TORONTO — A plea by health officials to resume masking in Ontario and Quebec is a tall order that is unlikely to take hold without a significant culture shift, say observers who point to pandemic fatigue, mixed messages and divisive politics as likely hurdles.
The fact that a renewed push for personal protective measures remains voluntary means many people will consider it optional, and possibly even unnecessary, says behaviour expert and York University associate professor Rebecca Bassett-Gunter.
She notes that many people abandoned masks altogether after most pandemic precautions were lifted earlier this year.
It’s not clear that weeks of warnings from overwhelmed hospital staff over the “triple threat” of viral infections is enough to get those same people to put their masks back on.
“Without mandating it, I think people are hearing a message that it must not be as bad as it was,” says Bassett-Gunter, whose research at the school of kinesiology and health science has included a look at how to get people to comply with COVID-19 precautions. “That’s a really hard implicit message to override, unfortunately.”
Add in pandemic fatigue and a yearning for festive holiday gatherings to return after two seasons of restraint, and public health officials face a tough psychological wall to break through, adds Dr. Eddy Lang, professor and department head for emergency medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.
While his province isn’t seeing a surge in respiratory syncytial virus and influenza cases to the same degree as Ontario and Quebec, he noted cases are expected to increase as cold and flu season progresses.
“When we look at the wastewater analysis, RSV is still on the rise, which suggests that the worst of it may still be yet to come,” Lang said.
Already, a wave of viral illnesses among young students has pushed hospital capacity to dangerous levels. But given Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s stated opposition to a school mask mandate, Lang doubts a masking plea is imminent or that there is much public support for more precautions.
“People are just so tired of public health directives,” says Lang. “Until we really see a cultural shift … I don’t think this is going to work particularly well or give us much of an impact against hospitalizations.”
Health authorities in Canada’s two most populous provinces issued strong recommendations on Monday for people to mask up indoors to mitigate the spread of respiratory viruses that have overwhelmed hospitals and pediatric centres.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, stressed the vulnerability of babies and children younger than five to unseasonably high rates of RSV and rising rates of influenza. At the same time, he warned of emerging COVID-19 variants.
Quebec’s college of physicians made a similar appeal that the public don masks on a “voluntary and preventive basis” in public places, crowded private spaces and on public transit.
Last week, Canada’s top doctor stressed the need for “stepped-up precautions” while warning that COVID-19, RSV and the flu were challenging the health system in several parts of the country.
Turney McKee of the Montreal-based consultancy group Decision Lab was skeptical that “a mere recommendation” would be enough to drive the adoption needed to mitigate public health risks.
“Sure, our attitudes or values may align with one course of action, but then when actually put in the situation to either comply or not to comply, I think it’s very likely that we see a disconnect,” says McKee.
He sees politics as less a driver than fatigue, convenience and social pressure.
“When the mandate is no longer there, if it is no longer convenient, we’re probably going to stop,” says McKee, whose firm uses applied behavioural science to guide advice for organizations and government clients. “And when we see everyone else around us starting to stop, the social influence can be very potent.”
However, that’s not to say this public health plea is completely powerless.
It sends a clear signal that stronger measures could follow and that the public should brace for a potential mandate, says McKee.
“It primes people to expect that maybe some more heavy-handed measures are around the corner,” he says.
Moore said a mask mandate could be possible if Ontario’s health-care system continues to see an increase in pressure due to respiratory illnesses, though he said that would be “the furthest we’d have to go.”
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Election unlikely in 2023 despite recent political posturing, pundits say – CBC News
Even though federal political leaders have been using some heated, election-style language to snipe at each other in recent weeks, pundits say it’s unlikely Canadians will go to the polls in 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was active during the six-week parliamentary break, making stops in Saskatoon, Windsor, Ont. and Trois-Rivieres, Que. to talk up his government’s accomplishments. He also occasionally took shots at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his recent assertion that “everything seems broken” in Canada.
“Crossing your arms and saying ‘Canada is broken’ is not the way to build a better future for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
Poilievre, meanwhile, toured Quebec in an attempt to boost his poll numbers in that province. He also met with Indigenous leaders in Vancouver to discuss a proposed opt-in policy for First Nations to share the revenue generated by resource development on their lands.
The Conservative leader also hit back at Trudeau on Friday during an address to his caucus prior to the House of Commons’ return. He blamed the prime minister for inflation, the recent travel chaos and deficit spending while appearing to goad Trudeau into an election battle.
“If you’re not responsible for any of these things, if you can’t do anything about it, then why don’t you get out of the way and let someone lead who can?” Poilievre said as his MPs cheered and applauded.
