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Governor General urges Canadians to enjoy the outdoors in annual New Year's message – CBC.ca

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Gov. Gen. Julie Payette today encouraged Canadians to get outside and enjoy the winter in her annual New Year’s message.

Canada’s “breathtaking beauty” deserves to be celebrated and explored, she said.

“This time of year, we tend to cuddle inside and seek warmth,” said Payette. “But once outside, it is so worth it.”

For this year’s message, Payette continued her practice of avoiding the more formal, regal backdrops preferred by previous governors general in their end-of-year messages, and instead spoke from the grounds of the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park in the Outaouais region of Quebec.

(In 2017, she delivered her message while skating on the ice rink erected beside her official residence, Rideau Hall.)

In this year’s address, the governor general said Canadians can be proud of having an international reputation as “team players” and “peace seekers.” She also highlighted Canada’s diversity and paid tribute to Indigenous people in Canada.

Payette commemorated Canada’s fallen soldiers by reminding Canadians of her visit to Europe earlier in the year to mark the 75th anniversary of key events in the Second World War.

Finally, she urged Canadians to stand up to hate and violence and work together for the common good.

Julie Payette’s New Year’s message

“Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver.

“My country is not a country. It’s winter. That’s the least we can say.

“This time of year, we tend to cuddle inside and seek warmth. Mostly because — as Gilles Vigneault points out in his famous song — ‘to avoid where the flakes swirl with the wind in this land of blowing snow.’ But once outside, it is so worth it.

“Whether you were born here or chose to come and live here. Whether you’re just passing through or came here to seek refuge. This is your country — a land of breathtaking beauty that deserves to be explored and celebrated — rain or snow or shine.

“For we are so fortunate. We share values and interests. We can be proud of our diversity and we are recognized around the world as open, curious, team players, peace seekers, peacekeepers.

“And we are accomplished. Like the Indigenous people, who have been living here on this ancestral land for thousands of years. Those who taught us to survive in the cold, to appreciate the gift of nature, and the importance of community. 

“I have seen it everywhere I have been this year. Canadians are out there making a difference as artists, scientists, athletes, entrepreneurs. Young or old, every one of us is an ambassador. 

“This past year in particular, we were also reminded that the peace we enjoy was won at a terrible cost. We went to France, to Holland and to Italy to commemorate the Second World War. For 75 years ago, our Canadian soldiers were fighting to help liberate Europe from tyranny. What is striking when we visit Canadian war cemeteries abroad are the rows and rows of identical tombstones — all engraved with a single maple leaf, a name, a date.

“As I watched our veterans — these brave soldiers from another era — walking amongst the graves of their fallen comrades, I could not help but be moved. Many had died before their 20th birthday. Some had died just before Christmas. All died in a distant land, far away from home.

“It forces us to reflect on the meaning of life — its surprises and its friendships but also its injustices and its suffering — and it forces us to reflect on the absolute necessity to stand up against hate and violence and to work together hand-in-hand for the common good. 

“The great Gilles Vigneault also captured this essence in his beautiful winter poem. He wrote: ‘My home is your home. With time and space, I build a fire and prepare a place. For people, near and far. For we all share a human race.’ 

“I hope that you’re enjoying the holiday season with people you love, with friends and family. I hope that you’re staying active, and that you are lending a hand, in your own personal way, to those who have less and those who are in need. 

“Happy New Year to all of you. Happy New Year, Canada.”

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How a bridge to Canada got the axe from American lawmakers – CBC.ca

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Funding for this bridge between upstate New York and the Ottawa-Montreal region, seen here in March 2020, was included in a major U.S. pandemic-relief bill. Then it was chopped. (Christine Muschi/Reuters)

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

What’s new

As American lawmakers inched toward approving a bill with an eye-watering 13-digit price tag, it was apparently a bridge to Canada that proved a bridge too far.

Funds to upkeep an existing cross-border bridge from Massena, N.Y., to Cornwall, Ont., were included in, and have now been stripped out of, a $1.9 trillion US pandemic-relief bill that Congress could pass any day.

Less than one-millionth of the bill’s overall price tag had originally been set to fund operations of the half-century-old Seaway International Bridge, jointly run by the Canadian and U.S. governments.

