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Federal leaders spar over vaccines, health care and guns in first French-language debate – CBC.ca

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The main party leaders appeared on stage for the first time Thursday in a French-language debate that was at times raucous as the four men fiercely competed for votes in a province that could very well decide who is Canada’s next prime minister.

The two-hour debate, hosted by TVA, a major broadcaster in Quebec, was a chance for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to regain some of the momentum he had earlier this summer when polls showed he had a massive lead in the country’s second largest province.

CBC’s Poll Tracker still has Trudeau and the Liberals ahead of others in Quebec but the margin has narrowed.

The first half of the debate was dominated by talk of the COVID-19 pandemic as Trudeau asked voters to return his party to government after its stewardship of the country during this 19-month long health crisis.

Trudeau presented himself as a vaccine champion, the man who secured enough doses to get everyone eligible for a shot fully vaccinated by July, and the leader who will keep people safe in the fourth wave of this pandemic by pushing mandatory vaccines for federal public servants and the travelling public.

Trudeau said O’Toole can’t be trusted “because he won’t even force his candidates” to get a shot while out on the campaign trail.

O’Toole, who is opposed to vaccine mandates, said Trudeau was intent on dividing the country during a health crisis. O’Toole said he’s not against vaccines — O’Toole and his wife had their shots and filmed the process to encourage supporters to get theirs — but he said, “We shouldn’t force Canadians. It’s a decision for individual Canadians on a health matter.”

O’Toole has proposed deploying rapid tests instead of demanding shots for everyone who takes a train or plane. “We must find reasonable accommodations for people. We have to work together without a lot of division,” O’Toole said.

Trudeau grilled on election call

Trudeau’s three opponents piled on Trudeau for calling the election with COVID-19 cases on the rise. Trudeau’s main challenger in Quebec, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, said it was irresponsible to plunge the country into a campaign when “Parliament was working well” to pass COVID-19 aid and other bills.

Trudeau hit back saying it was hypocritical for Blanchet to criticize an election call when he and Bloc MPs voted four times against key government bills that, if they had been defeated in the Commons, would have prompted an election earlier this year when COVID-19 case counts were worse.

Blanchet scolded Trudeau for flouting public health guidelines on the campaign trail by posing for selfies and hugging some supporters. Trudeau said it must be “frustrating” for Blanchet to see Canadians “show affection for another leader.”

He’s going to take us back to the Harper targets. Quebecers want leadership on climate and you’re proposing to take us back and that’s completely unacceptable.– Trudeau

O’Toole said Canadians shouldn’t be heading to the polls with the country still in the throes of a health crisis, with B.C. beset by wildfires and Afghanistan grappling with a Taliban takeover.

He said Canadians deserve a change at the top, calling Trudeau an ethics-challenged leader who must be replaced as the country enters the next phase of this health crisis.

Trudeau said now is the right time to have Canadians “weigh in on how we’ll end this pandemic.”

WATCH | Trudeau pressed on why he called election during pandemic:

Trudeau pressed on why he called election during pandemic

3 hours ago

When asked what pandemic measures the minority Parliament he asked the Governor General to dissolve wouldn’t support, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau instead attacked the Conservatives’ vaccination policies. 1:30

“We must give Canadians the choice and Canadians deserve a working Parliament. Canadians must choose how we finish this. They must choose,” he said, saying a vote for the Conservatives would be a vote against vaccine mandates and a national child care system. “There’s a clear choice.”

Trudeau spent most of the night on the attack against O’Toole, his main opponent in the national race, who has swung from also-ran to front-runner status in the first three weeks of the federal election campaign.

O’Toole hit over two-tier healthcare

Trudeau and O’Toole sparred over health care funding with the Liberal leader raising O’Toole’s past support for more for-profit health care in Canada to help address some of the current system’s failings, claiming the Conservative leader would bring about “two-tier” health care, which, Trudeau said, would only benefit the rich.

Trudeau repeatedly pressed O’Toole to say if he’d allow private interests to take over more parts of the system, but the Conservative leader dodged giving a direct answer.

