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Green MLAs hit with 'social media storm' following vaccination bill abstentions –



Two Green Party MLAs who chose not to vote on a contentious vaccination bill last week are defending the decision to abstain in the face of what one calls “a social media storm.”

Kevin Arseneau and Megan Mitton say they’ve heard the condemnation from across the political spectrum that they should not have sat out the vote.

But they both say they would do it again.

“I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few days about if there was a better path to take, but I didn’t want to align with anti-vaxxers and I still didn’t think this was good policy,” says Mitton, the MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar.

“So it was ‘hold my nose and vote yes for legislation that I didn’t think was good?’ I don’t think we should do that type of thing either. We should go back and make better policy.” 

Arseneau, the MLA for Kent North, said he hasn’t been swayed by the criticism either. “Even with all the reaction and everything … I’d do it again tomorrow in the House,” he said.

Both Kevin Arseneau, pictured, and Megan Mitton said they would still abstain if the vote was held again. (Radio-Canada)

The bill was defeated 22-20. If all three Green MLAs had voted yes, it would have passed.

Green Leader David Coon explained his decision last Thursday, but his two colleagues had not spoken publicly about why they didn’t vote either way.

‘You hid’

Progressive Conservative Education Minister Dominic Cardy slammed the abstentions last week, saying the Green MLAs were afraid of “extremists in your base. … Legislators are elected to legislate. You hid.”

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers called it “a complete abdication of duty by the Green party.”

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the goal of the bill was to immunize enough children to create herd immunity so that the small number of children who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons would still be protected from an outbreak. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Even retired NDP leader Elizabeth Weir, who rarely comments on current provincial issues, said on Twitter she was “so disappointed” with the Greens. She never abstained during 14 years as an MLA, she added. “I took my lumps.”

There was also scathing criticism from the public on social media and in comments on news coverage.

Mitton and Arseneau reject Cardy’s accusation they were responding to anti-vaccination sentiment among Green supporters. 

“If I wanted to please them, I would not have come out and said we need to be working on a new, better, improved bill,” Arseneau said.

The only other MLA who abstained on the vote was PC Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Ross Wetmore. He refused to discuss his abstention.

“Where the bill has already been decided upon, I have no further comment,” he said in an email to CBC News.

The bill would have eliminated religious and philosophical exemptions to the mandatory vaccination policy requirement for school children. Unvaccinated kids without valid medical reasons would not have been allowed to go to school starting in September 2021. 

Mitton and Arseneau, both elected for the first time in 2018, say while they supported the idea of the bill, Cardy didn’t have complete data on vaccination rates and couldn’t demonstrate such a strict measure was needed now.

“There’s a bunch of steps that public health experts say should be taken before you get to an extreme measure like excluding children from accessing education,” Mitton said.

“I do think that this is a tool that could be in the toolbox to be used in the event that it is needed. The evidence was not provided that it is needed right now.” 

Herd-immunity threshold

Cardy’s numbers showed about one per cent of the school population is not vaccinated. But he said with a three per cent vaccination failure rate, the numbers were getting close to falling below the 95 per cent coverage rate needed for herd immunity.

That refers to enough vaccinations to allow a population to avoid infections and protect those who can’t be immunized for legitimate medical reasons.

If the bill had passed, children not vaccinated for any reason other than health concerns would not have been allowed to go to public schools starting in the fall of 2021. (Paul Vernon/The Associated Press)

Cardy predicted that with anti-vaccination sentiment and misinformation spreading, a tougher policy was needed.

Arseneau said if the rate falls under the herd-immunity threshold, “then absolutely that is what should set off mandatory vaccination.” 

But he said it should be a last resort, because children barred from attending public schools won’t benefit from learning about how to understand data and how to use the scientific method.

The Greens tried to amend the bill last week to give the chief medical officer of health the power to declare the bill in effect when the rate fell below the threshold. But the amendment was defeated.

Arseneau said while he had planned to vote for the bill originally, “my abstention was an invitation to continue working on getting our vaccination numbers up [and] making good vaccination policy.” 

It’s not anti-vaxx vs. pro-science, says Mitton

Mitton, who said she and her children are all vaccinated, said many public health officials, including British Columbia’s chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, have suggested stricter mandatory vaccination policies are not the way to go. 

“This shouldn’t have been anti-science, anti-vaxx versus pro-science, pro-vaccine, but that’s the way it’s been framed,” Mitton said. “So I couldn’t support the bill as it stood, but I also didn’t want to align myself with anti-vaxxers.” 

Green MLA Megan Mitton pointed to public health experts who say stricter mandatory vaccination may not be the best policy option for immunizing school children. (CBC)

Both MLAs say they’ve been criticized by supporters of the bill but also by anti-vaccination activists who wanted them to vote against it.

“It has been a bit of a social media storm,” Mitton said.

“Some people said [abstaining] was the easy choice,” Arseneau said. “Politically this was the worse position we could have ever took, because it’s right in the middle of a polarized debate. You have people who feel so strongly about it and so strongly against it.”

