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Politics Briefing: Quebec announces a 'significant' financial penalty for residents who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Quebec is going to start imposing a “health care contribution” on adults who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19, the province’s Premier said Tuesday.

François Legault announced the measure as he spoke at a news conference on the resignation, this week, of Quebec’s high-profile Public Health Director, Horacio Arruda. The Premier said the cost will apply to Quebeckers who do not get a first dose.

Mr. Legault said his government is working through the legalities and logistics of the measure, which he described as a “health care contribution.”

“As to the amount, we want a significant amount. Fifty dollars or $100 is not significant, but we have yet to set an amount,” said the Premier.

Mr. Legault said Quebeckers are becoming exasperated with the 10 per cent of the population refusing to be vaccinated even though they have no medical issue to justify their decision.

“Right now , these people, they put a very important burden on our health care network, and I think it’s normal that the majority of the population is asking that there be a consequence,” he said.

He said the unvaccinated account for 50 per cent of the people in intensive care and they are putting an undue burden on health care.

Quebec is facing the consequences of a surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the more transmissible Omicron variant.

On Tuesday, Quebec reported 62 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, meaning 12,028 people have been killed by the novel coronavirus, the most among provinces and territories. Hospitalizations linked to the virus rose by 188 to 2,742.

Dr. Arruda’s replacement said it was too soon to comment on the health care contribution measure.

“I will let the exercise unfold,” said Luc Boileau, who has been president of the l’Institut national d’excellence en santé et services sociaux, which promotes clinical excellence and the efficient use of resources in the health and social services sector.

He added that he will wait to see if the science supports the measure, and that he has other more pressing concerns to consider.

In a resignation letter dated Monday, Dr. Arruda wrote that his office had offered public-health opinions and recommendations amid uncertainty and based on the best available knowledge and various expert opinions. However, he acknowledged there was a “certain erosion” in public support for health measures. There’s a story here on his exit.

“I think that he did excellent work for 22 months,” said Mr. Legault, adding he hoped Dr. Arruda would be available for advice after taking a rest.

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

WARNING FROM CANADA’S SPY AGENCY – For the first time, Canada’s spy agency is warning individual MPs and senators from all major parties about influence operations being carried out by China and other adversarial states. Story here.

HEALTH AGENCY DID NOT SEEK DATA ADVICE: PRIVACY COMMISSIONER – The Office of the Privacy Commissioner says the Public Health Agency of Canada did not seek its guidance before gathering location data from millions of mobile phones, which the agency has used to analyze travel patterns and inform its policy and messaging during the pandemic. Story here.

PRIME MINISTER AND PREMIERS HOLD TALKS – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers spoke Monday about the federal government’s plan to distribute rapid tests and the possibility of additional military support for struggling health care systems, with leaders describing a productive meeting. Story here from CBC. The readout of the meeting from the Prime Minister’s Office is here.

TALKS LOOMING ON PEI POTATO DISPUTE – Canadian and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet this week to see if progress can be made to end a dispute that resulted in Canada suspending all shipments of potatoes to the United States from Prince Edward Island. Story here from CBC.

COVID-19 CASES RAISE ALARM AMONG MANITOBA FIRST NATIONS – A growing number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba has First Nations in the province worried that the virus will overwhelm their communities, but one Grand Chief says military assistance is not necessary yet. Story here.

KENNEY DENOUCES HARASSMENT OF CALGARY MAYOR – Public officials, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, are condemning the actions of anti-vaccine protesters who targeted Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s home over the past weekend. Official estimates suggest 35 to 40 people assembled on the sidewalk and street adjacent to Ms. Gondek’s house, holding placards and chanting slogans. On social media, Mr. Kenney wrote, “This is just wrong.” Story here from The Calgary Herald.

THIS AND THAT

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

CULTURAL SUMMIT POSTPONED – The Canadian Heritage Department has postponed a planned summit on challenges facing Canadian artists and cultural workers until public-health measures allow for face-to-face meetings. The gathering was scheduled for Jan. 31 until Feb. 1. “We will continue to stand together and hold the summit in person, as planned, as soon as the time is right and it is safe to do so,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement. “At that time, we can all reflect on the post-COVID recovery and long-term competitiveness of Canada’s arts sector.”

