With Canadians grappling with inflation not seen in a generation, the federal government has decided to throw fuel on the fire.
China on Tuesday accused the United States of betraying Olympic principles and said Washington would “pay a price” for its diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing even as a top International Olympic Committee official voiced respect for the U.S. decision.
The White House announced on Monday that U.S. government officials will boycott the Winter Olympics over China’s human rights “atrocities,” though the action allows American athletes to travel to Beijing to compete.
Many key U.S. allies have hesitated follow the U.S. move, but on Wednesday, Australia said it would join the diplomatic boycott.
President Joe Biden’s administration cited what the United States calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. China denies all rights abuses.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that his country opposes the U.S. diplomatic boycott and promised “resolute countermeasures” in response.
“The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts,” he said, without giving details. “Let’s all wait and see.”
The IOC, the governing body of the worldwide Olympic movement, held executive board meetings on Tuesday at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, ahead of the Winter Games scheduled for Feb. 4-20 in Beijing.
“We always ask for as much respect as possible and least possible interference from the political world,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC’s coordination commission chief for the Beijing Olympics. “We have to be reciprocal. We respect the political decisions taken by political bodies.”
The Winter Games are due to begin about six months after the conclusion of the Summer Games in Tokyo, which were delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are extremely proud, happy and hopeful that all athletes of the world will live in peace in 59 days,” Samaranch said, referring to the scheduled start of the Winter Games.
Members of the Uyghur Muslim ethnic group living in Turkey welcomed the U.S. boycott.
Rights groups and U.S. lawmakers have called on the IOC to postpone the Games and relocate them unless China ends what the United States deems genocide against ethnic Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups.
The United States is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Asked whether China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the U.S. boycott has “damaged the foundation and atmosphere” of sports exchange and cooperation on the Olympics, which he likened to “lifting a stone to crush one’s own foot.”
He called on the United States to keep politics out of sports, saying the boycott went against Olympic principles.
The American diplomatic boycott, encouraged for months by some members of the U.S. Congress and rights groups, comes despite an effort to stabilize ties between the world’s two largest economies, with a video meeting last month between Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.
‘THE ONLY OPTION’
Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told a U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday that unless other countries join the boycott it would undermine the message that China’s human rights abuses are unacceptable.
“Now I think the only option really that is available to us is to try to get as many countries as we can to stand with us in this coalition,” Glaser said.
Announcing Australia’s plans to join the boycott, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing had not responded to several issues raised by Australia including alleged human rights abuses.
“So it is not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those Games,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
Relations between Australia and China, its top trade partner, are at a low ebb over after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities, including coal, beef, barley and wine.
Canada’s foreign ministry said on Monday it continues to discuss the matter with partners and allies. Britain, the Netherlands and Japan said they were still considering their positions. New Zealand’s deputy prime minister said the country would not send government officials but that decision was based largely on COVID-19 concerns.
Chinese media and scholars criticised the U.S. action.
“It is foolish and silly of the United States to do this,” Wang Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters, adding other major powers could do the same to the United States in 2028.
The diplomatic boycott puts corporate Olympic sponsors in “an awkward spot” but causes less concern than a full measure barring athletes, said Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports who has overseen Olympics broadcast rights deals.
The U.S. bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China applauded Biden’s decision and called on Olympic corporate sponsors to announce similar attendance boycotts, saying a diplomatic boycott alone was not enough.
“Business as usual is not acceptable given the atrocities being committed by the Chinese government,” said commission chair Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, and co-chair Representative James McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley, Yew Lun Tian, Trevor Hunnicutt, Karolos Grohmann, Michael Martina, Steve Keating and Renju Jose; Editing by William Maclean, Will Dunham, Rosalba O’Brien, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle)
Protesters opposed to public health measures such as wearing a mask, adhering to lockdowns and vaccine mandates have increasingly turned to holding intimidating and aggressive protests at the homes of politicians, prompting calls for action to be taken to better protect democratically elected officials.
The RCMP told CBC News it has noticed a growing number of “incidents” singling out politicians at their homes and offices.
