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Even in a global crisis, Justin Trudeau seems determined to do everything at once – CBC.ca

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It seems like a long time ago now, but back in December 2019, Justin Trudeau was a bruised prime minister who had just been given a second chance. The big question was what he would do with it.

Then a global pandemic happened.

COVID-19 made for a different kind of year — one that might have reset the public’s image of Trudeau. Now it sets up what could be a pivotal year both for Trudeau’s own political project and for a wide swath of public policy in Canada.

In the wake of the 2019 campaign, Trudeau did not tear everything down and start again. But the narrow outcome does seem to have caused him to reflect. In his first four years in government he’d been very front and centre — and not always in ways that showed a government taking action or achieving results. Going forward, Trudeau said, he wanted to talk more about “concrete things.”

Talking a good game

“The visuals, or the role that I took on in leading this government, sometimes interfered with our ability to actually talk about the really substantive things we were able to get done,” Trudeau said in an interview with the Canadian Press in December 2019.

The government did fine when it came to expressing the right values, Trudeau said, but didn’t do enough to show Canadians what it had actually done.

The Liberal government that took office in 2015 did manage to do some things in its first four years, and at least got a start on various other things. But that first term was defined more often than not by images and words rather than deeds. The government’s actions struggled to keep up with the high principles and ideals it so loudly advertised. And not all of the images were flattering.

Apart from a cabinet shuffle highlighted by Chrystia Freeland’s elevation to deputy prime minister and a throne speech that leaned heavily on the challenge of climate change, the final weeks of 2019 passed quietly. Trudeau went on vacation with his family. He grew a beard.

Scenes from the pre-crisis: Toronto police arrest protesters who blocked railway tracks in the city’s west end in support of the Wet’suwet’en. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Then things started happening quickly. The Iranian military shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, killing 138 people with ties to Canada. RCMP officers broke up a blockade that was preventing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia.

In response, protesters blocked major railway lines in Ontario and Quebec. Trudeau appealed for patience and calm. Andrew Scheer, still hanging on as Conservative leader, said Trudeau had offered the “weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history.”

And then that pandemic happened.

However much Trudeau may have intended to cede some of the spotlight, he was suddenly more front-and-centre than ever. Between March 13 and June 19, Trudeau appeared before television cameras 78 times, almost always in front of Rideau Cottage, his official residence.

The setting was initially both a necessity and a novelty — Sophie Grégoire Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19 and the family was forced to self-isolate — and then it became part of a daily routine. Each morning, during days of unprecedented tumult, Trudeau spoke to Canadians and took questions from reporters.

Whatever he’d shown Canadians before, the pandemic pushed him to the fore as a national leader in the middle of a global emergency. Standing behind a lectern, he tried to reassure and cajole. He called for unity and reminded everyone to wash their hands. But his words — including that promise to “have Canadians’ backs” — had to be reinforced by immediate and tangible action.

Deeds over words

This was a crisis that required communication and leadership. Even more than that, it required the government to do things — procure medical equipment, deliver aid to households and businesses, mobilize industry, close the border, dispatch the military. However much the exact details might be debated, the spring is likely to be remembered as one of the most frenetic periods of action in the history of Canada’s national government.

Shortly before the pandemic took hold, 47 per cent of Canadians had a negative view of Trudeau and 32 per cent held a positive one, according to a survey conducted by Abacus Data. That dim view of the prime minister had held steady since the spring of 2019, when the SNC-Lavalin affair exploded.

With the pandemic’s arrival, public sentiment flipped. In May, 47 per cent of respondents told Abacus they felt positively about Trudeau, while 31 per cent still viewed him negatively.

You can attribute Trudeau’s recovery in the polls to the “rally round the flag” effect. But a surge in support for a government leader during a crisis is neither guaranteed (ask Donald Trump) nor necessarily built to last (ask Boris Johnson).

