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Politics Briefing: Legislation on Quebec's planned tax for people who refuse to get vaccinated to be tabled in February, Legault says – The Globe and Mail




Quebec Premier François Legault says legislation on Quebec’s planned tax for people who refuse to get vaccinated will be tabled in February.

“There will be a debate at the National Assembly on the health contribution so all MLAs, all political parties will be able to vote for or against and proposing adjustments if necessary,” Mr. Legault told a news conference on Thursday in Montreal.

Earlier this week, Mr. Legault said those who refuse a COVID-19 vaccination without a valid medical exemption will face a “significant” fee that he suggested would be more than $100. He said the province is working on the details.

The Quebec government’s plan has spurred debate across Canada, with questions posed to the federal government about whether they support the idea.

On Thursday, Mr. Legault said he wanted to make it clear that his plan is not punitive.

“The intention behind the contribution is not to hurt people who are in a bad situation,” said the Premier, offering as examples the homeless or people with an illness that prevents them from getting vaccinated, or people with mental-health issues.

“What we’re saying is those people who choose not to get vaccinated, well there will be a price to pay because there is an impact on society as a whole.”

Parliamentary reporter Marieke Walsh reports here on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s reaction, on Wednesday, to news of Quebec’s plan.

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.


CANADA UNITES WITH MEXICO ON U.S. TRADE CHALLENGE – Canada is joining forces with Mexico to oppose how the United States is interpreting the new rules that govern duty-free cars and trucks. Story here.

SASKATCHEWAN PREMIER HAS COVID-19 – Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has tested positive for COVID-19. “I’m feeling fine, but will be self-isolating and working from home for the next five days,” Mr. Moe said in a tweet. Story here.

PANDEMIC PROMPTS SHIFT IN SENATE REOPENING – The pandemic has prompted a week-long delay in the start of Senate sittings this year, until Feb. 8, but the House of Commons will resume as scheduled on Jan. 31. Story here.

COMMONS FINANCE COMMITTEE CALLING WITNESSES ON INFLATION – The House of Commons finance committee has agreed unanimously to call on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem and banking regulator Peter Routledge, among others, to testify at hearings into the causes of high inflation, a move that will keep soaring real estate prices and the rising cost of goods at the top of the political agenda heading into the next sitting of Parliament. Story here.

PAYETTE TO KEEP APPOINTMENT – Former governor-general Julie Payette won’t lose her appointment to one of the country’s most prestigious civilian honours. Story here from CBC.

TOUCH CHOICES LOOM ON PM’S TRADITIONAL RESIDENCE – The choice around 24 Sussex Drive, designated as the official residence of the prime minister, is to spend $36.6-million to renovate the crumbling building or $40-million to tear it down and rebuild. The National Capital Commission, property manager for the federal government, has described the building as being in “critical” condition. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family live elsewhere, at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall where the Governor-General lives. The Toronto Star looks here at the situation.


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

ETHICS COMMITTEE LOOKING FOR DATA ANSWERS – The House of Commons ethics committee has voted unanimously to invite the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and the federal Health Minister to appear to help facilitate a study into the Public Health Agency of Canada collecting, using or possessing Canadians’ private cellphone data without their knowledge or consent. The issue is detailed in a story here and a Campbell Clark column here.

U.S. AMBASSADOR ON BEST CANADIAN BAGELS AND SOFT PRETZELS – The new U.S. ambassador to Canada said Wednesday on Twitter that he is a “very big bagel fan” and would welcome suggestions for Canadian bagels to try. “As a 50-year resident of Philadelphia, my pre-Canada favorites are fresh Everything bagels from Famous 4th Street or Schlesinger’s delis,” David Cohen – @USAmbCanada – wrote. Former federal environment minister Catherine McKenna responded, highlighting the ambassador’s challenge, and spotlighting options from a pair of Ottawa bagel retailers. Mr. Cohen, who arrived in Canada last month, has since broadened his culinary appeal: “I’m also accepting Canadian recommendations for one of my favorite great Philadelphia traditions – soft pretzels.”