The original version of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives guaranteed $1.5 million for several months’ funding of the span, which connects upstate New York with the Ottawa-Montreal area through Cornwall, Ont.

“It’s a vital, necessary access point between our two countries,” Steven O’Shaughnessy, the town supervisor of Massena.

That funding is gone in the latest version of the bill, which could be advanced into law any day by the U.S. Senate.

If adopted, the bill would become the first major piece of legislation passed during Joe Biden’s presidency and would fund a vast array of causes, from reducing child poverty to expanding access to health care to sending out $1,400 relief cheques to Americans.

What’s the backstory

Critics called it a ‘bridge to nowhere’ and accused top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, a New Yorker, of pork-barrel politics. But New York Republicans wanted the bridge funding, too. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

So how did one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in American history, which will affect tens of millions of lives, stumble over a bridge that ends near the Cornwall BBQ in southeastern Ontario?

As fate would have it, that bridge became a symbolic talking point for critics of the bill.  

Republicans pointed to it as an example of how myriad items unrelated to the pandemic are being crammed into a supposed rescue package.

“We have millions upon millions of dollars for this lovely bridge to get from New York into Canada,” Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said earlier this week, inflating the price of the bridge upkeep. “And, folks, how is that helping us fight COVID?

“This is supposed to be a COVID recovery package. And somehow I don’t see my Iowa taxpayers benefiting from those porky pricey projects.”

Never mind that funding for the bridge has previously been supported by New York lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and the area’s House lawmaker, Elise Stefanik.

It became Exhibit A of the idea that this 630-page bill, which would also allot billions of dollars to expanding health coverage and decreasing child poverty, is about more than COVID.

It was derided on Fox News, in its news coverage and by its hosts, as a “bridge to nowhere.”    

But it’s more complicated than that. 

The bridge, which has seen toll revenues drop during the pandemic, sits in the district of New York Republican lawmaker Elise Stefanik. She has previously supported additional funding for the bridge but voted against the stimulus bill that included $1.5 million US for upkeep of the span. ( Republican National Convention/Handout via REUTERS)

Democrats have argued that most of this bill’s items are, indeed, connected to COVID-19 — including that bridge funding.

The pandemic has caused a spectacular drop in cross-border traffic, with a 70 per cent plunge in toll fees collected at the bridge since last year, said a U.S. official with the binational Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.

So why not just fund the bridge in a transportation bill instead of a pandemic-relief bill?

Blame the joys of the American legislative process. 

A generation of partisan gridlock has resulted in fewer bills becoming law. So majority parties have tended to rely more often on a legislative shortcut, a process called reconciliation, which allows a bill to pass with just 51 Senate votes instead of 60.

The catch with that process is it can only be used once a year, on a budget bill. Which is how you wind up with all sorts of unrelated items crammed together in what is colloquially referred to in Washington as a Christmas tree bill.

In the end, under this particular tree, there was nothing left for Cornwall and Massena.

What’s next

Democrats pulled that item, and some other items, out of the Senate bill to help silence the naysayers and ease its adoption.

The bridge is now funded through the end of this month thanks to $2.5 million delivered from the Canadian government last year. 

But the U.S. official said the cash originally in the bill would have supplied funding from next month to September. Without it, the official said, there could be an impact on its services and its essential workers.

The bridge itself is in decent physical shape after millions of dollars in renovations over the last decade.

Bernadette Clement, mayor of Cornwall, said she hopes it stays that way because it not only connects families and friends and the regional economy but also supports international trade, with hundreds of commercial trucks using it each day.

The Seaway International Bridge joins Cornwall, Ont., and Massena, N.Y. It is a regional link between Canadian and American communities and also a commercial trade link that sees hundreds of trucks per day. (CP)

“It is extremely important to our national economies,” Clement said. “The maintenance of those bridges — it’s critical for us.”

When asked what happens after this month, a Canadian government spokesperson said the bridge’s critical needs will be met — but did not immediately say whether it might require an additional cash injection from Ottawa.

It wouldn’t be the first time political gridlock in the U.S. left Canada with the bill for a cross-border bridge. 

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Health Canada 'days away' from decision on Johnson & Johnson vaccine – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada is on the cusp of authorizing a fourth vaccine for COVID-19, raising the possibility that every Canadian adult will be offered at least one dose before Canada Day.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday the review of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine “is going very well.”

