The thundering sound of hoofbeats charging toward the end of the track was met with a chorus of cheers from thousands of revellers in cowboy hats and jeans, dazzled by the colorful lights of the midway in the distance.
The Calgary Stampede attracted 500,000 visitors in 2021 after a year of pandemic isolation and uncertainty, epitomizing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s “best summer ever.”
Kenney beamed from behind a podium that spring as he declared that Alberta had “crushed” the spike of COVID-19 infections and heralded the return of backyard barbecues, dream weddings, concerts, parties and, of course, the stampede.
“Today we are truly near the end of this thing. We’re leaving the darkest days of the pandemic behind and walking into the warm light of summer,” Kenney declared.
Months after what came to be known as Kenney’s “mission accomplished” moment, Alberta was pummeled by the Delta wave. The province’s intensive care units were devastated.
The moment left a lasting impression on the country’s political psyche.
Such a jubilant, if premature, declaration is not likely to be seen again in Canada’s COVID-19 response, even as other world leaders appear ready to leave the pandemic behind.
“The pandemic is over,” U.S. President Joe Biden said last week, striding down the blue carpet of the Detroit Auto Show in Michigan during an interview with “60 Minutes.”
The president said there is still work to be done, but suggested the disaster had passed.
“No one’s wearing masks, everyone seems to be in pretty good shape and so I think it’s changing.”
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Canada‘s cautious political message about the virus has never ceded to such optimism.
“What we have seen consistently is that people are still struggling in hospitals across our country with the impacts of COVID,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday at a press conference at the UN General Assembly in New York.
He encouraged people to get up to date on their vaccine booster doses, assuring the public “we will make sure this pandemic gets behind us as quickly as we possibly can.”
Two senior government sources, speaking on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, told The Canadian Press that Trudeau has agreed in principle to let Canada’s vaccine mandates expire on Sept. 30.
When the order expires, the ArriveCan app will no longer be mandatory for international travellers, either.
The decision to put an end to some of the last vestiges of federal COVID-19 restrictions is expected to be announced officially on Monday.
Trudeau has yet to speak publicly about the change, but the tenor of that announcement could be telling as to how the federal government plans to navigate this new transitional phase of the pandemic.
The last time the Liberals loosened restrictions in June, removing vaccine mandates for domestic travellers, the tone was decidedly circumspect.
Rather than proclaim the mandates were no longer needed, federal officials said they were merely “suspended,” and warned they would “bring back” necessary policies if there’s a resurgence of the virus in the fall.
“I think part of the restraint that provincial and territorial governments and the federal government have, as far as walking past COVID, is because we have our memory of how that didn’t actually work out well,” said Dr. Alika Lafontaine, president of The Canadian Medical Association.
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Of course, Alberta’s cautionary tale isn’t the only reason for the federal government’s political COVID-19 message.
“In Canada, our focus has been, every step of the way, on listening to science, to responding to the facts on the ground,” Trudeau said Thursday, repeating a similar message when questioned by reporters in Ottawa Friday.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, allege the Liberals are more focused on “political science.”
“There’s a lot of questions that Canadians have, why the government appears to be making decisions not based on medical science, but based on political calculations,” Conservative health critic Michael Barrett said last week.
The official opposition has accused the Liberals of using the pandemic and federal restrictions as a political wedge since the last election, when Trudeau first floated the idea of vaccine mandates.
“There’s no question of whether politics plays a role in the decision-making,” said Julianne Piper, a research fellow with the international Pandemics and Borders project at Simon Fraser University.
“I think there are different political, geographic, public health factors that play into those decisions.”
That alchemy of politics and public health has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the country, she said.
“I think it signals the general feelings around the pandemic and potentially signals what different actors who would be impacted are going to expect,” she said.
Lafontaine said it will be important for politicians to keep that in mind during this next phase of the pandemic.
“I think it’s really important for politicians to realize that the things they say have an enormous impact,” he said.
“We need, more than ever, for people to be clear about the problems that we’re facing, to declare crises when there are crises and to talk about plans for after crises when it’s time to walk through those problems, into what comes next.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press
Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 4.25 per cent, its highest since 2008 – CTV News
The Bank of Canada has raised its overnight rate by 50 basis points to 4.25 per cent, marking its seventh rate hike in nine months. The last time the bank’s policy rate was this high was in January 2008.
The inflation rate remained high at 6.9 per cent in October, well above the bank’s 2 per cent target. Higher gas prices put upward pressure on the cost of most goods and services, according to the Consumer Price Index released by Statistics Canada last month.
The bank says the economy continued to operate in excess demand during the third quarter and the labour market in Canada remained tight. With unemployment remaining at historic lows, Statistics Canada reported average hourly wages rose by 5.6 per cent year-over-year in October.
The bank says tighter monetary policy is affecting domestic demand in the Canadian economy, with declines in the housing market and consumption moderating during the third quarter. Since its monetary report in October, the bank continues to expect economic growth to stall through the end of this year and into the first half of 2023.
“The November GDP data showed us that economic activity in Canada had already started to shrink,” said Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Given that slowdown, any hopes for a soft landing have been crushed by today’s rate hikes.”
