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iPolitics AM: Trudeau hits Montreal year-end media circuit with SNC-Lavalin controversy back in the headlines –



ALSO TODAY: Conservative Party reportedly looking into Scheer office expense claims — Indian foreign affairs minister visits Ottawa

After a serendipitous twist of timing led to his year-end interview with the Canadian Press taking place just hours after news broke that the embattled Quebec engineering firm at the centre of the high-stakes political controversy that dominated the news cycle last spring had struck a deal to avoid prosecution on corruption charges, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found himself once again on the defensive over how he and his government handled the SNC-Lavalin case.

“Obviously, as we look back over the past year and this issue, there are things we could have, should have, would have done differently had we known, had we known all sorts of different aspects of it,” he acknowledged in an afternoon roundtable suggestion with the wire service.

“But you don’t get do-overs in politics. You only do the best you can to protect jobs, to respect the independence of the judiciary and that’s exactly what we did every step of the way.”

As CBC News reporter Peter Zimonjic points out, the agreement between the company and the federal prosecution service “looks a lot like what it asked the government for in the first place,” as it allowed SNC-Lavalin to avoid a conviction on bribery charges that could have put it on an international contracting blacklist, which is why it’s no wonder that the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin told reporters that they’re “very happy” with the outcome.

Trudeau should likely expect to face more questions on the now seemingly closed case when he hits the Montreal media circuit today, which, as per his itinerary, will include back-to-back interviews on 98.5 FM’s Puisqu’il faut se lever and TVA’s Salut Bonjour as well as his yearly chat with longtime friend Terry DiMonte, host of CHOM FM’s Mornings Rock and an evening appearance on CBC News’ Power and Politics.

Also on his itinerary today: A “community event” at Magasin-Partage Villeray, a “sharing store” that aims to help lower-income families celebrate the holidays.

Meanwhile, if Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was still clinging to a scintilla of hope that serving notice of his intention to step aside would allow him to shuffle out of the spotlight, the latest dispatch from Global News should squelch any such optimism.

The network is now reporting that the panel of senior Conservatives responsible for overseeing the party’s coffers is now raising questions over nearly $1 million in expenses claimed by Scheer’s office this year.

Citing “multiple party sources,” Global News notes that “the usual expenses submitted from the leader’s office to the Conservative National Council sit in the range of about $200,000 per fiscal year,” but “Scheer’s office expenses came in at over $900,000 for the last fiscal year.”

Finally, the list of high-profile potential contenders for the Conservative leadership now includes former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who, as per Radio Canada, is now “consulting his family” on whether to take the plunge back into federal politics.


Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne holds a tete-a-tete with his visiting Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay  will “formally unveil the updated display dedicated to Daniel J. MacDonald” during a morning event at the Charlottetown building named in honour of MacDonald, who lost an arm and a leg in the Second World War, and later served as veterans minister under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Moving west to Saskatoon, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller teams up with Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations chief Bobby Cameron to share the details of new federal support for “youth empowerment, healing and wellness.”




Regular House and Senate committee meetings will resume when the House and Senate re-open for parliamentary business.

Committee highlights courtesy of our friends at iPoliticsINTEL.

Don’t miss today’s complete legislative brief in!

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Opinion | New study shows social media is dumbing-down news consumers –



The digital dream darkens further.

A recent study by PEW Research Center, Journalism and Media (PEW) shows that news consumers who rely upon social media are less knowledgeable and less engaged than those who use other news sources.

“The analysis of surveys … finds that those who rely most on social media for political news stand apart from other news consumers in a number of ways. (They) tend to be less likely than other news consumers to closely follow major news stories … (and) this group also tends to be less knowledgeable about these topics,” according to PEW.

The study found that social media news consumers tend to pay less attention to news than those who rely on most other sources. As of early June 2020, just eight per cent of U.S. adults getting most of their political news from social media said they were following news about the election “very closely,” compared with cable TV (37 per cent) and print (33 per cent). This difference is alarming for democracy.