As the pandemic nears its two-year mark, politicians are but one target of the aggressive protests; front-line health-care workers and patients seeking care have also been intimidated by sometimes violent anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown advocates.
But when it comes to these workers, the federal government co-operated with the opposition to pass Bill C-3, which makes it an offence punishable buy up to 10 years in prison for those found guilty of intimidating health-care workers and patients trying to access medical care.
Even with the aggressive targeting of politicians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that, despite having gravel and threats thrown at him during the last federal election, he has no plans to expand Bill C-3 to cover politicians across the country, for now.
“Nobody in the course of doing their job should be faced with threats of violence, threats to their family. That applies for health-care workers or for politicians or anyone else,” Trudeau said Wednesday.
“We continue to engage with public security, with police services to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to protect Canadians, but we haven’t, at this point, looked at similar legislation.”
An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News in an email that Mounties have “seen an increase in the number of incidents that either occurred or were planned” at politicians’ “residences or constituency offices.”
Those incidents seem to be targeting people at all levels of government. Earlier this month, protesters enraged by pandemic public health measures and vaccine mandates gathered outside Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s home.
“It is an incredibly unnerving and unsettling experience to look out your window and see people holding signs calling you a Nazi,” Gondek told CBC News.
“We have provided these public places for people to do these types of protests or rallies. You can’t do it at someone’s home. It’s simply wrong. It’s inappropriate. It’s an intimidation tactic, and you will not have good people running for public service if we allow this to continue.”
On Tuesday, Calgary city council approved a plan to pay for home security systems for council members.
Three provincial politicians in Ontario — Premier Doug Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott — have been visited at home by protesters infuriated by lockdowns, school closures and vaccination programs.
When asked by CBC News whether the Ford government would consider a new law to protect public office holders, the premier’s office sidestepped the question.
“These petty tactics have no impact on this government’s resolve to do the right thing in order to protect the people of Ontario,” the premier’s office told CBC News.
“The only thing these people are doing is targeting and harassing innocent neighbours and family members who have nothing to do with the government’s decision-making.”
Former Liberal environment minister Catherine McKenna was the target of abuse and intimidation while in office. She said she wants to see the security budget for members of Parliament increased to ensure they are safe and that public life continues to attract good people.
“People yelling and screaming … at your home, or when you’re just out, I think it is next-level. That’s not why I got into politics,” she told CBC News. “I will say it was a very unappealing feature of politics, and that’s why I still speak out about it because I want good people to go into politics.”
McKenna said she would like to see social media companies held accountable for the way they’re sometimes used to organize aggressive protests.
“I’ve been very vocal about the need for social media companies to step up and take responsibility,” she said. “They have … created a vehicle that is now being used to foster hate and in some ways expands the network of people that normally would be, I guess, in their basement.”
Gondek said she agrees with that suggestion.
“Democracy will not survive if people feel threatened or intimidated to run for office,” she said.
“Those platforms should be held responsible for what is happening. They should be held accountable and responsible for the communication method that they have encouraged and put out there to embolden groups like this.”
Stephanie Carvin is an associate professor of International Relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. She said that while politicians may be reluctant to pass laws limiting public expressions of opposition to government policy, they could take action against social media platforms.
“Social media organizations … are pumping out a lot of disinformation, a lot of hate, a lot of anger, encouraging bounties, to follow people around and try to catch them breaking the rules,” she said.
“We have seen the minister write to social media companies in December of last year to try and encourage them to take a more ambitious approach to trying to curtail this rhetoric. But beyond this, it’s not clear that that much is going to be done.”
Carvin said she hopes that the intimidation tactics being directed against public health measures will wind down as pandemic restrictions ease.
Canada fears armed conflict could break out in Ukraine and is working with allies to make clear to Russia that any more aggression towards Kiev is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/blinken-says-russian-attack-ukraine-could-come-very-short-notice-2022-01-19 said earlier that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice”. Moscow, which has stationed military equipment and tens of thousands of troops near the border, denies it is planning an invasion and blames the West for rising tensions.
