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Canada's economy shrinks 0.1% in October, StatsCan reports –



Canada’s economy slightly shrank in October with real gross domestic product edging down 0.1 per cent, Statistics Canada reports. 

This marks the first decline in eight months. 

Economists had projected a flat GDP report for October compared with September, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The manufacturing sector was down for the fourth time in five months, declining by 1.4 per cent with transportation equipment manufacturing contracting the most at 2.5 per cent. The United Auto Workers (UAW) strike in the U.S. caused Canada to scale back production contributing to the decline. 

Retail trade declined 1.1 per cent—it’s largest decline in three years, while wholesale trade declined one per cent. 

Some sectors and other industries edged up this month with oil production increasing by 0.1 per cent and real estate gaining 0.7 per cent. 

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Canada won't receive any Pfizer shots next week — here's what you need to know about the vaccination campaign –



Canada’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start — and news this week that deliveries of the Pfizer product will be reduced dramatically over the next month has further complicated the national rollout.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, has said Pfizer will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium to boost its capacity.

The announcement is already prompting some provinces to warn that they will have to curtail appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supply of the two-dose Pfizer product to patients who need their second shots.

Why is Canada getting less vaccine than anticipated?

Pfizer is grappling with unprecedented global demand for its vaccine as the world scrambles to inoculate patients against the deadly novel coronavirus.

While the company had projected it could manufacture up to 1.3 billion shots this year alone, it is now shifting gears to pump out even more.

The company is making upgrades to its Belgian plant so that it can manufacture up to 2 billion doses this year to meet the insatiable demand. In order to complete those upgrades, some production lines will have to be idled and Pfizer won’t have enough vials to go around in the short term to meet its previously promised delivery schedule.

“Pfizer and BioNTech are working relentlessly to support the further rollout of the vaccination campaigns worldwide by not only expanding their own manufacturing capacities but also by adding further suppliers as well as contract manufacturers to increase total manufacturing capacity,” the company said in a news release announcing the disruptions.

A driver pulls his truck out of the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. (Valentin Bianchi/AP Photo)

Fortin has said that, starting next week, Canada’s deliveries will be reduced by up to 50 per cent over a four-week period, punting as many as 400,000 doses to a later date.

While the company has another manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Belgian plant alone is supplying Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. U.S. deliveries will continue uninterrupted.

Will Canada, the EU and the United Kingdom be equally affected by these disruptions?

No. Announcing the delays last week, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she expects Pfizer will treat all countries equally as it reduces shipments with an eye to restoring service in February.

But Pfizer isn’t treating every customer the same way. While Canada will receive zero doses next week, the company said it “will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25.”

Pfizer has promised the EU that it will then “increase delivery beginning week of February 15, resulting in our ability to deliver the fully committed quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 7, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

When asked why Pfizer will not make the same commitment to Canada, Anand said that she expects the company to treat all countries equitably — but could not say why Canada has been singled out.

“This was very disappointing and I spent the weekend on the phone with Pfizer executives and my team. We reiterated firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said at a press conference Tuesday.

Pfizer did not respond to specific questions about why it is showing more favourable treatment to the EU. In an emailed statement, the company said the details of its agreements with governments are “confidential.”

“Multiple countries around the world will be impacted in the short term in order for us to quickly enable increased production volumes afterwards,” the spokesperson said. 

The U.K. delivery schedule is less clear. The government there has said it is “in close contact” with all suppliers so that it can achieve its target of immunizing all those over age 70 by February 15.

So how many doses will Canada receive over the next number of weeks?

It’s hard to say for sure. Fortin had said Canada would see a 75 per cent drop next week in deliveries — but then had to correct that forecast after learning Canada wouldn’t receive a single dose.

Just last week, Fortin had been expecting delivery of 208,650 doses to the provinces every week for the rest of this month. Fortin also said Canada is expected to receive 366,000 Pfizer doses per week in February.

Speaking to the press this week, Fortin conceded those numbers are no longer accurate.