WATCH | Poilievre says ‘everything is worse’ under Trudeau
Speaking to his own caucus earlier this month, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh touted his party’s confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals, saying that the deal was “delivering for Canadians.”
But Singh also indicated that he had his eyes set higher.
“We’re going to fight for every bit of help and hope we can win for Canadians and then I’m going to run for prime minister of Canada,” he said.
But Tim Powers of Summa Strategies said he doesn’t think any of the leaders are itching for an election right now, despite their recent posturing.
“The conditions don’t exist for an election this year,” he told CBC. “I don’t think anybody’s really going to have a breakaway moment.”
WATCH | How do the federal parties stack up as MPs prepare to return to Ottawa?
Powers said the Liberals are unlikely to seek a new mandate with the threat of an economic slowdown this year hanging over the government’s head.
“We will only have an election this year if Justin Trudeau sees the winning conditions exist for him,” Powers said. “I don’t think the Liberals are yet ready to manufacture an election.”
Sharan Kaur of SK Consulting agreed that an election is unlikely this year. She suggested the Conservatives will still use the economy to needle the Liberals and position themselves as a government-in-waiting.
“I would say the biggest looming issue of 2023 is going to be cost of living, a potential recession, and that will probably be the main pivot point for the Conservatives,” she said, adding that she thinks the Conservative Party is the only one that wants an election this year.
But Powers said Poilievre might be happy to wait and give himself more time to pitch himself to Canadians.
“I think Poilievre is content to have the time to let the Liberals age and build a brand and a platform that can be useful to him,” he said.
If the Liberal-NDP deal holds for its intended duration, the next election won’t happen until 2025.
But the agreement may face a tougher test in 2023 than it did in 2022 because it includes more benchmarks for progress — including a commitment to table pharmacare legislation. Singh also threatened to pull out of the deal if the Liberals don’t address the health-care crisis.
“The confidence-and-supply agreement gets a little bit more muscular [this year],” said Brad Lavigne of Consul Public Affairs.
NDP MP Daniel Blaikie told CBC News this month that the 2023 federal budget will be a key factor in deciding whether the Liberals are holding up their end of the deal.
But even if the deal falls apart this year, Lavigne said, it wouldn’t necessarily trigger an election.
“If you look back at recent history, [former prime minister Stephen] Harper had minority Parliaments in which he had no such supply agreement with any one opposition party, yet he maintained the confidence of the House for many years,” he said. “That is an option that is open to Mr. Trudeau as well.”
Even if an election doesn’t happen this year, Kaur said she doesn’t expect the political posturing to stop.
“We’re going to see a lot of pandering in the next year, especially around economic challenges, cost of living for people — just like the bread-and-butter issues,” she said.
Politics Briefing: Singh says representative to combat Islamophobia victimized over calls to quit – The Globe and Mail
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the newly appointed federal special representative to combat Islamophobia is being victimized by calls for her to quit over past remarks on Quebec.
“I think, for any woman seeing this, they look at this and see this looks really familiar, the piling on of a woman in particular, particularly a racialized woman, I think, is really troubling in general, and in this case, it seems to be problematic,” Mr. Singh told a Monday news conference on Parliament Hill.
Mr. Singh’s comments follow calls from the Quebec government for Amira Elghawaby to resign or be fired over a 2019 opinion piece she co-wrote in the Ottawa Citizen linking “anti-Muslim sentiment” to Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans certain government employees from wearing religious symbols at work. The column is here.
Mr. Singh said Ms. Elghawaby has clarified her remarks, and that the issue of Islamophobia is not relegated to one province or one community but is a problem for the whole country. “We need to take it seriously.”
In response to criticism over the column, Ms. Elghawaby tweeted on Friday, “I don’t believe that Quebecers are Islamophobic, my past comments were in reference to a poll on Bill 21. I will work with partners from all provinces and regions to make sure we address racism head on.”
On Monday, Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with Canada and for state secularism, said in a statement that the province had initially demanded an apology from Ms. Elghawaby, which he said did not happen. Now, he said, she has to go.
“All she did was try to justify her abhorrent remarks,” Mr. Roberge said. “That is not acceptable. She must resign, and if she does not, the government must remove her immediately.”
Ms. Elghawaby was appointed to her post by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Asked Monday about calls for her resignation, Mr. Trudeau told journalists before going into Question Period, “She is there to speak for the community, with the community and to build bridges across.
“Obviously, she has thought carefully over many years about the impacts that various pieces of legislation, and various political positions have had on the community. Her job now is to make sure she is helping the government, and helping everyone move forward in the fight against Islamophobia.”