ANGUS ON COBALT – NDP MP Charlie Angus has his eighth book coming out next month, and it deals with a subject close to home for the Timmins-James Bay member. Mr. Angus, an MP since 2004, is writing about the history of extracting the metal cobalt from the Northern Ontario town of Cobalt where he lives. It’s all covered in Cobalt: Cradle of the Demon Metals, Birth of a Mining Superpower, which is being published by House of Anansi. The 336-page work is about the metal that gives the town its name, and how it changed the trajectory of development in Ontario. Publishers Weekly, the international news website of book publishing and bookselling, calls Mr. Angus’s new book a “harrowing history [of] the damaging legacy of resource extraction in his country,” and an “immersive history.” In an e-mail exchange, Mr. Angus said he has been working on the new book since finishing his last book, Children of the Broken Treaty, in 2015. Asked how he finds the time for book projects, he wrote, “The fact is I am always working on research projects and historical digging. It’s how I balance out the intensity and weirdness of politics.”

TED BYFIELD REMEMBERED – Peter Shawn Taylor writes here on the life of influential Alberta Report publisher Ted Byfield, who gave voice to a nascent Reform party.

RICHARD PATTEN – Former Ottawa Centre MPP Richard Patten is remembered as an energetic community builder for his 15 years in the Ontario legislature. He died Dec. 30, at the age of 79. Obituary here from The Ottawa Citizen.

THE DECIBEL – On Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Caitlin Thompson, co-founder of Racquet and publisher of Racquet Magazine, a print quarterly on the culture of tennis, talks about the case of Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic. The Australian Open granted him a medical exemption that would allow him to compete, but when he attempted to enter the country on Jan. 6, he was detained at the border. He was released on Monday, but his future at the tennis tournament remains uncertain. Ms. Thompson explains why Djokovic was detained, and what makes him such a polarizing figure in the tennis world, and why this may not be the end of the story. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings in Ottawa. And the Prime Minister was scheduled to speak with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

LEADERS

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole delivered remarks at a Yarmouth, Bridgewater, and Annapolis Valley chambers of commerce event.

PUBLIC OPINION

LOCKDOWN SUPPORT – A new poll suggests a slim majority of Canadians support the latest round of lockdowns and other government-imposed restrictions as the Omicron variant continue to fuel an explosion in new COVID-19 infections. Story here.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how a government that misses Step One in transparency sparks a tizzy about `surveillance’: ”There is a high level of mistrust around government data collection, but most people probably give data on their movements to traffic-map apps such as Google Maps or Waze. PHAC had to get the data from a phone company. Anonymized data such as this is regularly used by economists and other academics to provide important insights. Governments, which have long formulated public policy by relying on assumptions about the impact of their measures, could presumably do a lot better if they could base choices on solid evidence drawn from real-world data. Surely there is a way to do that without raising the spectre of Big Brother watching us. But PHAC did not do it the right way. You would think that after a year of seeing simple health messages struggle against conspiracy theories about masks and vaccinations, the agency would get it.”

Thomas Mulcair (CTV News.ca) on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau starting to apply the French President Emmanuel Macron formula: “The contrast between Trudeau’s Health Minister and Conservative Leader O’Toole couldn’t be sharper. It also makes it abundantly clear that politics is still playing a key role in the management of what should exclusively be a health issue. [Health Minister Jean-Yves] Duclos is too smart and experienced not to know that obligatory vaccination is a non-starter. You’d have to be able to enforce it. With what resources? The Army? Duclos was simply redrawing the ideological line in the sand with their principal opponent. His subtext: We’re willing to do everything that we can to end this thing, O’Toole would make it worse.”