“Those numbers remain to be confirmed by Pfizer Canada. In fact, we have regular conversations with them and we hope and we expect to have clarity on those numbers,” Fortin told reporters at a public health briefing.

Is Canada still on track to get 4 million doses of the Pfizer product by the end of March?

The government has said yes. While the deliveries may change, the government insists its medium-term targets are more certain.

By the end of the first quarter, Canada is expecting four million doses from Pfizer and another two million doses from Moderna — enough to vaccinate some 3 million Canadians with these two-dose products.

WATCH: Canada affected by Pfizer vaccine production delay in Europe

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand made the announcement to reporters in Ottawa on Friday. 2:38

But these delays mean that many people will be kept waiting much longer for shots than they originally anticipated. While deliveries might return to a more normal flow, it will be difficult for provinces to pump through hundreds of thousands of patients in a short timeframe to reach vaccination targets.

The delivery hiccup also could push off the vaccination campaign for the general population, which had a start date of April 1.

Pharmacies have said they could vaccinate as many 2.5 million people per week if all 11,500 community pharmacies in this country are mobilized, but the lack of supply has delayed their participation in the effort.

What is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doing about this?

While the prime minister of Israel has had more than a dozen calls with the CEO of Pfizer, and the president of the European Union has personally reached out to the company’s leadership, Trudeau has said that Anand is the lead on this file.

“I can assure you that Minister Anand is talking almost daily with Pfizer and the other vaccine companies to ensure that we get as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, and that work will continue,” he said. “We will not rest, we will not slow down.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and his Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, second left, attend the arrival of plane with a shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines at Ben Gurion Airport, near the city of Lod, Israel, on Jan. 10, 2021. (Motti Millrod/AP Photo)

When pressed by Vassy Kapelos, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, to state whether Trudeau has personally contacted Pfizer to ask for more doses, Anand would only say that she has been in “close communication” with the prime minister.

Some observers have said Trudeau should ask U.S. President Joe Biden to temporarily float Canada some vaccines from the Michigan plant as a sign of goodwill — especially after Biden rescinded the presidential permits for the Keystone XL pipeline.

So how are the provinces reacting to all this?

Not well. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the delivery delays will be very disruptive. The province also has said the temporary stoppage could mean its goal of immunizing all long-term care residents in the province by Feb. 15 won’t be achieved.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives. “I would not stop until we get these vaccines.”

On Wednesday, Ford called Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow to discuss the situation.

“He reiterated the serious impact these cancelled shipments will have on Ontario and sought answers as to why Canada isn’t receiving vaccines as quickly as other countries,” Ford’s office said in a media statement after the call.

Ford also has suggested Biden should “help out its neighbour” by releasing some shots to Canada.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

“By pausing first appointments, we can ensure enough vaccine is allocated for committed second-dose appointments,” Kenney said.

How is Canada doing compared to the rest of the world?

Canada has administered some 700,000 shots – roughly 1.7 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna products. In Ontario, about 40,000 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The United States has vaccinated three times more people per capita than Canada.

The U.K., too, has been a world leader in getting shots into the arms of patients. Nearly 7.5 per cent of the British and Northern Irish population has so far received at least one dose.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced to date by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

But according to the latest data collated by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada has administered more shots per capita than G7 partners like Germany and France, and middle-income countries like Argentina and Costa Rica.

“I had a lovely conversation with Angela Merkel yesterday morning in which she sort of complained to me that every day she gets it from the German media that they’re not doing as well as Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday.

“I think a lot of people are comparing stories from country to country and trying to figure out how we can all move quicker.”

The EU authorized the Moderna product for use two weeks after Health Canada regulators gave that vaccine the necessary approvals, which could account for the slower start to vaccination campaigns in countries like Germany.

What about the other promising vaccine candidates?

Health Canada regulators are still reviewing clinical trial data for both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson products. Canada has placed orders for doses from these companies but a delivery schedule is far from certain, given that the regulatory review is still underway.

