The Canada Revenue Agency has locked an unknown number of taxpayers out of its online platform, telling users their email addresses have been removed from their accounts with little explanation.
Dozens of users took to social media on Tuesday and Wednesday to report encountering the same “error 021” on their accounts. Several said they spent hours waiting on CRA’s helpline to get their accounts unlocked, but either received little information or no response at all. The issue was first reported by the Daily Hive website.
“After being on hold for nearly three hours, the phone disconnected,” one user, Jason Bell, wrote to CBC News. “My only emotion right now is worry. Worry that my account, finances or identity have been tampered with.”
<a href=”https://twitter.com/DiLebouthillier?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@DiLebouthillier</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> on hold with CRA for 4 and a half hours. Transferred three times. Told CRA locked my account for an unknown reason. Now waiting for senior officer as the last two people couldn’t help. Why employ people who cannot help? Waste of tax money and time. <a href=”https://t.co/gYzw6kCSyM”>pic.twitter.com/gYzw6kCSyM</a>
A CRA spokesperson told CBC on Tuesday night that taxpayers who are registered for online account alerts “may receive a notification from the CRA indicating that their email address has been removed from their account.”
Christopher Doody, a CRA media relations representative, said in an email it was meant “as a security precaution in the context of ongoing investigative work, and is not due to a cyber security breach of CRA systems.” He said affected users can expect a letter in the mail with instructions on how to unlock their account.
Doody did not immediately respond to a request for clarification as to the nature of the investigation or why so many accounts had been locked all of a sudden. Affected users appeared across the country, from at least B.C. to New Brunswick, and not all had applied for recent pandemic-related relief, such as CERB.
‘Is my whole account frozen?’
It’s unclear whether taxpayers receiving a subsidy will be able to access the money while their account is locked. After thousands of accounts were breached last year, CRA told affected users it would “temporarily stop sending any benefit and credit payments to you until your identity has been validated and access to your account has been restored.”
Félicia-May Stevenson, who runs a kids’ face painting service and other art projects in Gatineau, Que., told CBC she’s unable to re-apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit that she’s been receiving. “Beyond that, is my Canada child benefit going to come in this week?” she wondered. “Is my whole account frozen?”
CRA said earlier this month it had hired additional call centre agents for what promises to be an exceptionally busy tax season amid the pandemic.
When a reporter dialled a CRA helpline on Tuesday night, he was told to call back later “due to high demand.” A recording said “all of our agents are currently busy and our agent queues are full.”
Trudeau says Canada-U.S. relations need to rebuild. Just how bad did it get with Trump? – CBC.ca
When Justin Trudeau met virtually with U.S. President Joe Biden this week, the prime minister suggested that relations between the two countries had taken a significant hit during Donald Trump’s administration, noting that “there’s a lot to rebuild.”
Tensions over trade culminated in tariff battles during Trump’s term in the White House, and his use of Twitter to blast the prime minister certainly put a chill on their relationship.
However, despite the often-tense relationship between the Trudeau and Trump, tough deals were still forged, including a revamped NAFTA agreement, while the countries continued to co-operate on longstanding issues.
“The relationship between the United States is so deep and so broad that you can’t characterize it simply in terms of whether or not an individual president and a prime minister get along” said David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2016 to 2019.
“Having said that, I think it is of huge value if they do,” he said. “There are times when having that kind of close personal relationship can make a difference. So I think it’s desirable, but it’s not essential.”
Yet MacNaughton said the reality was that Canada and U.S. continued to have a constructive relationship on the meaningful files.
For example, the military and intelligence relationship between the two countries continued to be very strong, he said.
While negotiations for the new NAFTA agreement — the Canada–U.S.–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) — were tough, an agreement was still hashed out, MacNaughton said.
“And frankly, I’m not sure if we were renegotiating NAFTA today, we would have an easier time with [the Biden administration].”
As well, key figures from Donald Trump’s administration were able to forge strong relations with Canada and members of Trudeau’s team. Sonny Perdue, the U.S. secretary of agriculture was a “great friend,” while former treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and former finance minister Bill Morneau “got along really well,” MacNaughton said.
Governors and premiers
And as CBC’s Aaron Wherry chronicled in his book Promise and Peril: Justin Trudeau in Power, Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford built a rapport with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was also a senior adviser to the president.
Even Trump’s controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon had said he had developed a good relationship with Trudeau’s Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary from 2015 to 2019.
Then there are the on-going Canada/U.S. relationships between governors and premiers, MacNaughton said. On a regular basis, the Atlantic, Western and Great Lakes premiers get together with their New England, Great Lakes and Western governor counterparts.