He said he was satisfied with the clarification presented in Ms. Elghawaby’s tweet.
Elsewhere, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said, at a news conference of his own, that Ms. Elghawaby had associated Quebec with Islamophobia, “whatever the definition of that might happen to be.”
“I am not surprised that she is opposed to Bill 21, but Bill 21 is a Quebec jurisdiction about Quebec national identity, and it is the most absolute right of the Quebec National Assembly to make such a decision and to implement such a decision,” he said.
“But what she said in the past is not that she was in disagreement with this law, but that we were, basically, Islamophobic and racist. This s the problem.”
Meanwhile, an emotional ceremony took place Sunday marking the sixth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, held for the first time in the same room where many of the victims were killed. Story here.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
L’ARCHE FOUNDER LINKED TO ABUSE – At least 25 women were abused over nearly seven decades by Jean Vanier, the Canadian co-founder of L’Arche, a global organization for the intellectually disabled, a lengthy independent report has found after a two-year investigation. Story here.
LIBERAL MP PRESSES FOR MORE ROOM FOR UYGHUR REFUGEES – Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi is calling on members of the federal cabinet to support a motion that would urge Ottawa to make room in its refugee intake for 10,000 Uyghurs and members of other Turkic groups who have fled China and are living in third countries such as Turkey. Story here.
CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES CONDUCTING JOINT RESEARCH WITH CHINESE MILITARY SCIENTISTS – Canadian universities have for years collaborated with a top Chinese army scientific institution on hundreds of advanced-technology research projects, generating knowledge that can help drive China’s defence sector in cutting-edge, high-tech industries. Story here.
OUELLET RETIRING – Marc Ouellet, the Quebec cardinal who oversaw the Vatican’s powerful bishops’ office and has been recently accused of sexual misconduct, is retiring. Story here.
GYMNASTICS CANADA CEO IN THE HOT SEAT – Gymnastics Canada chief executive officer Ian Moss was on the hot seat at the status of women hearings on safety of women in sport on Monday. Story here.
LOCAL REPORT OUT ON IMPACT OF CONVOY OCCUPATION – A report into the impact of the so-called Freedom Convoy occupation on residents of Ottawa has accused all three levels of government of failing to uphold the human rights of people who live and work in downtown Ottawa. Story here from CTV.
DETAILS REVEALED ON DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION PLAN IN B.C. – British Columbians are getting a clearer picture of what the province’s three-year plan to decriminalize small amounts of certain illicit drugs for personal use will look like when it launches Tuesday. Story here from CTV.
ALBERTA CONCERNED ABOUT MAID POLICY – Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office says the province objects to Ottawa’s plan to extend eligibility for medically assisted death to people whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness. Story here.
CABINET SHUFFLE IN MANITOBA – Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson has demoted three ministers who recently announced they will not be running in the next election and promoted four backbenchers from Winnipeg to cabinet. Story here.
OTTAWA CITIZEN MP SAYS WELLINGTON STREET SHOULD REMAIN CLOSED – The MP for Ottawa Centre tells The Ottawa Citizen here that Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill should remain closed to facilitate “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine the area as a nationally significant, people-first space.” But the paper’s former city columnist has a sharply different take on the subject here.
2023 FEDERAL ELECTION UNLIKELY: PUNDITS – Even though federal political leaders have been using some heated, election-style language to snipe at each other in recent weeks, pundits say it’s unlikely Canadians will go to the polls in 2023. Story here from CBC.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is sitting again. The Projected Order of Business is accessible here.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY – Chrystia Freeland, in Ottawa, held private meetings , attended Question Period, and also met with Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market. She also held a working dinner with Mr. Breton.
PREMIERS PLEASED – The premiers Council of the Federation has issued a statement, available here, saying they are looking forward to the Feb. 7 meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on health care. “As a federal proposal has not yet been received by Premiers, this meeting will mark the beginning of the direct First Ministers’ dialogue and follow-up required to achieve the significant investment and outcomes expected by all Canadians on this fundamental priority,” it says.
COMMONS COMMITTEE HEARINGS – Hearings on Monday include: The standing committee on Government Operations and Estimates on Federal Government Consulting Contracts Awarded to McKinsey and Company. Details, including video link, here. Also, the standing committee on veterans affairs is meeting on a national strategy for veterans employment service. Details here. The standing committee on industry and technology, details here, is holding a hearing on a contract awarded to Sinclair Technologies – a situation recounted here. And the standing committee on the status of women is holding a hearing on women and girls in sport. Details, including videolink, are here.