“This relative lack of attention to news goes hand in hand with lower levels of knowledge about major current events and politics … respondents were asked 29 different fact-based questions that touch on a variety of topics … Across these 29 questions, the average proportion who got each question right is lower among Americans who rely most on social media for political news than those who rely most on other types of news sources, except for local TV,” the study says.

Demographically, adults who rely most on social media for news are younger and have lower levels of education than those who mainly use several other platforms.

One study index measured political knowledge — high, middle, and low — against seven different source types; news website, radio, print media, cable TV, network TV, social media and local TV. Only 17 per cent of social media users scored high, compared to 45 per cent using news websites, 42 per cent radio and 41 per cent print media.

On six political stories, social media users demonstrated the lowest awareness of any group. Social media users were also far less engaged in the coronavirus pandemic coverage, and more likely to have heard about conspiracy theories and other false claims.

How large is the problem then?

Another PEW study conducted in 2018 measured social media news sourcing among 38 advanced and developing countries globally. It found that a global median of 35 per cent use social media to get news daily. About half say they never use social networking sites to get news.

Responding to the question “How often do you use social networking sites to get news?”, Canada ranked second highest among advanced nations with 42 per cent — behind South Korea at 57 per cent, and ahead of the U.S. at 39 per cent.

Facebook is the king of social media news, with 36 per cent of Americans regularly logging on to obtain their news.

The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age, is a landmark Public Policy Forum report published in January 2017. It looks at the state of a much weaker news media in Canada, severely disrupted by the digital age.

“The digital revolution has made for a more open and diverse news ecosystem — and a meaner and less trustworthy one. It has also upended the model of “boots on the ground” backed up by a second platoon in the office upholding such hallowed standards as verification and balance. Established news organizations have been left gasping, while native digital alternatives have failed to develop journalistic mass, especially in local news,” the report found.

Between 2010 and 2017, 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers were lost to closure or merger.

“Anyone who views news as a public good will see that this decline damages civil discourse,” the report concluded.

According to “The State of Social Media in Canada 2020,” published by the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University — 94 per cent of online Canadians have a social media account, 83 per cent on Facebook.

There are only 75 remaining daily newspapers in Canada, with paid circulation just over 11 million copies weekly.



The age of post-truth couldn’t exist without the fact-free and emotive ecosphere of social media, wherein confirmation bias and selective exposure reinforce individual world views while dismissing contradictory information.

On social media, there is no one to fact-check the story.

As the most trusted man in America once said, “Journalism is what we need to make democracy work.”

Ken Grafton is a writer based in Wakefield, Que. His background includes global executive level experience in engineering and telecommunications.

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Quebec media must be allowed to show the ravages of COVID-19 –



Editor’s note: Nineteen media outlets in Quebec, including the CBC, have signed an open letter today calling on the Quebec government and public-health authorities to give journalists access to the province’s health institutions.

In March of 2020, the world started to grasp the magnitude of the developing public health crisis when disturbing images began to emerge from Italy.

Photos and videos showed patients crammed into hospitals, many of them intubated, while distraught doctors bore witness to the seriousness of the situation.

It was this imagery, more than any World Health Organization announcement or press release, that made people the world over aware of the gravity of the pandemic. It also helped many of them more readily accept government confinement measures.

However, in Quebec such images are exceedingly rare because government and public-health authorities have chosen to shut the doors of the province’s health institutions to the media, a restriction with little precedent in the rest of the world. 

With very few exceptions, Quebec reporters and photographers, eager to bear witness to the plight of patients and health-care staff amid the pandemic, have had their requests for access to hospitals and CHSLDs denied.

These refusals by Quebec’s regional health boards and the minister of health are all the more astonishing in light of the fact that hospital managers have often been open to media visits, while caregivers have also expressed interest in opening doors to their institutions.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 spiked in Quebec earlier this month, reaching heights not seen since spring. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

They understand that the absence of images of the pandemic allows some to minimize the severity of COVID-19, to liken its symptoms to that of the common flu, or even to diminish the need to follow public-health directives.

This is precisely why it is of utmost of importance for Quebecers to hear directly from embattled doctors, nurses and orderlies, as well as the patients they are treating, in order to accurately report the harsh realities being experienced behind those closed doors.

