U.S. President Joe Biden has announced a massive infrastructure plan intended to accelerate the transition to clean technology in a sprawling eight-year program that costs $2 trillion.
The plan also touches roads, bridges and broadband access; social policy, like public housing and funding for day care spots; and it raises and rearranges corporate taxes to pay for it.
But at its core, it’s a climate plan.
With the U.S. increasingly unlikely to impose a nationwide carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, Biden’s focus has shifted to spending record sums of public money on next-generation green technology — from 500,000 vehicle charging stations to a zero-carbon power grid to consumer incentives for electric cars and home retrofits.
“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said in a Pittsburgh speech Wednesday to promote what he’s calling the American Jobs Plan.
“It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America — unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the Interstate Highway System, and the space race decades ago. In fact, it’s the largest American investment in jobs since World War Two.”
An effort this size will inevitably have effects beyond the U.S., and this one has a number of implications for Canada — some good, some bad and some to be determined.
First comes a caveat typical for any legislation proposed by an American president, and it’s that there’s no guarantee this will ever become law.
A bill hasn’t even been introduced in Congress yet and it already faces stiff Republican opposition, leaving one likely path to success, and it’s the narrowest one imaginable: if Democrats bypass the Senate’s normal 60-vote rule, they could try passing it through a budget process known as reconciliation, and that would require all 51 Democrats in the Senate, progressives and centrists, to unite around the bill.
This process will likely take months. In the meantime, here are some potential effects of the bill.
Economic stimulus hits the neighbourhood
When someone plows $2 trillion into your neighbourhood, the economic effects tend to spill onto your property.
For the neighbourhood of North America, there’s a general rule of thumb, according to Brett House, vice-president and deputy chief economist at Scotiabank: one percentage point of growth in the U.S. economy causes a half per cent increase in Canada.
In other words, enjoy the stimulus, Canada.
“Biden’s stimulus plan will not only benefit the U.S. economy but will also make Canada’s economy great again,” said Derek Holt, vice-president and head of Capital Markets Economics at Scotiabank.
“There will be significant leakage of U.S. stimulus into Canada as [U.S.] businesses and consumers buy more from America’s trading partners regardless of [Buy American rules],” said Holt.
Now, a word about Buy American.
Buy American: reality and rhetoric
There’s bad news for Canadian companies hoping to land some of these big U.S. government contracts.
Buy American provisions are inevitable in this bill.
Biden promised during the election campaign that public contracts under his infrastructure plan would go to U.S. companies — and he doubled down on that Wednesday.
“Not a contract will go out that I control … to a company that is [not] an American company — with American products all the way down the line, and American workers,” he said.
Let’s see the fine print first.
The actual bill hasn’t been introduced yet, and only when we see those details will it become clear whether the reality matches the rhetoric.
For example: Will the bill address existing trade agreements? Under the World Trade Organization agreement on procurement, free trade is guaranteed for some types of public contracts.
There are other question marks.
What about the WTO’s anti-discrimination rules? A skeptical former U.S. trade official suggested it would be a flagrant violation of those provisions for the U.S. government to hand out subsidies for buying only American-made cars.
Then there’s the challenge of disentangling what even counts as an American car, for example, versus a Canadian and Mexican one. Vehicles are built in cross-border supply chains, with pieces regularly moving back and forth.
But make no mistake that Buy American provisions are coming.
Canada’s chief trade negotiator, Steve Verheul, all but conceded this the other day when he said Canada is simply hoping for exemptions for some sectors, like clean energy.
Energy and climate: Good news, bad news
In the meantime, his plan would establish a clean-energy standard for power utilities to meet. This could mean new sales for Canadian hydro and alternative-energy companies.
For the oil sector, the news is less positive.
On the heels of cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, Biden would scrap an existing credit in the tax code for U.S. companies that produce oil abroad.
One oil industry analyst in Canada, Rory Johnston, expects that to have, at most, a minor impact in the Alberta oilpatch. Not only has American investment there already dropped, but the sums involved in the credit are small.
The U.S. Environmental and Energy Study Institute cites one federal estimate that says ending the policy would be worth $12.7 billion, over 10 years, to all American oil companies operating around the world.
“[That’s a] very, very small amount in the overall scheme of things,” said Johnston, managing director at Toronto-based investment firm Price Street Inc.