Government leaders tend to experience a polling bump during a major crisis — but as the experience of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson demonstrates, there’s no guarantee that the ‘rally around the flag’ effect will last. (Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

Months later, Trudeau’s approval ratings have not reverted to pre-pandemic levels. In late November, Abacus reported a score of 42 per cent positive against 34 per cent negative for the prime minister.

However much Canadians were eager to rally around their leaders, Trudeau’s improved personal ratings might be linked back to what he said he wanted to emphasize in the wake of the 2019 campaign: getting things done. There was no time to be flashy or particularly aspirational. Promises had to be met quickly. It wasn’t always elegant or tidy, but the scale of the action was obvious.

And Trudeau’s numbers likely would be even better now if he hadn’t once again walked confidently into another wholly unnecessary ethics scandal — this time over his government’s decision to partner with the WE charity to deliver a youth service program. Some habits die hard.

In the midst of that messy summer, Liberals also began to publicly entertain the notion of an ambitious post-pandemic agenda. But if the government’s thoughts were once again in danger of floating too far away, the pandemic’s second wave brought things back to the inescapable present. By November 20, Trudeau was back in front of Rideau Cottage.

Halifax nurse Danielle Sheaves receives the first COVID-19 vaccination given in Nova Scotia on Dec. 16, 2020. (Robert Short/CBC)

The fall of 2020 otherwise saw a government trying to keep up with expectations, some of which it had created for itself. With the opposition howling impatiently and pundits circling, the first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine arrived.

The Liberals released a plan to meet Canada’s 2030 emissions target and tabled legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But they also had to concede that they would not meet their goal of bringing safe drinking water to every Indigenous community in the country by next spring.

Some of those things might end being legacy items. But there is now only more to do — either because of necessity or because of the government’s own stated ambitions.

The pandemic continues, now with the hope that all Canadians will be vaccinated by September. There is an economy to repair and the Liberals say they are willing to spend as much as $100 billion to do so.

The throne speech in September laid out a post-COVID agenda that would have the federal government expand access to child care, reform employment insurance, advance pharmacare, negotiate new national standards for long-term care, invest in new training for workers, combat systemic racism, build a clean economy, increase immigration and further the cause of Indigenous reconciliation — and do it all in a fiscally sustainable way.

The Liberals are making their arguments about what should be considered important now. But their agenda also seems like the culmination of the broad ideas and goals they laid out five years ago — when they proposed that an activist government should focus on growing and supporting the middle class, promoting diversity, fighting climate change and advancing reconciliation. The Conservatives have always argued that the Liberals have been going about those things all wrong. The NDP has come to argue that they’re not going far enough or fast enough.

The question for Trudeau is how much of it his government can get done before the next election, whenever it happens. With the support of the New Democrats (or the Bloc Québécois, or even some Conservatives), he could carry on doing these things for another three years before going to the polls. With no small amount of effort (and some luck), he could have this agenda mostly in place before the next election.

Or he could wager — in the spring or maybe the fall — that taking his case to the voters would result in the sort of majority that would give his Liberals another four years to fully implement an agenda without the posturing and constant negotiation of a minority Parliament.

Circumstances in the House of Commons may dictate Trudeau’s choice. As always with this government, much will depend on Trudeau and the Liberals not getting in their own way, regardless of the path they choose.

A different kind of year has left Justin Trudeau in a different place. But the basic challenge — getting things done — hasn’t really changed.

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Canada's coming month of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments will be reduced by half – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Over the next month Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, with the shortage resulting in an average of 50 per cent of coming doses delayed each week.

While shipments will continue in the coming weeks, the amount of doses in them will be lessened, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of doses.

“Pfizer has confirmed that Canada’s deliveries will be impacted for the next four weeks. We will see an average reduction over this timeframe of 50 per cent of expected deliveries. There will minimal impact next week… The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout. 

This setback to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule means the number of doses going to each province and territory will have to be readjusted. Fortin said that the allocations will begin to scale back up in the first two weeks of February, before returning to the size of doses originally anticipated. 

Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

The delivery for the week of Jan. 25, which Fortin said is likely to see the largest reduction, was set to be 208,650 doses. If that’s reduced by half, Canada will receive 104,325 Pfizer doses that week, which is fewer than the forecasted allocation received this week.