As well, there are bilateral mayoral, business and union relationships, he said.
“So to say the relationship was broken is putting too much emphasis on Donald Trump’s M.O.”
Chris Sands, director of the D.C.-based Wilson Center’s Canada Institute, said so much in the Canada/U.S. relationship is managed by unknown bureaucrats who continued working behind the scenes and were “getting important things done.”
That Canada was able to make a deal to keep the border restricted but not closed following the COVID-19 pandemic was a testament to the co-operation and trust we have [for] the Canadians,” he said.
‘Knows how to get things done’
“I don’t want to say that it was magic, but it was really good and it was a sign of a relationship that knows how to get things done,” Sands said.
“There were a lot of things that weren’t fun but they did get done in the Trump era and they’re still getting done now.”
Still, relations “did get pretty bad” as “trust was eroded over the last four years, particularly on the Canadian side toward the U.S,” said former American diplomat Scotty Greenwood, who spent four years as chief of staff of the U.S. Embassy in Canada.
“I do think that the relationship suffered. I do think the relationship between the leaders matters,” she said. “While there’s a certain inevitability of Canada/U.S. relations, there are still times when you really benefit from a good working relationship at the top to solve thorny issue or to create big opportunities.”
On that front, relations at the top were at times tumultuous with the president.
And some of that, at least, seemed to be sparked by Trump’s ire with Canada/U.S. trade deals and what he saw as Canada having an unfair trade advantage.
In 2017, Trump called Canada a “disgrace” for policies that he said hurt American farmers and would tweet a year later that “I love Canada but they’ve taken advantage of our country for many years!”
What eventually followed was the tense renegotiation of NATFA. But before that, Trump in June 2018, in the days leading up to the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Que., slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports.
This prompted a reportedly tense call between Trudeau and Trump over the tariffs. Trump reportedly at one point asked: “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” — a reference to the War of 1812.
‘Dishonest and weak’
The rhetoric became more heated after the summit, when Trump got word that Trudeau had said the tariffs were insulting and that Canada wouldn’t be pushed around. Taking to Twitter, Trump lashed back that the prime minister was “very dishonest & weak.”
Later, Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, remarked there was “a special place in hell” for Trudeau, while Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back.”
Such level of diplomatic vitriol prompted former prime minister Brian Mulroney to observe he had “never seen language like this. Least of all from subordinates of the president directed at the prime minister of their greatest friend and ally.”
WATCH | Trudeau caught complaining about Trump’s lateness:
A year later, however, there was another flareup. At a NATO summit reception in Buckingham Palace in London, Trudeau was caught on video complaining to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron that Trump was late because “he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”
Trump would later respond that while Trudeau was “a very nice guy,” he’s “two-faced” and was just upset that he had challenged the prime minister to make a greater financial contribution to NATO.
WATCH| Trump responds to Trudeau:
Weeks later, Trump would take another shot at Trudeau when he learned his cameo in the film Home Alone 2: Lost In New York had been edited out of CBC’s broadcast. (CBC said it had cut the scene before Trump was president and did it to make way for commercials.)
“I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on NATO or Trade!” Trump tweeted.
The relationship would come into focus again in June 2020 when Trudeau made headlines for his 21-second pause after being asked about Trump’s threat to use military force against protestors in the U.S.
WATCH | Trudeau’s 21-second pause:
Relations would be tested a few months later when Trump again slapped a tariff on Canadian aluminum, only to back down after Canada was set to impose retaliatory measures.
Yet despite these tensions, Trudeau was still able to work out and maintain a relationship with Trump, said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.
“It was difficult, but every Western leader had difficult relationships with Mr. Trump.”
Robertson said while other Western leaders gave up, Trudeau kept trying.
Most important relationship
“He had to because it’s our most important relationship,” Robertson said. “The one relationship our prime minister has to get right is the relationship with the United States.”
Greenwood, the former diplomat, said in an ironic twist, Trump’s threats to tear up NAFTA and his disruption of the system made the U.S. much more aware of the importance of Canada.
“What happened was the awareness of the economic relationship between the United States is maybe at an all-time high in Congress,” she said.
Greenwood, however, wondered if the new U.S. administration will be able to build from this new awareness.
“It seems to me the question is how will the prime minister, the president seize on the kind of awareness that now exists in the U.S … where policy makers appreciate more than ever our interconnectedness with Canada.”
COVID-19 cases are down across Canada, but hospitals aren’t celebrating yet. Here’s why – Global News
According to the country’s top public health official, new infections now stand at a national seven-day average of 2,960 cases daily — down from the average 5,270 cases exactly a month earlier. Several health experts and government officials have also said that the country was still on its way to meet its September target of having everyone who wants a vaccine inoculated.
