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Canada to start testing some wastewater for polio 'as soon as possible' – CBC News

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After new reports of polio cases abroad, and virus samples in the wastewater of several other developed countries, Canada intends to start testing wastewater from a number of cities “as soon as possible,” CBC News has learned.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) already works to monitor polio activity around the world, a spokesperson said in an email response to CBC News questions.

Currently, PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg does have the diagnostic tools available to test samples for poliovirus. Any suspected positive Canadian samples of poliovirus will be sent to that lab for further laboratory analysis and confirmation, with results shared with the respective local health authorities “so appropriate public health measures can be taken if necessary.”

According to the statement, PHAC has been communicating with national and international partners who are experts in this field to finalize a wastewater testing strategy. It will be testing wastewater samples that were collected earlier this year from “key high-risk municipalities” to determine if polio was present prior to the reported international cases.

The agency is not yet sharing which cities or municipalities are involved, a spokesperson said.

However, Eric Arts, a professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry who is involved with Ontario’s wastewater surveillance initiative, said the province is among the areas engaged in discussions around wastewater testing for polio, as well as monkeypox, which has been spreading globally for months.

“We need to start surveying for a lot of these infectious diseases in our wastewater,” Arts said.

WATCH | 100s could be infected with polio in New York state: 

100s could be infected with polio in New York, health officials say

2 days ago

Duration 2:19

A health official in New York State says hundreds of people could be infected with the polio virus.

Samples will be sent to U.S. for additional confirmation

In terms of polio surveillance, PHAC will also be sending samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional confirmation.

“However, it is important to acknowledge that accurately testing wastewater for poliovirus is a developing science,” the agency’s statement continued. “For example, wastewater detections can be affected by extreme precipitation events, such as flooding in a community.”

Arts said identifying actual poliovirus in water can also be challenging due to a type of polio vaccine used in certain countries — a modified form of the virus which is delivered by mouth.

The vaccine can’t cause illness, but can be shed in human waste which winds up in sewer systems, and in some instances may evolve back into a form of the virus that could lead to disease. Typically, though, any samples would simply be catching vaccine-derived polio, not a harmful pathogen.

“It’s sometimes hard to determine what is actual poliovirus circulating versus the oral polio vaccine that’s circulating,” said Arts, who added it may show up in Canadian wastewater through individuals who’ve moved from countries where they were given the oral vaccine.

“It doesn’t mean there’s circulating polio in our population,” he said.

WATCH | A history of polio in Canada: 

A history of polio in Canada

29 years ago

Duration 23:24

A look back 40 years later at the year 1953, when polio last stalked Canada. Aired on CBC’s Prime Time News on Dec. 7, 1993.

Reports of polio in U.S., U.K., Israel

But instances of polio infections have been reported this year in other countries where the virus isn’t typically found.

On Wednesday, British health authorities announced they will offer a polio booster dose to children aged one to nine in London, after finding evidence the virus has been spreading in multiple regions of the capital.

The agency said it was working closely with health authorities in the U.S. and Israel, as well as the World Health Organization, to investigate the links between polio viruses detected in those two countries. 

In July, Israel announced a recent outbreak of polio infections appeared to be under control, after multiple people became infected, including a Jerusalem girl who was paralyzed and now requires rehabilitation, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More recently, in the state of New York, one unvaccinated young adult suffered paralysis after a polio infection in Rockland County — an area known for low vaccination rates — which marked the first case reported in the U.S. in nearly a decade. 

Outbreaks also remain common in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Africa — areas of the world where vaccination efforts have not yet eradicated the virus.

Polio can often be asymptomatic, but in some cases, the viral infection can lead to paralysis or death.

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Trudeau’s hand-picked candidate for Montreal byelection riles aspiring contenders

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to hand-pick a candidate for a riding in an upcoming Montreal byelection isn’t being well-received by three aspiring contenders who spent months campaigning only to be shunted aside.

The Liberals announced Montreal city Coun. Laura Palestini last Friday as the party’s candidate in a byelection whose date has yet to be announced for the riding of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun. The byelection must be called by July 30.

Three aspiring candidates — local school commissioner Lori Morrison; entrepreneur Christopher Baenninger; and former Quebec Liberal party organizer Eddy Kara — denounced the decision, with Morrison calling it “anti-democratic, 100 per cent.”

Morrison said she couldn’t believe the party let her knock on doors and sign up memberships only to ultimately abandon plans for a nomination meeting.

The nomination to become candidate in LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, Morrison said, was hotly contested because the riding “has been a Liberal stronghold for a very, very long time.”

Liberal campaign co-chair Soraya Martinez Ferrada has said it was Trudeau’s decision to prevent party members from choosing the candidate and to instead select Palestini, who represents the LaSalle borough on Montreal city council. Ferrada was on vacation and unavailable for comment Monday, her office said. The party declined to make anyone else available and instead provided a statement.

The Liberals have won the riding in all three elections since it was created, with former justice minister David Lametti re-elected with 42.9 per cent of the vote in 2021. The Bloc Québécois candidate received almost half as many votes — 22.1 per cent — while the New Democratic Party and the Conservatives picked up 19.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Lametti resigned on Jan. 31, after he was excluded from Trudeau’s cabinet in last summer’s reshuffle.

Baenninger said he was “in shock” at Trudeau’s decision to forgo the nomination process and hand-pick a candidate, saying it was “not right” and “demotivating.”

