How should Canada prepare for future pandemics?
The views on that vary among major political parties vying for votes during a fourth wave of a deadly pandemic that has yet to be quelled.
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That leaves voters having to carefully judge the plans those parties are putting forward to protect Canadians, as experts say there will certainly be more pandemics to come.
“To borrow a line from Battlestar Galactica, this has happened before and will happen again,” said Dr. Raymond Tellier, an infectious diseases expert and medical microbiologist at McGill University in Montreal, referring to the fact the world will continue to see new pandemics emerge.
There will be more pandemics
COVID-19 has shown Canadians the devastation pandemics can cause — to people, families, society and the economy — as well as the considerable challenges of bringing them under control.
“What this particular pandemic has raised Canadians’ awareness to is the fact that public health crises like this can happen,” said Dr. Jane Philpott, a physician and former federal health minister, who is not involved in party politics at this time.
“And lots of experts have predicted that the gap between this one and the next one will be shorter … so, we need to be prepared.”
How Canada will move forward in future will depend, in part, on politics.
Domestic production for vaccines
The political parties are in agreement that Canada needs to be able to source domestically produced vaccines, rather than rely on external providers, as it did with COVID-19.
The Liberals said their government “has done whatever it takes to keep Canadians safe,” including implementing a vaccine-procurement strategy they credit with helping the country achieve a comparatively high rate of vaccination.
But the party said that “the pandemic laid bare that a decades-long decline in our domestic biomanufacturing capacity needed to be reversed.”
To address that, the Liberals said their government made “significant investments” relating to the research and production of vaccines and therapeutics. This includes plans to build an mRNA vaccine production plant in Canada.
The Liberals haven’t released their campaign platform yet but say “pandemic preparedness featured prominently” in the last federal budget. The Conservatives and the New Democrats, meanwhile, have laid out their views on the issue in their own platforms.
The Tories say they’d “ramp up” capacity to research and produce needed vaccines and medicines in Canada, “putting in place a sector strategy to grow the sector in a well-thought-out way rather than just handing out money.”
Additionally, the Conservatives want to “use procurements by government and those receiving government funding” to boost domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE). They would also reinstate a tariff on imported PPE products.
The New Democrats agree Canada must produce vaccines, but they would “establish a Crown corporation charged with domestic vaccine production” to do so. The NDP also pledges to ensure “Canada maintains an adequate and responsibly managed” PPE stockpile “with an emphasis on supporting domestic production.”
The Liberals say the pandemic “made clear” that more domestic PPE production is needed, which is why their government made investments to have N95 respirator masks produced here.
The Bloc Québécois also pointed to the lack of vaccine production in Canada as being a problem. In an email sent to CBC News ahead of the launch of its platform on Sunday, the party said it will be presenting solutions for rebuilding Quebec’s pharmaceutical industry.
The Green Party said in an emailed statement that it would ensure Canada has a “robust capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing” and a sufficient PPE stockpile, while working to lessen the country’s overall dependence on global supply chains for essential goods and services.
The Greens would also invest in Canada’s health and long-term care systems, with an eye to improving the social safety net.
“If we are to be better prepared the next time a crisis strikes, we cannot let this chance slip through our fingers,” the party said.
Strengthened surveillance of threats
Both the NDP and the Tories call for a strengthening of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) — a system that is intended to flag potential public health concerns from around the globe.
The Conservatives also want to improve the sharing of “public health intelligence” both within the government and with provincial and territorial counterparts.
The New Democrats say they would “provide stable, long-term funding for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) so they can protect public health and be ready with surge capacity in the event of a crisis.”
The Conservative platform makes no mention of adjusting PHAC funding, but a party spokesperson told CBC News there are no plans to decrease it.
The Liberals said their government, in response to COVID-19, provided funds to PHAC that allowed it “to welcome more than 1,000 new employees and bolster its capacity in a number of critical areas.”
Room for improvement
Those outside the political system are also paying attention to the challenges Canada is facing — including those who have seen the public health system up close.
Philpott, the former Liberal health minister, said she sees a “long list” of things Canada needs to deal with before it confronts a future pandemic.
For her, improving public health capacity is the top priority.