Sarath Peiris (Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe steering the province into uncharted waters: “Trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic with Premier Scott Moe is like finding yourself in a storm-tossed boat at night with a helmsman who refuses to heed navigation instruments as he relies instead on a buddy yelling out directions based on his “gut feel.” It didn’t take the Premier more than a few months after the pandemic’s 2020 arrival to decide that – evidence-based advice from doctors, epidemiologists and other experts be damned – he would forge ahead by focusing on those who touted prioritizing economic health above all.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Stewart Muir: How eco-advocates worked B.C. politics – Financial Post

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You can choose ancient trees or you can choose jobs, but only bad people opt for jobs — is the preferred mental construct of anti-forestry campaigners

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Last year noisy blockaders descended on Fairy Creek on the south coast of Vancouver Island to stop loggers they claimed were laying waste to irreplaceable old growth forests. What the public did not see behind all the fireworks was a carefully laid advocacy strategy to burrow into the heart of government decision-making and bring about policies, not based on sound science, that will hurt working British Columbians. Forestry accounts for a third of British Columbia’s exports – triple both the tourism sector and also tech and film combined — and benefits at least 130 First Nations.

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Thanks to freedom of information (FOI) requests, I have been able to piece together the story behind the story.

Responding to incidents such as Fairy Creek, B.C.’s NDP government commissioned a review. The first step was a report calling for a “paradigm shift” to protect old growth forests. Next came a deeper dive by an expert panel that resulted in some shocking news for the forest industry: timber access restrictions that could shutter as many as 20 sawmills and two pulp and paper mills, with up to 18,000 jobs being lost. Industry, First Nations and labour unions were furious. Last week, a financial markets analyst told an industry conference that British Columbia forestry is now seen as “uninvestable” due to the uncertainty.

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Hundreds of pages of documents released under FOI reveal that the supposedly impartial expert panel was, in fact, constituted to exclude nearly all viewpoints except those closely aligned to a single organization, the Sierra Club, which has a longstanding axe to grind with the forest industry. The “Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel” was a joint project of environment minister George Heyman and forest minister Katrine Conroy. Correspondence reveals that it was mostly designed and managed by Heyman, who before becoming an MLA was executive director of Sierra Club BC.

Remarkably, four of the five appointees had strong, unmistakeable connections to the Sierra Club. A government official noted that the panel “does not include the full range of views that would be needed for decision making.” It was known that the panel would deliberately ignore “implications for industry; local community interest; First Nations interests and Indigenous knowledge.”

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When the panel’s makeup was announced, a senior forestry official warned: “At a minimum, to be most effective, this Panel should have been comprised of ministry and external experts, in an equal and balanced collaboration that would most effectively deploy the depth of knowledge possessed by the government’s own staff.” Such advice was not heeded, and the appointees insisted their professional opinions not be questioned. Where the panel did seek outside views, only pressure groups aligned with the Sierra Club were invited.

  1. A forest protector walks up to the trees near Port Renfrew, British Columbia, Canada, on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

    Terence Corcoran: How greens are killing the B.C. forest sector

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It’s not difficult to imagine what the reaction would have been if members of this advisory group had previously volunteered their time to write a paper on the very same topic as the panel’s business, as three members of this panel had done, but for a forest industry association rather than the Sierra Club, and that association had then built an elaborate PR campaign around the work.

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The individual who emerged as the group’s chief liaison with government, Lisa Matthaus, was not a technical expert at all but rather a former Sierra Club campaigns director now in a senior political operative job with Organizing for Change, an offshoot of MakeWay, the new name of Tides Canada, a longtime advocacy group, which rebranded itself in 2020 after complaining its anti-everything goals had been misunderstood.

Given all this, it was hardly surprising when the panel came back with recommendations that threaten to gut an entire industry. But if the scientific case for radically reducing access to forestry lands was so strong, why rely on such a cooked process? Founding the heralded paradigm shift on fragile legitimacy only risks hardening existing social polarization.

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A zero-sum framing — you can choose ancient trees or you can choose jobs, but only bad people opt for jobs — is the preferred mental construct of anti-forestry campaigners. The enormous conservation strides B.C. has made since the 1990s “war in the woods” are ignored, confirming again that no amount of give and take is ever enough. It’s as if the culture wars raging in university humanities departments had shifted over to the science faculties, with ecologists who believe trees are altruistic beings who talk to each other clashing for supremacy over forestry scientists and professionals who must weigh many factors.

In the end, the insider moves of a narrow interest group snookered the provincial cabinet, MLAs, citizens, and the broader forestry community. Any hope for a balanced outcome now rests with Indigenous leaders, the only group with the political clout to go up against the environmental lobby.