Morrison refused to say whether the party is respecting its values by disregarding a nomination vote; Baenninger, meanwhile, said the decision falls within the rules. The party’s vetting committee, he explained, can reject any candidates in the best interest of the party.

However, Baenninger said, the party didn’t do itself any favours by pushing three candidates aside in favour of Palestini. “I’m going to be shrewd: we didn’t improve our chances. I’ll leave it at that.”

Trudeau’s leadership has been under scrutiny since the party failed to retain the riding of Toronto—St. Paul’s, a longtime Liberal bastion for more than three decades, that was won by the Conservatives on June 24. Nationally, the Liberals have been polling roughly 20 points behind the Tories led by Pierre Poilievre for more than one year.

Both Baenninger and Morrison said that before Palestini was announced by the party, they had never heard her name before.

Kara, a filmmaker and former provincial Liberal organizer, had the support of former Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitão and ex-MP Jean-Claude Poissant. He said it’s “really shocking” that Trudeau interrupted the nomination process, adding that the party sent signals that members would choose the candidate, including by publishing a nomination kit.

He said he learned that the Liberals wanted someone of Italian origin to “ensure we get the Italian vote.” Kara said three members of the Liberal Party executive confirmed to him that they were also considering appointing Daniela Romano, another municipal councillor in LaSalle.

According to 2016 census data, 8.2 per cent of the riding’s residents are of Italian origin.

Palestini will face another municipal councillor in the byelection, as the NDP have named Craig Sauvé, who represents the nearby Sud-Ouest borough on city council. The Conservatives will run Louis Ialenti, who the party describes as “a common-sense small business owner.” The Bloc has not revealed its candidate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Adventure-seeking B.C. couple were victims found on Nova Scotia island: relative

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HALIFAX – The British Columbia couple whose remains recently washed ashore on Nova Scotia’s remote Sable Island have been identified as 70-year-old James Brett Clibbery and his 54-year-old wife, Sarah Packwood.

Clibbery’s sister, Lynda Spielman, said today the RCMP have confirmed their identities.

Spielman, a Calgary resident, says she’s heard many theories about what happened to the adventurous couple after June 11 when they left Halifax harbour in a 13-metre sailboat en route to the Azores — a 3,200-kilometre journey.

Spielman declined to speculate on what went wrong, and the Mounties have said they are still investigating.

On Monday, the RCMP confirmed they had identified Clibbery’s body with the help of the province’s medical examiner’s office, but they declined to release his name, citing privacy legislation.

The Mounties previously confirmed the couple’s sailboat, Theros, was reported missing on June 18, and it wasn’t until July 10 that their bodies were found in a three-metre inflatable boat on Sable Island, about 280 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

Clibbery and Packwood, who lived on B.C.’s Salt Spring Island, described themselves as adventure travellers and posted details of their voyages on a YouTube channel called Theros Adventures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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LCBO stores reopen across Ontario after two-week strike by workers

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TORONTO – Hundreds of Ontario’s liquor stores reopened Tuesday following a strike that lasted more than two weeks, but the fighting between the union representing workers and the government dragged on.

About 10,000 Liquor Control Board of Ontario workers had returned Monday to prepare for the opening of nearly 700 stores after they walked off the job on July 5.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents LCBO workers, had said the labour dispute was largely about Premier Doug Ford’s plan to allow convenience and grocery stores to sell ready-to-drink cocktails. The expanded sales, it said, was an existential threat to the workers’ future.

The sniping continued Tuesday as the union took umbrage with Ford’s comments from Monday, when he said the strike should never have happened.

The union said it made “significant gains” as a direct result of the strike.

“LCBO workers are proud of what they achieved in this contract, which wouldn’t have been possible without the strike,” said Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit. “They’re also happy to get back to work serving their communities again.”

The three-year deal, which the LCBO workers ratified over the weekend, sees an eight per cent wage increase over three years, the conversion of about 1,000 casual employees to permanent part-time positions and no store closures over the course of the agreement.

The union said converting those casual positions into 1,000 permanent part-time jobs and the guarantee of no closures for the duration of the contract was not on the table before the strike.

As part of the reopening, the LCBO said there will no longer be limits placed on online orders, but those orders could take up to three weeks for delivery.

Outside one LCBO in Toronto’s west end, Jay Brafman lambasted both sides for the strike.

“I think (the union) basically held hostage Ontarians and that’s not the right way to get more out of your job,” he said.

Brafman, a fan of the government’s plan to expand alcohol sales into convenience stores, also criticized Ford.

“If he really wanted to show some courage, he would have liquidated the LCBO,” he said.

Brafman, a vodka drinker, was put out during the strike as the LCBO is the main seller of spirits across the province.

“It cost me a ton of money having to go out to bars if I wanted to drink,” he said, adding that he’s happy the stores are open again.

Ford’s previous plan was to get beer, wine and ready-to-drink cocktails in convenience stores and all grocery stores by 2026, completing a 2018 election campaign promise. But in May he announced that would instead happen this year, capping speculation of an early election that Ford did not outright deny.

Convenience stores will be allowed to sell beer, wine and coolers starting Sept. 5 while newly licensed grocery stores can do so starting Oct. 31.

An “early implementation agreement” with The Beer Store involves the province paying the company up to $225 million to help it keep stores open and workers employed. The province is also giving brewers a rebate on an LCBO fee that normally brings in $45 million a year, and it is giving retailers a 10 per cent wholesale discount.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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