Despite the positive outlook, hospitals and health-care workers aren’t celebrating just yet.
A report published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information on Thursday found the total number of health-care workers infected with COVID-19 has tripled since July of last year. By Jan. 15, the institute said health-care workers accounted for at least 65,920 — over nine per cent — of Canada’s 695,707 confirmed cases then.
The CIHI report also added 24 health-care workers have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, including 12 in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta within the last six months.
Gillian Howard, vice-president at University Health Network in Toronto, told Global News that the organization has seen an overall decrease in COVID-19 patients over the last two weeks, but that the health-care system was still in danger of being overwhelmed.
As of last week, she said 95 per cent of the UHN’s beds were occupied and that ICUs were still full — which could pose problems for health-care workers should the COVID-19 variants trigger a third wave.
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“The concern is that the variants, which are present in the community, will drive a third wave and that if patients with COVID are admitted to the ICU, the length of stay is much longer than usual,” she said.
“The other concern is the delay in surgeries and procedures for patients who require ICU beds following surgery or because of other health issues.”
‘Psychological trauma’ for years to come
The decreasing case numbers of COVID-19 are encouraging, but Dr. Ann Collins, president of the Canadian Medical Association, noted that “it’s too early to celebrate.”
“No question it is good news, but we still have to be very mindful of the variance and what’s happened in other parts of the world,” she said.
The aggressive nature of the variants is concerning, Collins said, adding that health-care workers are still under a great deal of pressure.
“Being stressed is probably an understatement in many ways,” she said.
Even as cases fall, Collins said many health-care workers — particularly those working in the country’s COVID-19 hotspots — are exhausted, face severe burnout and have been forced to completely isolate themselves from family and friends due to the nature of their jobs.
Health-care workers have the added stress of working directly with sick patients who have developed anxiety or depression due to their illness.
“They’ve had to become almost like family to patients that they’ve been caring for in the latter days of their lives because no family has been able to be there with them because of restrictions around visitation and so on,” said Collins.
“We expect to see some psychological trauma well beyond whenever we say that this is over.”
Some provinces ease restrictions as variant concerns rise
Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said that COVID-19 has put pressure on our health system that was “unimaginable a year ago.”
As a result, he said hospital staff have also been re-deployed to provide support to a number of non-hospital services — whether it’s running COVID-19 assessment centres and laboratories, working closely with long-term care homes to protect residents or on Ontario’s vaccination rollout.
According to Dale, the only reason such staff redeployments were even possible in the first place was because COVID-19-related hospitalization crowding cancelled most scheduled and elective surgeries.
“Now we have new, highly contagious variants that are circulating in the province, a vaccination roll out that continues to be delayed and a health care system operating under significant stress,” he said.
“A month ago we saw an all-time high of 420 COVID-19 patients in our ICU, while that number has decreased we remain at an alarming 325 patients, which represents almost 20 per cent of open ICU beds today.”
Some provinces seeing improvement
Out of the country’s ten provinces, many say hospitals are now less full than they were at the height of the pandemic, though several still warn of several regions continuing to face strain in terms of capacity.
Last month, Ontario’s hospitalizations peaked at 1,701 patients — including 385 in the ICU, though the numbers have dropped dramatically over the last month to just 680 current hospitalizations due to the virus.
The COVID-19 Modelling Collaborative — a joint collaboration between doctors and scientists from the University of Toronto, University Health Network and Sunnybrook Hospital — said this week that ICU resources were still strained in “every region” and that 43 per cent of Ontario’s surgical ICU’s had fewer than two available beds, however.
Saskatchewan also peaked last month at a total of 238 hospitalized patients, including 33 in the ICU, due to the virus. The number has lowered to that of 135 receiving inpatient care and 16 in the ICU as of Saturday.
Manitoba also saw a gradual decline after peaking at just over 360 hospitalizations in December. As of Saturday, the province registered 189 current hospitalizations due to the virus, of which 27 were admitted to the ICU.
A spokesperson from Manitoba’s Department of Health and Seniors Care said in a statement there were no hospitals within the province currently at or approaching capacity.
“As of midnight today, 206 individuals are in hospitals throughout the province due to COVID, the lowest number seen in this province since early- to mid-November. This includes both active patient cases and those who are past the infectious period but still sick enough to require inpatient care,” the statement read.
Alberta’s demand on its health system from the spread of COVID-19 had also peaked in late December. Despite the decline, the province said that the demand still remained high and warned that a rapid growth in cases would have consequences on its health system.
