In the coming days, Canada will see heightened activity in the nation’s ongoing gender identity politics debate. The “1 Million March 4 Children” protest against how gender identity is taught in schools, is set to occur on Wednesday, with synchronized events in more than 50 cities countrywide. Two days later, separate Toronto rally will spotlight two figures prominent in the gender-critical movement: Chris Elston, colloquially known as “Billboard Chris” for his distinctive method of protesting against childhood medical transition, and Josh Alexander, a Renfrew, Ontario student who was expelled earlier this year after objecting in class to his school’s transgender washroom policy.
Two key documents — shielded from the public until now — are providing some insight into how the Alberta government came to ease COVID-19 public health measures earlier this year.
A Court of Queen’s Bench justice in Edmonton recently rejected the government’s cabinet confidentiality claim and ordered a PowerPoint presentation and cabinet committee minutes be disclosed. It stemmed from a case challenging the decision to remove the province’s school mask mandate and block school boards from bringing in their own.
Lawyers for the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the parents of five immunocompromised children argue Albertans have the right to know what led up to the decision to lift the mandate.
The first of the highly anticipated documents is a Feb. 8 PowerPoint presentation prepared by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, which was presented by Health Minister Jason Copping, according to the province.
BREAKING – Tabs 13 and 14 are CMOH Hinshaw PowerPoint & Cabinet Committee Minutes. Now a public record. <a href=”https://t.co/Tjaw9jN6LF”>https://t.co/Tjaw9jN6LF</a> <a href=”https://t.co/g5JQHtOkNv”>https://t.co/g5JQHtOkNv</a>
It offers three possible options for lifting restrictions, seemingly crafted within the parameters of earlier guidance from the Priorities Implementation Cabinet Committee (PICC).
“Per previous PICC direction, three-step approaches to easing are proposed, with a focus on removing the restrictions exemption program and easing youth masking requirements,” the PowerPoint presentation said.
The first option proposed significant easing in Step 1, including eliminating school masking right away.
The second option suggested more moderate easing initially with school masking lifted in Step 2.
The third option left the approach open to the cabinet committee.
“The options presented to cabinet very much skewed in favour of lifting restrictions,” said Lorian Hardcastle, who teaches health law and policy at the University of Calgary.
“Interestingly, embedded in what I would expect to be a scientific discussion were considerations around political concerns and economic concerns. And very notably to me is that one of the “pros” listed in this presentation was to have Alberta be a leader in reopening, and that has nothing to do with science. That’s politics.”
In its discussion about timing, the document noted certain unspecified metrics would need to be achieved before moving to next steps and that “Alberta will be a leader in entering the endemic space, balancing the risks and benefits to easing before other Canadian jurisdictions.”
Cabinet committee minutes
The provincial government was also ordered to hand over cabinet committee meeting minutes from Feb. 8, the day it announced its plans to lift public health measures.
The minutes — which include the decision reached but no documentation of any discussion — show the second, more moderate option was chosen.
But the framework for easing restrictions that was actually put in place differs from the second option presented to cabinet and it appears the plan was modified.
The province lifted masking in schools two weeks after moving into Step 1 and before moving into Step 2. It also lifted the overarching provincial mask mandate earlier than the scenario laid out.
According to Hardcastle, with no record of the cabinet discussion, it’s impossible to know exactly what led to the changes.
“We don’t have a lot of information on how or why that decision was reached, and I think that’s unfortunate from an accountability perspective,” she said.
While the PowerPoint laid out a plan for removing public health measures, it also noted Alberta was not yet in the endemic phase.
Any easing of measures, it said, “should be predicated on declining rates of new COVID-19 hospitalizations over a sustained period of time.”
The PowerPoint noted the COVID positivity rate at the time had been stable for a few weeks, and while hospitalizations seemed to be at a “plateau,” they were “still high and straining the system.”
It also warned that once COVID infrastructure is “ramped down,” it would be difficult to re-establish quickly and that an uptick in cases would be expected as restrictions eased.
“If the situation worsens and the continued transition to endemic is not possible due to the level of strain on the acute-care system, the reinstatement of public health measures may be recommended,” the PowerPoint reads.
The AFL, which is one of the applicants in the case, calls the revelations in the documents “unsettling.”
“They had their eyes clearly focused on politics and their own narrow political interest, rather than the broader public interest where their focus should have been,” said AFL president Gil McGowan.
“I find it really troubling that the government was making a decision that was going to affect the health and safety of so many people, including our kids, just so they could say that they’re first. That’s not something that should be on their mind. What they should be focused on is the public interest and public safety, not bragging rights.”
Alberta government defends decision
The Alberta government said the documents filed in court show what they’ve argued all along.
