Although COVID-19 vaccines are starting to trickle into Canada, health officials are warning that things will get worse before they get better.
The pace of new COVID-19 infections continues to climb across the country. Hospitals in high-risk areas of Ontario were told yesterday to start freeing up bed space in preparation for a possible holiday spike from people gathering with families.
The situation is even worse in some remote First Nations communities. The virus can spread more easily due to overcrowded homes, and health care is hard to access.
Red Sucker First Nation Chief Samuel Knott told The Globe the situation is “overwhelming.”
“I dreaded this day from happening to our community, knowing where our community is at … that we won’t be able to cope if we were to have an outbreak,” he said.
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The federal government is releasing its long-awaited hydrogen strategy today, that calls for a mix of tax credits and subsidies to develop the sector in the coming years.
A report commissioned by the Canadian government into why the Iranian military shot down a Ukrainian flight back in January says Iran has still provided few answers for the incident after nearly a year.
Some recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are confused by Canada Revenue Agency messaging about whether or not they have to pay the benefit back.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is facing criticism for comments he made about residential schools. Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde says the comments were “disappointing” and a bid to “score meaningless politcal points.” Mr. O’Toole’s office says he takes the “horrific history of residential schools very seriously,” and his comments were just aimed at “cancel culture.”
A Canadian sailor on the HMCS Winnipeg has been lost at sea off the coast of California.
Political staffers are stressed out.
And Canada is planning to finally send a person to the moon. (Well…near the moon, anyway.)
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Finance Deputy Minister Michael Sabia: “But Mr. Sabia’s first order of business is the $70-billion to $100-billion stimulus plan for the spring budget. [Chrystia] Freeland said it would be ‘time-limited,’ so it is supposed to roll out quickly and stop in three years. Liberal innovation programs haven’t worked that way. Infrastructure programs just won’t.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the Liberals’ climate plan: “But never mind: $170! Isn’t that a bold number? Again, maybe; $170 is, to be sure, a great deal more than $30, but is that the appropriate benchmark? Sweden already charges as much today, never mind 10 years from now. In terms of the price at the pumps, $170 a tonne works out to another 33 cents a litre. Added to the current average price of about $1 a litre, that would take the price of gas to levels not seen since … the spring of 2019. Proportionately, that’s an increase of 33 per cent over 10 years. It has increased by nearly that much since April.”
Tasha Kheiriddin (Ottawa Citizen) on vaccine hesitancy: “Given the mistrust, politicians may need to step back and let others do the asking. Friends, neighbours, medical professionals and faith leaders could have more influence in changing reluctant minds than officials will. The tendency of left-leaning politicians to deploy government to solve every problem risks backfiring, deepening suspicions among skeptics who sense they are being compelled to get an injection.”
Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on Pornhub and calls for Canada to crack down on sexual exploitation online: “Finding that Quebec is a hub for the sex trafficking of women and minors, the National Assembly panel made 58 recommendations to stamp it out, from tougher penalties for pimps and clients to better education to protect adolescents.”
Hannah Alberga (The Globe and Mail) on celebrating Hanukkah during the pandemic: “A lockdown means we are anchored to our homes, not fleeing to the hills for decades. However, like the Jewish people of more than 2,000 years ago, we are estranged from our former lives. The Jews of that time looked to religion to navigate their days, from dusk till dawn. In a parallel sense, our sacred routines of rushing into crammed subway cars and breathlessly lunging into meetings – maskless and without a container of hand sanitizer in sight – seem foreign and mythic now. But as we remain tucked away at home for the holidays, the ancient story can serve as a reminder that patience and hope can push us through.”
We dropped MyPillow because of weak sales, not politics, retailers say – Financial Times
Two leading US retailers have countered claims from the head of a pillow company that they dropped the brand over his outspoken support for Donald Trump, saying that the decisions were driven not by politics but by poor demand for the products.
In a series of interviews, Mike Lindell, who runs Minnesota-based MyPillow, accused some of the country’s biggest chains, including Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s, of caving to pressure from left-leaning activists over his backing for the outgoing US president.
“They’re scared,” he told the rightwing Right Side Broadcasting Network.
However, two of the retailers named by Mr Lindell said on Tuesday that they were removing the privately owned company’s products because of weak sales.
“There has been decreased customer demand for MyPillow,” department store chain Kohl’s said. Bed Bath & Beyond said: “We have been rationalising our assortment to discontinue a number of underperforming items and brands. This includes the MyPillow product line.”
The dispute, on Mr Trump’s final full day in office, illustrates the difficulties facing corporate America over how to deal with the country’s increasingly divisive politics.
Mr Lindell has for months been among the most vocal of any business chief in his backing for Mr Trump, and repeated the president’s unsubstantiated accusations of widespread voter fraud in the November election. In contrast to other Trump sympathisers who distanced themselves after the attack on the US Capitol this month, the entrepreneur has continued to support the president’s calls to overturn the poll’s results.
Since the Capitol assault, executives across corporate America have been eager to avoid supporting a president accused of undermining the rule of law. Yet they also risk a backlash from the right.
Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to Mr Trump, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “If you’re a Patriot, how about you never buy anything from Kohl’s or Bed Bath & Beyond until they stock Mike Lindell’s MyPillow products again.”
Mr Lindell said the online furniture retailer Wayfair and Texas grocery chain H-E-B were also dropping MyPillow. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence says ‘no place’ for politics in agency – Global News
President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the intelligence community, Avril Haines, promised Tuesday to “speak truth to power” and keep politics out of intelligence agencies to ensure their work is trusted.
“When it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics — ever,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Haines, a former CIA deputy director and former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, would enter the job as director of national intelligence, or DNI, following a Trump administration that saw repeated pressure on intelligence officials to shape intelligence to the Republican president’s liking.
The committee’s lead Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, and its ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, both indicated they expect Haines to win confirmation. Her hearing kicked off a series of Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday, including those for Biden’s picks to lead the State Department, the Pentagon, and the departments of Homeland Security and Treasury. While most of those nominees are unlikely to be confirmed by the time Biden takes the oath of office at noon Wednesday, some could be in place within days.
A former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who served in the Trump administration, introduced Haines with an emphasis on her commitment to de-politicizing the job. He called her an “exceptional choice” for the position.
Also testifying Tuesday at his confirmation hearing was Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He would be the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the agency.
In opening remarks, Mayorkas addressed the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He said in prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing that the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot is “horrifying” and the authorities still have much to learn about what happened that day and what led to the insurrection.
Inauguration of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday
The Senate typically confirms some nominees, particularly the secretaries of defence, on Inauguration Day, though raw feelings about President Donald Trump four years ago led to Democratic-caused delays, except for James Mattis at the Pentagon. This year, the tension is heightened by Trump’s impeachment and an extraordinary military presence in Washington because of fears of extremist violence.
Putting his national security team in place quickly is a high priority for Biden, not only because of his hopes for reversing or modifying Trump administration policy shifts but also because of diplomatic, military and intelligence problems around the world that may create challenges early in his tenure.
The most controversial of the group may be Lloyd Austin, the recently retired Army general whom Biden selected to lead the Pentagon. Austin will need not only a favourable confirmation vote in the Senate but also a waiver by both the House and the Senate because he has been out of uniform only four years.
The last time a new president did not have his secretary of defence confirmed by Inauguration Day was in 1989. President George H.W. Bush’s nominee, John Tower, had run into opposition and ended up rejected by the Senate several weeks later.
Also facing confirmation hearings were Biden confidant Antony Blinken to lead the State Department, and Janet Yellen as treasury secretary, another first for a woman.
In prepared remarks, Blinken said he is ready to confront challenges posed by China, Iran, North Korea and Russia and is committed to rebuilding the State Department after four years of atrophy under the Trump administration.
Ahead of the Blinken hearing, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, said he expects the committee to vote on the nomination on Monday.
Blinken will tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that he sees a world of rising nationalism and receding democracy. In remarks prepared for his confirmation hearing, Blinken will say that mounting threats from authoritarian states are reshaping all aspects of human lives, particularly in cyberspace. He’ll say that American global leadership still matters and without it rivals will either step in to fill the vacuum or there will be chaos _ and neither is a palatable choice.
‘Let’s get to work’: Harris thanks supporters ahead of inauguration
Blinken also promises to bring Congress in as a full foreign policy partner, a subtle jab at the Trump administration and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who routinely ignored or bypassed lawmakers in policy-making. He called the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill “senseless and searing” and pledged to work with Congress.
Austin was testifying later Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the panel will not be in position to vote until he gets the waiver. Republicans are expected to broadly support the Austin nomination, as are Democrats.
Biden’s emerging Cabinet marks a return to a more traditional approach to governing, relying on veteran policymakers with deep expertise and strong relationships in Washington and global capitals. Austin is something of an exception in that only twice in history has a recently retired general served as defence secretary — most recently Mattis.
Austin, who would be the first Black secretary of defence, retired from the military as a four-star general in 2016. The law requires a minimum seven-year waiting period.
Doubts about the wisdom of having a recently retired officer running the Pentagon are rooted in an American tradition of protecting against excessive military influence by ensuring that civilians are in control. When he announced Austin as his pick in December, Biden insisted he is “uniquely suited” for the job.
Lindsay P. Cohn, an expert on civil-military relations and an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College, said at a Senate hearing on the subject last week that an Austin waiver raises worrying risks.
“Choosing a recently retired general officer and arguing that he is uniquely qualified for the current challenges furthers the narrative that military officers are better at things and more reliable or trustworthy than civil servants or other civilians,” she said. “This is hugely problematic at a time when one of the biggest challenges facing the country is the need to restore trust and faith in the political system. Implying that only a military officer can do this job at this time is counterproductive to that goal.”
Some Democrats have already said they will oppose a waiver. They argue that granting it for two administrations in a row makes the exception more like a rule. Even so, a favourable vote seems likely.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., on Friday introduced waiver legislation for Austin.
Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Eric Tucker and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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