“We are maintaining the health system’s high capacity right now. If Alberta experienced the same sort of rapid growth that occurred in November and December while hospitalizations remain high, the health system would be severely impacted,” read the government’s website.
Quebec worries new COVID-19 variants could derail progress
A total of 5,000 people have been hospitalized there due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with the province currently at 262 hospitalizations — 51 of which are in ICU.
British Columbia health minister Adrian Dix said last week that the province was in a “fairly stable situation with respect to available beds.”
He said B.C.’s health-care system was currently operating at 74 per cent capacity, for a total of 3,531 available regular and surge beds. Meanwhile, he added ICU is operating at 51.7 per cent capacity with 367 available beds.
Quebec, which remains the hardest hit among all provinces, now currently sits at 599 hospitalizations, of which 112 are in intensive care.
The numbers are a far cry from the over 1,870 concurrent hospitalizations the province registered during the first wave of the pandemic, though health experts there have recently warned of a possible “nightmare scenario” of having to pick which patients are admitted to ICU and who will die should hospitalizations rise to similar numbers again.
Coronavirus: Long-term care home residents make up only small fraction of Ontario COVID-19 ICU admissions
New Brunswick currently has one person in-hospital with COVID-19, though health systems there have previously warned of staffing and bed shortages caused by the onset of the pandemic.
In Nova Scotia, there is only one person in-hospital with COVID-19, who has been set up in the province’s ICU, while 10 are currently in-hospital with COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
P.E.I. currently does not have any patients with COVID-19 admitted to hospital.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
U.S. approves Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca
The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.
Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.
The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.
“This is really good news,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Associated Press Saturday. “The most important thing we can do right now is to get as many shots in as many arms as we can.”
Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.
J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.
Health Canada is still reviewing the vaccine. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.
‘We’re champing at the bit to get more supply’
On Sunday, a U.S. advisory committee will meet to recommend how to prioritize use of the single-dose vaccine. And one big challenge is what the public wants to know: Which kind of vaccine is better?
“In this environment, whatever you can get — get,” said Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, who chaired an FDA advisory panel that unanimously voted Friday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.
Data is mixed on how well all the vaccines being used around the world work, prompting reports in some countries of people refusing one kind to wait for another.
WATCH | Will Canadians be able to choose which vaccine they get?:
In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95 per cent protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85 per cent against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66 per cent when moderate cases were rolled in. But there’s no apples-to-apples comparison because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading.
Collins said the evidence of effectiveness shows no reason to favour one vaccine over another.
“What people I think are mostly interested in is, is it going to keep me from getting really sick?” Collins said. “Will it keep me from dying from this terrible disease? The good news is all of these say yes to that.”
Also, J&J is testing two doses of its vaccine in a separate large study. Collins said if a second dose eventually is deemed better, people who got one earlier would be offered another.
The FDA cautioned that it’s too early to tell if someone who gets a mild or asymptomatic infection despite vaccination still could spread the virus.
There are clear advantages aside from the convenience of one shot. Local health officials are looking to use the J&J option in mobile vaccination clinics, homeless shelters, even with sailors who are spending months on fishing vessels — communities where it’s hard to be sure someone will come back in three to four weeks for a second vaccination.
WATCH | Canada’s procurement minister on Johnson & Johnson vaccine:
The J&J vaccine also is easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen.
“We’re champing at the bit to get more supply. That’s the limiting factor for us right now,” said Dr. Matt Anderson of UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, where staffers were readying electronic health records, staffing and vaccine storage in anticipation of offering J&J shots soon.
The FDA said studies detected no serious side effects. Like other COVID-19 vaccines, the main side effects of the J&J shot are pain at the injection site and flu-like fever, fatigue and headache.
The FDA said there is “a remote chance” that people may experience a severe allergic reaction to the shot, a rare risk seen with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in adults 18 and older for now. But like other vaccine makers, J&J is about to begin a study of its vaccine in teens before moving to younger children later in the year, and also plans a study in pregnant women.
All COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, usually by spotting the spike protein that coats it. But they’re made in very different ways.
WATCH | Provinces offer different timelines for COVID-19 vaccine rollout:
J&J’s shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the spike gene into the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus comes along. It’s the same technology the company used in making an Ebola vaccine, and similar to COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and China’s CanSino Biologics.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a different technology, a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that spurs cells to make those harmless spike copies.
The AstraZeneca vaccine — which was approved for use in Canada on Friday and is already in use in numerous other countries — is finishing a large U.S. study needed for FDA clearance. Also in the pipeline, Novavax uses a still different technology, made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein, and has reported preliminary findings from a British study suggesting strong protection.
Still other countries are using “inactivated vaccines,” made with killed coronavirus by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.
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