The U.K. approved the AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30.

The product from Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen, has not been approved for use anywhere in the world. Some countries are eager to secure doses of this vaccine because it only requires one shot.

The company has not yet presented publicly any final data on its effectiveness, although some early results, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, are promising.

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Independent firm completes review into claims of 'toxic' environment at Rideau Hall –



An independent consulting firm has completed its review into reports of a toxic environment and workplace harassment at Rideau Hall — and sources briefed on the report say its contents are scathing.

Sources said the negative findings in the report could make it difficult for Julie Payette to remain in her role as Governor General. The Globe and Mail also reports that the review has been completed and is damning in its conclusions.

Sources also have told CBC that Secretary to the Governor General Assunta Di Lorenzo, who has also been accused of harassing employees, recently hired a lawyer.

CBC is not naming the sources as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The head of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, Dominic LeBlanc, is overseeing the review and is expected to offer recommendations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his response. LeBlanc’s father was the governor general from 1995-1999. 

Experts agree that when a government wants a controversial governor general to depart, the most likely approach would be for the prime minister to suggest resignation. If the governor general doesn’t follow through on that suggestion, the prime minister could turn to Buckingham Palace to appoint a replacement.

The Privy Council Office launched the unprecedented third-party review in July in response to a CBC News report featuring a dozen public servants and former employees confidentially claiming Payette had belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. Di Lorenzo, the Governor General’s longtime friend and second-in-command, is also accused of bullying staff.

Payette tweeted two days after that story aired that she was “deeply concerned about the media reports” and she “takes harassment and workplace issues very seriously … I am in full agreement and welcome the independent review.”

As of Jan. 5, Rideau Hall had spent more than $150,000 in public funds on legal representation in response to the toxic workplace allegations, including a former Supreme Court justice for the Governor General and Blakes law firm for the institution.

That sum is larger than the original value of the federal contract that hired Quintet Consulting to conduct the review. The private firm was hired on an $88,325 contract in Sept. 2020.

More than 50 people voluntarily took part in the review. They included current and former staff at Rideau Hall and representatives of other government departments that work closely with the Governor General and her office, such as the RCMP, Global Affairs and the National Capital Commission. 

The number of participants grew higher than the government anticipated, causing the review to take longer than originally scheduled. 

Quintet’s president, Raphael Szajnfarber, told CBC News yesterday the firm remains “unable to discuss this confidential matter.”

WATCH | The atmosphere at Rideau Hall was tense in November 2020 as review was underway:

The atmosphere at Rideau Hall is tense as an investigation into allegations of workplace harassment continues with more than 50 people being interviewed. The investigation follows claims that Gov. Gen. Julie Payette harassed employees and her second-in-command bullied staff. 1:51

Reports of ‘tantrums’ on foreign trips

Last year, former staffers gave CBC News accounts of Payette throwing “tantrums” in the office and on foreign trips, openly criticizing people’s work to the point where they were reduced to tears, and tossing an employee’s work aside and calling it “shit.” Employees have been seen leaving her office with tears in their eyes or crying in their vehicles. 

Sources say Payette is known for dropping “explosions” or “bursts of emotion” on staff at Rideau Hall over the quality of work done in the office.

CBC News has now spoken confidentially to more than 20 public servants with direct knowledge of the workplace climate at Rideau Hall. They spoke on the condition they not be named because they feared they could lose their jobs or their careers could suffer. Many of the sources are still in the public service, while others are former Rideau Hall employees.

One source said Rideau Hall went from being one of the most collegial federal public service workplaces to a “house of horrors,” causing longtime employees to leave in droves.

Payette greets Canadian World War II veteran Bill Anderson, left, at a ceremony at the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in Reviers, Normandy, France, in June 2019. Some former employees reported that on some foreign trips Payette threw ‘tantrums’ and was verbally abusive to staff. (David Vincent/The Associated Press)

Five executives left Payette’s office in 2018 within months of each other, the communications department cleared out during the pandemic and Di Lorenzo has had at least four executive assistants leave, according to sources. In the past month, another group of staff members departed.