WATCH | O’Toole says he won’t dictate to provinces how to improve health systems:

O’Toole says he won’t dictate to provinces how to improve health systems

3 hours ago

When asked about health care, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he would leave it up to provinces to decide how to improve their health systems and reduce wait times. 1:02

“Two-tier — that’s not what Quebecers or Canadians want,” Trudeau said.

O’Toole said he unequivocally supports a public and universal system and, rather than end the current system, he’ll pump “an historic amount without conditions” into provincial coffers to help them make improvements. O’Toole said the Liberals have been twisting his words — Twitter branded a video recently posted by Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland “manipulated media — and “Canadians deserve better than that.”

Throughout the debate, Blanchet stuck to the usual separatist script — blasting the federalist parties for ignoring the unique needs of Quebec as he tried to woo voters and add to the 32 seats he won in the last election.

He said the Liberal plan to send more money to the provinces for health care and long-term care homes with some strings attached infringes on Quebec’s jurisdiction — the Liberals want national standards for these seniors residences after they were hard hit by COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

“We need nurses, not bureaucrats,” Blanchet said. “Just give the money to provinces so they can get the job done.”

The debate was a test for the two non-native French speakers: O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. O’Toole’s spoken French has improved since he contested the Conservative leadership race last year and Singh is more fluent than he was in the 2019 campaign. But at times, both struggled to fully understand what the TVA moderator, Pierre Bruneau, was asking. 

O’Toole spent all of Thursday in debate prep with his French-speaking staff, eschewing all campaign events in advance of the debate. Singh rented a food truck and handed poutine out to voters in Montreal while Trudeau ordered smoked meat sandwiches on Montreal’s St-Laurent Boulevard.

WATCH | Blanchet challenges O’Toole to repeat statements in English:

Blanchet challenges O’Toole to repeat things in English following French debate

3 hours ago

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says he wants to hear Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole repeat things he said during the French-language TVA debate in English. 0:48

Singh, who, as leader in the 2019 election, saw his party’s once sizeable Quebec contingent reduced to just one seat, made a direct appeal to the province’s progressive voters. While the NDP’s policy book mirrors some of what the Liberals have also pitched, Singh said he’d actually implement the policies he is promising, while Trudeau has long promised but failed to deliver.

Medical assistance in dying

Another contentious health issue — medical assistance in dying — was another of the TVA-picked topics up for debate.

In response to a 2019 Quebec court ruling, the Liberal government passed legislation this year to extend eligibility to people whose natural deaths are not reasonably foreseeable. The Conservative platform calls for a rethink of the MAID regime, calling the current law “vague”  and says that it “devalues human life” because there are no “safeguards.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau during the Face-à-Face TVA French language debate Thursday told viewers that O’Toole was “saying one thing to Quebecers and something else to other Canadians” on the issue of gun control. (Martin Chevalier/Agence QMI)

O’Toole said Trudeau pushed through this legislation using parliamentary tools to shut down debate. Many Conservative MPs and senators fiercely opposed amendments that would have allowed the mentally ill to use MAID to end their lives.

“They used closure on this important issue — we have to listen to the most vulnerable, the disabled and their parents. We must work with doctors to find a balance,” O’Toole said. “It’s a right, I support that, but we must have a sensible approach especially when it comes to mental health.”

Firearm legislation

Trudeau tried to brand O’Toole as a man out of step with Quebec values on guns.

Firearms have been a contentious issue in Quebec since the the Polytechnique massacre of 1989 — a non-restricted Ruger Mini-14 was used to murder 14 women at this engineering school in Montreal — and O’Toole’s opponents pounced on his platform promise to reverse the Liberal government’s cabinet order banning “assault-style” firearms, a 2020 regulatory decision that rendered more than 100,000 firearms “prohibited” overnight.

The other three leaders, who all support some form of gun control, tried to paint O’Toole as a leader beholden to the gun lobby.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at the Face-à-Face French language TVA debate in Montreal Thursday night said that Trudeau talks big on climate change policies but does not deliver. (Martin Chevalier/Agence QMI)

In the face of Trudeau’s attacks, O’Toole said: “We will maintain a ban on assault weapons.”