THE DECIBEL – With kids heading back to classrooms after the holiday break, parents and teachers are in the spotlight of Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast to hear about how they’re feeling. Plus Dr. Janine McCready, an infectious-diseases physician at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto talks about what is known about Omicron and kids so far, and the tools needed to keep transmission down in both schools and in the wider community. The Decibel is here.


Private meetings, Ottawa. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to speak with Olusegun Obasanjo, the High Representative of the African Union Commission for the Horn of Africa.


No schedules released for party leaders.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on whether the unvaxxed should pay a special tax?: ”On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced a plan – okay, more of a half-cooked notion – to tax the unvaccinated. There were no details, which is why this smells more like public relations than public health. Tax The Unvaxxed looks like a bid to channel public frustration away from government and on to another target. That said, Mr. Legault picked a good target. The nine out of 10 Canadians who are vaccinated have every reason to be furious at the one in 10 who are not. They’re imposing burdens on the rest of us. Hospitalization stats – more on those in a moment – are a reminder that individual choices, good and bad, have collective consequences.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the health care accountability runaround has to end: “After this week’s first ministers’ call, a spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a statement citing a “gap” in federal funding of billions of dollars that could be used to improve health care – as if provincial authorities can’t improve the system until the feds cough up more dough. But of course they can. They can raise funds in almost all the same ways that Ottawa can, from the same taxpayer. And they can decide what needs to be funded and what doesn’t. Only provinces, not Ottawa, can make choices about how the health care system works, to make it more efficient or provide better care.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on French President Emmanuel Macron and Quebec Premier François Legault playing politics with the unvaccinated: “Emmanuel Macron and François Legault may share the same mother tongue, but they speak very different political languages. While one wields his words like an Olympic fencer thrusts his épée, the other seeks to engage with voters in distinctly quotidian prose. One likes to flash his intellectual prowess, while the other emphasizes his common sense. Yet the French President and Quebec Premier, who are both up for re-election in 2022, have embraced similar political strategies as they fend off criticism of their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each has stooped to stigmatizing the non-vaccinated as a diversionary tactic, despite the danger inherent in pitting an exasperated majority against a misunderstood minority.”

Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on BC Liberals getting the kind of coverage for their leadership race that no party wants: “The B.C. Liberals were fretting that their leadership contest was being ignored by the news media, but now find themselves getting the kind of publicity that no political party wants. The provincial opposition party is facing calls to put off next month’s leadership vote pending a full-blown investigation of allegations of fraudulent memberships. At the same time, the party is being accused of singling out members from the South Asian and Chinese communities for review and audit.”

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Polarized debate over public health measures sees politicians facing angry protesters at their homes – CBC News



Protesters opposed to public health measures such as wearing a mask, adhering to lockdowns and vaccine mandates have increasingly turned to holding intimidating and aggressive protests at the homes of politicians, prompting calls for action to be taken to better protect democratically elected officials.

The RCMP told CBC News it has noticed a growing number of “incidents” singling out politicians at their homes and offices.

As the pandemic nears its two-year mark, politicians are but one target of the aggressive protests; front-line health-care workers and patients seeking care have also been intimidated by sometimes violent anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown advocates. 

But when it comes to these workers, the federal government co-operated with the opposition to pass Bill C-3, which makes it an offence punishable buy up to 10 years in prison for those found guilty of intimidating health-care workers and patients trying to access medical care. 

Even with the aggressive targeting of politicians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that, despite having gravel and threats thrown at him during the last federal election, he has no plans to expand Bill C-3 to cover politicians across the country, for now. 

“Nobody in the course of doing their job should be faced with threats of violence, threats to their family. That applies for health-care workers or for politicians or anyone else,” Trudeau said Wednesday. 