During a press conference following the bank’s last rate announcement on Oct. 27, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem signalled “the tightening phase will draw to a close, we are getting closer, but we aren’t there yet.”
On Wednesday, the bank did not rule out further rate increases to tackle inflation.
“Looking ahead, Governing Council will be considering whether the policy interest rate needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target,” reads the release.
However, experts think it will be difficult for the bank to raise rates during a period of low growth.
“It will be very hard for a central bank to raise interest rates when the economy is in a recession,” said Kevin Page, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy President and CEO. “I think it is highly probable that the central bank will not need to raise interest rates in the short term (next three to six months).”
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the cost of living crisis on the federal government’s increased spending during the pandemic.
“It’s another uppercut for Canadians,” said Poilievre. “It’s all because of the inflationary deficits and spending of Justin Trudeau.”
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for other measures to help combat inflation.
“The federal government has to do more to look at the solutions around inflation,” said Singh during a press conference in Ottawa. “Some of those solutions include acknowledging that high profits in the corporate sector — corporate greed — is contributing to the cost of living going up.”
In the House of Commons, Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault defended his government’s policies to address the increased cost of living.
“The bank is doing their job. We’re doing our job by making sure we have the fiscal fire power to face what’s going to come,” he said during Question Period. “We’re helping Canadians to buy a new home, we’re advancing the payments for worker benefits and we’re also making sure student loan interest gets removed forever.”
The next policy rate announcement is expected on Jan. 25, 2023.
Media shunning transparency law due to worsening delays, journalist says
The access law allows journalists and others who pay a $5 fee to request documents — from internal emails and expense claims to briefing memos and studies — but it has long been criticized as antiquated and poorly administered.
Federal agencies are supposed to respond within 30 days or provide valid reasons why they need more time to process a request.
The law has not been significantly updated since its introduction almost 40 years ago, and many users complain of lengthy delays as well as heavily blacked-out documents or full denials in response to their applications.
Beeby, an independent journalist who spent much of his career at The Canadian Press, says bureaucrats now realize they face a much bigger blowback from releasing information than from withholding it — and the law provides a rich menu of excuses to keep things buried.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.
Google releases Canada’s top searches of 2022
From serious news stories to fun diversions, Canadians have done a lot of Google searches this year.
The internet search engine released its list of the most viral web searches in Canada for 2022.
Here are the Top Search Trends this year:
- World Cup
- Queen Elizabeth
- Betty White
- Bob Saget
- Anne Heche
- Johnny Depp
- Will Smith
“Over the last couple of years, Canadians were facing a lot of uncertainty. This year was all about supporting each other and embracing the new normals,” said Google trends expert Habiq Ali.
“Wordle was the number one top trending search term in Canada. But it was also the number one top trending search term around the world, so this web-based word game has really taken the world by storm.”
Top Canadian News Search Trends:
- Rogers outage
- Lisa LaFlamme
- U.S. Midterm Elections
- Saskatchewan stabbings
- World Cup 2022
- Oscars 2022
- Freedom Convoy 2022
Canadians weren’t just Googling games and current news events, they were also asking ‘Why?’
- Why is Russia attacking Ukraine?
- Why is Rogers down?
- Why did Will slap Chris?
- Why is Ukraine not in NATO?
- Why is there a formula shortage?
- Why is gas so expensive right now?
- Why are truckers protesting?
- Why is there a Tylenol shortage?
- Why is cryptocurrency going down?
- Why did Liz Truss resign?
Another question they asked was ‘how:’
- How to watch the World Cup
- How to do a rapid COVID test?
- How to help Ukraine?
- How to get a vaccine QR code?
- How to create an NFT?
- How to pronounce Kyiv?
- How to evolve Charcadet?
- How to “respec” in Elden Ring?
- How to evolve Cosmog in Pokémon Go?
- How to pronounce Qatar?
Canadians were also heavily plugged into pop culture and entertainment. From the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap to the Johnny Depp defamation trial, here were the top celebrities, movies and shows of the year:
- Johnny Depp
- Will Smith
- Amber Heard
- Chris Rock
- Adam Levine
- King Charles
- Jada Pinkett Smith
- Julia Fox
- Bruce Willis
- Mary J. Blige
- Top Gun
- The Batman
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- Turning Red
- Black Adam
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Don’t Worry Darling
Top TV Series
- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
- Stranger Things
- Inventing Anna
- The Watcher
- House of the Dragon
- Moon Knight
- The Boys
- The Summer I Turned Pretty
It was also a very busy year for sports fans with the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
Top Sports Searches
- World Cup
- Olympic medal count
- Calgary Flames
- CFL scores
- T20 World Cup 2022
- Asia Cup 2022
- Canada Soccer
- Golden State Warriors
- Indian Wells tennis
- Guy Lafleur
- Novak Djokovic
- Antonio Brown
- Serena Williams
- Eileen Gu
- Kamila Valieva
- Felix Auger Aliassime
- Mitchell Miller
- Johnny Gaudreau
- Kirby Dach
“It’s a really interesting way for us to look back at the year and see what inspired us and what intrigued us,” Ali told Global News.
“From a social perspective and from a political perspective, it kind of just shows us what’s top of mind for Canadians this year.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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