OTTAWA — The Opposition Conservatives accused the Liberal government of either corruption or ignorance Monday as they pressed for more answers around a decision to hand control over a major student grant program to an organization with longtime ties to the Trudeau family.
The House of Commons was sitting to pass a new bill to extend the wage subsidy program, send a special COVID-19 top-up to people with disabilities and to extend legal deadlines for court cases.
While those measures were expected to pass on Tuesday with the support of all opposition parties, the same collegial spirit did not extend to question period.
There, the dominant line of inquiry was around the Liberal government’s decision to award WE Charity the responsibility for a $900 million student job program.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mother, in particular, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for participating in WE events, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughter works for an arm of the WE organization.
The organization has handed the program back to the government. Both Trudeau and Morneau have said they should have recused themselves from the decision.
But the international development and youth empowerment group is now under scrutiny for its internal practices, adding further fuel to the opposition’s charges that the decision to grant the contract to WE was suspect.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pointed Monday to a report by Canadaland that red flags were raised in 2018 by auditors reviewing WE’s financials, as well as the fact that their board had undergone a major shakeup earlier in the year.
“Either the Liberals were aware of these issues and still approved the decision or they were incompetent,” he said.
“It’s either corruption or incompetence, which is it?”
It is neither, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland replied repeatedly, nearly reading verbatim from a sheet of paper with the Liberals’ current top-line talking point on the issue: that the idea of having WE run the Canada Student Services Grant was brought forward by the non-partisan public service.
“The way this unfolded was regrettable and the charity will not longer be administering the project,” she said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the government’s approach to WE raises questions about whether the program was ever about students at all.
“There were lots of ways to help students. This was not it,” he said.
“It was a billion-dollar bailout of close friends of the Liberal party and of the prime minister.”
The House of Commons had been recalled to pass the latest suite of COVID-19 measures.
The Liberals want to extend the wage subsidy program to December and have its criteria loosened so more businesses can reopen and employ workers.
The original program covered 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits. Companies had to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues.
The proposed changes will see the program pay on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25 per cent increase to the previous maximum payment.
The disability payment measures in the bill would provide up to $600 in a one-time payment to some Canadians with disabilities in order to help with COVID-19 costs.
The Liberals had sought to pass that measure in a bill last month, but did not get unanimous consent due to the opposition concerns with other elements in that particular bill.
Originally, the payment was limited to those who received the disability tax credit, but the new bill lays out expanded criteria to include, among others, veterans who are currently receiving disability supports.
Singh said ensuring the disability benefit went to far more Canadians was a win for his party, and why the NDP will back the new bill.
“It’s still not enough and we will continue fighting,” he told reporters afterwards.
The Tories said they too support the disabilities measures, but the new wage subsidy plan is too convoluted and they want the government to make it simpler.
Still, they intend to back the bill, having won concessions of their own: to get two days of debate for it instead of one, and at the same time securing the ability for the Commons committee on Canada-China relations to sit, as well as the public safety committee.
Tuesday’s sitting also opens up an opportunity for the Conservatives to do something else they were hoping to achieve Monday, but couldn’t — press the prime minister himself.
Trudeau took the day off Monday, and the Tories suggested he was skipping out on questions about WE.
He is expected to attend Tuesday’s sitting, as well as for the special COVID-19 committee of MPs that is scheduled to meet Wednesday.
A lingering question is whether Trudeau will also appear at the House of Commons finance committee, where MPs want to grill him on the WE issue.
Scheer said Liberal MPs should also be asking themselves questions about supporting their boss going forward.
“If they allow him to continue, if they don’t demand he resign, then they are telling Canadians that they are comfortable with his corruption,” Scheer said.
Canadian company urges human trials after COVID-19 vaccine in mice blocked virus – Global News
A Canadian company is telling the government on Wednesday that its trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on animals completely blocked the virus, but it must conduct human trials to know whether it has found a possible cure for the pandemic.
And a leading health-care expert says the findings are promising even though they haven’t been peer-reviewed.
