Premier Doug Ford is facing accusations of using the response to COVID-19 as a guise to advance his political interests.
Two new pieces of legislation that the government portrays as helping the province recover from the effects of COVID-19 contain provisions unrelated to the pandemic.
The government’s proposed Better for People, Smarter for Business Act — framed as boosting the economy by reducing red tape — would transform Canada Christian College into a university with the power to grant bachelor of science and arts degrees.
The college is run by the prominent conservative evangelical pastor Charles McVety, a staunch ally of Ford and opponent of previous Liberal reforms to Ontario’s sex education curriculum.
On Tuesday afternoon, the government tabled a separate bill to shield organizations from legal liability for spreading COVID-19, provided that they tried to follow public health guidelines. Included in that bill is legislation to ban Ontario municipalities from using ranked ballots in the 2022 elections for mayor and council.
“To the extent that they’re using the pandemic as cover for these controversial initiatives, it just stinks to high heaven,” said Emmett Macfarlane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.
The politics of omnibus bills
Governments of all political stripes — both at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa — have long used so-called omnibus bills to pass measures without the level of scrutiny they would receive in standalone legislation.
By putting unrelated items into bills that are supposed to be about COVID-19, the Ford government’s tactics could be considered worse than the typical omnibus bill, says Macfarlane.
“It does make one wonder to what extent the government was trying to sneak certain controversial amendments through,” he said in an interview with CBC News.
The move to give Canada Christian College university status is coming under fire in large part because of McVety’s political ties, his stance on sex ed and his views on same-sex marriage.
The Progressive Conservative campaign team selected McVety to be among the few attending the first leaders’ debate in the province’s 2018 election campaign. The reverend sat with some of Ford’s top advisers. McVety did not respond on Wednesday to CBC’s requests for an interview.
WATCH / Doug Ford on Canada Christian College:
“I have a lot of friends within churches and in colleges,” Ford said Wednesday when asked about McVety. “He went through the process like every other college, and the process is independent.”
However, CBC News has learned that Canada Christian College has not actually completed Ontario’s official independent process for approving degree programs.
The province’s Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board, the independent agency that considers applications for new degree programs and makes recommendations to the minister for approval, is in the midst of considering two applications from Canada Christian College.
One of the applications is to change its name to Canada University and School of Graduate Theological Studies. The other proposal, submitted last month, is to create new Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs. In both cases, the board is yet to make any recommendation for approval.
A spokesperson for Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano said the college’s applications are currently under review by the board and said the legislation will not come into effect until after the reviews are complete.
The college seems to think approval for the arts and science degrees is in the bag.
“The present legislation governing the college has disallowed further enhancements of our educational offerings in the liberal arts and sciences,” says the college’s 2020-25 academic plan. “We expect this situation will be rectified in the coming months.”
Canada Christian College currently has the legal authority to grant degrees only in such fields as theology, religious education and Christian counselling.
“Charles McVety has a history of making Islamophobic and homophobic statements and for using Canada Christian College, of which he is the president, to host Islamophobic speeches,” the NDP’s anti-racism critic, Laura Mae Lindo, in question period this week.
“Why does this government continue to use the cover of a pandemic to make good on back room deals with the Premier’s friends?” Lindo asked
The government’s response didn’t directly address her question.
The province is “establishing an equal playing field for our post-secondary institutions to compete and attract world-class talent from around Ontario and abroad,” said David Piccini, parliamentary secretary to Romano.
Canada Christian College “simply isn’t on par with any other university in the province,” said Macfarlane. “This seems to be nothing more than a reward to a friend of the premier in a bill that that is presumably about COVID.”
The government is also facing criticism over its other recent move to insert unrelated legislation into a COVID-focused bill: scrapping ranked ballots at the municipal level.
In that system, voters rank all candidates in an election instead of simply choosing just one. If no one is ranked first on 50 per cent of the ballots cast, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their votes go to the second-ranked candidate on each ballot. The process is repeated for multiple rounds until someone surpasses 50 per cent of the votes.
London used ranked balloting in its municipal election in 2018. Voters in Kingston and Cambridge approved plans to switch to the method for 2022, and other municipalities have been considering such reforms.
Ford won PC leadership on ranked ballot
The existing first-past-the-post system typically sees candidates win with far less than 50 per cent of the vote, but ranked ballots are “a small and simple change that make local elections more fair and friendly” said Dave Meslin of Unlock Democracy Canada, an electoral reform advocacy group.
Ontario’s existing legislation for municipal elections “lets cities decide if they want to use ranked ballots or not,” Meslin said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning.
“What Doug Ford is doing is more of an iron fist approach, saying, ‘Well, we’re just going to ban ranked ballots. No one is allowed to use them anywhere.'”
Ford says first-past-the-post is simple and voters “don’t have to be confused” by another system.
“We’ve been voting this way since 1867. We don’t need any more complications of ranked ballots,” the premier said Wednesday.