“We have an enormous amount of work to do to improve the governance of public health, the funding for public health, the co-ordination across the federal landscape and the provinces and their internal regions,” Philpott said.
Ujjal Dosanjh, who served as Canada’s health minister from 2004-06 under then-prime minister Paul Martin, believes a national inquiry — after the pandemic is over — is needed to examine the country’s response to COVID-19 and what we can learn from it.
“We should all follow the science,” said Dosanjh, who is not involved with any party activities during the current election.
Keeping scientists supplied
Science will remain key for future pandemics — in understanding them, responding to them and halting them.
That means that in addition to vaccines and PPE, scientists will need the proper supplies to do their work.
McGill’s Tellier said something happened during the COVID-19 pandemic that he’d never seen before.
“We had a shortage of supplies to run tests,” he said.
That was because of the global scramble to source them, which has led Tellier to conclude there should be a stockpile of needed reagents and supplies for laboratories.
Voters and public health
Kathy Brock, a professor at Queen’s University’s School of Policy Studies in Kingston, Ont., said Canadians “tend to focus on the bread-and-butter issues” during elections.
The current pandemic crosses into this context because of the havoc it wreaks on people’s lives and their ability to support themselves and their families.
“Canadians want to know that the government is going to protect Canadians,” she said.
Brock said it’s important for voters to consider “what the parties are promising and whether or not their strategies are really realistic” on these issues.
Philpott said public health issues tend to recede from the spotlight over time, and that needs to change.
“Public health is one of those things that kind of fades into the background of people’s priorities when they feel like they’re beyond the danger zone,” she said.
“I think it’s incumbent upon all of us — and certainly upon all of our leaders — to keep public health in the top priorities.”
Quebec undergoes a culture shift as ‘woke’ politics is redefined in the province – The Globe and Mail
For 50 contentious years, the defining split in Quebec politics was between sovereigntists and federalists. “Should Quebec remain in Canada?” was the ideological question par excellence.
But last week, when Premier François Legault exchanged barbed words with the rising opposition star Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in the Salon bleu of the National Assembly, a new political axis was born. Call it “les wokes” vs. “les Duplessistes.”
This divide isn’t about economics or independence so much as issues of race and religion, whose primal importance in Quebec was once again borne out by this year’s federal election. And although the divide stems from a pair of insults hurled across the floor of the provincial legislature, it reveals a deeper realignment in Quebec’s political class that is being mirrored around the democratic world, away from traditional standards of left and right and toward a preoccupation with identity.
The fracas began on Sept. 15, when Mr. Nadeau-Dubois, a leader of the “Maple Spring” student protests in 2012 and now parliamentary leader of the left-wing Québec Solidaire, rose in the Assembly to accuse Mr. Legault of imitating Maurice Duplessis. It was meant as a bitter reproach: “The Boss” ruled Quebec for most of the period between 1936 and his death in 1959 with a mixture of Catholic piety, anti-Communism and Quebec nationalism, while openly persecuting religious minorities such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and suppressing dissent. His time in power is still often called The Great Darkness.
The current Premier, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois argued, was channeling his notorious predecessor in part by conflating support for Bill 21, a contentious piece of provincial legislation that bans the wearing of visible religious symbols by certain public servants, with membership in “the Quebec nation.”
Visibly angry, Mr. Legault shot back that a majority of Quebeckers support the religious-symbols law. Duplessis, he said, had “many faults, but he defended his nation. He wasn’t un woke like the leader of Québec Solidaire.”
A surprised wave of laughter went up in the Blue Room; the Quebec media has been tittering about Mr. Legault’s choice of epithet ever since. Why was the Premier of North America’s only majority francophone jurisdiction wielding a term popularized by Black activists to describe vigilance about social injustice? Why was he using it as a put-down, not to mention a noun?
Asked to define “un woke” the following day, Mr. Legault offered an original contribution to the Quebec vernacular, saying that to him it meant someone “who wants to make us feel guilty about defending the Quebec nation [and] defending its values.” Google searches for the word exploded in Quebec.