“In my conversation this morning with Pfizer, it was very clear that we’re are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately four million doses of Pfizer by March 31,” Fortin said,

Fortin said that knew the company would at some point need to scale-up their manufacturing to ramp-up its mass production, but the news of the looming construction project was brought to the federal government’s attention in the last 24 hours, according to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.  

Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the delay on Friday, saying all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

“It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced. In the coming week their shipment will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

“The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

The government sought to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions, according to Anand. Fortin confirmed later Friday that this will be the case, with all seeing deliveries reduced by 50 per cent on average.

Anand said that while Canada is expecting to be able to catch up, the delay is “unfortunate.”

“However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

WON’T IMPACT PHASE 2  

The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

Fortin said the delays “will not change our second quarter goals,” though he could not guarantee future delays. He said he understands and feels the “disappointment,” but “we need to move forward.”

He committed to keep all key stakeholders, and Canadians appraised of any future delivery schedule changes. 

The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

Asked whether Canada will be looking to revisit their decision to not procure additional Moderna doses to make up the shortage over the next few weeks, Fortin said the amount scheduled to arrive from that company will stay the same.

As previously reported, the additional 16 million Moderna doses that the federal government left on the table in talks with that company would not be arriving until late 2021. 

As for whether Canada looked into being able to receive Pfizer shipments from the  United States facility, Fortin said that the federal government looked into it, but for now Canada’s line of doses will continue to come exclusively from the European facility.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that because as part of the regulatory approval granted to Pfizer, Health Canada approves the manufacturing sites as well as the vaccine itself.

“So, should we procure from even the same company a different site, then there would need to be review of the manufacturing data,” she said. 

Several federal officials sought to reassure Canadians Friday that the country remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.   

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed two million Friday, according to a tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as vaccines developed at breakneck speed are being rolled out around the world in an all-out campaign to vanquish the threat of the virus.

The milestone was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities that were inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.

It took eight months to hit one million dead. It took less than four months after that to reach the next million.

“Behind this terrible number are names and faces — the smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He said the toll “has been made worse by the absence of a global co-ordinated effort.”

“Science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed,” he said.

WATCH | WHO chief pleads with weary world to help break COVID-19 transmission:

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pushed past 2 million, the head of the World Health Organization urged people to use the tools they have to curb the virus and lift the burden on health workers. 1:40

What’s happening across Canada

As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 693,835 cases of COVID-19, with 76,149 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,698.

Pfizer will temporarily reduce shipments of its vaccine to Canada as it expands long-term manufacturing capacity, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday. 

“This expansion work means that Pfizer is temporarily reducing deliveries to all countries receiving vaccines manufactured at its European facility, and that includes Canada,” Anand told reporters at a public health briefing.

Anand stressed that Canada remains on track to have enough approved vaccines for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated by the end of September this year.

In the same briefing, the Public Health Agency of Canada released new modelling that showed roughly 2,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 over the next 10 days, while as many as 100,000 more people could contract the virus.

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.

At a livestreamed update Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs said that while the vast majority of New Brunswickers are following the rules, “we still don’t see the compliance we need to.” He said moving back to the red level “is indeed a possibility” if that doesn’t change.

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 | Montreal ICU doctor on triage protocol as COVID-19 cases surge:  

Dr. François Marquis, an intensive care chief at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal, explains how his hospital’s triage tool will work. But he said he is also concerned about the need to use it. 6:52

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.

On Thursday, the province pledged to deliver second vaccine shots within “a maximum” 90 days after the first, after its decision to delay second doses prompted consternation and at least one lawsuit.

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.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford has kicked an MPP out of the Progressive Conservative caucus for sending an open letter asking for the province’s lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions to end.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Ford called the comments from York Centre MPP Roman Baber’s two-page letter “irresponsible,” saying Baber will not be allowed to seek re-election as a PC member.