Almost every political party in Canada uses a ranked ballot system to choose its leader. Ford won the Ontario PC leadership on a ranked ballot vote in 2018.
“This is another gross abuse of power from a government that continuously undermines local democracy with snap decisions,” said Green Party leader Mike Schreiner in a statement. “These overnight changes totally disrespect the rights of municipalities to improve democracy and encourage diversity on city council.”
There’s some evidence the government was hoping the move would slip under the radar.
The day before the legislation was tabled, officials with the attorney general provided multiple media outlets (including CBC News) with advance copies of the news release, so that stories about the COVID-19 liability protection measures could be published as soon as the bill was introduced.
Those advance copies of the news release did not mention the provision to ban ranked ballots.
PM touts deal for 26K doses of COVID-19 therapeutic, seeks to temper vaccine expectations – CTV News
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government has signed a deal to secure up to 26,000 doses of a COVID-19 therapeutic drug from Eli Lilly, with the option to receive thousands more.
He also sought to temper Canadians’ expectations around the timing and rollout of an eventual vaccine or vaccines to immunize against the novel coronavirus.
“To keep Canadians safe, we need access to as many potential vaccines and treatments as possible,” Trudeau said during his Rideau Cottage address on Tuesday.
Trudeau said that, while there has been promising news about some vaccine candidates that Canada will receive millions of doses of, it will still be months before vaccines are expected to arrive on Canadian soil.
The prime minister has previously said that Canada is expecting initial doses — to be distributed on a priority basis — in the early months of 2021 once granted approval by Health Canada, but several other nations are making plans to begin administering vaccines next month.
Among the promising candidates so far are Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, all of which Canada has begun the domestic approval process for. However, Trudeau said that because it’s been years since Canada’s had domestic production capacity for vaccines, the countries where these pharmaceutical companies are based will “obviously” prioritize vaccinating their citizens before shipping doses internationally.
As a result, the federal government is working with the dates vaccine companies are providing them.
“We have reached out and have actually one of the very best vaccine portfolios of any country around the world with far more doses for Canadians, potentially then we actually have Canadian population. That’s because we don’t know which vaccines are going to be most effective, which ones are going to arrive early, but we have done everything we can to ensure that Canadians get these vaccines as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said, acknowledging Canada is at a “disadvantage,” because it is relying on other nations.
“But it is premature to start, you know, crossing out [or] circling dates on a calendar or saying that ‘this vaccine is going to arrive in this amount, on this day, in this community,’ because there’s still a lot of work to do between now and then, but we’re on it,” he said.
The prime minister said that Canada has begun funding domestic vaccine production capacity because “we never want to be caught short again,” but it will take “years” to get in place and likely won’t help Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine situation, but will be in place should there be future pandemics.
Updating on the status of the logistical planning, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that the federal government has signed contracts for freezers capable of storing vaccines. To-date the government has the capacity to store up to 33.5 million vaccines at cold temperatures and enough needles and syringes to administer 24 million doses with more en route. By next week, Anand said she expects contracts will be awarded to provide the government with dry ice as well as end-to-end distribution to assist in the transportation of these vaccines.
The government says it’s keeping a close eye on the approval processes for vaccines in allied countries, but isn’t expected to fast-track authorization until the domestic evaluation is complete, which Trudeau said is being done to assure Canadians the vaccines are safe, in hopes that’ll encourage the maximum number of people get immunized.
Logistical planning about the rollout is underway, but details remain sparse other than the military likely playing a role and all provinces and territories needing to provide input. Trudeau said Tuesday, the federal Liberals will have more to share once the “mobilization plan” is “up and running.”
EMERGENCY THERAPY APPROVED
Over the weekend, Health Canada authorized the monoclonal antibody therapy for emergency use in helping treat COVID-19 infections, and Canada will begin receiving doses over the next three months.
The single antibody treatment called bamlanivimab has been approved for use in adults and children aged 12 or older with mild to moderate coronavirus infections.
Lilly says the treatment is for those who risk progressing to severe COVID-19 symptoms or hospitalization. It is not authorized for patients who are already hospitalized or require oxygen.
Bamlanivimab is the first monoclonal antibody to be authorized for use in treating the novel coronavirus and was granted emergency-use by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. at the beginning of November.
The antibody therapy, which must be infused in a hospital or other health-care setting, was developed in partnership with the Canadian biotech company AbCellera, which the federal government has provided funded to over the course of the pandemic.
“To the scientists and researchers across the country: Thank you for everything that you do. Just like always, your dedication and expertise is making Canadians heathier and safer, and is building a better tomorrow. Canada is lucky to have thousands of world-class scientists and researchers,” said Trudeau.
Health Canada granted authorization for Lilly’s antibody therapy under Section 3 of the federal government’s Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19.
With files from CTV News’ Brooklyn Neustaeter
Despite ‘best vaccine portfolio’, Canada still reliant on other nations for supply: Trudeau – Global News
OTTAWA — A lack of vaccine-production capabilities in Canada means the United States, Britain, Germany and other countries could have some of their citizens inoculated against COVID-19 before Canadians start to get shots, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
“One of the things to remember is Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines,” Trudeau said during his regular COVID-19 news conference outside his home in Ottawa.
