Democrats took back control of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday after winning two hard-fought runoff elections in Georgia, granting president-elect Joe Biden far greater leeway to turn his campaign promises into reality.
The victories by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock give Democrats and Republicans each 50 seats in the U.S. Senate. That means any ties on the Senate floor will be settled by vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.
Biden and Harris campaigned on a platform that experts say could have wide-ranging impacts on Canadian industries and political relations. Now that Democrats have won full control of Congress, here’s a look at how the new political landscape could have ripple-effects north of the border.
DEMAND FOR CANADIAN EXPORTS
Senate control means Democrats will have an easier time passing additional stimulus money they’ve been pushing for. Speaking ahead of the Georgia runoffs, Biden said that $2,000 stimulus cheques would be sent out “immediately” should Democrats win both races.
More stimulus money could buoy the American economy and would “certainly benefit” Canadian exporters that rely on U.S. markets, according to Wayne Petrozzi, a professor emeritus from Ryerson University.
“That stimulus will increase the appetites of Americans for imports and keep American manufacturing facilities running that need raw materials. So I think that certainly impacts Canada in a positive way,” Petrozzi told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.
Biden has also promised more funding for cities struggling with falling tax revenue amid the pandemic. A financial lift could be good news for Canadian manufacturers that make light rail, buses or other transit options.
“I think generally the stimulus, in terms of payments to individuals … will just have the effect of generally putting a floor under the American economy and increasing confidence amongst manufacturers to bring back staff in some cases or to increase production. And the demand for Canadian raw materials is going to be there.”
But Petrozzi also pointed out that the filibuster — a procedural way of delaying a vote on the Senate floor — could still be a serious procedural headache for Democrats. Because of this, he expects Biden to use plenty of executive orders, not unlike Trump did, to carry out his agenda.
HARD PIVOT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Biden has promised to put the U.S. back into the Paris climate change pact and roll out a suite of domestic policies that cut back on emissions, a move that experts have previously said would be good news for Canadian industries currently competing against American companies with fewer environmental regulations.
Biden has also issued a US$1.7-trillion “Clean Energy Revolution” plan that includes investing heavily in green technology and aggressively pursuing making the U.S. power sector emissions-free by 2035. The goal is to position the U.S. as a leader in green tech and create thousands of new jobs.
Getting that high-budget plan through a Republican-controlled Senate would’ve been an uphill battle, but Democrats may now face fewer roadblocks in passing such legislation.
If the Biden administration makes good on those big-budget green promises, they could spur greater competition in Canada, according to Ryan Katz-Rosene, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa who researches environmental policy, in an earlier interview with CTVNews.ca. In particular, green hydrogen, a clean but costly alternative to fossil fuels, could see some healthy market competition.
“If the U.S. is pouring trillions of dollars into green tech, that changes the situation,” he said. “All of a sudden, Canadian producers of green hydrogen … they start saying, ‘Now we need to ramp things up.’”
TAXING BIG TECH
Biden has made clear that he wants to increase the overall corporate tax rate and make sure that big tech companies, such as Amazon and Netflix, pay their fair share.
“Let me be clear: Hardworking Americans should not be paying more in federal income taxes than Amazon or Netflix,” Biden tweeted four days before the election.
In Australia, the government has taken steps to force Facebook and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, to share advertising revenue with local media firms. The United Kingdom has passed a digital services tax in hopes of getting companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook to pay higher domestic taxes.
The Canadian government has announced its own plans to require multinational companies like Netflix and Amazon to collect GST or HST on digital products and services in 2021.
If the Biden administration cracks down on big tech companies, it could inspire Canada to go even further with its own plans, Petrozzi said.
“The fact that the incoming administration is likely moving in a similar direction can’t hurt, it can only help us,” he said.
FIGHTING COVID-19, REOPENING BORDER
Biden has vowed to aggressively clamp down on the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. by signing a mask mandate on his first day in office and by vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.
Trump has not gone as far in pushing for universal masking and has, at times, encouraged anti-mask protesters who defied their state’s lockdown measures.
With Democrats controlling Congress, they could push through even tougher measures designed to mitigate the outbreak, Petrozzi said.
“I think the renewed and increased emphasis on coming to terms with and conquering the current pandemic in the United States will have very significant economic benefits,” he said.
He points to industries such as cross-border tourism or Toronto’s convention centres, which have greatly suffered due to the border shutdown. The sooner the U.S. flattens the curve and follows through on widespread vaccinations, the sooner life can return to normal, Petrozzi said.
“There is tremendous pent-up demand on the American side for travel. Canada has always been a favourite economic destination. Our government with the current Trump administration was never going to open those borders. You’d have to be out of your mind to open Windsor given what was happening in Michigan.”
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca
- India begins ambitious COVID-19 vaccination drive.