“We moved forward with a plan to safely lift public health measures, in line with other provinces and other countries, based on the best available evidence, and advice from Alberta Health and the chief medical officer of health,” Steve Buick, press secretary for Health Minister Copping, said in a statement emailed to CBC News.
“We stand by our decision to lift public health measures, including ending mandatory masking in schools. It was the right choice for kids, and it did not pose undue risk to our communities.”
Buick said the documents show the provincial government did not cast aside advice contained in the PowerPoint presentation.
Suggestions that we ignored or overrode recommendations are simply false.– Steve Buick, press secretary for the health minister
“The minister of health provided cabinet with three options, presented uniformly without a recommended option. Cabinet chose from those options. Suggestions that we ignored or overrode recommendations are simply false,” said Buick, adding the provincial government is determined to avoid disruption of schools in the future as much as possible.
What these documents highlight, one expert argues, is the delineation between public health and political decision-makers.
“It wouldn’t be unusual for there to be fairly strict general guidelines announced by the decision-maker and then for the public service to work within those guidelines to give options on exact details of the implementation,” said Dr. Michael Curry, a clinical associate professor in the department of emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia who teaches about legal and ethical issues.
“So I think what Albertans can glean is that there was a discussion between cabinet which put some limits on the options that would be brought forth by the public health office, and the public health office brought forward a number of expert recommendations to the cabinet. But the exact implementation seems to have been a decision that was made by the cabinet.”
Julia Malott: Nope, parents are not ‘fascists’ for being skeptical of gender politics
As parents’ voices grow louder, there’s a perception in the progressive left that all of these emerging movements are rooted and inspired by “far-right” extremism. Many in leftist circles suggest that parental rights advocacy is a dog-whistle: a veiled attempt to advance anti-transgender policies. A recently leaked video from an Ontario Federation of Labour meeting offers a glimpse into how some of the province’s most influential union members perceive these protests. As one member notably stated during the meeting: “The fascists are organizing in the streets … . This is far more than a far-right transphobic protest. They’re fundamentally racist, they’re fundamentally anti-union, they are fundamentally transphobic, and it’s just a matter of time before they come for us.”
It’s a grave mistake to deride the parental collective pushing back against the status-quo as fascist sympathizers motivated by transgender hate. A glance past such alarmist rhetoric reveals that — while a fringe group of hate has always existed — the concerns many parents are championing are much more moderate than a “far-right” moniker suggests.
For many parents, the core issue at hand is preserving their agency and autonomy over the ideological content of their children’s education. They want transparency about what is being taught, the option to excuse their child from content they believe doesn’t align with their values, and the discretion to determine age-appropriateness for activities, such as certain reading material or events like drag queen performances at schools. Perhaps least surprisingly, parents want to be involved in the key decisions of their own child undergoing a social transition in the classroom.
The matter of social transition behind parents’ backs in particular is so condemning of their role in upbringing that it has thrust the entire gamut of gender identity matters into the national spotlight, revealing just how out of balance transgender accommodation has become. The manner in which the left has responded — by doubling down in their rhetoric and deriding parents as militant zealots, has played powerfully into the rapid growth of this grassroots movement.
Many parents, even amid those who will stand in protest, have little desire to limit other families’ decisions regarding gender teachings and expression for their children. They realize that their objective of ensuring their own parental autonomy is intertwined with safeguarding those same freedoms for other families as well.
So where do we go from here? What might a balanced approach to parental rights look like within the nuanced landscape of gender identity politics? Fortunately, we need not start from scratch; history offers us a model for the coexistence of diverse ideologies within our educational institutions. Look no further than religion.
Amid religious diversity, we teach acceptance. Students are taught to make space for varied faith expression among their peers, whether through clothing or other customs, and with a strong desire to maintain neutral, religious symbols are not adorned by the institution. The lesson for students is to embrace and include, even where personal beliefs diverge; Meanwhile, the guiding principle for the institution is to avoid actions that display favouritism toward any specific religious doctrine.
Such a solution could address a significant portion of the concerns fuelling the rising parental unrest. Moderate parents would applaud such an education system, and this would still be inclusive of transgender students. But in order for this to be realized, the two factions moving ever further apart will first need to come to the table and talk. Given the recent rhetoric from progressive quarters, the prospect of this dialogue anytime soon appears distant.
Ex-diplomat says Poland asked him to keep tabs on Alberta politician
A month after Global Affairs Canada told CBC News it was looking into claims that the Polish government asked one of its diplomats in Canada to gather information on a former Alberta cabinet minister, the dismissed consul general at the centre of the affair says he still hasn’t heard from the department on the matter.