SENATE COMMITTEE HEARINGS – There are details here on a pair of Senate hearings later this afternoon. The national security, defense and veterans affairs committee is looking at issues related to security and defence in the Arctic and the official languages committee is conducting a study on Francophone immigration to minority communities.
On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, the Globe’s senior political reporter Marieke Walsh talks about changes to the Liberal government’s gun-control legislation, Bill C-21, brought in last May. Amendments to the legislation have led to confusion with some types of guns banned in some of those amendments, but not in others – and the Liberals’ lack of communication is frustrating people on all sides of the issue. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, held private meetings, attended Question Period and, in the evening, delivered remarks at a Tamil Heritage Month Reception hosted by Scarborough-Rouge Park MP Gary Anandasangaree and the National Defence Minister Anita Anand.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, held a news conference on the return of Parliament and participated in Question Period.
No schedules held for other party leaders.
VIOLA LEGER – Former senator Viola Léger, whose career as an actress saw her prolifically play the character La Sagouine more than 3,000 times in Antonine Maillet’s play of the same name, has died at the age of 92.
HAZEL MCCALLION – Hazel McCallion, the 12-term mayor of Mississauga, Ont. has died, aged 101. In an obituary here, Adrian Morrow writes about how, over 36 years in office, Ms. McCallion rode the winds of public opinion, reading the changing moods of her city and transforming it.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how new energy is needed for clean power at Gull Island: “One of Canada’s best opportunities to build more clean power and to reduce emissions – and dare we say it, foster national unity – starts with solving a knotty problem that stretches back more than half a century. The idea makes economic sense, and it makes climate sense – it’s up to Ottawa, the provinces, and Indigenous peoples to make sure decades of fraught politics do not once again derail the potential to generate a new bounty of clean hydro power.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the broken clock policies of Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre: “Mr. Trudeau has a set of fiscal-policy instincts that only operate on one side of the ledger. As it happens, he faces an opponent, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who operates only on the other. Part of that is just their partisan identities, Liberal and Conservative. But these two leaders are so defined by those brands that they stick to them without worrying about balance or circumstances. Each has their own hammer, so everything looks like their kind of nail.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on how the Alberta UCP needs to be cautious as an election approaches despite Moody ugrading the province’s long-term rating: “One thing is sure: This UCP government can no longer legitimately blame the province’s fiscal problems on the NDP government of 2015-19, as it has done in the past. By now, everything lands squarely on their shoulders. The UCP will, however, still campaign on the premise that electing an NDP government will lead to a spending binge. The Smith government wants to hold onto its rep for being more fiscally disciplined than the NDP, especially as interest rates rise. But as the province draws nearer to the campaign period, the desire to announce things – all of them costing money – will be strong.”
Michael Adams, Jobran Khanji and Keith Neuman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canada must continue modelling its refugee efforts on its response to the Syrian crisis: “Canada acted quickly to take in 40,000 Syrian refugees in a short span of time between November, 2015, and December, 2016, and it is important to know how they are doing today (and not just through the success stories captured by the media). This is the question that the Environics Institute sought to answer in a national study with a representative sample of Syrian refugees on their lived experience since arriving in Canada. The answer is that Syrian refugees who arrived in the first wave are doing remarkably well. Our study shows that most Syrian refugees who arrived in 2015 and 2016 have established new lives for themselves and their families in Canada, largely overcoming the initial hurdles that face all refugees (and especially those who come from societies with different languages and cultures).”
Jann Arden and Jessica Scott-Reid (Contributed to the Globe and Mail) on how horses are still being exported for slaughter, and the question of whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take action: “Ahead of the most recent federal election, as Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party were racing toward voting day, campaign promises were hitting the news cycle fast and furiously. Banning the export of live horses for slaughter was an easy appeal. Most Canadians love horses and the thought of ending the heinous practice of loading these sensitive, skittish animals onto gruelling long-haul flights only to be slaughtered in a foreign country was enough to inspire many Canadians to vote red. We did. The Liberals won. But here we are more than a year later and live horses are still being exported from Canada, as recently as this month, to be cut up for sashimi in Japan and leaving many of us who voted with great hope feeling duped.”
Benedikt Fischer (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how B.C.’s overdose crisis needs life-saving interventions more urgently than decriminalization: “Tuesday marks the first day of B.C.’s “drug decriminalization” initiative: Adults carrying up to 2.5 grams of most illicit drugs for personal use will no longer be arrested or have the substance seized by police. For the federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the measure represents “bold actions and significant policy change,” reduces drug users’ “stigma and harm” and provides “another tool to end the overdose crisis.” This optimistic impact projection is questionable for several concrete reasons.”
