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Politics Briefing: Health Canada approves Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral treatment – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Health Canada has approved Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment, known as Paxlovid, for COVID-19.

“This is welcome news we hope will save lives, reduce illness and lessen the burden on our health care systems and health care workers,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said at a news conference, describing the treatment as an additional clinical tool for treating COVID-19.

Health Canada has authorized the treatment for adults who test positive for COVID-19 on a molecular or a rapid test, who have mild or moderate symptoms, and are at high risk of becoming severely ill.

However, Mr. Duclos said no drug is a substitute for vaccination and public-health measures.

The minister confirmed the first delivery of the drug arrived over the weekend, ahead of regulatory approval today. The prescription drug can be used at home, he said.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi, at the same news conference, said 30,000 treatment courses are now in Canada, with another 120,000 coming by the end of March. She said Canada has procured a million doses, with an option for 500,000 more.

Limited supplies of Paxlovid have prompted the Public Health Agency of Canada to ask provinces and territories to prioritize the treatment for people at most risk of serious illness, including severely immune-compromised patients and some unvaccinated people over the age of 60.

There’s a story here on Health Canada’s briefing, earlier today, on Paxlovid.

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 sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

O’TOOLE PRESSED TO REVIVE COMMITTEE – Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is facing pressure from a growing number of MPs who want him to reverse course and revive a special parliamentary committee that probed Canada-China relations. Story here.

INCREASED FEDERAL SPENDING ON OUTSOURCING CONTRACTS – Federal government spending on outsourcing contracts has increased by more than 40 per cent since the Liberals took power, a trend at odds with the party’s 2015 campaign promise to cut back on the use of consultants. Story here.

RESEARCHERS OFFER ADVICE FOR FIXING SPORTS ABUSE – As Ottawa reviews how national sport organizations deal with abuse within their own ranks, University of Toronto researchers are laying out a possible path for the government to fix a system rife with potential conflicts of interest. Story here.

DOUBTS ON AIRPORT COVID-19 TESTING UPON ARRIVAL – Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer cast some doubt on the continued value of the government’s mandatory on-arrival COVID-19 testing policy for international air travellers. At the same time, business groups called for the policy to end. Story here.

TRUCKING COMPANIES FEEL IMPACT OF VACCINATION REQUIREMENT – Trucking companies are already feeling the impact of the federal government’s border vaccination requirement, with a sizable number of drivers leaving the business ahead of the new rule that came into force over the weekend. Story here.

LIBERAL MP SUPPORTS TAX FOR UNVACCINATED – A Liberal MP who works as a medical doctor says he’s in favour of making unvaccinated Canadians pay some kind of a special tax – and he believes others in his party agree. Marcus Powlowski outlined the view in a panel discussion with fellow MPs that aired on Saturday on CBC’s The House. Story here from CBC.

ANTI-VAXX TAX BILL IN FEBRUARY Quebec Premier François Legault says his government will table its anti-vax tax bill early next month. “The goal is to do everything to insist that people get vaccinated,” said of the legislation during a Sunday evening appearance on the Radio-Canada show Tout le monde en parle. Story here from The Montreal Gazette. Meanwhile, The Hill Times newspaper report that some pollsters say taxing anti-vaxxers is controversial, but could help Mr. Legault’s bid for re-election in October.

PREMIER ON THE ROAD – Ontario Premier Doug Ford was out on the roads of Toronto today, driving around in his 4×4 pickup helping other drivers caught in the snowstorm that hit the region. Story here from CTV.

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.

JOLY VISITING UKRAINE – Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is taking a trip to a country her department is urging Canadians to avoid. Ms. Joly departed Sunday for a trip to Europe that includes a stop in Ukraine, now facing the possibility of invasion by Russia. On Saturday, Global Affairs Canada updated a travel advisory, available here, warning against non-essential travel to Ukraine “due to ongoing Russian aggression.” In Kyiv, Ms. Joly will meet with the Ukrainian Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister as well as Canadian troops working on training efforts in support of the Security Forces of Ukraine. The minister is also travelling to Paris and Brussels for meetings with officials including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. She returns to Canada on Jan. 22.

PHILLIPS REPLACED – Ontario Premier Doug Ford has appointed Paul Calandra to replace Rod Phillips as Long-Term Care Minister. Mr. Phillips announced his departure from the post and politics last week to return to the private sector. There’s a story here on that development. Mr. Calandra will add the new cabinet post to his existing responsibilities as Minister of Legislative Affairs and Government House Leader, said a statement from the Premier’s office. Of, Mr. Phillips, the Premier said, “I have no doubt there are great things for Rod ahead.”

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA IN ALBERTA – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the spring session of the Alberta legislature will begin with a Speech from the Throne on Feb. 22, and Finance Minister Travis Toews will deliver the 2022 budget on Feb. 24.