Stewart Muir is a journalist and founder of Vancouver-based Resource Works Society. The full version of this article appears in the latest issue of The Forestry Chronicle, a publication of the Canadian Institute of Forestry.

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Opinion: Jason Kenney has become the Boris Johnson of Canadian politics – The Globe and Mail

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill on Dec. 10, 2019.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

In March of last year, Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was pulled over in the province’s capital and issued a ticket for distracted driving in a school zone.

A couple of days later, he phoned Edmonton’s chief of police, Dale McFee, to discuss the $300 ticket, which he eventually paid.

The ticket, and the phone call, only recently came to light thanks to the CBC. Things moved quickly after that; Mr. Madu defended himself by saying he didn’t phone Mr. McFee to protest the ticket, but rather to discuss the issue of racial profiling. Mr. Madu is Black. He also wanted to be assured he wasn’t being “unlawfully surveilled,” which some police in the province have been accused of doing.

This week, Premier Jason Kenney expressed “profound disappointment” in Mr. Madu for making the phone call, and asked him to “step back from his ministerial duties” while an independent investigation into the matter is carried out.

Mr. Kenney should have fired Mr. Madu on the spot.

There is almost no circumstance in which Mr. Madu, who is also solicitor-general and responsible for law enforcement in Alberta, could be returned to his cabinet duties, such is the iron-clad rule in politics that elected officials (particularly cabinet ministers) don’t interfere in the administration of justice at any level. It’s an automatic termination offence.

Mr. McFee, for what it’s worth, has corroborated the justice minister’s version of events; that he wasn’t calling to get out of the ticket but to discuss carding, an issue he has championed. And while I may have some sympathy for Mr. Madu on this matter, you do not pick up the phone and call the chief of police to have a conversation about it after getting a ticket.

In a different scenario, maybe the police chief interprets the call as subtle pressure and gets the violation ripped up. The fact that didn’t happen in this case is irrelevant. Cabinet ministers can’t appear to be using their office to exert influence or put their finger on the scales of justice in any way. Especially if you are the justice minister.

So while some will say Mr. Madu’s intentions weren’t malicious or corrupt, it doesn’t matter. He violated a sacred tenet of government. He may have found other means, or avenues, to have this issue addressed that didn’t involve him picking up the phone and calling the city’s top cop.

There is, however, another disturbing aspect to this whole affair: The question of what Mr. Kenney knew, and when he knew it.

As mentioned, the incident and phone call happened 10 months ago. According to veteran Alberta columnist Don Braid, it was widely known among members of cabinet and discussed in “jocular” terms. It seems inconceivable that if members of cabinet knew about this, Mr. Kenney didn’t also.

The Premier should make clear when he found out about the matter; was it only when the CBC story made it public? If Mr. Madu discussed the issue with colleagues, would he not also have notified the Premier’s office of what happened? I would think that most justice ministers in this country would notify their bosses when they have a run-in with police, regardless of how insignificant it was.

At the very least, it’s inconceivable that Mr. Madu’s own chief of staff wouldn’t have been told about it and then passed it along to the Premier’s office. No head of government likes nasty surprises. That’s one of the core rules of being in government, and especially cabinet. If there is a potential for some damaging information to come to light, you alert the top person.

That is why I am highly skeptical that Mr. Kenney only found out about this recently. He’s renowned for his micromanaging tendencies and his insistence that he not be the victim of any unpleasant surprises. It’s virtually impossible to believe he wasn’t aware of this story long before now.

This is, of course, just another illustration of the shockingly poor judgment that members of Mr. Kenney’s cabinet – and the Premier himself – have demonstrated over the past couple of years. Mr. Kenney’s nearly three-year reign of error has been enveloped by melodrama and controversy. At various times his response to the pandemic was atrocious. His response to most internal problems has been to deny and delay until he’s boxed into a corner and is forced to do something. There have been calls for his resignation both inside and outside his party.

Mr. Kenney has become the Boris Johnson of Canadian politics. Like the British Prime Minister, he seems to have put a foot wrong at almost every turn, and come to be seen as a bumbling, incompetent leader. And his handling of this latest imbroglio will do nothing to diminish that image.