But he said it’s yet another symbolic blow to the sector, revealing the political winds shifting against it.
A tilt in tax competitiveness
Could Canadian companies soon find themselves more competitive against their American peers, in terms of tax burdens?
Biden’s plan would raise U.S. corporate taxes seven percentage points, to 28 per cent, undoing some of the Trump-era cuts.
This would bring the U.S. back to its former international ranking: with higher marginal rates than Canada and almost every other developed country.
Jack Mintz, a tax expert and president’s fellow at the University of Calgary, said this is a long-term threat to U.S. companies.
He said they would be hit with a double whammy — first with a tax hike, then with the post-2023 phaseout of writeoffs built into the 2017 law signed by Donald Trump.
“There’s going to be almost a 50 per cent hike on the overall effective tax rate on capital in the United States between those two items,” Mintz said. “It’ll certainly make the U.S. less competitive.”
It’s not clear yet whether this helps investment in Canada, Mintz said. Because there’s another stick built into Biden’s plan — one designed to whack American companies that shift operations abroad.
Biden wants to end some tax exemptions for American companies drawing foreign profits and impose a new minimum international rate of 21 per cent.
Mintz called it a “Trump-like, America First-type strategy.”
Whether or not a U.S. company winds up facing a higher tax burden in Canada than back home will depend on other specifics of the tax code, and we’ll know more once we see the bill.
As for his general economic takeaway on Biden’s proposal, and its effect on Canada, Mintz said: “It’s hard to say whether it will be positive for Canada or not.”
What the rise of the PPC says about Canada in 2021 – CTV News
While the People’s Party of Canada did not manage to gain any seats this federal election, its accruing of the popular vote has experts saying the rise of the far-right populist party cannot be ignored.
Maxime Bernier, who failed to win his own riding of Beauce, Que., said Monday that he will remain as party leader despite the defeat, telling CTV News’ Genevieve Beauchemin at his Saskatoon rally that he views the election outcome as “a huge victory.”
The PPC won over 820,000 votes and more than five per cent of the popular vote this time around, a marked increase from the 1.6 per cent of the vote it got in 2019.
POPULISM FINDS A HOME
The party that ran on an anti-immigration, anti-lockdown platform that has been endorsed by white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and other far-right groups has become a home for anti-vaxxers, anti-government protesters and gun rights activists, showing that populism on the left or right may be more about a movement than a traditional political party, said University of Guelph professor of political science Tamara Small.
“I think the only leader who is ecstatic about last night’s results is Bernier,” said Small in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca after the election. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere… it seems that he’s taken that populism and attached it to far-right politics.”
The idea of Canadian exceptionalism from far-right and populist movements needs to be dispelled, Small said.
“The idea used to be that Canada was immune to sort of far-right populism…this idea that Canadians were sort of going to be free from the populism that we saw in Europe, like Nigel Farage is to the U.K.,” Small said. “But I think lots of people are wondering, if he’s [Bernier] just going to say ‘I’m not here to form government…I’m more here to challenge the system’” as a way of gaining support.
Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said it makes sense to call the PPC a populist party, and that the party takes “an extremist position on things like immigration and diversity.”
“They’re extreme in terms of their anti-Trudeau or anti-state positioning. They’re extreme in terms of their anti-lockdown and anti-tax standpoints as well. So, yeah, I think they absolutely might be considered extremists,” Perry said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.
“As is calling them a populist group or populist party, because that’s really what he’s done so effectively is absorbed some of those broad concerns around COVID-19 and freedom and even the more mainstream concerns about economic anxieties, loss of jobs, loss of businesses… and managed to roll them all up.”
Some who support the PPC bristle at the implication that the party is a hotbed of far-right rhetoric or white nationalist supporters, with many online saying they simply support a party that is dedicated to their freedoms.
In an email to CTVNews.ca, PPC candidate for the riding Parkdale-High Park Ont., Wilfried Danzinger, denied that the party is aligned with extremist values, writing that “love was the guiding principle of his campaign,” and that his supporters come from all “different sexual preferences, all ages and religions.”
When CTVNews.ca emailed the PPC for comment on this story, party spokesperson Martin Masse sent back a one-line response: “I don’t respond to requests from leftist activists masquerading as journalists. Get lost.”