“She screams and humiliates staff in front of others,” one former employee told CBC News in July 2020. “It’s verbal abuse. In no world is it OK to treat people that way.”

At the beginning of her mandate, sources said, Payette also put staff on the spot by quizzing them about outer space — asking them to name all the planets in the solar system, for example, or to state the distance between the sun and the moon.

In one four-month period, roughly two dozen people reported abusive conduct by Payette or Di Lorenzo to management, according to government sources. Former employees complain the system protects the alleged abusers and said they fear it would ruin their careers to file an official complaint.

Claims of harassment of employees

Di Lorenzo is also accused of harassing employees and calling some “lazy” and “incompetent.”

A former lawyer and executive in Montreal, Di Lorenzo is supposed to keep Payette’s office running smoothly and effectively. Multiple sources said Di Lorenzo is years into the job — which is typically filled by a seasoned public servant — and still doesn’t understand how the public service works.

“[Di Lorenzo is] also a bully,” said a source. “When confronted with something she’s unsure of, instead of giving you the benefit of the doubt, she comes at you as a pit bull.”

CBC News has also reported Payette has faced similar claims at past workplaces, but the prime minister and his officials didn’t conduct checks with her past employers before appointing her as Governor General.

Payette was given severance of roughly $200,000 when she resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints about her treatment of employees, say multiple sources at Canada Lands Company, the Crown corporation that employed her. In 2017, Payette left the Canadian Olympic Committee after two internal investigations into her treatment of staff that included claims of verbal harassment, sources with that organization said.

The Governor General retained the services of former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache as “constitutional adviser” and paid him $41,488. The law firm Blakes is also assisting the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) in the review process and has been paid $111,179; that contract has been amended to allow for billing up to $149,500.

In August, Rideau Hall hired former NDP national director Karl Bélanger and his firm, Traxxion Strategies, to provide strategic communications counsel and media relations support to Payette, and has paid him $9,450 so far.

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How a criminal charge laid in Calgary was linked to a Toronto woman who's never been there –



Joyce Obaseki has never been to Calgary and she’s never been charged with a crime.

So she was floored when Toronto police contacted her in 2002 to tell her there was a warrant out for her arrest after skipping bail in Calgary. 

The Toronto woman says she explained to police there had to be some mistake and the officers realized someone had likely impersonated Obaseki. Investigators then asked her to take a look at the photo of the woman who was arrested and charged with credit card fraud using her name. 

“I went in and they showed me the picture, lo and behold, it was someone I know,” Obaseki told CBC News. “I said, ‘Oh my god, Christee.'”

Obaseki says she recognized the woman in the photo immediately as Christee Imuya, a classmate from her high school days back home in Nigeria — who Obaseki knew had also moved to Toronto. 

She says police told her not to contact Imuya and to steer clear of her in the future. CBC News reached out to Imuya for comment on this story, but did not receive a response. 

“I never got a call from police ever since,” said Obaseki. “So I thought the situation was dealt with by police.” 

Turns out, for Obaseki, it wasn’t. 

Nearly two decades later, Obaseki discovered that she and Imuya were still considered the same person in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), the national electronic police database maintained by the RCMP.

In practical terms, that meant that for roughly 18 years a CPIC search on Obaseki would show that she was also known as Imuya, and that she’d been charged with, but not convicted of, several criminal and immigration offences.

Both the RCMP, who confirms Imuya fraudulently used Obaseki’s name, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told CBC News they don’t receive reports about false identity cases like Obaseki’s very often. 

But that fact isn’t of much comfort to Obaseki who believes the CPIC record affected her family’s ability to visit her in Canada. 

“That is the most painful part for me,”she said. “It affected me and my family.”

Shock, embarrassment and pain

Obaseki tried to bring her sisters and mother to Toronto to visit from Nigeria multiple times but the visitors’ visas were always denied. Until last year, she thought it was just because her family didn’t qualify. 