- Trudeau says delayed Pfizer vaccine deliveries will ramp up again in February.
- New modelling shows roughly 2,000 more Canadians could die from COVID-19 over next 10 days.
- Alberta’s Phase 1 vaccination rollout slowed over Pfizer supply issues.
- Why playing arena hockey can be risky during the pandemic.
- Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.
India began its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 on Saturday, with plans to inoculate about 300,000 people on the first day of the drive.
The first recipients are to include doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. They are to be followed by people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to the respiratory illness.
The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital of New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the campaign with a nationally televised speech.
“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines.”
People will not be able to choose between the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine and a government-backed vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not entirely known because it’s still undergoing Phase 3 trials. Both vaccines are being produced locally.
Canada’s vaccine supply, meanwhile, has hit a stumbling block. Pfizer is upgrading and expanding its European production line, so its vaccine deliveries to Canada and other countries will be temporarily disrupted, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand said on Friday.
Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by half for four weeks, said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the development will not thwart plans to have enough vaccine doses by September for every Canadian who wants to be inoculated and that deliveries will ramp up again in February.
The news came as the Public Health Agency of Canada released federal projections that suggested the pandemic’s impact may soon exceed levels seen in the first wave, rising to 19,630 cumulative deaths and 10,000 daily infections over the next 10 days.
WATCH | Pfizer delays will slow vaccine program, says Ontario’s task force leader:
PHAC said the modelling data showed that roughly 2,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 by Jan. 24, while as many as 100,000 more people could contract the novel coronavirus.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 695,707 cases of COVID-19, with 76,067 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,729.
In British Columbia, where all available vaccine doses are being deployed as they arrive, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Pfizer’s delay in deliveries will have “some significant effect” on when priority groups get their shot.
The delay could also affect the wait time between each shot of the two-dose regime, he said.
Although Pfizer-BioNTech suggests a second dose 21 days after the first, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that could be extended to 35 days.
A spokesperson for Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the temporary slowdown in deliveries reinforced the province’s decision to wait up to 90 days to administer the vaccine’s second dose.
WATCH | Businesses plan when remote employees return to the office:
“The strategy remains the same: we must give a boost now and vaccinate as many vulnerable people and health workers as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Marjaurie Cote-Boileau.
Alberta decided earlier this week to push back its second shots to 42 days. The province’s health minister, Tyler Shandro, said Friday that he had hoped to soon announce all seniors over 75 and Indigenous people over 65 would be eligible for the vaccine, but the delay makes that out of the question.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province was evaluating the impact of the delay and “will adjust as necessary.”
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick recorded 25 new cases on Friday, continuing a recent surge in cases that has seen provincial officials warning of new restrictions.
Nova Scotia reported two new cases and two new recoveries on Friday, leaving its number of active cases at 32. In Truro, a mobile health unit has been set up in response to an increase in the number of potential exposures in the area during the last week.
Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Friday. Prince Edward Island saw one new case on Thursday.
WATCH | Ontario schools for special needs students stay open despite lockdown:
Quebec announced 1,918 new cases and 62 deaths on Friday. There are 1,496 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 231 in intensive care.
Ontario reported 2,998 new cases and a record 100 deaths on Friday, though 46 deaths reported by Middlesex-London Health Unit occurred earlier in the pandemic. There are 1,647 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 387 in intensive care.
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Manitoba reported 191 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths on Friday. The update comes a week before provincewide restrictions that ban most gatherings and the sale of non-essential goods expire. The provincial government is now considering reducing some of those restrictions, and is asking for input from the public in an online survey.
Saskatchewan reported 382 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths on Friday. Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said Thursday he will recommend new restrictions next week if COVID-19 case numbers don’t decline.
Alberta reported 785 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths on Friday, while British Columbia health officials reported 509 new cases and nine more deaths.
In Yukon, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for physicians and high-risk hospital staff has inoculated about 300 people.
Northwest Territories chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola announced that one person in Yellowknife had tested positive for COVID-19. Kandola said the person has not travelled, and there is no known source of infection at this time.
In Nunavut, more than 600 people are estimated to have received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine so far, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 93.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.7 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been granted approval for emergency use in Pakistan, Faisal Sultan, the country’s health minister said on Saturday.
Pakistan is in the process of speaking to a number of vaccine makers, but this is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be given the green light in the South Asian country.
In Europe, Spain on Saturday ruled out a new national lockdown despite the record of COVID-19 cases recorded on Friday. The country registered 40,197 new cases on Friday, while the incidence of the disease measured over the past 14 days hit a new high of 575 cases per 100,000 people.
Unlike other European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, which have extended national lockdowns, Spanish officials have repeatedly said a return to home confinement should not be necessary.
Prince William is encouraging everyone in Britain to follow the example of Queen Elizabeth, his grandmother, in being inoculated against COVID-19 as authorities battle unsubstantiated fears about vaccine safety.