Andrzej Mańkowski told CBC News the only official he has heard from is a B.C. bureaucrat who asked him to return his diplomatic licence plates and identification.
“[Officials with Global Affairs] haven’t tried talking to me,” he said.
Mańkowski showed CBC News a copy of a letter dated Aug. 31 he received from B.C.’s Chief of Protocol for Intergovernmental Relations Lucy Lobmeier asking him to turn in his identity card and to return his diplomatic plates “within 30 days of this letter.” She also thanked him for his service.
Mańkowski alleges he was dismissed from his post in late July after he refused to carry out orders from the Polish government to gather information about Thomas Lukaszuk, a former deputy premier of Alberta who often provides commentary to CBC News about the province’s politics.
“It’s clear that Polish diplomacy during Communist times, the main responsibility was to collect information, to gather information on some Polish representatives abroad,” Mańkowski said, adding he felt as if the request was a throwback to that time.
“The analogy’s extremely evident.”
Last month, Global Affairs Canada said it was taking the allegations seriously.
Spying allegations ‘out of this world’: ambassador
In August, Lukaszuk said he believed he had been targeted by Poland’s department of foreign affairs over his activism against a controversial Polish pastor, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, who has private radio and television stations in Poland.
Rydzyk, who has ties to the Polish government, has been criticized for delivering sermons featuring homophobic and anti-Semitic views and for preaching against the European Union.
Lukaszuk also shared what he said were encrypted messages Polish government officials sent to Mańkowski asking him over the course of a year to prepare notes on the former Alberta politician.
CBC News has not independently verified these messages were official government communications. Mańkowski did not dispute their veracity in his interview.
“Asking for my opinion about Lukaszuk was just a kind of trap, was just a political test of my loyalty,” he said.
Poland’s Ambassador to Canada Witold Dzielski called the allegation “totally absurd.”
“The idea of Polish diplomacy spying on a former provincial politician … it’s really out of this world,” Dzielski said.
He said he has never met Lukaszuk and did not know of his previous career in politics before Lukaszuk emailed him about an unrelated consular matter long before the reports about Mańkowski came out.
Dzielski said that if the notes cited by Lukaszuk are real, they were leaked illegally because they would constitute private diplomatic communications.
The affair has captured attention in Polish media, where the story first broke.
In July, Polish opposition politicians cited the messages released by Lukaszuk when they asked Piotr Wawrzyk, a secretary of state in the government’s foreign affairs department, whether Mańkowski was dismissed because he refused to spy on Lukaszuk.
In reply, Wawrzyk said the government could recall a diplomat who refused to carry out an assignment.
Wawrzyk, who was also a deputy foreign minister, has since been fired himself over an unrelated matter both local media outlets and Reuters have linked to a clandestine scheme awarding migrants visas in exchange for cash.
On Saturday, The Associated Press noted he had been hospitalized following an apparent sucide attempt.
“The minister, Wawrzyk, was laid off because of a totally different subject,” Dzielski said.
He pointed out that those documents were cited by opposition politicians in the context of a heated election campaign.
Dzielski� also said it’s normal for diplomats to be asked to gather information on notable members of diaspora communities.
‘A very marginal conversation’
“We are working very closely with them,” he said. “It is obvious and natural, and it is an element of diplomatic workshops, that we provide and we build ourselves opinions about the quality of cooperation with particular actors.”
He said Global Affairs has spoken to him about the allegations. “We had a very marginal conversation on this which reflects the level of seriousness of this topic,” he said.
A NATO member, Poland has worked closely with Canada to help out its neighbour Ukraine ever since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year.
Asked for comment, Global Affairs said in a media statement it “continues to work closely with security and intelligence community partners to assess the situation and identify next steps as appropriate.”
The department said last month it had contacted Lukaszuk and that it took the responsibility of protecting Canadians from “transnational repression” very seriously.
Put politics aside to solve housing crisis, or your kids might never own a home: Raitt
The Current20:05Putting politics aside to tackle the housing crisis
Political leaders of all stripes must find a way to work together to solve the housing and climate crises impacting Canadians, says former Conservative MP Lisa Raitt.
“Toronto is the best example. NDP mayor, provincial premier who’s Conservative, federal Liberal who’s the prime minister,” said Raitt, co-lead of the new non-governmental Task Force for Housing and Climate, which launched Tuesday.
“And if they don’t figure this out, one voter is going to punish them all.”
The new task force is concerned with accelerating the construction of new homes, while ensuring that’s done in a sustainable way. In a press release, the group of former city mayors, planners, developers, economists and affordable housing advocates said it intends to convene until April 2024 to develop policy recommendations. The work is supported by the Clean Economy Fund, a charitable foundation.
