procurement Canada has recently negotiated the delivery of 1.5 million doses from the U.S., expected to arrive in Canada in the next week. When we have a confirmed delivery date to Canada, this quantity will be added to the quarterly distribution goal of vaccine doses,” Fortin said.

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As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to have to return the favour by sending the U.S. back 1.5 million doses in the coming months, though with the vaccine rollout in that country well underway U.S. President Joe Biden is expecting to have enough supply for all eligible adults by the end of May, whereas Canada continues to hold on to an end-of-September timeline for wrapping up the mass immunization effort.

Potentially complicating things, it’s looking like these 1.5 million AstraZeneca shots will be coming from a plant that was not part of the initial Health Canada authorization, as the manufacturing facilities also have to pass regulatory approval.

Chief medical adviser at Health Canada Dr. Supriya Sharma said Thursday that additional U.S. sites are currently being assessed, but in the interim the federal health agency has authorized the vaccine doses to come into Canada to be stored, so that they would already be in the country for quick distribution once the green light to administer them is given.

Next week Canada is expecting a shipment of 1.2 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, with plans for shipments of approximately one million doses every week between April and June.

Heading into April, Moderna will keep shipping its shots every two weeks, meaning the next delivery will land the first week of the month and is expected to include 855,000 doses, increasing to 1.2 million doses in the following shipment.

Following the delivery of the U.S. doses, the next shipment from AstraZeneca is expected to come from the Serum Institute in India, with one million doses planned to arrive sometime in April, followed by the remaining 500,000 doses coming in May, rounding out the overall two-million-shot deal.

These figures are based on the expectation that the new European and Indian export restrictions won’t limit Canada’s supply. Fortin said Thursday that he is following the developments but so far there is no indication of coming delivery interruptions.

A delivery schedule has still not been established for the 20 million AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines that Canada has a contract for. Those will also be coming from a U.S. facility, but that facility was approved as part of the initial AstraZeneca authorization from Health Canada.

There is still no delivery schedule set for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with the only timeline being that they are expected “by September.”

“The steady increase of vaccine numbers and options available does not mean the end of our planning and cooperation with all stakeholders and all partners,” Fortin said, noting his days are largely occupied by the constant dialogue with provincial and territorial vaccine rollout teams.

“This work continues as we near the start of the second quarter of this year,” he said.

As of March 24, the federal government has distributed nearly six million COVID-19 vaccines to the provinces and territories.

As Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo noted on Thursday, Canada has hit a vaccination milestone, with more than 10 per cent of the adult population now having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s figures, this includes 60 per cent of people over 80 years of age, and 19 per cent of those aged 70 to 79.

Though, as Njoo noted, these figures are still far short of having enough immunized Canadians to prevent further outbreaks of the virus, particularly as variants continue to spread.

Seeking to combat the ongoing vaccine hesitancy among some Canadians, particularly around the AstraZeneca vaccine, the federal health officials at Thursday’s briefing reiterated that the best vaccine for people is the first one offered.

“I am waiting eagerly, anticipating and waiting my turn to get vaccinated as well, and when that time comes I will be rolling up my sleeve to take any of the authorized vaccines… I think it’s understandable, completely understandable that people have questions, but the same thing that we say to you is the same thing that I’ve said to my family members when they’re making their decisions,” said Sharma.

“We want to make sure that people that are lining up to get vaccinated, or making those decisions, have as much confidence in the process as we do… We want to make sure that people do get their vaccines, get them as soon as possible. And the sooner we can get vaccinated, the sooner that we can get back to a closer to normal existence.”

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Quebec economic update: A lot of uncertainty in 2023, Girard says

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Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard said Thursday the province’s economy is facing a lot of uncertainty going into 2023 as he presented his economic update, one that included help for low-income seniors in the face of stubborn inflation.

Girard said the risk of a recession is more apparent than ever, and he anticipates an economic slowdown for the province in 2023.

“Quebec is not in isolation. We are a small, open economy. We are part of the world economy … and the world economy is slowing,” Girard said.

“What I’m saying today is Quebec will not be spared. It’s undeniable that 2023 is a year that’s going to be more difficult than 2022.”

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Economic growth is not expected to exceed 0.7 per cent next year, compared to 3.1 per cent for 2022. The 2022-23 provincial budget had been more optimistic, anticipating growth of two per cent in 2023.

Quebec also expects job creation to slow next year, with the unemployment rate — which hit a historic low of 3.9 per cent last April — expected to rise as high as five per cent in 2023.

Girard said the deficit for the 2022-23 fiscal year will be $5.2 billion, less than the budget forecast of $6.5 billion, with a return to a balanced budget still expected in 2027-28.

Inflation has put pressure on many households but has allowed the province to reap substantial additional revenues, about $14 billion since March. In 2022-23, revenues are expected to increase by 4.3 per cent.

Girard said the government has decided to return those funds to Quebecers, announcing a key measure Thursday to help those 70 and older by increasing a refundable tax credit to $2,000 from $411, a recurring measure that will cost the province about $8 billion over five years.

“This idea behind the assistance to the low-income seniors over the age of 70 is recognizing that few have the capacity to do more against rising cost of living,” Girard said.