“We used to have it decades ago, but we no longer have it. countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities, which is why they’re obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first.”
The prime minister nonetheless played down any potential threat to Canadian access to vaccines, noting the federal government has signed orders for millions of doses from a variety of foreign pharmaceutical companies in recent months.
It has also been in talks with other countries to ensure equal access to vaccines for all, Trudeau added, with the expectation that the first doses will start to arrive in Canada in the early months of 2021.
At the same time, “we’ve begun to invest once again in ensuring that Canada will have domestic vaccine production capacity because we never want to be caught short again, without the ability to support Canadians directly,” Trudeau said.
Coronavirus: Trudeau announces deal to obtain therapeutic drug from Eli Lilly
“And that will be in place in the coming years. If ever there is another pandemic we will not be caught on the wrong foot again.”
Until vaccines are widely available, Trudeau said, Canadians need to do everything they can to avoid catching COVID-19.
The prime minister’s comments came as Ontario and Quebec each reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday,
The Manitoba government also reported that it had issued one ticket — with more expected — in connection with a church service on Sunday that allegedly violated the province’s ban on public gatherings.
Coronavirus: 1,549 new COVID-19 cases and 5 additional deaths recorded in Alberta Monday
The RCMP said they attended the church in a rural area near Steinbach and found more than 100 people inside.
The provincial government also said 16 tickets had been issued to people who attended an anti-mask rally in Steinbach earlier this month, and more are expected.
— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg, John Chidley-Hill in Toronto and Giuseppe Valiante in Montreal.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada on Nov. 23, 2020 – Kamloops This Week
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
There have been 17 deaths in British Columbia over three days due to COVID-19 and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says most of the victims were seniors in long-term or assisted care.
There have been 1,933 new cases since Friday, with 1,304 of them diagnosed in the Fraser Health region.
There are 60 active outbreaks in health-care facilities, including 54 long-term care or assisted-living sites and six hospitals or acute-care facilities.
Henry says it’s now the most challenging time of COVID-19 and everyone is feeling the strain.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating due to a possible exposure to COVID-19.
A spokesman for Moe’s office says the potential exposure happened on Nov. 15 in the Prince Albert area.
Jim Billington says the premier is not experiencing symptoms but was tested today out of an abundance of caution.
He says Moe is to work remotely from his home in Shellbrook until Sunday.
The province announced 235 new cases today and four new deaths.
Nova Scotia is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 today.
The province says the new cases were identified on Sunday in the Central Zone, bringing its total active case count up to 51.
Eight of the infections are connected to previously reported cases, while three are still under investigation.
Officials say the recent rise in cases has led to stricter rules for metro Halifax Regional Municipality and parts of Hants County which go into effect today.
New Brunswick is reporting one new death and 15 new cases of COVID-19.
The new death brings the provincial fatality total to seven.
The province currently has 89 active cases of novel coronavirus and has registered 445 total cases and 349 recoveries.
Premier Blaine Higgs says there are no changes planned at this point around the Atlantic bubble despite the temporary withdrawal of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
COVID-19 cases in Yukon have jumped to 38, 14 more infections than just a week ago.
Territorial health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says two of the new cases involve children under nine years old and at least one of those infected is over 60.
Yukon increased restrictions last week as infection rates jumped in jurisdictions around it, requiring all but critical services workers to self-isolate for two weeks when they enter the territory.
Hanley says community transmission has not yet been ruled out in some of the latest cases.
Manitoba health officials are reporting a record-high 543 new COVID-19 cases.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says there are some positive signs, however.
He says the average number of contacts per case is dropping, which could slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Manitoba brought in strict measures last week that limit store openings and public gatherings.
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 and its first case confirmed in a school.
In a press conference today, officials announced one of the new cases is a student at the elementary school in Deer Lake, in western Newfoundland.
The student’s infection is connected to a cluster of cases in the area.
Officials say the other case is also in western Newfoundland, but is related to travel and is not connected to the ongoing cluster.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has announced his province will be temporarily withdrawing from the Atlantic bubble for a two-week period starting tomorrow.
He says it’s a necessary step because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the other three Atlantic provinces.
King says all non-essential travel to and from the Island will be suspended until December 7th, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.
The Island reported one new case of COVID 19 today.
Quebec is reporting 1,164 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say today that hospitalizations decreased by eight, to 634, and 98 patients were in intensive care, a drop of five.
The province says 1,282 more people recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 115,367 recoveries.
Quebec has reported 133,206 COVID-19 infections and 6,842 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Ontario is reporting 1,589 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 19 new deaths due to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 535 in Peel Region, 336 cases are in Toronto, and 205 cases in York Region.
The province says it has conducted 37,471 tests since the last daily report.
In total, 507 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 156 in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.
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