However, the Conservative platform is clear that a government led by O’Toole would “start by repealing C-71 and the May 2020 order in council and conducting a review of the Firearms Act.” The May 2020 order is the “assault-style” firearms ban that outlawed some 1,500 makes and models of military-grade weapons in Canada.

That prompted Trudeau to say O’Toole was “saying one thing to Quebecers and something else to other Canadians.”

Another topic of debate Thursday was climate change. In the last election, the Conservative’s lacklustre climate plan turned off some moderate voters who wanted to see Canada take aggressive action to address environmental concerns at a time when UN scientists are warning that urgent action is needed now.

Climate change

Quebecers are among the Canadians most likely to tell pollsters that climate change is the issue they care most about. To gain vote share with Quebecers and other climate-minded voters, O’Toole has beefed up the party’s green platform. The party’s playbook calls for carbon pricing to encourage Canadians to use cleaner energy sources — but he took heat from Trudeau for his plan to rollback the country’s climate reduction targets.

If elected, O’Toole has said he will push the reset button on Canada’s climate change plan, returning to the previous national target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Earlier this year, the Liberal government dumped that goal and committed to deeper cuts, promising to bring emissions down by 40 to 45 per cent by the end of the decade.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet at the Face-à-Face TVA French language debate Thursday night told supporters that Trudeau’s plan to introduce legislation establishing national standards for long-term care homes was interfering in Quebec’s jurisdiction. (Martin Chevalier/Agence QMI)

“He’s going to take us back to the Harper targets. Quebecers want leadership on climate and you’re proposing to take us back and that’s completely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.

But Trudeau faced criticism for his own actions on climate. Singh said Trudeau “says the right things, he has nice words” but emissions have only gone up over the last six years of Liberal government.

The NDP leader added that Canada has the worst results on emissions of all the G7 countries, and accused Trudeau of not delivering on his environmental promises.

According to the latest report from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country’s emissions have ticked up on Trudeau’s watch.

Watch: Highlights from the TVA French debate:

Highlights from the TVA French debate (FRENCH ONLY)

2 hours ago

Here are some of the highlights from the TVA French language debate. 2:51

In 2019, the first year of the federal carbon pricing regimen, commonly called the “carbon tax,” Canada produced 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, an increase of one megatonne — or 0.2 per cent — over 2018.

The 730 megatonnes of emissions recorded in 2019 is slightly higher than the 723 megatonnes Canada churned out in 2015, the year Trudeau first took office.

Blanchet said Trudeau can’t claim to be a climate champion when he bought a major crude oil pipeline like Trans Mountain, the now government-owned line that carries oil from Alberta to B.C. for export. The Crown corporation that owns the line is in the process of building a large expansion to nearly triple its capacity.

Trudeau said “we still need oil in Quebec and across the country” and “we’ll certainly invest all the profits in the green transition. The pipeline will help us get a better price for our oil – and that will help us with the transition,” he said.

“You can’t tell someone I’m going to mend your broken leg by breaking the other one,” Blanchet said in response.

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

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The latest:

U.S. President Joe Biden received his COVID-19 booster shot on Monday, days after federal regulators recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans aged 65 or older and approved them for others with pre-existing medical conditions and high-risk work environments.

“The most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” Biden said before getting the booster. He said he didn’t have side-effects after his first or second shots.

Biden, 78, got his first shot on Dec. 21 and his second dose three weeks later, on Jan. 11, along with his wife, Jill Biden.

Speaking on Friday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer booster, Biden told reporters, “I’ll be getting my booster shot. It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot. “

Biden emerged as a champion of booster doses this summer, as the U.S. experienced a sharp rise in coronavirus cases from the more transmissible delta variant. While the vast majority of cases continue to occur among unvaccinated people, regulators pointed to evidence from Israel and early studies in the U.S. showing that protection against so-called breakthrough cases was vastly improved by a third dose of the Pfizer shot.

Pushback from WHO on boosters

But the aggressive American push for boosters — before many poorer countries have been able to provide even a modicum of protection for their most vulnerable populations — has drawn the ire of the World Health Organization and some aid groups, which have called on the U.S. to pause third shots to free up supply for the global vaccination effort.