But if the Premier’s particular gloss on the term was novel, its use by conservatives in the province was not. In the past couple of years, columnists for the influential Quebecor media conglomerate have become particularly enamoured of using “woke,” in English, as a slur for liberals and leftists who are highly sensitive about race and gender, a trend on the American right as well. Benoît Melançon, a literature professor at the University of Montreal, searched a media database to find that, since the beginning of last year, the word has appeared in francophone outlets more than 2,000 times.
The word entered Quebec’s political bloodstream purely as a pejorative; virtually no one in the province owns up to the label. While a French politician running to be the Green Party’s presidential candidate recently embraced being “woke,” Prof. Melançon noted, “that’s never done in Quebec.” Likewise, although some historians and journalists have recently begun rehabilitating Maurice Duplessis’s reputation – and Mr. Legault himself jokingly compared his party to Duplessis’s as recently as 2019 – his name remains a popular shorthand for reactionary authoritarianism.
Both political camps have begun life, then, with no self-professed members – but that does not mean they lack weight. In an unsuccessful attempt to steal back some thunder from two rival parties and reassert the importance of his political project, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon tweeted a photo of himself this week wearing a shirt that said, “Neither woke, nor duplessiste. Indépendantiste.” The provincial Liberals, meanwhile, traditional standard-bearers of the federalist cause, have stayed out of the fray altogether. Their only slight involvement in the squabble came when Mr. Legault sneeringly referred to them as one of two “multiculturalist” parties in the National Assembly.
The lower profile of Quebec’s once-dominant parties, and the issue that animated them for decades, is the result of a sea change that has sidelined the traditional debate about sovereignty in favour of lower-stakes skirmishes about immigration and ethnic diversity. The shift dates to around 2007, according to Frédéric Bérard, a political commentator, doctor at law and course instructor at the University of Montreal’s law school. It was then, he said, that the question of “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities came to the forefront of political life in the province.
Quebec has since been roiled by successive controversies around that theme, from the question of whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies to the outrage that greeted a debate moderator’s question during the recent federal election campaign about Quebec’s “discriminatory” religious-symbols law.
These issues have emerged, not coincidentally, amidst the long-term decline of the Parti Québécois. Sensing the withering of its traditional goal of an independent Quebec state, the PQ embraced a program of aggressive secularism and the integration of immigrants into the francophone mainstream as an alternative form of national self-assertion, Mr. Bérard said. “It’s less trouble to ban a veil than to have a referendum on independence.”
Although Quebec’s identitarian shift had local causes, it also happened in parallel with a move away from traditional definitions of left and right worldwide. Culture and identity have replaced economics as the main vectors of politics in much of the West, said Mark Fortier, a sociologist and publisher (as well as the author of a book about reading the work of Mathieu Bock-Côté, one of the main exponents of anti-wokeism in the mass-market Journal de Montréal newspaper).
If “les wokes” vs. “les Duplessistes” seems like a tempest in a Québécois teapot, then, it may be part of something bigger. Consider Brexit in the U.K. and the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., Mr. Fortier said.
“It’s not just in Quebec … It’s the Quebec version of a phenomenon that traverses all liberal democracies.”
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Politics Chat: Democrats At Odds Over Government Spending – NPR
Politics Briefing: Canadian officials decline comment on resolution of Meng case, impact on two Michaels – The Globe and Mail
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Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is to appear virtually in federal court in New York Friday afternoon to resolve U.S. bank fraud charges against her.
But Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and senior parliamentary reporter Steven Chase report here that it is unclear if there is a side agreement with China that would free Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who have been imprisoned on charges of espionage since December, 2018.
The two men were arrested after Ms. Meng was detained at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. extradition request.
Canadian government officials in Ottawa refused to discuss the legal development that is being handled by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.
Reporter’s Comment, Steven Chase: “The Globe and Mail broke the story of Ms. Meng’s Vancouver arrest in 2018, a development that was followed within days by the jailing of two Canadians in China: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in what Canada has since called hostage diplomacy. The result was a deep freeze in Canada-China relations. The Globe also broke the news last week that talks had resumed with an eye to a settlement.
“A plea deal for Ms. Meng would allow her to return home but it’s far from certain China would swiftly reciprocate on the Michaels. Beijing has spent more than 2½ years arguing that there is no connection between the Meng case and the Michaels and defending the Chinese legal system as legitimate and above-board. For them to release the Michaels immediately would serve to confirm their critics’ accusations.”