COVID-19 WAS A ‘GIFT’ TO THE PPC
The rise of the PPC in the polls can be attributed partially to the “gift” of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
Balgord said that “the COVID-19 pandemic was a gift to the far-right” in general as it allowed them to infiltrate conspiracy theory spaces and begin attracting new followers.
“The rise of the party kind of fit into this because these people didn’t really have a political party. If they voted for any party, they would vote Conservative,” he said. “But they weren’t particularly happy about voting Conservative either because they’re the most fringe. So when the PCC started as a party in 2019, Bernier, right from day one was using their language, their talking points, and the words of the far-right in several spaces. We saw them actually say ‘Bernier is dog whistling to us.’”
But Small questioned whether the end of the COVID-19 pandemic would stop the drip of followers to the PPC and spell a marked decline in the party.
“My sense is that a lot of this anger and concern is tied up in a particular type of anger about lockdowns and vaccine mandates and overreach of the state,” Small said. “I’m not too sure whether or not once the pandemic is done, to what extent the party still exists.”
It is a sentiment echoed by extremism researcher and assistant professor at Queen’s University, Amarnath Amarasingam.
“In early 2020, with COVID-19, the kind of conspiratorial thinking and angst around the pandemic went through the roof, and a lot of these movements coalesced around similar ideas,” Amarasingam said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca, noting that traditionally conspiracy movements generally operate separately from each other.
Amarasingam said the COVID-19 pandemic “gave them all a common cause and they all were playing in the same playground.”
Amarasingam said the question now surrounding the PPC is whether its rise is solely due to the “catch-all” the party provided surrounding anger around lockdowns, quarantine and the pandemic, “or whether it’s a sign of something bubbling beneath the surface that a lot of everyday Canadians actually held secretly anti-immigrant views, anti-refugee groups, all the things that are part of the PPC platform.”
“If that’s the case, I mean, it’s going to be a longer concern of ours,” he continued. “So that’s kind of the big question is whether this is just a blip because of the pandemic or whether it kind of speaks to something else going on that we should be concerned about.”
HATE WAS ON THE BALLOT
Bernier has always denied ties or affiliations to any of the far-right, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric he is accused of platforming with his stance on things like reduced immigration and scrapping the Multiculturalism Act.
However, Balgord said known Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups endorse the party, and that the party is populated with a litany of candidates, insiders and supporters who have been documented by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as members of far-right groups.
“There’s so many examples,” he said. “This isn’t a few isolated incidents, this is a pattern. This is what the PPC is.”
Balgord referenced more than 10 incidents of PPC candidates or people associated with the party who have engaged in far-right rhetoric or have been exposed by work done by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as being part of white nationalist groups.
Balgord noted that the man charged with throwing gravel at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was campaigning as the Liberal leader was a riding director for the PPC, and that his organization had previously exposed him for “posting white power music on social media accounts with lyrics about killing immigrants.”
Another example listed by Balgord was the PPC candidate for the Ontario riding of Vaughn-Woodbridge who was exposed by Press Progress this month for allegedly having touted and created a video game where users can re-enact the 1999 Columbine shooting massacre and partake in their own shooting of caricatures of minorities and LGBTQ2S+ people.
Bernier himself has been featured on what Balgord describes as an “anti-Semitic blog collective,” which endorses a book full of terrorist Nazi ideologies.
The PPC platform itself is also chock-full of “dog whistles” to the far-right, Balgord, Amarasingam and Perry said, referencing the sections on refugees, immigration and “Canadian identity.”
“I think the Canadian identity is tied to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee stuff,” Amarasingam said. “But I know when someone says Canadian identity, especially with all the other things that are at play in the platform, what that likely means for the PPC, is basically kind of ‘The Great Replacement,’ but around Canadian values.”
The Great Replacement theory is a conspiracy prevalent in white nationalist and far-right groups that posits that a shadowy cabal is behind demographic changes in a country or area, and that “white identity” or “Western values” are in decline because of it.
Balgord said it is known to have spurred terrorist attacks like the Christchurch mosque shooting of 2019.
“When we talk about the PPC, it’s necessary to talk about their ties to white supremacy and white nationalism and how dangerous the thing is, they’re not just another political party, right?” Balgord said. “They’re the white nationalist and the hate movement in Canada. It’s their way of trying to get a foothold into mainstream Canadian politics.”
Perry noted the language Bernier has used in his campaigns, in tweets and even in his speech on election night, in particular his word choices of “government overreach, tyrannies and authoritarian government.”