Biden said last week that the U.S. was purchasing another 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — for a total of one billion over the coming year — to donate to less well-off countries.

Vice-President Kamala Harris, 56, received the Moderna vaccine, for which federal regulators have not yet authorized boosters — but they are expected to in the coming weeks. Regulators are also expecting data about the safety and efficacy of a booster for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot soon.

At least 2.66 million Americans have received booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine since mid-August, according to the CDC. About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 through the Pfizer shot. U.S. regulators recommend getting the boosters at least six months after the second shot of the initial two-dose series.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, 79, a polio survivor, encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and revealed he had also received a booster dose Monday.

“Like I’ve been saying for months, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus,” he said.

— From The Associated Press, last updated at 4:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Alberta, Sask. hospitals strain under 4th wave: 

Health-care systems in Alberta, Saskatchewan ‘broken’ by COVID surge, doctors say

8 hours ago

Dr. Aisha Mirza, an ER physician in Edmonton, and Dr. Hassan Masri, an ICU and critical care physician in Saskatoon, share how the provinces’ hospitals and medical professionals are struggling amid a fourth wave of COVID-19. 16:41

The pressure on Alberta and Saskatchewan’s health-care systems continues to grow amid COVID-19 surges, with both provinces hitting new records on Monday.

In Alberta, health officials reported an unprecedented 312 patients in intensive care units (ICUs), the vast majority of whom have COVID-19. Doctors have warned that triage protocols would be activated in a worst-case scenario, and some say patient care is already being affected.

“It’s not just unvaccinated patients who are suffering; it’s vaccinated patients who are suffering, it’s everybody,” Dr. Aisha Mirza, an ER doctor in Edmonton, told CBC News.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 289 people with COVID-19 in hospital on Monday, breaking a record set the day before. Of those, 63 are in intensive care, tying the record first reported on Saturday.

Premier Scott Moe said his government has not asked the federal government for military or health-care workers to support the COVID-19 battle in hospitals, but has discussed other areas of potential assistance.

Ottawa is assisting in Alberta after it made a formal request. It will help with air-lifting patients to other provinces, and by sending ICU-registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

— From CBC News, last updated at 8:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A girl receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a public school in Concon, Chile, on Monday. Chile is lifting its state of emergency following a sharp decrease in cases. (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters)

As of Monday evening, more than 232.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Middle East, Jordan’s royal palace says Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II has tested positive for COVID-19 and is displaying “mild symptoms.” The palace said in a statement that King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, the 27-year-old crown prince’s parents, have both tested negative but will self-quarantine for five days. All three members of the royal family have been vaccinated.

In Europe, President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said France would give 120 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries, doubling an earlier pledge, French news agency AFP reported.

In the Americas, Chilean authorities announced the end of a state of emergency in force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, following a sharp decrease in cases. The state of emergency had allowed the government to impose nighttime curfews and forced quarantines on hard-hit districts amid the worst of the outbreak.

Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela. Cuban scientists have said the vaccines are more than 90 per cent effective against illness, though — like all vaccines — less so against mere infection.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan plans to lift its COVID-19 state of emergency, which covers 19 prefectures, in all of the regions at the end of September, broadcaster NHK reported on Monday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he discussed easing measures with relevant ministers on Monday and would seek the views of a government panel of advisers on Tuesday.

A mother comforts her child being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a hospital in Bangkok last week. (Sakchai Lalit/The Associated Press)

Thailand’s COVID-19 task force approved a plan to procure a combined 3.35 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, a spokesperson said. The country will also waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and nine regions beginning Nov. 1 to vaccinated arrivals, according to authorities.

In Africa, Tunisia will entirely lift its nightly curfew against COVID-19 beginning Saturday, the presidency said, after about a year in force.

— From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

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Huge homecoming parties result in arrests, fines across Canadian college towns – CTV News

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HALIFAX —
On several big Canadian campuses Monday, the morning chatter wasn’t about classwork or assignments. Instead, students traded gossip about some of the huge parties that took place over the weekend.

Thousands of post-secondary students packed the streets in Guelph, Ont., London, Ont. and Halifax on Saturday, breaking liquor laws, COVID-19 restrictions and in some cases, property.