“It’s progressing, and we’re expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days,” Sharma said at a virtual news conference from Ottawa.

Johnson and Johnson, which was authorized in the United States last weekend, would join Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca on Canada’s list of approved vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna have been in use since December, with more than 1.5 million Canadians now vaccinated with at least one dose.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said that with new vaccines being approved and moves by provinces to delay second doses, more Canadians will be vaccinated at a faster rate.

All provinces have indicated they will accept a recommendation made Wednesday by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to delay second doses of vaccine by up to four months.

The new guidelines say the science shows a first dose is so effective that delaying the second dose so everyone can get a first dose more quickly, is better both for individual protection and to establish herd immunity in Canada.

Canada had been expecting enough doses of approved vaccines to vaccinate every adult with two doses by the end of September, based on Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all requiring two doses given 21 or 28 days apart.

Canada is in line to get 26 million more doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and at least 3.5 million of AstraZeneca by the end of June. Those deliveries alone would be enough to offer a first dose to every Canadian over 16 years of age by Canada Day.

No vaccines are approved for use on children under the age of 16 yet.

Another 20 million doses of AstraZeneca and 10 million from Johnson and Johnson are to arrive by September, but it’s not yet clear how many will arrive by June.

Another 55 million doses expected from Pfizer and Moderna between July and September would more than cover the necessary second doses.

The national advisory panel’s recommendation to delay doses is the latest adjustment to vaccine guidelines that some fear may make Canadians hesitant to trust the vaccines.

“We’re very concerned about that,” said Sharma. “We want to make sure that people have confidence in the decisions that are being made about vaccines.”

She said experts are basing vaccine decisions on evidence as it is presented. With more data coming almost daily about the vaccines, including how they’re faring as millions of doses are administered around the world, new and changing guidance is not surprising.

“The responsible thing to do is to make sure that we get all that information and incorporate that into our decision-making,” she said.

“So definitely, the messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message, and it never changed. But that’s not what science does.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020.

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Health Canada 'days away' from decision on Johnson & Johnson vaccine – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada is on the cusp of authorizing a fourth vaccine for COVID-19, raising the possibility that every Canadian adult will be offered at least one dose before Canada Day.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday the review of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine “is going very well.”

“It’s progressing, and we’re expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days,” Sharma said at a virtual news conference from Ottawa.

Johnson and Johnson, which was authorized in the United States last weekend, would join Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca on Canada’s list of approved vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna have been in use since December, with more than 1.5 million Canadians now vaccinated with at least one dose.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said that with new vaccines being approved and moves by provinces to delay second doses, more Canadians will be vaccinated at a faster rate.

All provinces have indicated they will accept a recommendation made Wednesday by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to delay second doses of vaccine by up to four months.

The new guidelines say the science shows a first dose is so effective that delaying the second dose so everyone can get a first dose more quickly, is better both for individual protection and to establish herd immunity in Canada.

Canada had been expecting enough doses of approved vaccines to vaccinate every adult with two doses by the end of September, based on Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all requiring two doses given 21 or 28 days apart.

Canada is in line to get 26 million more doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and at least 3.5 million of AstraZeneca by the end of June. Those deliveries alone would be enough to offer a first dose to every Canadian over 16 years of age by Canada Day.

No vaccines are approved for use on children under the age of 16 yet.

Another 20 million doses of AstraZeneca and 10 million from Johnson and Johnson are to arrive by September, but it’s not yet clear how many will arrive by June.

Another 55 million doses expected from Pfizer and Moderna between July and September would more than cover the necessary second doses.

The national advisory panel’s recommendation to delay doses is the latest adjustment to vaccine guidelines that some fear may make Canadians hesitant to trust the vaccines.

“We’re very concerned about that,” said Sharma. “We want to make sure that people have confidence in the decisions that are being made about vaccines.”

She said experts are basing vaccine decisions on evidence as it is presented. With more data coming almost daily about the vaccines, including how they’re faring as millions of doses are administered around the world, new and changing guidance is not surprising.

“The responsible thing to do is to make sure that we get all that information and incorporate that into our decision-making,” she said.

“So definitely, the messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message, and it never changed. But that’s not what science does.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020.

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