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Canadian politicians won't get vaccine prioritization – CTV News



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political leaders of all levels will be waiting their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine like most other Canadians.

“We have really based our priorities on burden of illness, so people who have died most of the disease or have been most touched with complications, and frontline health-care workers, as well as Indigenous communities and remote communities. Political leaders are not part of these groups,” said Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.

This of course, is not unexpected, as the latest advice from NACI— the group of medical, pharmaceutical and public health experts who make recommendations to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on vaccines and vaccine-related issues—was to narrow down its priority list due to the small number of initial doses expected.

Under the revised recommendations, the advisory committee has identified four specific groups as the ones who should be considered for early immunization.

  • Residents and staff of long-term care, assisted living, retirement homes, and chronic-care hospitals;
  • Individuals of advanced age (starting with 80 years and older and expanding by five-year increments to age 70 years as doses become available);
  • Health-care and personal support workers, considering exposure risk and direct contact with patients; and
  • Indigenous communities

In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized the government for not securing more doses that could be ready in the initial rollout, which is right now estimated to be six million doses by March 31, which is enough to vaccinate three million people.

“The census shows that seniors that are over 70 years of age, there are more… then the three million that the doses will cover,” Singh said. “The first round should have secured more.”

Asked earlier this week whether he’d be looking to get one of the early doses, Trudeau said that he’s “going to trust the experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

Discussions are continuing with the provinces as to how many doses of the initial tranche each will have access to.

Dr. Quach-Thanh said that while her team is offering the recommendations for who should get access to the first doses, “it is very possible that in the end, logistically and based on local epidemiology, provinces might decide to tweak a bit within the priorities.”

She also said that NACI is not recommending the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory, nor is it the government’s plan to force anyone to be immunized.

With files from CTV News’ Jackie Dunham

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Opinion: Golden years, golden boards: Mike Harris's post-politics career – The Globe and Mail



Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris at a Fraser Institute dinner at Calgary’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Keith Morison/CGYH

Not long after Mike Harris left the Ontario Premier’s Office in 2002, he embarked on a new career as a corporate director. Nearly two decades later, Chartwell Retirement Residences – Canada’s largest operator of retirement homes – has become his longest-running, and likely most-lucrative, part-time gig.

It might also become his most controversial. Chartwell, like many other operators of retirement and long-term care homes, is in the spotlight as COVID-19 kills thousands of Canadians, many victimized as the virus sweeps through their care facilities. This has amplified the concerns of elder advocates, who have long questioned deregulation of the long-term care industry and the proliferation of the for-profit model in retirement care. (Long-term care, specifically, is about 10 per cent of Chartwell’s business.)

As it happens, Ontario’s deregulation of the sector occurred during Mr. Harris’s “common sense revolution” of the late 1990s. And about a year after his premiership ended, he joined Chartwell’s board as its chairman.

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Through Chartwell, Mr. Harris declined to speak to me for this piece. In a statement, Chartwell spokeswoman Sharon Ranalli said Mr. Harris’s government “undertook the largest reform and investment in Ontario’s history to expand long term care for the province’s seniors … Mr. Harris’s drive and passion to provide great services and quality care to our aging population was one of the reasons he was asked to join Chartwell as Chair in 2003 and continues to serve in this capacity to this day.”

Here’s what has been in it for Mr. Harris: A review of Chartwell’s proxy circulars shows that over those 18 years, Chartwell has paid him about $3.5-million for his services, the bulk of it in Chartwell stock. It’s an average of roughly $200,000 a year for what is supposed to be a part-time job.

Those compensation numbers do not include dividends on his shares. For example, while Chartwell reported his board compensation as $229,500 in its proxy circular in 2019, stock-ownership records filed with regulators show Chartwell gave Mr. Harris shares worth $405,000 that year, when the dividends are included.

Mr. Harris must hold the shares until he leaves the board. All told, his holdings, which include shares purchased on the open market, are worth roughly $6-million today. The stock holdings “represent his personal belief in the value Chartwell provides to society and his confidence in Chartwell as a sound investment,” Ms. Ranalli said.

On several occasions from 2003 to 2014, Mr. Harris received a low-interest loan to purchase a total of roughly $600,000 in shares as part of a long-term incentive plan. Chartwell placed the shares in a special account, where the dividend payments on the shares were used to pay off the loan so Mr. Harris could own the stock free and clear. (In response to questions, Ms. Ranalli of Chartwell says these shares “are not compensation” and should not be included in his pay total.)

Also, from mid-2010 to 2019, Chartwell directors who chose to get their directors’ fees paid in stock, rather than cash, got a one-for-one additional company match – effectively doubling their pay. That meant that in each year of the plan, Mr. Harris received about $230,000 in annual compensation, rather than the roughly $115,000 in annual cash fees.