But some students got more than a homecoming hangover for their efforts, as police in Halifax issued tickets and arrested 10 people for public drunkenness. Police in London arrested one person and issued a number of fines. Partygoers in Guelph were limited to tickets and fines.

College town rowdiness may not be new, but it seems public patience has evaporated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Enjoy the fines & upcoming academic discipline hearings you rightly deserve,” Guelph mayor Cam Guthrie tweeted Saturday.

Halifax city councillor Waye Mason blamed the high number of first-year students as a result of the number of high-school graduates who deferred post-secondary studies amid the pandemic.

“You have twice the population of students who have no kind of grounding in adult behaviour in public,” he told CTV National News.

In a news release, Dalhousie University admonished those who attended what it called an “unsanctioned” and “illegal” event, urging them to get tested for COVID-19 and “not to attend classes or general on-campus activities for one week.”

Dalhousie’s student union fired back, insisting the incident was predictable and preventable while criticizing school administration.

“Dalhousie currently has an on-campus dry policy. You’re also not allowed to have visitors in residence,” Madeleine H. Stinson, president of the student union, told CTV National News. “We know students were going to party and Dalhousie created it so that they couldn’t do so on campus.”

Meanwhile, Halifax police are investigating the events of the weekend and said it could result in charges. Dalhousie has also threatened to fine or even to expel students who participated in the party. 

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Canada seeks to attract U.S. frequent flyers with perks on Air Canada

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Canada is trying to use the lure of travel perks to convince America’s frequent-flying elite to fly north on Air Canada, as the country steps up efforts to revive crucial traffic from the United States, a Canadian official said.

COVID-19 has battered travel from Canada‘s largest tourism market. During the first half of 2021, Canada had only about 178,000 overnight arrivals from the United States, compared with 6.8 million during the same period in 2019, according to government data.

To help reverse that decline, government tourism body Destination Canada on Monday rolled out its first campaign targeting U.S. frequent flyers, in partnership with the country’s largest carrier.

It is part of broader, C$14 million ($11.2 million) efforts by the tourism commission to boost traffic after Canada recently opened its borders to vaccinated travellers. It is not clear how much the specific frequent flyer campaign will cost.

“This is super-focused in terms of our ability to reach frequent flyers,” Gloria Loree, Destination Canada‘s chief marketing officer told Reuters, ahead of the launch.

Under the plan, up to 20,000 U.S. frequent flyers with carriers like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines Co and Delta Air Lines could get matching status when flying Air Canada north of the border.

Delta declined to comment and American Airlines did not immediately respond.

Southwest, which does not serve Canada directly, said by email that the government arm’s support contributes to the industry’s collective efforts “to restart substantive air travel.”

Frequent-flyer status gives travelers perks like priority boarding that would normally cost a premium fare or a fee.

While status-matching is common among airlines, Destination Canada said this is the first time a tourism organization has used the practice to attract tourists to their country.

“This is the push to get them coming to Canada,” Loree said.

Eligible U.S. frequent flyers who book and travel north on AC before Jan. 15, 2022, will keep their status with the carrier for all of 2022, she said.

It comes as countries ease restrictions on international travel, with the United States set to reopen in November to vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries.

Loree said funding frequent-flyer status matching is no different from other incentives paid for by Destination Canada, such as a separate campaign this year with Air Canada‘s rival, WestJet Airlines.

Loree said the goal is to restore routes from the United States, while trying to attract travelers who will return to Canada.

In April, hard-hit Air Canada received an estimated C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) government aid package with the country gaining a stake of roughly 6% in the carrier.

While Canada‘s high vaccination rate could reassure tourists, the cost of the country’s COVID-19 PCR test requirements for arrivals could dissuade some travelers, said Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University.

Loree said targeting U.S. frequent flyers is a plus because they are largely accustomed to those requirements.

“They’ve figured out how to travel,” Loree said. “So we want them to consider Canada as their next trip.”

Air Canada shares closed up 3.48% in Toronto trade.

($1 = 1.2652 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in ChicagoEditing by Denny Thomas, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis)

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