She found out about the CPIC record just before she was supposed to be interviewed as a witness in an immigration appeal hearing for her sister, whose husband was trying to sponsor her to come to Canada. 

CBC News has reviewed a copy of the results of a CPIC search an immigration official did on Obaseki in February 2020. The record identifies Obaseki as the same person as Imuya. It lists credit card, fraud and theft charges which were all later withdrawn and one charge that ended with a peace bond. The record also lists immigration charges that ended in an acquittal. 

WATCH | How Joyce Obaseki felt when she found out about false criminal record:

Joyce Obaseki found out about that another woman’s criminal charges were linked to her name just before she was supposed to be interviewed as a witness in an immigration appeal hearing for her sister, whose husband was trying to sponsor her to come to Canada. 0:41

As part of the immigration appeal for Obaseki’s sister, her family obtained transcripts from Obaseki’s past attempts to bring her mother and sisters to Toronto on visitors visas. In one of those transcripts an immigration official references Obaseki’s “issues with respect to fraudulent credit cards in Calgary.”  

“The shock, and the embarrassment and the pain, how do I explain that to my family?” said Obaseki. “It robbed me of my credibility, somebody with such a long list of criminal records, would you invite such a person to your house?” 

Name removed from CPIC record this month

Once Obaseki found out about the record falsely identifying her as Imuya she got to work trying to figure out how to remove her name from Imuya’s charges. After months of going back and forth with police, Obaseki hired a lawyer to help her last fall. 

In November, Obaseki received a report from the RCMP confirming that the fingerprints she submitted to them do not match “any immigration-related file or existing criminal record” in the police service’s national database. 

Obaseki’s name was removed from Christee Imuya’s record in the RCMP’s national database earlier this month. (Submitted by Joyce Obaseki)

The following month Obaseki’s lawyer emailed a complaint to the RCMP with the record of the fingerprint search to prove that Obaseki and Imuya are not the same person, and to ask that Obaseki’s name be removed from the record. 

The RCMP had to explain the situation to Calgary police and get their permission to remove Obaseki’s name from Imuya’s record because the 2002 credit card charge and use of Obaseki’s name came from Calgary police. 

‘Up until then it was hell for me’

Earlier this month Obaseki received confirmation from the RCMP that her name has been removed “from the criminal record belonging to Christee Imuya,” according to a letter from the RCMP.

“It was a huge, huge relief,” said Obaseki. “It was like some heavy body lifted off my shoulders. Up until then, it was hell for me — I don’t sleep at night. I think about it every day.”

RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said the service is pleased that the matter with Obaseki was resolved. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

In a statement to CBC News, RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said the service is “pleased that the matter was resolved.” 

Percival also explained that individual police services are responsible for verifying the identity of individuals before submitting biographic information to the CPIC database. Unless there’s a fingerprint match to an existing record in the database, the RCMP says it can’t confirm the identity of the individual. 

Obaseki says police told her that when Imuya was first fingerprinted in 2002, she used Obaseki’s name, which is why the initial CPIC record had her name attached to it — and why Obaseki’s true fingerprints were required to clear her name.

Anyone who believes they have been falsely attributed to a criminal record can submit a fingerprint-based civil criminal record check that “will verify that their fingerprints do not match the fingerprints of the criminal record created under their name,” according to Percival.

Obaseki wants Imuya to be held accountable for the effect she’s had on Obaseki’s life.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Warrant for Imuya’s arrest outstanding in Alberta

While she’s relieved that her name is no longer on Imuya’s record, Obaseki still has questions for Imuya and wants her to be held accountable for the effect she’s had on Obaseki’s life. 

“I want her to face the consequences,” said Obaseki. “She cannot be walking free and then I have to suffer all this loss, my family has to suffer this.”

“I’m hoping to get justice.”

Calgary police told CBC News the service issued a warrant for Imuya’s arrest for impersonating Obaseki back in 2002. 

The warrant remains outstanding in Alberta. 

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