Providence Therapeutics says it needs federal funding to move forward, but it has not heard back from the Trudeau government since May, the month after submitting a $35-million proposal to conduct first-stage human trials.
How close are we to a coronavirus vaccine?
Providence has told the government it could deliver five million doses of its new vaccine by mid-2021 for use in Canada if it were able to successfully complete human testing, but it has heard nothing.
Eric Marcusson, the San Francisco-based co-founder of Providence and its chief science officer, says the company has concluded testing on mice that showed its vaccine was able to block the entry of the novel coronavirus into their cells.
Successful tests in animals can provide proof of the concept behind a potential new medicine or vaccine before trials in ever-larger groups of human subjects determine how well the drug works in the body and whether it has harmful side-effects.
Trials in humans are expensive and usually time-consuming.
Coronavirus: Tam agrees with Fauci, warns vaccine will not be a ‘silver bullet’ but there is reason for ‘cautious optimism’
Mario Ostrowski, the University of Toronto professor of medicine and immunology whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said he supports the results and says they are on par with tests of vaccine candidates from the American pharmaceutical firm Moderna and Germany’s BioNTech.
All three companies use the same new mRNA vaccine technology and last week, Moderna began a 30,000-person human trial after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government.
The U.S. has also committed to pay Germany’s BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer $1.95 billion to produce 100 million doses if their vaccine candidate proves safe and effective in humans.
The mRNA vaccine technology involves using a key fragment of genetic material instead of working with an inactive sample of live virus.
“We have been testing the prototype vaccine in animal studies,” Ostrowski told The Canadian Press. “When we give the vaccine to mice, it is safe and makes a very strong immune response and very potent antibodies.”
Ostrowski said that the strength of the antibodies found in the mice appeared to neutralize the virus better than other similar vaccine candidates have at the same testing stage.
“Another point is that the Providence vaccine is very similar to the Moderna vaccine in the U.S. and the German (BioNTech) vaccines, both showing excellent results,” added Ostrowski, who practices at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Brad Wouters, the executive vice-president of the Toronto-based University Health Network, said he has seen the new Providence data and it looks promising, but it needs to be peer-reviewed.
“The fact that the vaccine has created neutralizing antibodies means that the mouse immune system is reacting to the vaccine and producing antibodies that block the ability of the virus to infect cells,” Wouters said in an emailed response to questions.
“This suggests the results are better than even they were expecting.”
Tam: Pandemic may last for years, even with COVID-19 vaccine
But Wouters added that the Providence data needs a full peer review, and that under normal circumstances he wouldn’t even be commenting publicly on research at this stage unless it were accompanied by a published peer review.
“This is the normal and correct way for this to happen. But as you have seen, COVID-19 is breaking traditions and they (Providence) are certainly not the first to release information from experimental research in advance of publication,” said Wouters, who is also the senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Alberta Sen. Doug Black has urged Ottawa to fund Providence so it can develop a domestic COVID-19 vaccine to lessen the risk Canadians will have wait in line for a foreign-made pandemic cure.
Several health-care professionals have also written to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to urge him to make up his mind on the Providence proposal.
The company plans to release the results publicly on Wednesday at the same time it delivers them to several relevant government departments.
“We’re still blocking the virus 100 per cent. Nothing gets in,” Marcusson said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he has been living in lockdown since March as the pandemic exploded in California.
“There’s no doubt this vaccine needs to be tested in humans because the results in mice are really that exceptional. This has the chance to be an extremely effective vaccine, but we won’t know for sure until we get into humans,” he said.
Marcusson is a 20-year veteran of the American biotechnology sector and had founded his own consultant business before meeting Providence chief executive Brad Sorenson in 2014. The two founded Providence in 2015 to develop cancer vaccines but it has pivoted to COVID-19. Marcusson said 20 per cent of his work remains outside the company as a consultant.
Black and several health experts say the government must move forward with a made-in-Canada vaccine because there have been troubling signs that a vaccine produced abroad likely wouldn’t be available to Canadians until much later.