Mitton and Arseneau both say once they explain the complexity of the issue to their constituents, they understand better why they abstained.

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China State Media Stoke World-Beating Rally in Nation's Shares – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Chinese stocks extended their recent rapid climb, aided by an enthusiastic chorus from the nation’s influential state media.

The CSI 300 Index jumped as much as 3.6% on Monday morning, after surging almost 7% last week in its best performance since November 2015. Turnover on the gauge was more than three times the average for this time of day. Brokerages led the gains after China International Capital Corp. hiked target prices for the industry, predicting the stock market will double in value in the next 5-10 years.

A front page editorial in the Securities Times on Monday said that fostering a “healthy” bull market after the epidemic is now more important to the economy than ever. The article pinned the accelerating gains on stock market reforms and excess global liquidity, while saying the struggle between the “world’s powers” underscores the importance of a mature financial market.

China’s state media have long guided investors during key points in markets, whether talking up stocks or seeking to cool overheated speculation. While a strong domestic stock market would send a positive signal about China’s resilience to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as aid company fundraising, it also risks inviting bubbles — such a five years ago, when the equity market crashed after a debt-fueled rally.

“The state is very cautious about is creating another boom-bust as seen in 2015, realizing the harm to confidence that comes from the bust is greater than the good from the ride up,” said Wang Zhuo, Fund Manager at Shanghai Zhuozhu Investment Management Co. Ltd.. “We are still staying in the sectors we already hold which are largely undervalued because we profit from the alpha more than the beta in the market.”

The CSI 300 is up 12% this year, the biggest gain among major global benchmarks, to trade at a five-year high. Its 14-day relative strength has climbed to 86, the highest since December 2014.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Kamloops RCMP officer's 'black face' social media posts under review – Kamloops This Week



A Kamloops police officer’s conduct is under review after he made black face jokes in a series of posts on his personal Instagram account.

RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke’s posts showed him receiving skin treatment. In one photo, a woman is apparently applying a black cleansing mask to his face; another appears to be a selfie with the cleansing mask on.

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The photo of the mask being applied is accompanied by this caption: “Black face session. It’s suppose to help my looks. I don’t think it’s working,” followed by a laughing emoji.

The selfie is accompanied by this caption: “Is my skin racist? Micro aggressions matter.”

Meinke’s Instagram is private and it’s unclear when the posts were made, but screenshots of them began circulating on social media late last week.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky told KTW he cannot speak to specifics regarding Meinke’s Instagram posts or duty status, but said making black face jokes on social media would not be smart.

“In this day and age that we’re in, that would be a dumb thing to do,” Lecky said. “I would certainly look into it.”

Lecky said he is unable to discuss Meinke’s posts because they were made on a personal Instagram account.

“It’s a social media account that is private and it isn’t linked to policing or the RCMP,” Lecky said. “So, I can’t even confirm to you if it’s a member.”

If he were to be made aware of such posts coming from a constable, Lecky said, an internal code-of-conduct investigation would be launched.

RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke
RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke in a 2013 photo. – KTW file photo

Meinke has also worked as a part-time instructor at Thompson Rivers University. He has taught police and justice studies classes.

University spokeswoman Darshan Lindsay told KTW the institution is “looking into” Meinke’s Instagram posts.

“Our commitment is to create a university where everyone belongs, where we show our respect for one another through our actions and in our words,” she said. “While we won’t be providing further comment on this matter, we can confirm the individual has taught courses part-time at TRU in the past.”

Lindsay said Meinke is not currently employed by or teaching at TRU.

Lecky said he was first made aware of the Instagram posts on Sunday, July 5.

CTV News Vancouver also reported on this story and was among media outlets to reach out to Meinke for comment. He replied, saying: “Sorry I cannot comment other than it is a skin care product. Take care.”

“Charcoal face masks, no harm, no foul,” Vanessa Simon, an activist and organizer for Black Lives Matter, told CTV. “But then you’re posting on your social media for the public to see, asking, ‘Is this racist? Micro aggression matters,’ you’re setting yourself up to be ridiculed by the community and he is getting what is coming to him.”

Simon told CTV News she was frustrated when she first saw the posts, opining they are insensitive and in poor taste.

“It’s concerning to me that there’s someone like that in the police department,” she said.

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Social media sleuths solved the mystery of this Alberta woman's photo – CTV News



When a woman shared a photo of her late father in a placed she couldn’t quite place, she turned to social media for help.

It all started when a Reddit user posted a thread Saturday, asking for help from fellow users to identify a particular spot in K-Country.

The discussion ended up spurring dozens of comments, leading up to the point where users not only identified the spot by name, but provided Google Map coordinates for the exact location.

calgary, reddit, photo, kananaskis, highway 40, br

calgary, reddit, photo, kananaskis, highway 40, br

(File/Google Maps)

As a result, the woman said she plans to do a photo tribute at the location for her father.

To make the situation even sweeter, the user said she still has her father’s motorcycle.

“We still have his BMW seen in the pic. Oh boy, that means I’d have to get licensed up. It’s a large bike and I’m a tiny woman, hah!”

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