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Politics Briefing: Federal health committee reverses decision on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, calls it safe for seniors – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

The federal National Advisory Committee on Immunization is citing enough “real-world evidence” to show the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors.

It’s a decision that reverses a recommendation made by the body two weeks ago when the panel of vaccine experts said AstraZeneca hadn’t included enough people over the age of 65 in its clinical trials.

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There’s a full report on the shift here.

Amid concerns in Europe after blood clots occurred in some individuals after AstraZeneca vaccination, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week said the vaccine is safe for use in Canada.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, told a news conference Tuesday the benefits of AstraZeneca continue to outweigh its risks.

“Health Canada is continuing to work with international regulators, including the European Medicines Agency to determine whether there is any need to take action in Canada,” Dr. Njoo said.

Citing 380 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered worldwide, Dr. Njoo said the science is continuing to emerge on the real-world use of vaccines, providing a greater understanding on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines across the population

“NACI continues to analyze this emerging evidence and will adapt their advice to maximize the benefits of all COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada.”

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.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Craig and Marc Kielburger accused the federal Liberals on Monday of letting WE Charity take the fall for the government’s botched student service program, noting that they were not responsible for managing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s conflicts of interest.

Reporters’ Comment, Marieke Walsh : “The three-house committee meeting doesn’t bring an end to the controversy for the government. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is reviewing whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act. He has already twice been found in breach of that act. In July Mr. Trudeau told the finance committee that his involvement in awarding the contract to WE did not present a conflict of interest. “I was not in a position of conflict of interest,” he said. “Sometimes recusing oneself can be the right thing to do even if it’s not required.”

Premier Jason Kenney is urging his United Conservative Party to focus on the many challenges facing Alberta instead of “internal politics” after the UCP pushed the issue of a leadership review into next year and potentially just months before the next provincial election in the spring of 2023.

More than 70 parliamentarians from all parties are calling for a full criminal investigation into Pornhub’s parent company following testimony from survivors. The demand, spelled out in a letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, comes two weeks after a similar request by more than 100 victims of exploitive content they say was posted to websites owned by MindGeek.

Human Rights Watch says it is “horrific” that Canada prevented a mother from accompanying her young child who was recently repatriated from a detention camp in northeastern Syria.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waved away suggestions Monday that Canada is prepared to explore reopening its shared border with the United States any time soon. Canadians are looking forward to the day regular cross-border travel “eventually” resumes, Trudeau told a news conference in Montreal – his first public appearance outside Ottawa in recent memory.

OTTAWA ROUNDUP:

Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna is launching consultations Tuesday on a new long-term plan for Canadian infrastructure.

The National Infrastructure Assessment will aim to look at what all levels of government should focus on over the coming decades and how these projects should be funded.

“I think we need a long-term vision for 2050,” Ms. McKenna told The Globe and Mail’s Bill Curry in an interview this week. “It is really important that Canadians weigh in.”

The government is proposing that the long-term plan should focus on achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; transportation projects for people and goods; expanding digital services, including to rural and remote communities and programs for the natural environment, such as flood and fire mitigation projects and protecting forests and wetlands.

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Inspired by a similar project in the United Kingdom, Ms. McKenna said Ottawa is looking to establish an independent office that will provide research and reports related to the plan.

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has a new secretary-general. He’s a former finance minister. But it’s not Bill Morneau.

Mr. Morneau resigned as finance minister and an MP last August, amidst the WE Charity affair, saying he would seek the leadership role of the organization. In January, however, he said he did not have enough support from member countries to succeed.

However, Mathias Cormann did succeed. Australia’s former finance minister is the new Secretary-General of the OECD. Mr. Cormann’s seven-year run as Australia’s finance minister – the longest in the country’s history – ended in 2020 after he said he would step down from politics, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would nominate Mr. Cormann for the secretary general’s job.

On Monday, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau congratulated Mr. Cormann. “The new Secretary-General’s strong background in economic issues and international affairs will serve us well in the years ahead.”

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PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Virtual meeting with volunteers from the Conquer COVID-19 organization that helps communities as well as a virtual meeting with front-line workers from Parkland Saint John, a retirement living community in Saint John, N.B.

POLLING

According new Angus Reid Institute poll, 77 per cent of Canadians surveyed say any warming of relations between Canada and China is dependent on China releasing detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor . Also, three-quarters of respondents say China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in the country should be called a genocide.

OPINION

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the challenges of getting rid of the monarchy:Let’s say a prime minister secured passage of the Republic of Canada Act, with or without an affirming referendum. The Constitution requires that all 10 provincial legislatures must also pass similar legislation. Who believes Quebec or Alberta would agree to reopen the Constitution and abolish the monarchy, without demanding greater provincial autonomy?”

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Preston Manning (The Globe and Mail) on the “Liberals’ cavalier attitude on overspending”: “What’s a trillion?” now describes the attitude of the current federal finance minister in dismissing growing fears concerning federal overspending in response to the COVID pandemic.”

Stephen Saideman (The Globe and Mail) on why it’s time for a new minister of defence:Harjit Sajjan is one of the longest-serving ministers of national defence in Canadian history. The most striking element of his testimony Friday before the House of Commons standing committee on national defence is that he apparently does not seem to understand what his job requires. He needs to be replaced by someone who comprehends that the defence minister is not just a politician but one of just two people (the prime minister being the other) who is accountable to Parliament for the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Eric Grenier (CBC) on why Quebec voters could decide the timing of the next federal election:It all serves to increase the importance of the 26 to 35 seats the Bloc Québécois likely would win if an election were held today. Those are seats that the Liberals would very much prefer to have in play for themselves. A strong Bloc has been an obstacle to majority government in the past. Parties have only won a majority of seats twice in the six elections held since the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance united the right in 2003. On both occasions — 2011 and 2015 — the formation of a majority government coincided with the Bloc’s support collapsing.”

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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