Ms. Ranalli says the company’s stock plans have created “alignment of participants with the interests of Chartwell and its unitholders,” and its outside compensation advisers have told Chartwell the company’s pay plans are “at or slightly below” similarly sized companies.

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To focus too much on Chartwell, however, would overlook how Mr. Harris turned corporate-board work into a highly lucrative full-time career.

A review of corporate filings shows Mr. Harris has sat on at least 16 public- or private-company boards at various times in the 18 years since he left the premier’s job and made more than $14-million in compensation for his work. For several years, he sat on six or seven company boards and his total board income ranged from $1.2-million to $1.5-million annually. (In recent years, governance advocates have increasingly trained their eye on “overboarded” directors, who they felt couldn’t devote an appropriate amount of time to every board they sat on if they had four or more assignments.)

For several board seats, he collected more than $1-million in cash and stock over his tenure, including his current seat Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., held since 2004, and Colliers International Group Inc. He may also have received as much from EnMax, the City of Calgary’s utility, where he served from 2006 to 2017 and received total of nearly $800,000 in his final eight years on the board.

Mr. Harris’s history as a director shows that he likes to be paid in stock and stock options. That means that Mr. Harris has probably taken home even more than $14-million: Over time, as the stock has grown in value, he’s presumably sold shares after leaving boards (and when disclosure requirements no longer apply, making the numbers impossible to tally).

Some of the companies failed to assign any value to his stock options, thereby understating his pay at the time. In several cases at tiny public companies, the options expired unused, because the company’s stock simply didn’t do so well. One example: Route 1 Inc., a money-losing, TSX Venture Exchange-listed data-security company where he received a combined three million stock options soon after becoming chairman in 2009. Had the company boomed, it could have been his most lucrative directorship. Alas, all those options expired with no value.

But other directorships have been winners. Mr. Harris spent five years on the board of what is now known as Element Fleet Management. He received stock options initially valued at just under $400,000 – but when he left in April, 2015, the unrealized profits were about $1.5-million.

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Previous to Chartwell, Mr. Harris’s most-lucrative public-company gig was Magna International Inc., his first board assignment after leaving office. He served as its chairman during the controversial period when Magna cashed out its founder Frank Stronach for more than $1-billion; the sheer number of meetings Mr. Harris attended helped his compensation range from $550,000 to $750,000 four years in a row.

Mr. Harris left Magna’s board in 2012, and he has a lighter load today than in his peak years of service. He turns 76 on Saturday, and he’s already been forced to offer his resignation at Canaccord because of its age-based retirement policy, an offer that Canaccord’s board has declined. But as Mr. Harris continues his golden years of gold-plated board service, he may decide the challenges will outweigh these very considerable rewards.

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Wake Up! Trump's Politics of Division and Hate Are Already Here –



If Charlottesville was the coming out party for America’s fascists and racists, storming the Capitol was their prom. People who have always festered on the fringes of U.S. society were invited to take centre stage during the terrible tenure of Donald Trump.

Why? Because Trump saw political profit in mobilizing a zombie army of the ignorant to intimidate perceived foes and advance his interests.

Now they are unleashed as Americans remain bitterly divided even on the obvious outcome of a free and fair election, and it’s uncertain if wounded democratic institutions will recover.

Canadian’s smug disapproval of our southern neighbour seems an unofficial national pastime.

However, we have seen several examples of similar cynical tactics carried out by politicians within our own country. Are we really that much better?

The kangaroo court convened by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to target environmental groups is a case in point. Empowered with $3.5 million in public money and legal authority vested by the provincial government, the “Public Inquiry into Funding of Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” has become the latest laughing stock effort by the Kenney government to confirm its political prejudices and rile up the United Conservative Party base.

Kenney has been an enthusiastic supporter of the discredited conspiracy theory that organized opposition to the relentless climate-killing expansion of Alberta bitumen extraction is largely due to secretive funding from American industrial actors, rather than a grassroots movement of normal humans who want a viable planet for their children.

The Alberta government continues to flog this dead horse with increasingly embarrassing results. It came to light last week that the inquiry had paid $100,000 for several dubious submissions described by the CBC as “junk climate-denial science, bizarre conspiracy theories and oil-industry propaganda.”

Law professor Martin Olszynski of the University of Calgary sounded the alarm on the obvious bias of this material, citing one taxpayer-funded submission alleging that a “transnational progressive movement had infiltrated governments, the United Nations and large corporations in order to impose material poverty on developed nations.”

The so-called war room is another Kenney government effort to impose its worldview on the public using the powers and money of the state. With initial annual funding of $30 million, the Canadian Energy Centre struggled to even come up with an original logo. One year after launch, this overhyped PR boondoggle has only two per cent of the Twitter followers of I’ve Pet That Dog.

It is easy to dismiss such political theatre as harmless hometown hokum but, as we are witnessing in the U.S., the truth matters. Albertans are being encouraged by their government to believe that critics of continued dependence on a waning fossil fuel sector are somehow foreign-funded traitors labouring to take away their livelihoods.