NEW HILL TIMES REPORTER – Kevin Philipupillai is joining The Hill Times newspaper after completing a master’s degree in journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. Mr. Philipupillai previously earned a bachelor’s journalism degree from King’s College in Halifax and spent five years working as a producer at Accessible Media.

TRIBUTE

Alexa McDonough: The leader of the federal New Democratic Party from 1995 to 2002 died on Saturday at 77 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. There is an obituary here.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remembered Ms. McDonough as “a trailblazer for women in politics and an inclusive voice for progressive change in Canadian politics.” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh noted that Ms. McDonough “dedicated her life to social justice, championed women in politics, and never backed down from a challenge.” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole praised the former NDP leader for her “trailblazing work” as a member of the Nova Scotia legislature and an MP.

In a Q&A here, Ms. McDonough’s biographer, Stephen Kimber, talks about her inspiring tenacity.

THE DECIBEL – On today’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, telecom reporter Alexandra Posadzki and Report on Business reporter Joe Castaldo talk about the story of Gerald Cotten , who founded Quadriga, one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges. His death in 2018, at the age of 30, coincided with growing concerns about the legitimacy of Quadriga. Jennifer Kathleen Margaret Roberston was Mr. Cotten’s wife, and was there when he died. And despite being at the centre of a huge scandal, she’s never spoken publicly about her husband’s fraud or death – or the suspicion it cast on her – until being interviewed by Ms. Posadzki and Mr. Castaldo. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings. The Prime Minister is scheduled tonight to participate in a virtual celebration of Thai Pongal, featuring front-line workers to highlight the contributions of Tamil Canadians during the pandemic. Toronto Mayor John Tory will be in attendance.

LEADERS

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was scheduled to hold a media availability.

No schedules provided for other party leaders.

PUBLIC OPINION

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is down six more points in polling approval amid frustration in Ontario over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research by the Angus Reid Institute that also finds four premiers are receiving majority approval this quarter. The four are Nova Scotia’s Tim Houston, Quebec’s François Legault, John Horgan in British Columbia and Andrew Furey in Newfoundland and Labrador. Story here.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on a vaccine promise by Justin Trudeau that wasn’t intended to be kept: ”Justin Trudeau’s Liberals made an election promise to pass a law to protect employers from being sued when they fire unvaccinated workers, and they didn’t do it. Now those lawsuits are piling up. There’s no sign the Liberal government plans to fulfill the promise. Mr. Trudeau didn’t even put it in a mandate letter to any of his ministers. What’s worse is that it’s a promise that Mr. Trudeau was probably never really serious about keeping. Certainly, the Liberals never seemed to know how to do it. There was, after all, a not-insignificant question about whether Ottawa has the authority. Now employers are facing the lawsuits without the promised protections, with workers claiming they are owed cash payouts because non-vaccination is not a valid cause for dismissal.”

Philippe Lagassé (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why parliamentarians can be trusted with sensitive security information: ”Parliament needs its own standing committee that can safely handle classified information and review national-security matters. Canada’s existing committee, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, has MPs and senators as members but is part of the executive, meaning it first reports to the Prime Minister, who then tables a redacted version in Parliament. NSICOP must be rethought. While this hybrid model worked when the government controlled the House of Commons, NSICOP was never going to cut it when we had a minority Parliament. To reconcile the government’s legitimate concerns about protecting classified information and Parliament’s constitutional power to compel the production of documents, we need a security-cleared national-security committee of Parliament.”

Tasha Kheiriddin (The National Post) on how she dared write about vaccinations, and paid dearly for it: “This episode has laid bare several things. First, that civil discourse is dead. The internet, which I alternately love and loathe, has emboldened millions of us to hurl insults into cyberspace under the cover of distance and anonymity. Comments once yelled at the TV in the privacy of our homes are now spewed out for all to read. My editor referred to it as “a firehose of bile.” I already knew this from Twitter, which is hip-deep in the stuff, but this served as an intensely personal confirmation.”

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With debates over, Conservative leadership candidate turns to final membership push

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OTTAWA — Now that the second official debate of the race is out of the way, Conservative leadership hopefuls will turn their attention to signing up as many supporters as they can before a fast-approaching deadline.

The party’s leadership election organizing committee says it is already breaking records for how many new members candidates have drawn in ahead of the June 3 cutoff date for new members being able to vote.As of last week, officials were bracing for a voting base of more than 400,000 members by the deadline.

In comparison, the party had nearly 270,000 members signed up to vote in its 2020 leadership contest.

The six candidates vying to replace former leader Erin O’Toole met on stage Wednesday for a French-language debate in Laval, Que. — a province where the Conservative Party of Canada has never won more than a dozen seats.

A rowdy crowd of several hundred booed and cheered throughout the night as candidates took turns lacing into each other’s records, including on controversial pieces of Quebec legislation.

Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre, a perceived front-runner in the race who has been drawing large crowds at rallies across Canada, repeatedly stressed his opposition to the Quebec secularism law known as Bill 21, which prohibits certain public servants in positions of power from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Ontario mayor Patrick Brown — considered his main rivals — both accused Poilievre of not clearly stating his position on the law when speaking to Quebecers, which he denied.

Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis, as well as Independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber, are also vying to be leader.

Grassroots Conservatives are looking for leadership candidates who can draw many new faces into the party, including in Quebec where membership numbers are low.

Under new rules adopted last year, a riding must have at least 100 members in order for candidates to nab the full amount of points available to them in the ranked-ballot system used to determine a winner.

A winner is chosen when a candidate earns more than 50 per cent of the votes. In the event they don’t, whoever earns the fewest number of votes nationally is dropped from the ballot and the votes they received are redistributed to whichever candidate was marked as their second choice.

Speaking to reporters following Wednesday’s debate, which saw Charest and Brown repeatedly attack Poilievre but not one another, Charest said Brown should not be underestimated in the race.

Entering as the mayor of Brampton, Ont., Brown had a reputation in Tory circles for his ability to organize from his time as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.

He has spent the race criss-crossing the country, meeting with different immigrant and ethnic communities, encouraging them to take out a membership in the party to change Canada’s conservative movement.

Among those he’s focused his attention on are people from the Tamil, Chinese, Sikh, Nepalese, Filipino and Muslim communities.

Brown promises them a better seat at the political table and pledges to end the lottery system to make family reunification easier. He has also spent the last few weeks equating Poilievre’s name with two of the world’s most controversial right-wing leaders — former U.S. president Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, the far-right French politician who recently failed to win a general election.

“The guy I’m running against is trying to replicate what you’d call the Trump version of conservatism or the Le Pen version of conservatism,” Brown told Muslim community members in Surrey, B.C., last week.

In another recent address to a Muslim gathering in Burnaby, B.C., Brown took aim at the crowds Poilievre has been attracting.

“Sort of looks like a Trump rally,” he said, before criticizing the lack of racial diversity.

Brown made similar remarks during Wednesday’s debate when he accused Poilievre of trying to court the support of people akin to Pat King, a leading voice of the Ottawa convoy protest who has also espoused the so-called white replacement conspiracy theory.

Poilievre has denounced King’s remarks.

After Quebec, Poilievre was set to travel to New Brunswick, followed by Thunder Bay, Ont., Winnipeg and Saskatoon. He will bring his campaign message of “freedom” from everything from the cost of living to COVID-19 public-health restrictions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Your Promises Are empty and Similar

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“Your promises give us such a thrill,
but they won’t pay our bills,
We want money, that’s what we want(&Need).

The Political Parties in Ontario are trying to bribe us all with our own money. Election Madness, with the NDP promising should they be elected to form the next government, they would set a weekly price cap on the price of gasoline. The Conservatives have promised to temporarily cut the gas tax starting in July. Liberal Steven Del Duca says price caps do not work, while the NDP claims tax cuts do not prevent Energy Corporations from raising their prices.

The Liberal’s platform plank regarding Transit points to a buck-a-dollar ride. The NDP is calling for free transit (possibly in certain regions).

The Doctor shortage is easily solved, so The NDP claim, by hiring 300+ more doctors and thousands of nurses. Their pay will have to be very high in order to attract professional medical talent to Ontario. Medical Professionals have moved to The USA, receiving salaries and enticements many of our current medical pros could only dream of.

So we have political leaders promising billions of dollars to attract our attention and hopefully our vote. Where this money is coming from is usually not discussed. Real numbers are never presented. We have experienced massive spending these past three years, and the international and domestic lenders are demanding to be repaid, yet these promises continue. Not one Political Leader has the courage to tell us the truth, believing we “cannot handle the truth”, but that we would rather sit in the glow of imaginary promises that one only hears during an election.

A powerHouse Premier with a broad array of accomplishments, a Liberal Leader trying to gain a few seats and save His leadership status, a NDP Leader whose very political life is under review(She does not win, She’s gone), a Green Party Leader also seeking a few more seats. That is their political state presently. We are waiting for certain tax increases to come. Someone has to pay for these political visions of future circumstances. The bills and invoices are in the mail, and will certainly arrive this July.

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers”.(N.K)

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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Opinion: The paranoid style in Conservative politics has deep roots – The Globe and Mail

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Here are some of the things certain candidates for Conservative leader think, or want Conservative voters to think, threaten Canada and Canadians.

Candidate Pierre Poilievre warns his followers that the government of Canada “has been spying on you everywhere. They’ve been following you to the pharmacy, to your family visits, even to your beer runs.”