“We continue to engage with public security, with police services to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to protect Canadians, but we haven’t, at this point, looked at similar legislation.”

An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News in an email that Mounties have “seen an increase in the number of incidents that either occurred or were planned” at politicians’ “residences or constituency offices.”

Those incidents seem to be targeting people at all levels of government. Earlier this month, protesters enraged by pandemic public health measures and vaccine mandates gathered outside Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s home.

Anti-vaccine protesters gathered outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton in September. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

“It is an incredibly unnerving and unsettling experience to look out your window and see people holding signs calling you a Nazi,” Gondek told CBC News.

“We have provided these public places for people to do these types of protests or rallies. You can’t do it at someone’s home. It’s simply wrong. It’s inappropriate. It’s an intimidation tactic, and you will not have good people running for public service if we allow this to continue.”

‘Harassing innocent neighbours’

On Tuesday, Calgary city council approved a plan to pay for home security systems for council members.

Three provincial politicians in Ontario — Premier Doug Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott — have been visited at home by protesters infuriated by lockdowns, school closures and vaccination programs.

When asked by CBC News whether the Ford government would consider a new law to protect public office holders, the premier’s office sidestepped the question.

“These petty tactics have no impact on this government’s resolve to do the right thing in order to protect the people of Ontario,” the premier’s office told CBC News.

“The only thing these people are doing is targeting and harassing innocent neighbours and family members who have nothing to do with the government’s decision-making.”

Holding social media companies accountable

Former Liberal environment minister Catherine McKenna was the target of abuse and intimidation while in office. She said she wants to see the security budget for members of Parliament increased to ensure they are safe and that public life continues to attract good people.

“People yelling and screaming … at your home, or when you’re just out, I think it is next-level. That’s not why I got into politics,” she told CBC News. “I will say it was a very unappealing feature of politics, and that’s why I still speak out about it because I want good people to go into politics.”

McKenna said she would like to see social media companies held accountable for the way they’re sometimes used to organize aggressive protests.

“I’ve been very vocal about the need for social media companies to step up and take responsibility,” she said. “They have … created a vehicle that is now being used to foster hate and in some ways expands the network of people that normally would be, I guess, in their basement.”

Catherine McKenna’s campaign office was vandalized in Oct. 24, 2019. The RCMP says it has seen a rise in incidents targeting politicians’ homes and constituency offices. (David Richard/CBC)

Gondek said she agrees with that suggestion.

“Democracy will not survive if people feel threatened or intimidated to run for office,” she said.

“Those platforms should be held responsible for what is happening. They should be held accountable and responsible for the communication method that they have encouraged and put out there to embolden groups like this.”

Stephanie Carvin is an associate professor of International Relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. She said that while politicians may be reluctant to pass laws limiting public expressions of opposition to government policy, they could take action against social media platforms.

“Social media organizations … are pumping out a lot of disinformation, a lot of hate, a lot of anger, encouraging bounties, to follow people around and try to catch them breaking the rules,” she said.

“We have seen the minister write to social media companies in December of last year to try and encourage them to take a more ambitious approach to trying to curtail this rhetoric. But beyond this, it’s not clear that that much is going to be done.”

Carvin said she hopes that the intimidation tactics being directed against public health measures will wind down as pandemic restrictions ease.

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Canada, echoing U.S., says it fears armed conflict could erupt in Ukraine



Canada fears armed conflict could break out in Ukraine and is working with allies to make clear to Russia that any more aggression towards Kiev is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice”. Moscow, which has stationed military equipment and tens of thousands of troops near the border, denies it is planning an invasion and blames the West for rising tensions.

“We do fear an armed conflict in Ukraine. We’re very worried about the position of the Russian government … and the fact that they’re sending soldiers to the Ukrainian border,” Trudeau told a news conference.

Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a strong line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

“We’re working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursion into Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.

“We are standing there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage.”