The rage stoked by this false narrative is real, with potentially deadly consequences. We’ve seen Yellow Vest protestors demand that even more public money be thrown at building pipelines, even though Alberta just squandered $1.5 billion on the highly predictable Keystone XL cancellation. The same angry cohort regularly calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be tried for treason, and is increasingly aligned with well-known hate groups like the Proud Boys and the Sons of Odin.

We can tut-tut over the storming of the U.S. Capitol, but last summer a Canadian Forces reservist armed with four loaded guns and familiar vague grievances crashed his truck through the gates of Rideau Hall after saying Trudeau should be arrested.

Alberta is not the only province whose leadership exploits intolerance for political gain. Last week Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet welcomed Canada’s new Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra with a dog whistle smear about Alghabra’s role 15 years ago as head of the Canadian Arab Federation. The Bloc leader publicly sniffed that “questions arise” but he “refuses to accuse” the minister of anything specific.

This was not a gaffe. Blanchet is an intelligent and accomplished politician who apparently calculated that there were enough Quebec bigots within his voting base to make this appalling slur worthwhile. The Bloc leader’s comments are part of a pattern of overt racism in Quebec.

The province’s Bill 21, passed in 2019 with overwhelming public support, makes it illegal for public employees to wear religious symbols such as hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes. This law declares that Quebec is a “lay state” and ostensibly applies to Christian symbols as well, but strangely the 10-storey tall illuminated crucifix remains standing atop Montreal’s Mount Royal.

Politically unthinkable anywhere else in Canada, Bill 21 has unsurprisingly resulted in increased incidents of racism in Quebec and other parts of the country as bigots become emboldened by discriminatory public policy. Last fall, an Indigenous woman was mocked and insulted by staff as she lay dying of COVID-19 in her Joliette hospital bed.

Just two years before the passage of Bill 21, a white nationalist shooter massacred six people at prayer and injured 19 more in a Quebec City mosque. A first responder to the gruesome scene later took her own life and is regarded as the seventh victim of this hateful act.

The obvious danger of further stoking extremism in the province was apparently judged less important than pandering to those who dislike seeing diversity during their daily lives.

The 2019 federal election offered another depressing warning of the real threat of racism and extremism. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh ran an electrifying campaign on very little money that resonated across the country — except in Quebec, where his party won only one of the 16 seats they had held. The Montreal Gazette was one of the few media outlets to ask: “Is Quebec ready for a brown guy in a turban?” The resounding answer from Quebec voters was no.

Not even feigning subtlety, the Bloc’s Blanchet used the final moments of a leaders’ debate where Singh had done well to urge Quebec voters to support candidates “qui vous ressemblent” — who look like you. (That sentiment was certainly reflected in the uniformly white, francophone old stock nature of the victorious Bloc caucus.)

Legitimizing intolerance can be politically profitable, at least in the short term. But as we see on dismal display in America, such cynical ploys eventually exact an awful cost to a free and open society.

We should not smugly pretend that Canada is immune. History teaches that division is how democracies die.

For the sake of our nation, Canadian voters need to demand an end to divisive leadership and ruthlessly punish any politician that indulges in such dangerous intolerance at the ballot box.  [Tyee]

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Grindstone Theatre's political satire videos gaining popularity online – CTV Edmonton



A theatre in Edmonton is getting a lot of attention online for its politics – or, rather, its lampooning of politicians.

The Grindstone Theatre is getting tens of thousands of views of its parody videos poking fun at the press conferences being held by Premier Jason Kenney.

The videos are written by Derek Johnson who says recent political events such as MLAs travelling over the holidays inspired him to make the videos

“It’s been interesting to kind of just see a couple things unravel, so we have to jump on what’s hot right now,” said Johnson.

The videos posted on the Grindstone Theatre’s YouTube page and TikTok account have over 100,000 views.

“It’s starting to take off a little bit,” says Johnson.

Donovan Workun, who plays Kenney in the videos, says the time is ripe for political satire.

“When people get outraged or people are really happy that’s when it’s the easiest to lampoon some things.”

Workun says it was tough to do an impression of Kenney at first.

“I think the key to the Jason Kenney impersonation is not knowing what you’re going to say until you’re actually saying it.”

Johnson says having politicians keep talking is all he needs to keep writing scripts for the comedy videos.

“Sometimes there’s a couple of people who say things and you’re like, I don’t think you know what you’re saying but we’re definitely going to be pulling on that.”

The videos keep pulling in so many viewers that they intend to keep making more and Workun says he hopes they catch the attention of the premier.

“I would love to hear from him. I would love to do Jason Kenney for Jason Kenney,” said Workun.

But Johnson says Kenney might not be the only politician getting satirized in their videos.

“Everyone is fair game, you might say.”

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