The second in line to the throne spoke about the Queen and her spouse, Prince Philip, during a video call with National Health Service staff and volunteers that was released late Saturday. The medics told William some members of the public are reluctant to get any of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by regulators.
“My grandparents have had the vaccine and I am very proud of them for doing that,” William said. “It is really important that everyone gets the vaccine when they are told to.”
The Queen, 94, last week disclosed that she and Philip, 99, had received the first dose of vaccine. The disclosure was meant to boost confidence in the shots as the NHS seeks to give the first dose of vaccine to everyone over 70 by the middle of February.
Canada should formally apologize for slavery, Essex historian says – CBC.ca
A Windsor-Essex historian wants the Canadian government to formally apologize for slavery, and she’s seeking the support of local municipalities in her advocacy efforts.
Elise Harding-Davis said an apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could bring about healing and acknowledgement of the effects of slavery.
“African-Canadians might feel a little more comfortable in their own country, the country that they fought for … the country they’ve contributed mightily to and not gotten a fair shake,” said Harding-Davis, who lives in Harrow, Ont.
Harding-Davis spoke with CBC Radio’s Tony Doucette on Windsor Morning.
Slavery was outlawed in the British Empire in 1834, more than 30 years before confederation. Even though slavery pre-dates Canada, the nation still benefited from the vestiges of it, she said, and Black people were not invited to become citizens until 1911.
“People don’t know these things,” Harding-Davis said. “There were many, many anti-Black legislations over the years.”
Harding-Davis has written to the prime minister several times advocating for the apology and was also behind a petition last year.
She’s currently seeking support from municipalities in the the Windsor-Essex region and has letters of support from the towns of Essex and Amherstburg.
Harding-Davis appeared before Lakeshore town council on Tuesday to deliver a presentation on the topic, and council agreed to send a letter of support to Ottawa.
2017 UN report calls on Canada to apologize
Harding-Davis’ concerns reflect mounting criticism that the legacy of slavery within Canada has gone unacknowledged.
A 2017 report from a working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council noted that the enslavement of Black people in what’s now Canada began in the 16th century.
“Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation and marginalization of African Canadians has left a legacy of anti-Black racism and had a deleterious impact on people of African descent, which must be addressed in partnership with the affected communities,” the report’s authors stated.
The report called on Canada to apologize for the enslavement of Black Canadians, consider reparations and take steps to preserve the history of slavery in Canada, as well as the contributions of Black Canadians.
Prime Minister Trudeau asked about slavery apology
Last June, in the midst of the global reckoning on anti-Black racism sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, Trudeau was asked about the UN report and an apology for slavery.
He did not provide a direct answer but said the government has worked closely with the community to support Black Canadians and acknowledged more needs to be done.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office referred CBC News to the office of Bardish Chagger, the minister responsible for diversity and inclusion as well as youth.
A statement from a spokesperson did not say whether the government would move ahead with an apology, but referenced the government’s recognition of the International Decade for People of African Descent and a 2020 private members’ motion to recognize Emancipation Day, which marks the abolition of slavery.
“Recognizing Emancipation Day at the federal level would be another step forward in acknowledging the multi-generational harms caused by slavery and the contributions peoples of African descent in Canada have made throughout generations,” the spokesperson said in an email.
The spokesperson went on to say that more needs to be done to tackle anti-Black racism and bring about awareness of Black history — “which is why we are committed to do the work.”
Over the years, Trudeau and his predecessors have formally apologized for historical injustices against various groups.
Among the official apologies include several to Indigenous peoples, an apology over the Chinese head tax and an apology for sending Japanese-Canadians to internment camps during the Second World War.
Windsor Morning6:23Slavery apology
How the spread of coronavirus variants could completely change the pandemic in Canada – CBC.ca
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
More contagious strains of the coronavirus have rapidly spread to more than 50 countries around the world, raising concerns that they may already be silently driving spikes in cases in Canada that threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system.
Variants recently identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil are transmitting much more easily than the original strain, with the first estimated to be at least 56 per cent more transmissible.
But while early research shows the variants don’t necessarily lead to an increase in severe illness, health experts are growing more concerned about the effect the more transmissible variants could have on our already strained hospitals.
“We’re already at a breaking point,” said Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
“It’s happening at a time when the system’s already stressed to the point of potentially being overwhelmed.”
Dr. Eric Topol, a U.S. physician, scientist and clinical trials expert who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, said he’s “deeply concerned” about the spread of the new variants globally.
“If a strain is more infectious, substantially more, that means more deaths, more hospitalizations, more ‘long COVID,'” he told CBC News.
“We keep hearing it doesn’t cause worse illness. Well, it doesn’t have to — it just causes more people to have that same illness.”