Health-care workers, after all, are the primary witnesses to what goes on inside our health institutions. They must be allowed to speak freely about what they are observing during this crisis.

Of course the Quebec media is acutely aware of the risks associated with COVID-19. This is why Quebec journalists have rigorously adhered to all public-health guidelines while in the field during this pandemic, and would do so just as conscientiously in any health-care setting.

In the name of freedom of information, we, the representatives of Quebec’s major media organizations, are calling on the Quebec government and public-health authorities to give journalists access to the province’s health institutions, where the battle being waged is one that affects all Quebecers.


Benoit Dussault, Executive Director, 24 heures 

George Kalogerakis, Editor-in-chief, Agence QMI 

Helen Evans, Managing Editor, CBC Quebec 

Melanie Porco, Supervising Producer, CityNews Montreal (Citytv) 

Chris Bury, Program & News Director, CJAD 800 

Julie-Christine Gagnon, News Director, 98.5, Cogeco News 

Jed Kahane, News Director, CTV News 

Karen Macdonald, News Director/Station Manager, Global News Montreal 

Martin Picard, Vice-President, COO of Content, Groupe TVA Inc. 

Dany Doucet, Editor-in-chief, Journal de Montréal 

Sébastien Ménard, Editor-in-chief, Journal de Québec 

François Cardinal, Deputy Publisher, La Presse  

Brian Myles, Editor, Le Devoir 

Stéphane Lavallée, General Manager, Les coops de l’information 

Lucinda Chodan, Editor, Montreal Gazette 

Luce Julien, Executive Director, News and Currents Affairs, Société Radio-Canada 

Geneviève Rossier, Editor and General manager, The Canadian Press, French service 

Xavier Brassard-Bédard, Editor-in-chief, TVA Nouvelles/LCN

Jean-Nicolas Gagné, General Manager, QUB radio

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New social media campaign targets COVID-19 misinformation with science – Global News



Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not create the virus that causes COVID-19 and he is not forcing microchips into your body through vaccinations.

Those pieces of misinformation are examples of what a group of Canadian scientists and health professionals is trying to discredit through a new campaign tackling inaccurate theories about the pandemic.

About 40 misinformation debunkers are using the hashtag #ScienceUpFirst to provide science-based evidence on social media.

“There’s been misinformation about all kinds of things that you can do to treat COVID with crazy treatments like cow urine and bleach,” said Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta.

Read more:
Misinformation is spreading as fast as coronavirus. It will ‘take a village’ to fight it

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Caulfield is spearheading the #ScienceUpFirst movement.

“And now we’re in the middle of trying to roll out the vaccine and we know that misinformation is having an adverse impact on vaccination.

“Things like the vaccine will change your DNA. No, it won’t. The idea that the vaccine is associated with infertility. No, it’s not,” Caulfield said Monday in a phone interview.

“There is just an incredible amount of misinformation out there about COVID. I’ve been studying misinformation for decades. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

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Coronavirus: Hinshaw touts safety of both COVID-19 vaccines

Coronavirus: Hinshaw touts safety of both COVID-19 vaccines

He said the campaign was already trending on Twitter on Monday, the day of its launch.

Read more:
Cabbage, cavemen and miracle cures: how fast-moving COVID-19 science can confuse the public

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Caulfield is known for taking Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness brand Goop to task in his book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? and a Netflix series A User’s Guide to Cheating Death.

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The initiative is in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.

Click to play video 'Tim Caulfield Targets Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop'

Tim Caulfield Targets Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop

Tim Caulfield Targets Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop – Sep 6, 2017

“There’s been research that has shown that the spread of misinformation is having an adverse impact on health and science policy, it’s led to increased stigma and discrimination, and it’s just added to the chaotic information environment that we all have to deal with,” Caufield said.

“The evidence tells us that debunking does work if you do it well, so we’re trying to do it well. We’re trying to listen. We’re trying to be empathetic in our approach. We’re trying to be creative in our messaging and, hopefully, even if we move the needle a little bit, we can make a difference.”

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A spokesperson for #ScienceUpFirst says the campaign is pushing to involve Canadian athletes and celebrities to get the word out about tackling misinformation.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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