WATCH | Uncertainty around how to enforce Ontario’s stay-at-home order:  

The 29 exemptions in Ontario’s provincewide stay-at-home order has many officials and residents confused and authorities with serious questions about how to do their jobs. 1:52

A provincewide stay-at-home order and other new restrictions took effect on Thursday and are slated to remain in place until at least Feb. 11. They come as Ontario deals with surging COVID-19 numbers that threaten more deaths than seen during the first wave.

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, which reported 312 new cases on Thursday, released its latest modelling forecast, showing the province could see around 900 new infections a day by Jan. 25 even if residents closely follow public health guidelines.

Dr. Ryan Warshawski, president of the Yukon Medical Association, receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Whitehorse on Wednesday. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

In Yukon, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for physicians and high-risk hospital staff has inoculated about 300 people.

Northwest Territories health officials say wastewater testing suggests there may be one or more undetected cases of COVID-19 in Hay River.

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 Friday afternoon, more than 93.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.5 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.

In the Americas, U.S. health officials say by March, a new and more infectious strain of coronavirus — first found in the United Kingdom — will likely become the dominant strain in the United States.

The variant is currently in 12 states, but has been diagnosed in only 76 of the 23 million U.S. cases reported to date. However, it’s likely that version of the virus is more widespread in this country than is currently reported, according to scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it’s considered more infectious than the virus that’s been causing the bulk of U.S. cases so far, there’s no evidence that it causes more severe illness or is transmitted differently. Therefore, mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing and other prevention strategies can still work, the CDC said.

In Europe, Belgium is strengthening its rules for travellers entering the country by train or bus in a bid to limit the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

In a statement Friday, Belgium’s Interior Ministry said travellers arriving from a country outside the European Union or the Schengen space with a high contamination rate will now be subject to the same rules as those coming by boat or plane.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has signed a new series of restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus resurgence. The new rules, which run through Feb. 15, extend the ban on travelling between regions and maintains a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew.

As well, the opening of ski lifts has been postponed for a second time, and — in a rule hotly contested by regional leaders — bars must close completely at 6 p.m., and cannot offer take-away or delivery as is permitted by restaurants.

In Asia, China said it is now treating more than 1,000 people for COVID-19 as numbers of cases continue to surge in the country’s north.

The National Health Commission said Friday that 1,001 patients are under care for the disease, 26 of them in serious condition. It said 144 total new cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The province of Hebei, just outside Beijing, accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43 new cases.

A medical worker monitors patients after they received the coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination facility in Beijing on Friday. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

Pakistan’s education minister said authorities will start reopening schools in phases from Jan. 18 despite a steady increase in deaths and infections from the coronavirus.

Schools were closed in November when data showed that the country’s positivity rate had jumped to about seven per cent. The rate has since come down to 5.9 per cent, which is still high, according to experts.

In Africa, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday that millions of coronavirus vaccine doses secured by the African Union (AU) will be allocated according to countries’ population size.

Street vendors wearing masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus sell vegetables in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, on Thursday. (Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press)

Ramaphosa, who is the current AU chairman, said on Wednesday that vaccines from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca would be available this year, but he did not specify how much each African country would get.

No African countries have begun large-scale coronavirus vaccination campaigns and the AU’s 270 million shots, if administered two per person, would still only cover around 10 per cent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.

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Canada will experience 'temporary' delays with Pfizer shipments: Anand – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced Friday.

While she did not specify how severe of a setback this will be to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccination schedule, she said all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

Anand said that shipments will continue in the coming weeks, but the amount of doses in them will be lessened.

“It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

Pfizer is speaking with Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout, later Friday about the readjusted number of doses in the weeks coming, and Anand pledged to have more information to share in the coming hours. 

Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “starting next week and for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

“The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

“Pfizer believes that by the end of March we will be able to catch up, such that we will be on track with the total committed doses for Q1. This is unfortunate, however such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

She said the Canadian government is seeking to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions.

By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

The minister said that she remains in constant contact with Pfizer, who has assured her the delay will be “short.”

She said Canada remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.  

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