Trump 2024 is locked and loaded, analyst says – CTV News
More than two months after his presidential announcement, Donald Trump now has the key tools he will need to make his entry into the race complete: access to social media.
Recently, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced reinstatement of Trump’s social media accounts following a two-year suspension.
The suspension was levied in the aftermath of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
This was certainly good news for the Trump campaign and his legion of loyal and dedicated supporters.
However, as the wreckage inflicted on that cold January day still lingers, political opponents, real and perceived, are bracing for the potential dangers that could lie ahead.
In 2016, Trump used social media to great effect in his bid to win the U.S. presidency. During his tenure in the White House, he often made news and kept the entire media landscape on edge with a robust social media presence. His posts ran the gambit from inflammatory to bewildering.
CLAIMS SHATTERED NORMS OF PRESIDENTIAL ETIQUETTE
The unceasing and outlandish claims made by the former reality television star shattered the norms of presidential etiquette. Even accusing former president Barack Obama of spying on him! Like a maestro leading an orchestra, his cadre of henchmen and followers soon began to play along as if on cue.
Donald Trump, over the years, enlisted a powerful chorus of voices from Congress, the media, state capitals and beyond all belting out conspiracy theories, laced with violent undertones, on one note; one accord; in unison.
The twice-impeached ex-president has access to all the social media tools that not only fuelled his political rise but also served as a catalyst to the growing political violence playing out across the nation.
With 34 million followers on Facebook; 23 million on Instagram; and 87 million on Twitter; Trump has built a formidable and engaged audience that hangs on his every word.
AN ALREADY FRAGILE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
Showing no remorse and characterizing the suspension as an injustice, the ex-president said on Truth Social, his own social media platform: Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!
Trump has continued his penchant for perceived grievances and victimization exacerbating an already fragile and unstable political landscape. Now, with the ability to enact a mob in 280 characters or less, Donald Trump wields these accounts like a loaded weapon.
Political onlookers are bracing for the onslaught as the ex-president ramps up his presidential campaign. Laura Murphy, an attorney who led a two-year audit of Facebook stated: I worry about Facebook’s capacity to understand the real world harm that Trump poses…
This “real world harm” Murphy describes is already a stark reality. Recently released video footage of the violent attack on the husband of former U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is sending a collective shiver through the political class.
The assailant, David DePape, 42, claimed: “I’m sick of the insane f——— level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C.” He is charged with attempted murder, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening a public official. Some on the right, including Donald Trump Jr., made fun of the attack, sharing an image of a Paul Pelosi Halloween costume that included a hammer, as it was a hammer that was in the assault.
In the aftermath of the recent 2022 midterm elections, the nation breathed a sigh of relief as the results came and went with no acts of violence and the results reported largely without incident. Unfortunately, that moment of euphoria was only fleeting.
Failed GOP candidate, Solomon Peña, was arrested by Albuquerque police accused of paying and conspiring to shoot candidates that won. Prior to the attacks, Peña (like Trump) alleged the election results were fraudulent. An arrest warrant affidavit obtained from police says the suspect “intended to (cause) serious injury or cause death to the occupants inside their homes.”
Trump’s proclivity for subjecting maximum cruelty on others has been a mainstay since he entered politics. His affinity for tyrannical government; fascist and dictatorial leaders; combined with an ambivalence for democratic institutions makes his return to the political arena fraught with peril.
TRUMP FIRMLY BACK IN CONTROL OF SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
In a recent article, columnist Charlie Sykes described Trump’s penchant for violence as: Brutality is an ideology, not just an impulse. Many of the MAGA crowd eagerly subscribe to this ideology. Close confidante and fellow MAGA conservative, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene, said recently at a Republican event in New York, if she had organized the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “we would have won” and “it would’ve been armed.”
Donald Trump’s inner circle continues to push the big lie and foment violence. Now that Trump is firmly back in control of his social media accounts, nothing stands in his way of once again eschewing political safeguards and standards in favor of amplifying sharp, abrasive, and yes, violent rhetoric aimed at perceived enemies and institutions.
Trump’s hold on rank-and-file Republicans remains just as strong today as it did the day he descended that gold-plated escalator in 2015. His loyal lieutenants continue to engage in violent and inflammatory language and some have even escalated to full-scale physical attacks on their opponents as evidenced by recent events in New Mexico and San Francisco.
Trump 2024 is locked and loaded and many would-be targets are in the crosshairs. By allowing Trump back on social media, companies such as Meta and Twitter might think they are lowering the political temperature. However, Trump’s truculence knows no bounds and could certainly end up backfiring. That fire nearly consumed the nation on January 6. Now, with a second chance, Trump gets to finish what he started.
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