The government hasn’t been doing anything of the kind, of course: A private company prepared a report to the Public Health Agency of Canada on population movements during the pandemic, using anonymous, aggregated cellphone data. The data allow researchers to count how many people visited a pharmacy or a beer store, not which people did; still less are individuals followed from place to place.

But Mr. Poilievre knows his followers don’t know this, and is quite content to mislead them. Just as he is when he claims he opposes allowing the Bank of Canada to issue a digital version of the dollar because the government would use the data generated thereby to “crack down” on its “political enemies.”

The point isn’t that such data couldn’t be misused in this way. The point is that Mr. Poilievre asserts, without evidence, that it is happening now, and assumes, without evidence, that worse will happen in the future – not as a possibility to be guarded against, but as an inevitability. This is the very definition of fear-mongering. Or, indeed, conspiracy theory. It encourages not prudent skepticism of government’s capacity, but baseless paranoia about government intentions.

But this is statesmanship itself next to the fears he and others have been spreading about the World Economic Forum, which sponsors an annual gathering of business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that is the grand obsession of conspiracy theorists everywhere.

Mr. Poilievre hasn’t come right out and said what he thinks the WEF is up to (unlike former Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan, now the leader of the Ontario Party, who earlier this month accused the organization’s leaders of plotting to put microchips in “our bodies and our heads”), but he has made a point of saying that he will ban any member of his cabinet from attending its meetings – though several members of Stephen Harper’s cabinet did, including Mr. Harper himself.

Trudeau’s advantage: His house united, the other divided

Australia’s ‘teal wave’ is a wakeup call for Canada’s Conservatives

Then there’s candidate Leslyn Lewis, whose particular fear is the World Health Organization, or more precisely a package of amendments to its International Health Regulations put forward earlier this year by the United States. The amendments seem chiefly aimed at preventing the sort of information vacuum that hampered efforts to contain the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, notably stemming from China’s refusal to level with the world about what it had on its hands – but also abetted by the WHO’s own credulousness.

Thus, a critical amendment would require the WHO, should it find there is a public-health emergency “of international concern,” and having first offered assistance to the affected country, to share information with other countries about it, even if the first country objects. (Until now it had been left to the WHO’s discretion.) In conspiracy circles this has been cooked up into an open-ended power for the WHO to force countries into lockdown, take over their health care systems, even, in Ms. Lewis’s formulation, suspend their constitutions.

Where does one begin? The WHO does not have the power to dictate policies to member states. No country would ever agree to give it that power, let alone all 194 member states at once. And of all those countries, the least likely to agree to any such transfer of national sovereignty, let alone propose it, is the United States: the country that, for example, refuses to this day to participate in the International Criminal Court. The only way it could be done even in theory would be by passing the necessary enabling legislation through each country’s legislature, not by simply ratifying an amendment to a regulation.

We’ve been this way before. Remember the Global Compact for Migration? That anodyne collection of best-efforts promises of international co-operation in dealing with the world’s refugees was the subject of an earlier Conservative panic attack. Supposedly we would be permanently surrendering control of our borders to United Nations bureaucrats. It hasn’t happened, because that’s not actually how the world works.

Neither did Motion 103, a non-binding resolution of the House directing that a committee hold hearings on Islamophobia, lead to a ban on criticism of Islam, as still another Conservative fear campaign had claimed. Probably some of its proponents understood this at the time, but lots of their supporters didn’t.

And so it continues. Vaccine mandates become “vaccine vendettas.” Carbon pricing is equated with Chinese-style “social credit” scores. The Bank of Canada’s purchases of government bonds in the middle of the sharpest economic contraction since the Great Depression are depicted as if they were directly bankrolling the Liberal Party.

This cynical act is sometimes dressed up as “sticking up for the little guy” or “taking on the elites.” It is not. It is exploitation, pure and simple, shaking down the gullible for money and votes. It’s a con as old as politics. Before Mr. Poilievre can promise his audience to “give you back control over your lives,” he has to first persuade them that control has been taken away from them – and that he alone has the power to give it back. Or rather, that they should give him that power.

Populism has deep roots in the Conservative Party, at least since John Diefenbaker gathered the disparate populist movements that had sprung up in the West under the Progressive Conservative banner. As the party of the “outs,” those who for one reason or another were excluded from the Liberal power consensus, it has always tended to attract its share of cranks – not just populists but crackpots.

What’s different today? Three things. One, the targets of populist wrath are increasingly external to Canada: bodies like the WEF or the WHO, whose remoteness from any actual role in controlling our lives only makes them seem more darkly potent, to those primed to believe it.

Two, the “outs” no longer simply reject a particular political narrative, but increasingly science, and reason, and knowledge: the anti-expertise, anti-authority rages of people who have been “doing their own research.”

And three, the crackpopulists used to be consigned to the party’s margins. Now they are contending to lead it.

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