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Vaccines continue to dog Canada's Conservative leader – CTV News

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CAMBRIDGE, ONT. —
The issue of personal choice around getting vaccinated against COVID-19 continued to dog Canada’s Conservative leader Saturday as he spent the day vying for votes in seat-heavy Ontario, a crucial battleground for any possible election win.

As Erin O’Toole shifted his focus from making policy promises to cheerleading volunteers to get out the vote for Monday’s election day, he faced renewed questions about his decision not to require his candidates to be immunized. He did not answer queries Saturday about whether he knew how many of his party’s 336 candidates had received their shots.

“We have a rule that everyone that’s campaigning for us — candidates, people going door-to-door — have to use vaccines, and if someone is not fully vaccinated they must use a daily rapid test and follow all the public health guidance in the provinces they’re in,” he said at a small rally in Hamilton.

“We’ve said that from the beginning of the campaign and here’s something interesting, we’ve followed it.”

The issue is one that has dogged the leader over the course of the campaign, largely because the Liberals have raised it repeatedly and used it as grounds for numerous attacks. O’Toole is an outlier among the main party leaders for not requiring candidates to be fully immunized with two doses of vaccine before hitting the campaign trail.

At the heart of the matter is the party’s belief in personal freedoms, and its position of promoting vaccines without disrespecting the choices of those who don’t want one.

O’Toole is himself inoculated, and has committed to appointing a health minister who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But he didn’t say on Saturday whether he would be asking his candidates for their immunization status or how he would confirm who is or isn’t immunized.

“We need to encourage as many Canadians as possible to get vaccinated,” O’Toole said. “We’re not going to be doing that by wedging people, like Mr. Trudeau, always dividing people. Using even a health-crisis for his own benefit.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has called the crowds of protestors that have followed him throughout the campaign “anti-vaxxer mobs” for their resistance to his plan to make vaccines mandatory for federal workers and airline passengers. The protesters also oppose his support for vaccine passport systems used by a growing number of provinces.

Alberta and Saskatchewan recently joined the list of jurisdictions to adopt such a program after weeks of first opposing the idea and then changing their minds when a wave of cases driven by a more infectious virus variant filled hospitals with COVID-19 patients who are not fully vaccinated.

Before her province announced it would introduce such a system, Saskatchewan incumbent Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall posted a video to YouTube asking people to advocate against it.

“Right now, we, fortunately, are living in a province where our premier does not mandate passports and has not mandated vaccines. I encourage you to contact the premier and your MLA to thank them and to encourage them to continue to persevere in the face of pressure to implement such a passport that discriminates against those who choose not to take the current vaccines being offered by our federal government,” she said.

Wagantall said in a statement Saturday she was asking residents to thank their provincial representative for not introducing such a system, but now that it has, she respects that decision.

And this past week, incumbent Conservative Martin Shields told a federal candidates forum, “I’ve never been asked as a member of Parliament by my party whether I’m vaccinated.”

“It isn’t an issue in our party, it’s your choice, so I’ve never been asked,” the Alberta legislator said, adding he believes getting a shot against COVID-19 should be left up to an individual.

Neither campaign for Wagantall or Shields have returned a request for comment.

While also campaigning in Ontario, the Liberal leader attacked O’Toole for “protecting anti-vaxxers” in his caucus.

O’Toole started his second-last day of campaigning by jogging past a farmers market outside of Waterloo, Ont., without appearing to go inside to capitalize on one of his final chances to meet prospective voters.

During the day, he twice stopped to thank volunteers on different campaigns for a candidate in Waterloo, and then in Cambridge. At the latter location, he appeared to ignore a woman seen standing on a sidewalk near the patio where he had been bumping elbows with campaign workers and shouting questions about what he planned to do for the city and Indigenous Peoples.

Those decisions reflect the party’s overall campaign strategy, which has relied more on O’Toole answering questions from people through virtual townhalls in a broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa rather than pressing flesh in local communities.