More than 1.1 million seniors will benefit from the measures, nearly 400,000 more than in the past. For 2022, the tax assistance for seniors could be up to $3,100 for people living alone or $2,200 per couple.

The seniors’ credit was the only new measure announced Thursday. It is in addition to other anti-inflation measures the Legault government has taken in recent months, including limiting government fee increases and sending cheques of between $400 and $600 for Quebecers who make under $100,000 per year.

Girard, a banker by profession, said in his 30-year career he hasn’t seen inflation so high, with annual rates hitting between six and seven per cent.

Quebec is no longer ruling out a recession in 2023, which could mean a one per cent decline of the economy before it rebounds in 2024. Girard said if that happens, the government has set aside $8 billion to use for supports as needed. Girard told a news conference the “most probable” scenario is weak economic growth as opposed to a recession.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal

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Federal environment minister certifies 14 bird-friendly cities in six provinces

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Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is certifying 14 more Canadian cities as bird-friendly.

Guilbeault, who’s attending the COP15 biodiversity conference in Montreal, says cities share some responsibility to protect and sustain Canada’s declining bird populations.

The program, administered by Nature Canada, recognizes cities that have reduced threats to birds such as free-roaming cats, pesticides and collisions into windows.

The additional 14 brings to 18 the number of cities that have been certified in Canada as bird-friendly.

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Those cities also protect habitat and operate civic education programs on birds.

The certified cities are in six provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The bird-friendly cities are: Halifax; Toronto, London, Hamilton, Burlington, Peterborough, Barrie, Halton Hills, Windsor and Guelph in Ontario; Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que.; Regina; Strathcona County, Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta; and Vancouver, Saanich and Lions Bay in B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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First Nations leaders reject Trudeau’s proposed gun law, citing risk to treaty rights

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Chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations voted Thursday to publicly oppose the Liberal government‘s proposed gun-control legislation and stand against sovereignty bills in Alberta and Saskatchewan’s legislatures.

All three bills would infringe on treaty rights, the First Nations leaders said.

An amendment to Bill C-21, which is currently being debated by members of Parliament, aims to create an evergreen definition for “assault-style” weapons and enshrine it in law, allowing the government to ban hundreds of models of firearms.

Some First Nations leaders say they’re concerned to see rifles used for hunting on the list and voted to take a stand against the bill, which they say infringes on their treaty rights.

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“We totally oppose this bill,” Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg told the gathering.

He says these guns are a “tool,” not a weapon.

The AFN, a national advocacy organization representing more than 600 First Nations across the country, had previously raised concerns about the legislation’s potential effects on hunting rights at a meeting of the House of Commons committee that is studying the bill.

On Thursday, chiefs carried an emergency resolution that was brought to the floor with unanimous support at their special assembly. It called on the AFN to push the government to make changes to the bill, including ensuring that long guns used by First Nations hunters do not fall under the ban, and improve its consultations with affected groups.

Chiefs also voted in favour of supporting First Nations in Saskatchewan in their opposition to the Saskatchewan First Act tabled by Saskatchewan Party Premier Scott Moe.

And the assembly affirmed that Indigenous leaders in Alberta could count on its support in their fight against the province’s own Sovereignty Act, introduced last week by United Conservative Party Premier Danielle Smith.

After delivering a speech to the assembly on his government’s commitments to reconciliation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pressed on the issue. A representative from Onion Lake Cree Nation, located near the Saskatchewan-Alberta border, asked why the federal government, as a signatory to treaties, wasn’t doing more to oppose such legislation.

“We are extremely concerned about what the Sovereignty Act in Alberta and Bill 88 in Saskatchewan represent in terms of challenges to treaty rights that are fundamental in Canada and need to be respected,” Trudeau told the chiefs.

He added that provincial governments can pass laws that his government disagrees with, but the way to challenge them is through the courts, not in the political ring.

On the topic of guns, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who also spoke at the event on Thursday, told reporters that he respects the AFN’s right to voice concerns with legislation.

“This is not an easy debate, no matter what your perspective or your background,” he said. “This is an emotional debate.”

Mendicino repeated that the law is designed to keep weapons such as the AR-15 out of people’s hands —  not to target rifles used by Indigenous hunters.

Asked about the possibility that hunters’ guns could be removed from the government’s proposed definition of banned firearms, the minister deferred to the MPs who are still studying the bill.

He said he’s open to more debate on the matter and respects the parliamentary process. “I think we can move forward and I think that the AFN, I hope, contemplates that.”

Earlier, in his address to the crowd, Mendicino noted that Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by gun violence.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who also addressed chiefs earlier in the day, told them he shares their concerns about the gun legislation’s effect on treaty rights.

“Any amendment that in any way contravenes your treaty rights is an amendment that we will not support,” Singh said.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who is one of the most vocal critics of the bill and the amendment, didn’t appear in person to deliver his first message to the chiefs as party leader. His office said he was out of town.

Instead, Poilievre provided a short video, in which he spoke about his support for helping nations achieve economic reconciliation. It was played before chiefs were set to debate a set of resolutions regarding residential school survivors.

After the video ended, a few boos could be heard from the audience. Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod walked to a microphone in the room and pleaded with organizers to “not ever again put a video like that ahead of our residential school survivors,” which earned applause from the crowd.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2022.

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