Coronavirus: Anti-mask and anti-vaccine theories
Canada has already funded a the partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia but China has held up shipments of the vaccine that it was supposed to send to Dalhousie researchers by the end of May to start human trials.
“They’ve already been burned a couple of times with masks not getting across the border from the U.S. and a vaccine that they helped fund not getting into the country because it was held up at customs in China,” said Marcusson.
“So, this is a vaccine that can be made in Canada for Canadians,” he added. “It would be nice if that wasn’t important, but it is important, and they need to realize this and fund a Canadian solution to this problem.”
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Pfizer announces deal to supply Canada with coronavirus vaccine candidate – Global News
The announcement came in the form of a tweet an hour before markets opened and two hours before a scheduled announcement from the Canadian government about vaccine procurement that is set to take place at 10 a.m.
Pfizer also last month inked a deal with the U.S. government to supply the first 100 million doses of the vaccine it is developing in December, in a partnership with BioNTech SE.
The Canadian deal also appears to be a collaboration with the biotechnology firm.
More to come.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Gold price pushes well above $2000, much more upside possible – Kitco NEWS
(Kitco News) Gold prices are sharply higher and hit a record high of $2,048.00, basis October Comex futures, in early U.S. trading Wednesday. Silver prices are also sharply higher and hit a seven-year high of $27.195, basis September Comex futures. October gold futures were last up $35.00 an ounce at $2,043.50. September Comex silver prices were last up $0.987 at $27.03 an ounce.
Gold and silver are continuing on a bullish rampage. Both metals continue to see support from safe-haven demand amid the worrisome rise in Covid-19 infections, geopolitical developments and concerns about problematic price inflation in the coming months. As the U.S. Congress appears to be getting closer to a new round of government stimulus payments to Americans, such would only add to the massive influx of liquidity into the world financial system, which has created the inflation concerns.
Global stock markets were mostly up in overnight trading. The U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward higher openings when the New York day session begins, including a new record high in the Nasdaq stock index. Hopes of a new U.S. government stimulus package for Americans coming soon are rising at mid-week on reports Democrats and Republicans are coming closer to agreement on a package. Rising crude oil prices that hit a five-month high overnight are also giving traders and investors a boost.
On tap Wednesday is the ADP national employment report for July, which is expected to show U.S. jobs growth of around 1 million. This report could move the markets when it’s released at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
The key U.S. data point of the week will be Friday’s jobs report for July from the Labor Department. The non-farm payrolls number is forecast to be up by around 1.25 million after rising by 4.8 million in June. However, don’t be surprised to see a miss from the forecasts, to likely move the markets.
The important outside markets today see Nymex crude oil prices higher, hitting a five-month high and trading around $42.75 a barrel. The U.S. dollar index is solidly lower today. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note is presently around 0.52% and near a record low.
U.S. economic data due for release Wednesday includes the weekly MBA mortgage applications survey, the ADP jobs report, the international trade report, the U.S. services PMI, the global services PMI, the ISM report on business services, and the weekly DOE liquid energy stocks report.
Technically, the gold bulls have the strong overall near-term technical advantage. Bulls’ next upside price objective is to produce a close in October futures above solid resistance at $2,100.00. Bears’ next near-term downside price objective is pushing futures prices below solid technical support at $1,950.00. First resistance is seen at the overnight high of $2,048.00 and then at $2,075.00. First support is seen at the overnight low of $2,015.50 and then at $2,000.00. Wyckoff’s Market Rating: 10.0
September silver futures bulls have the strong overall near-term technical advantage. Silver bulls’ next upside price objective is closing prices above solid technical resistance at $28.00 an ounce. The next downside price breakout objective for the bears is closing prices below solid support at this week’s low of $24.16. First resistance is seen at the overnight high of $27.195 and then at $27.50. Next support is seen at $26.00 and then at the overnight low of $25.64. Wyckoff’s Market Rating: 9.5.
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