Canadian troops are in Latvia as part of a NATO mission and Trudeau said they would “continue the important work that NATO is doing to protect its eastern front”.

Canada has had a 200-strong training mission in western Ukraine since 2015.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on Tuesday said Ottawa would make a decision at the appropriate time on supplying military hardware to Ukraine.

Trudeau side-stepped a question about sending defensive weapons, saying any decision would “be based on what is best for the people of Ukraine”.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren;Editing by Will Dunham and Philippa Fletcher)

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Opinion: Canadians will pay the price for the Liberals playing politics with trucking – Calgary Herald



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With Canadians grappling with inflation not seen in a generation, the federal government has decided to throw fuel on the fire.


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On Saturday, the Liberals’ vaccine mandate for international truckers came into effect, an ill-conceived move that will drive up the price of goods imported from the United States and exacerbate driver shortages and, more so, our national capacity to export Canadian goods.

Even without the mandate, today we have nearly 23,000 openings for professional drivers and counting — a vacancy rate already at a record high.

When we think of front-line workers, nurses, doctors and grocery store clerks are usually the first who come to mind. There is another occupation, however, that needs to be added to that list: truck drivers. Throughout the pandemic, tens of thousands of hard-working Canadians have been working round the clock to keep our supply chains moving.


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Let me be clear: the Canadian trucking industry is strongly supportive of efforts to increase vaccine uptake among Canadians. Safe and effective, the vaccine is far and away the best way to prevent serious illness or death from COVID-19. The Alberta Motor Transport Association, for instance, partnered with the governments of Alberta and Montana to offer vaccine clinics for cross-border truckers.

Thanks to efforts such as these, the majority of truckers are fully vaccinated. Indeed, the vaccination rates among many Canadian Trucking Alliance members are well above the national average. As we have since the vaccine became available, we will continue to encourage our members to roll up their sleeves. This doesn’t change the incremental impacts of putting our MVPs — our professional drivers — on the bench.


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That’s now our reality, thousands of truckers will be sidelined by this policy change. According to our data, the exit rate for the 120,000 truck drivers currently crossing the border will be between 10 and 15 per cent. Late last Wednesday evening, Canadians thought we had a reprieve on this direction, only to be rescinded within 24 hours. This flip-flop leadership just reinforced the confusion within the federal government on this issue.

And that, unfortunately, is just the beginning. The government has signalled that there will be amendments imminently under the Canada Labour Code, mandating any truck or bus drivers who cross a provincial border (federally regulated employees) to require vaccination. While the regulatory language, enforcement measures and penalties are still unclear, this government policy will force a driver whose route runs from Medicine Hat to Swift Current, Lethbridge to Cranbrook, or one side of a border town like Lloydminster to the other to choose between vaccination and working in our industry.


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The federal government has snubbed meaningful engagement on this mandate. A consultation paper was posted on Dec. 7 and days later the process was closed to comments. Although Ottawa claimed to have engaged with stakeholders, the government clearly still doesn’t understand the severity of the outcome from a policy decision limiting Canadians ability to support bilateral trade or interprovincial mobility. At every step of the way, our industry has pleaded with the government to work with us on solutions, including regularly testing to keep our drivers behind the wheel, to no avail.

By putting politics ahead of common sense, the federal government is throwing up more roadblocks for a critical industry that is already under tremendous stress. As a result, Canada’s already fragile supply chains are going to be stretched even further.


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What does that mean for Canadians? Well, get ready for more bare shelves and to open your wallets even wider for what is left. From food, to gas, to consumer goods, things are going to get even more expensive; that is if they make it to the shelf.

The cost of bringing a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California has already doubled during the pandemic due to the existing driver shortage. As Canadian fields lie fallow and covered in snow, produce prices will only go higher.

As is always the case with bad policies and bad politics, it’s going to be Canadians who are left holding the bag.

Jude Groves is the board chair of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.



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