“We do fear an armed conflict in Ukraine. We’re very worried about the position of the Russian government … and the fact that they’re sending soldiers to the Ukrainian border,” Trudeau told a news conference.
Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a strong line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
“We’re working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursion into Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.
“We are standing there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage.”
Canadian troops are in Latvia as part of a NATO mission and Trudeau said they would “continue the important work that NATO is doing to protect its eastern front”.
Canada has had a 200-strong training mission in western Ukraine since 2015.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/canada-condemns-russian-troop-movements-near-ukraine-mulls-weapons-supplies-kyiv-2022-01-18 on Tuesday said Ottawa would make a decision at the appropriate time on supplying military hardware to Ukraine.
Trudeau side-stepped a question about sending defensive weapons, saying any decision would “be based on what is best for the people of Ukraine”.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren;Editing by Will Dunham and Philippa Fletcher)
With Canadians grappling with inflation not seen in a generation, the federal government has decided to throw fuel on the fire.
On Saturday, the Liberals’ vaccine mandate for international truckers came into effect, an ill-conceived move that will drive up the price of goods imported from the United States and exacerbate driver shortages and, more so, our national capacity to export Canadian goods.
Even without the mandate, today we have nearly 23,000 openings for professional drivers and counting — a vacancy rate already at a record high.
When we think of front-line workers, nurses, doctors and grocery store clerks are usually the first who come to mind. There is another occupation, however, that needs to be added to that list: truck drivers. Throughout the pandemic, tens of thousands of hard-working Canadians have been working round the clock to keep our supply chains moving.
Let me be clear: the Canadian trucking industry is strongly supportive of efforts to increase vaccine uptake among Canadians. Safe and effective, the vaccine is far and away the best way to prevent serious illness or death from COVID-19. The Alberta Motor Transport Association, for instance, partnered with the governments of Alberta and Montana to offer vaccine clinics for cross-border truckers.
Thanks to efforts such as these, the majority of truckers are fully vaccinated. Indeed, the vaccination rates among many Canadian Trucking Alliance members are well above the national average. As we have since the vaccine became available, we will continue to encourage our members to roll up their sleeves. This doesn’t change the incremental impacts of putting our MVPs — our professional drivers — on the bench.
That’s now our reality, thousands of truckers will be sidelined by this policy change. According to our data, the exit rate for the 120,000 truck drivers currently crossing the border will be between 10 and 15 per cent. Late last Wednesday evening, Canadians thought we had a reprieve on this direction, only to be rescinded within 24 hours. This flip-flop leadership just reinforced the confusion within the federal government on this issue.
And that, unfortunately, is just the beginning. The government has signalled that there will be amendments imminently under the Canada Labour Code, mandating any truck or bus drivers who cross a provincial border (federally regulated employees) to require vaccination. While the regulatory language, enforcement measures and penalties are still unclear, this government policy will force a driver whose route runs from Medicine Hat to Swift Current, Lethbridge to Cranbrook, or one side of a border town like Lloydminster to the other to choose between vaccination and working in our industry.
The federal government has snubbed meaningful engagement on this mandate. A consultation paper was posted on Dec. 7 and days later the process was closed to comments. Although Ottawa claimed to have engaged with stakeholders, the government clearly still doesn’t understand the severity of the outcome from a policy decision limiting Canadians ability to support bilateral trade or interprovincial mobility. At every step of the way, our industry has pleaded with the government to work with us on solutions, including regularly testing to keep our drivers behind the wheel, to no avail.
By putting politics ahead of common sense, the federal government is throwing up more roadblocks for a critical industry that is already under tremendous stress. As a result, Canada’s already fragile supply chains are going to be stretched even further.
What does that mean for Canadians? Well, get ready for more bare shelves and to open your wallets even wider for what is left. From food, to gas, to consumer goods, things are going to get even more expensive; that is if they make it to the shelf.
The cost of bringing a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California has already doubled during the pandemic due to the existing driver shortage. As Canadian fields lie fallow and covered in snow, produce prices will only go higher.
As is always the case with bad policies and bad politics, it’s going to be Canadians who are left holding the bag.
Jude Groves is the board chair of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.
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