He defended taking a more physically distanced approach by saying he’s met thousands more people this way and run a safer campaign than the Liberal effort, which has seen Trudeau appear in crowded rooms and at hospitals.

“I’m proud of the campaign we’re running,” O’Toole said. “I’m proud I’m not a celebrity taking people for granted like Mr. Trudeau.”

O’Toole also received an endorsement Saturday from retired vice-admiral Mark Norman, who was at the centre of a failed prosecution by the Liberal government in a politically heated case that ended his military career.

In a video clip the Conservatives shared on social media, Norman said Canadians have an important decision to make as to who should lead the country through the challenges it faces at home and abroad.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.

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Former U.S. President Clinton leaves hospital, will return to New York

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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton walked out of a Southern California hospital on Sunday after being admitted last week for a Urological Infection, live video showed.

Clinton, 75, will return to New York and remain on antibiotics, Dr. Alpesh Amin, who had been overseeing his care at the hospital, said in a statement released by Clinton’s spokesman. His fever and white blood cell count have normalized, Amin added.

The former president had been in California for an event for his foundation and was treated at the University of California Irvine Medical Center’s intensive care unit after suffering from fatigue and being admitted on Tuesday.

He left the medical center accompanied by his wife, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The two-term president, who has had previous heart problems, held the White House from 1993 to 2001.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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China condemns U.S., Canada for sending warships through Taiwan Strait

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The  Chinese military on Sunday condemned the United States and Canada for each sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait last week, saying they were threatening peace and stability in the region.

China claims democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has mounted repeated air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the past year, provoking anger in Taipei.

China sent around 150 aircraft into the zone over a four-day period beginning on Oct. 1 in a further heightening of tension between Beijing and Taipei that has sparked concern internationally.

The U.S. military said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed through the narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour China along with the Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg on Thursday and Friday.

“Dewey’s and Winnipeg’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it added.

China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said its forces monitored the ships and “stood guard” throughout their passage.

“The United States and Canada colluded to provoke and stir up trouble… seriously jeopardising peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” it said.

“Taiwan is part of Chinese territory. Theatre forces always maintain a high level of alert and resolutely counter all threats and provocations.”

U.S. Navy Ships have been transiting the strait roughly monthly, to the anger of Beijing, which has accused Washington of stoking regional tensions. U.S. allies occasionally also send ships through the strait, including Britain https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/british-frigate-sails-through-taiwan-strait-2021-09-27last month.

While tensions across the Taiwan Strait have risen, there has been no shooting and Chinese aircraft have not entered Taiwanese air space, concentrating their activity in the southwestern part of the ADIZ.

While including Taiwanese territorial air space, the ADIZ encompasses a broader area that Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday that three Chinese aircraft – two J-16 fighters and an anti-submarine aircraft – flew into the ADIZ again.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Pravin Char and John

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No end in sight to volcanic eruption on Spain’s La Palma – Canaries president

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There’s no immediate end in sight to the  volcanic eruption that has caused chaos on the Spanish isle of La Palma since it began about a month ago, the president of the Canary Islands said on Sunday.

There were 42 seismic movements on the island on Sunday, the largest of which measured 4.3, according to the Spanish National Geographical Institute.

“There are no signs that an end of the eruption is imminent even though this is the greatest desire of everyone,” President Angel Víctor Torres said at a Socialist party conference in Valencia, citing the view of scientists.

Streams of lava have laid waste to more than 742 hectares (1833 acres) of land and destroyed almost 2,000 buildings on La Palma since the volcano started erupting on Sept. 19.

About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has about 83,000 inhabitants and forms part of the Canary Islands archipelago off northwestern Africa.

Airline Binter said it had cancelled all its flights to La Palma on Sunday because of ash from the volcano.

“Due to the current situation of the ash cloud, operations with La Palma will continue to be paralyzed throughout today. We continue to evaluate the situation,” the airline tweeted.

Almost half – 22 out of 38 – of all flights to the island on Sunday have been cancelled, state airport operator Aena said, but the airport there remains open.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Pravin Char)

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