Topol said the variant first found in the U.K., also known as B117, exhibits changes in the spike protein — a key component of how the coronavirus binds to human cells. He said that those changes are likely behind its higher transmission, with the altered spike protein potentially allowing the coronavirus to infect cells more easily.
“A virus that was substantially more fit to infect more people was the last thing we needed right now, and we’ve got it and it’s not going away,” he said.
“The only thing we can do is slow its spread.”
How bad is the situation with variants in Canada?
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday officials “continue to monitor” the spread of the variants in Canada, with at least 25 known cases to date.
Ontario has already identified 14 cases of B117, three of which have no known link to international travel. That prompted concerns from officials it could already be driving spread more than detected in hard-hit regions of the province.
“If that’s confirmed, we have evidence then of community transmission and that is a very serious concern that the vaccine will not be able to address quickly enough,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said this week. “It’s very likely that we have more that we’re not aware of.”
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said if B117 continues to spread in Ontario the rate of new cases could rise to “scary,” “almost near-vertical” levels.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time we prove that there is community transmission definitively, it’s already spread like wildfire,” said Hota. “It’s just the nature of the beast.”
Brown added the variant could already be driving “a very dramatic growth in cases” in certain parts of the province, similar to the way it did in the United Kingdom despite strict public health restrictions.
WATCH | Ontario issues stay-at-home order amid dire COVID-19 projections:
“What we’re detecting is likely only the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont. “We absolutely cannot discount the possibility that it is here and it’s already having some kind of influence on the spread.”
British Columbia identified its first case of the variant first found in South Africa on Thursday, in addition to four previously discovered cases of B117.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday officials are investigating how the latest case became infected with the variant, due to the fact that they also had no known link to travel.
“It is, of course, concerning we don’t know where this arose,” she said, signalling the variants could be spreading more widely in the community.
Five cases of B117 have also been confirmed in Alberta, along with one case of the variant first discovered in South Africa, but officials say all of those cases are travel-related.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said during a press conference Thursday that the mutation of the coronavirus is “normal” and that the “emergence of variants is not unusual or unexpected.”
WATCH | WHO says new U.K. studies confirm variant of COVID-19 more transmissible:
He added that while Canada initially stopped all flights from the UK over fears the variant could spread here, that ban was lifted last week in favour of mandating all travellers into the country present a negative COVID-19 test.
On Friday, scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released modelling data that warned by March, B117 could become the dominant strain in the United States.
Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair of emerging viruses, said he’s concerned Canada may be unprepared for cases of the variant increasing “underneath the surface.”
“We can’t judge when there’s going to be that sudden rise,” he said.
“You get a sense of the storm that could be coming and you’re watching that tsunami warning getting louder and louder — we need to be ready for this.”
Kindrachuk says the fact B117 took over as a main circulating strain in Ireland, England and Denmark in just a matter of weeks is “gravely concerning” for Canada because of the risk it could spread more widely here.
“The increases in cases we’re seeing right now are already concerning, but that’s not due to the variants,” he said. “So what happens when the variants start to take hold in different regions?”
Saskatchewan is the only province that currently says all of its COVID-19 testing will detect the B117 variant, while other provinces said that they only send positive test samples for further scrutiny if the context warrants.
“We’re not necessarily picking up on the cases of the known variants,” said Hota. “There may be other variants that are evolving as well under our noses.”
“The bottom line is, you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where by the time you have that information, it’s already your dominant strain.”
While efforts are underway to find a quicker way to test for variants, the current “deep sequencing” required is both expensive and time consuming — taking days to over a week to get results, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont.
What can be done to prevent the spread of variants?
While many of the public health guidelines recommended to stop the spread of the coronavirus are thought to be effective against the variants, experts say we should be doubling down on them and avoiding risky situations.
“Think of it this way, we don’t need to do more of the same — we need to do better of the same,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC told CBC News. “It’s all about limiting risk.”
Physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene and avoiding crowds are all effective, but Frieden says people should also reduce their time spent indoors with those they don’t live with, wear better quality masks such as N95s or surgical masks and have as few in-person interactions with others as possible.
WATCH | What scientists know about the new coronavirus variant (Jan. 8):
Frieden said that means, if possible, spending a few minutes in the grocery store to pick up essential items, or ordering online, as opposed to going in for an extended period to shop.
“In the past, with the earlier strain it was harder to get infected with it — you might have been in the same room, you might have been the same distance, and you would have evaded it,” said Topol. “But now, this has a more aggressive ability to infect.”
Frieden said at a population level, countries like Canada should focus on vaccinating as many people as they can as quickly as possible — especially older age groups and long-term care residents.
“Vaccines are enormously important. They’re the single most powerful tool that we have,” he said, “but a vaccination program is going to take a long time to go out.”
“The more we don’t take precautions, the more we can see explosive exponential spread.”
To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.
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