“Look at some of the language. It’s drawn from groups like three percenters…in particular in the militia movement,” Perry said. “So, yeah, there’s a very direct line. It’s not a dotted line. It’s a direct line.”
But when asked about the PPC and Bernier’s denial of allegations of extremist views, Balgord was unimpressed.
“The PPC is the party of plausible deniability,” he said. “But when you really scratch the surface, you find that it’s a party for white nationalists.”
WHERE DOES CANADA GO FROM HERE?
For the single-issue voters who chose to vote for Bernier’s party because of their views on lockdowns or COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the end of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions may tempt them away from the party, but Amarasingam says they cannot deny that their vote is still an endorsement of what the PPC represents.
“I think if you’re a single-issue voter on the vaccine, and you can find common cause with the PPC that doesn’t necessarily make you far-right, that just means that you’re unfortunately willing to sell a whole host of Canadian communities down the river to hold up this one value,” he said.
Amarasingam said that education on extremism may be what people need to make informed choices moving forward.
“I think everyone basically has to become an extremism watcher now that it’s no longer just some of us who live in these bizarre online communities paying attention to things, because as things become mainstream, people need to understand extremism and how these dynamics work and how these movements work,” he said.
As for the PPC’s presence in mainstream politics, Perry and Small said it’s a fine line to walk between exposing and identifying extremist views and providing too much of a platform for them to gain more followers.
“I think people feel very differently. I think there’s a lot of people who would say you should just ignore these people and never give them any platform,” Small said. “But I’m of the belief that not being aware in some ways is like throwing a match into a forest and then just not worrying about it.”
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca
Alaska, which led most U.S. states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and health officials announced the move as the tally of newly confirmed cases statewide reached another single-day record of 1,224 patients amid a wave of infections driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated.
The delta variant is “crippling our health-care system. It’s impacting everything from heart attacks to strokes to our children if they get in a bike accident,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference with Dunleavy.
Alaska’s health and social services commissioner, Adam Crum, announced that he signed an emergency addendum extending to the whole state standards of crisis care announced last week at the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The new document limits liability faced by providers for crisis-level medical care in all Alaska hospitals.
Moreover, it acknowledges the realities of rationed care statewide, with scarce medical supplies and staff prioritized in a way that denies normal levels of care to some patients for the sake of others, depending on how sick they are and their chances for recovery.
To cope with the COVID-19 influx, Alaska has signed an $87 million US contract to enlist hundreds of health-care workers from out of state, officials said.
About one-fifth of Alaska hospital patients are infected with COVID-19, according to state data. But that figure understates the burden placed on the system as a whole as it “squeezes out” capacity to treat victims of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks and other ailments, Dunleavy said.
Paradoxically, back in April, Alaska had ranked among the top states getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of residents, helped in large part by efforts of the state’s pandemic-conscious Indigenous population.
Alaska has since slipped below the national average, with just 58 per cent of residents aged 12 and older fully vaccinated, according to the state database. The vaccination slump coincided with significant political resistance to public health requirements.
-From Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults with COVID-19.
Those under the age of 40 are getting admitted to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Wednesday that so far two adults are in the pediatrics ICU, and space is being made for more.
Dr. Susan Shaw, the health authority’s chief medical officer, said critical care capacity is under strain.
The province has recently been reporting record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations — mostly unvaccinated patients.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 230.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization has warned that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks well into 2022, even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.
In the Middle East, Syria is facing a new surge in infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country’s fragile health system.
In Africa, Uganda’s president has eased restrictions, allowing the resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections.
In the Asia-Pacific region, police in the Australian city of Melbourne prepared for a fourth day of anti-lockdown protests on Thursday while a vaccination hub closed after protesters abused staff, the operator said, while COVID-19 cases across the state of Victoria hit a daily record. Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city of five million since officials this week ordered a two-week closure of building sites and made vaccines mandatory for construction workers to limit the spread of the virus.
Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses.
Thailand pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November.
In Europe, Italy plans to give other countries 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 6:35 a.m. ET
Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
New Zealand’s Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.
New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.
With its biggest city Auckland still in lockdown and new cases being reported every day, Ardern said vaccinations will replace lockdowns as the main tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.
“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.
The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.
After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.
Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.
The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)
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