Raitt held several senior cabinet posts under former prime minister Stephen Harper. But as co-lead of the task force, Raitt said she won’t engage in the political partisanship that she thinks “poisons the well” around these issues.
“Part of the reason why we’re coming together as the task force is to have a real pragmatic and practical conversation about these issues instead of weaponizing it into a political arena, and finger pointing back and forth,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.
Canada needs to build an extra 3.5 million new units by the end of the decade, over and above what’s already in the works, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. A report this week showed rental costs have increased 9.6 per cent from Aug. 2022 to 2023, to an average now of $2,117 a month.
This week, the federal government announced it would cut the federal goods and services tax (GST) from the construction of new rental apartments, in an effort to spur new development. The Liberal government also pledged $74 million to build thousands of homes in London, Ont., — the first in what it hopes will be a series of agreements to accelerate housing construction.
Speaking in London on Wednesday, Housing Minister Sean Fraser called on municipalities to “legalize housing,” urging them to remove “sluggish permit-approval processes” and zoning obstacles if they expect federal investment in housing construction.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre criticized the government’s plans as not going far enough, while pointing out it echoes some of his party’s proposals. He’s proposed measures that tie federal funding to the number of housing starts. Funding would be withheld from cities that fail to increase the number of homes built by 15 per cent, while cities that pass that threshold would receive bonuses.
Poilievre’s proposals also include a “NIMBY” fine on municipalities that block construction because of opposition from local residents, and the sale of 15 per cent of federally owned buildings so the land can be used to build affordable homes.
Don Iveson, former mayor of Edmonton and co-lead of the task force, said he understands why partisan politics can creep into the debate — but Canadians expect more.
He said the task force intends “to help all orders of government” understand what’s needed to tackle these problems from an economic, technical and planning perspective.
“We’re not going to be able to solve the housing crisis [by] building housing the way we built it for the last several generations,” said said Iveson, who was mayor of Edmonton from 2013 to 2021.
Your kids need a place to live: Raitt
Iveson said the challenge of scaling up housing construction will require some new ways of thinking.
That might mean a greater emphasis on automation and building houses from components prefabricated off-site, which he described as “essentially a more factory approach” that could also reduce construction costs.
Raitt said the task force will examine where houses are built, and in what kind of density, to ensure scaling up can “get the most bang for the buck.”
That might mean Canadians might need to have difficult conversations, including whether to build multi-storey buildings instead of single-family homes.
Raitt said older Canadians who already own their own homes might not like the idea of taller buildings going up around them, but they should speak to their kids about it.
“They don’t care if it’s going to be four, six storeys in a residential neighbourhood. They just want a place that they know that they can purchase,” she said.
“Talk about whether or not our kids are going to have a place to live, let alone rent, let alone own, let alone a house in the communities where they were brought up, because right now it’s not looking so good.”
Counting the cost of climate change
When it comes to climate change and sustainability, the task force’s goals come down to a “very simple equation,” Raitt said.
“Whatever we’re building now is going to be here in 2050. So if it’s going to be part of the calculation of our net-zero aspirations, whatever they’re going to be,” she said.
She said the task force will work to formulate ways to build housing that take emissions into account, but don’t include prohibitive costs that slow down the rate of construction.
“It’s going to be a little bit more costly to build with climate indications built in … but you’ve got to make sure that there’s policies surrounding that to make sure it still makes it affordable,” she said.
Iveson said wildfires, floods, heat domes and extreme weather events are already disrupting the economy, as well as posing huge financial burdens for the Canadians caught up in them.
“Climate change is already costing us a fortune,” he told Galloway.
Building without those climate considerations “maybe seems affordable in the short term, but it’s false economy when it comes to the real costs ahead of us,” he said.
India's Economy Will Stumble Because of Low Savings – Bloomberg
India asks Canada to withdraw dozens of diplomatic staff – reports – BBC
Kim Zolciak & Kroy Biermann's Mansion Victim of Fake Real Estate Listing – TMZ
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Business21 hours ago
More TTC riders have full cellular service as Rogers allows BCE, Telus network access
Real eState21 hours ago
Toronto real estate class-action could affect billions of dollars in commissions
News21 hours ago
Story from the Cyber Frontlines
News15 hours ago
India tells Canada to withdraw dozens of diplomatic staff: Report
Business22 hours ago
Laurentian Bank CEO ousted as systems crash sparks major shakeup
Sports20 hours ago
The Growing Popularity of Online Casino Apps in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide
Media15 hours ago
Elon Musk’s X Slapped With Trademark Lawsuit From Social Media Ad Agency
Sports19 hours ago
As LeBron James enters Year 21, the theme of Lakers media day was passing the torch and sharing the load