This is a developing story. Please watch The Globe and Mail for updates.
There’s a Globe and Mail explainer here on China’s conviction and detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
O’TOOLE DEBATE CONTINUES – Some Conservatives, including former Ontario premier Mike Harris, are expressing support for federal Tory Leader Erin O’Toole, as others criticize the party’s election results. Story here.
VANCOUVER-GRANVILLE WINNER DECLARED – The race is over in the high-profile riding of Vancouver-Granville, formerly held by Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. Her successor is Taleeb Noormohamed, for the Liberals. Story here, from CBC.
NEW DEFICIT INFO – The federal government ran a $12-billion deficit in the month of July, according to new Finance Department figures that provide a sense of the fiscal landscape as the re-elected minority Liberal government faces calls from premiers and opposition parties for billions in new spending.
CANADA STAND ON TRANS-PACIFIC TRADE DEAL – The Canadian government won’t offer any public support for applications by either Taiwan or China to join a Trans-Pacific trade agreement, saying it’s up to the 11-member pact to jointly decide on new admissions.
PROSPECTIVE NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CANADA SPEAKS OUT – Joe Biden’s choice for the next ambassador to Ottawa says the U.S. is waiting for Justin Trudeau’s long-promised update to Canada’s China policy. David Cohen’s remarks Wednesday to a Senate hearing came amid fresh questions about the depth of the Trudeau government’s engagement with the U.S. President on China-related issues. From Politico. Story here. A copy of Mr. Cohen’s opening statement to the committee is here. Video of the hearing at which Mr. Cohen testified is here.
EX-LPC MP PLEADS GUILTY – Former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara has pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and one of being unlawfully in a dwelling house in virtual courtroom on Thursday. From Global News. Story here.
U.K MILITARY OFFERS CANADA ARCTIC MILITARY HELP – Britain is signalling its interest in working with the Canadian military in the Arctic by offering to take part in cold-weather exercises and bring in some of its more advanced capabilities – such as nuclear-powered submarines – to help with surveillance and defence in the Far North. From CBC. Story here.
A HEAD-SCRATCHING MOMENT – CTV National News journalist Glen McGregor catches a political moment, involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on video that defies easy explanation. See here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.
No schedules released for party leaders.
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how the federal election revealed that Canada has never been more united in purpose: “The United States has become so polarized it threatens to tear itself apart. Parties of the far right have become increasingly powerful in Europe. Canada is nothing like that, as the election proved. Our politicians howl over picayune differences. Elections are fought over the best way to deliver a new government program, rather than on whether such programs should exist. The consensus on everything that matters is deep and profound. It’s been a very long time since we were this united, if ever.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why Alberta Premier Jason Kenney should resign: “A change in leader is the only hope the [United Conservative Party] has of holding on to power: a new leader, a new voice and mea culpas galore for the disastrous job the party has done since winning election in 2019. That pretty much has to be the only strategy. But we can never lose sight of the real story here. The real story is all the needless death from COVID-19 in Alberta caused by a government’s selfish desire to put politics ahead of the health and safety of the public. That is a scandal that should cost the person responsible for it his job. Mr. Kenney should do the honourable thing and resign.”
Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on why all Canadians should take Sept. 30 to observe National Truth and Reconciliation Day: “This year, Sept. 30 will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and every Canadian should observe the federal statutory holiday. Put on an orange T-shirt to honour the survivors of those 139 so-called schools. Think about how Canada can bring about change. Reflect on how to bring loving homes free of mould and with clean water and full fridges to all First Nations communities that need them. Or high schools, for that matter. But we are only sort of recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, because it’s up to each provincial and territorial government, as well as individual businesses, to decide whether it will be an actual paid day off.”
Murray Mandryk (Regina Leader-Post/Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s failure to explain issues in his eagerness to bash Justin Trudeau: “About the only things surprising in Moe’s Tuesday morning Trudeau bashing is: (a) we didn’t hear more of it during the campaign and; (b) there is a legitimate beef here, if you can get past Moe’s politicking and incoherent messaging.”
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