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Opinion | The Mental Health Toll of Trump-Era Politics – The New York Times

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In the last few years the hideous state of our politics has often kept me up at night, but until recently I thought I was an outlier. Even when I’ve written about political despair as a problem for Democrats, I assumed it was something that applied to activists and base voters, the sort of people who go through their days silently cursing Joe Manchin. But a striking new study from Kevin B. Smith, chair of the political science department at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, suggests the universe of people who find our politics a torment might be much larger than I’d realized.

“Politics is a pervasive and largely unavoidable source of chronic stress that exacted significant health costs for large numbers of American adults between 2017 and 2020,” writes Smith in “Politics Is Making Us Sick: The Negative Impact of Political Engagement on Public Health During the Trump Administration.” “The 2020 election did little to alleviate those effects and quite likely exacerbated them.”

Around 40 percent of Americans, he found, “consistently identify politics as a significant source of stress in their lives.” Shockingly, about 5 percent have considered suicide in response to political developments. Smith told me he was skeptical of that figure when he first calculated it, and still isn’t wholly sure it isn’t a statistical fluke, but it’s remained fairly consistent in three surveys. (After publishing results from the first survey a few years ago, he said, he got a call from someone who worked at a suicide hotline who reported experiencing an uptick in calls after the 2016 election.)

I’m fascinated by Smith’s work for a couple of reasons. The first is partisan. People from both parties reported that political stress during the Trump years has damaged their health, but Democrats have, unsurprisingly, had it worse. While Donald Trump was in office, they were able to turn their rage and fear into fuel, but I’m not sure how sustainable this is. The more politics becomes a pageant of infuriating Democratic impotence in the face of relentless right-wing spite, the more I fear people will disengage as a means of self-protection.

But I’m also interested the role politics plays in the disastrous state of American mental health, which is one of the overarching stories in the country right now. For all our division, there’s a pretty broad consensus that the country is, psychologically, in an awful place. According to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, almost nine in 10 registered voters believe there’s a mental health crisis in the United States. The crisis expresses itself in all sorts of ways: in rising rates of youth suicide, record overdoses, random acts of street violence, monthslong waiting lists for children’s therapists, mask meltdowns, QAnon.

I’ve long thought that widespread psychological distress — wildly intensified by the pandemic — contributes to the derangement of American politics. But maybe the causality works the other way, too, and the ugliness of American politics is taking a toll on the psyche of the citizenry.

Smith first surveyed a sample of around 800 people about politics and mental health in March 2017. As he wrote in a 2019 paper, he found fairly high levels of affliction: Besides the 40 percent who said they were stressed out about politics, a fifth or more reported “losing sleep, being fatigued, or suffering depression because of politics.” As many as a quarter of respondents reported self-destructive or compulsive behaviors, including “saying and writing things they later regret,” “making bad decisions” and “ignoring other priorities.”

At the time, he thought he might just be capturing the shock of Trump’s election. But his next two surveys, in October and November of 2020, showed similar or greater levels of misery. Now, those were also moments of febrile political activity; perhaps if Smith had surveyed people in 2018 or 2019, he’d have found less political angst. Nevertheless, his findings suggest that there are tens of millions of Americans who’ve felt themselves ground down by our political environment.

In some ways, this is surprising. Most people aren’t political junkies. The majority of American adults aren’t on Twitter, which tends to drive political news microcycles. Even in an election year, more people watched the 30th season of “Dancing With the Stars” than the most successful prime-time shows on Fox News, the country’s most-watched cable news network. As the political scientists Yanna Krupnikov and John Barry Ryan wrote in The New York Times, most Americans — “upward of 80 percent to 85 percent — follow politics casually or not at all.”

Smith doesn’t dispute this. But he speculates that even those who aren’t intensely interested in politics are still affected by the ambient climate of hatred, chaos and dysfunction. “What I think is going on is that politics is unavoidable,” he said. “It is essentially a permanent part of the background noise of our lives.”

Of course, the last thing a political scientist — or, for that matter, a liberal columnist — would tell you is that you should totally tune that noise out. It is depressing to live in a dying empire whose sclerotic political institutions have largely ceased to function; this is a collective problem without individual solutions. There’s an awful dilemma here. Any way out of the gloom of our current political situation will almost certainly involve even more politics.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). A list of additional resources is available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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