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Washington's reasons for keeping border closed to Canadians still murky a week later – CBC.ca

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A week after the U.S. government surprised many by announcing the land border with Canada would remain closed for the time being, the exact reasons for that decision remain shrouded in secrecy.

Not even American members of Congress have been given a detailed explanation for the decision. New York State Rep. Brian Higgins said the lack of information is leading to confusion among his constituents.

“The silence from this administration about the northern border is maddening,” said Higgins, who has been asking for a meeting with officials in the administration of President Joe Biden to get an explanation. “With the border now closed for 16 months and counting, the people deserve to know what it will take to reopen the U.S. border to Canadians.”

Washington State Rep. Suzan DelBene’s office says she “remains frustrated that we haven’t received a clear answer from the administration on why the closure was extended.”

Washington State Rep. Suzan DelBene. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

News that the U.S. land border would remain closed until at least Aug. 21 came just after Ottawa announced that fully vaccinated Americans would be able to enter Canada starting Aug. 9.

Many had expected the U.S. to follow Canada’s lead. The U.S. closure order has been less stringent than Canada’s from the beginning; it allowed air travel into the U.S., for example. The COVID-19 case count is lower in Canada than the U.S., and the vaccination rate is higher.

A week after it issued the notice that the U.S. land border would remain closed, the Department of Homeland Security continues to offer the same vague explanation.

“To decrease the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through August 21, while ensuring the continued flow of essential trade and travel,” Homeland Security spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a media statement.

“DHS is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably.”

Fear of the delta variant

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggesting the decision to maintain border closures and travel restrictions was the result of its guidance.

“I think their decision was made based on the fact that the delta variant is more transmissible and is spreading around the world,” Psaki said, pointing out that it’s also spreading in the U.S. — particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

The CDC has yet to respond to questions from CBC News.

On Tuesday, the CDC stated that even those who are fully vaccinated can spread the COVID-19 delta variant. It now recommends that those fully vaccinated wear masks when they visit indoor public places in areas where there is a high degree of COVID-19 transmission.

One of the few people to offer any hint of what’s gone on behind the scenes is Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“I can tell you that the border situation and letting Canadians in who are fully vaccinated is an area of active discussion right now in the U.S. government,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics on Friday.

WATCH: Dr. Anthony Fauci says status of Canada/U.S. border the focus of “active discussion” in Washington

In a Canadian exclusive interview with Power & Politics, Chief Medical Adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden Dr. Anthony Fauci says the White House is discussing the possibility of allowing fully vaccinated Canadians into the United States. 13:24

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said the U.S. may not be quite ready to follow Canada’s example by opening the border.

“It may very well have been that the U.S. said, ‘We are not prepared and we have not yet decided on the process and procedures of opening our land borders as of yet,'” Heyman said, adding that Canada would not have announced it’s loosening border measures if the U.S. had been uncomfortable with it.

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman.

The U.S. has yet to resolve some key questions about the land border, Heyman said — such as whether it’s going to require proof of vaccination or COVID tests from people entering from the Canadian side.

“If we are, what test and what vaccines will qualify and what won’t?” Heyman asked. “I think that’s still unclear, what process the U.S. will impose.”

Mexico is also a factor, he said.

The two-border problem

“Canada only borders the United States but the U.S. borders (Canada) and Mexico. And when making decisions about its border, it’s highly complicated to say, ‘On one of our borders we’re doing x, and on the other border we’re doing y,'” Heyman said. “If at all possible, you’d like to coordinate your entire border policy in one.”

Mexico’s low vaccination rate compared to Canada, and the aggressive spread of the delta variant in the U.S at a time when only half of eligible Americans are double-vaccinated, may also play into Washington’s decision-making, said Heyman.

Ideally, he said, the U.S. government will make a decision on the border it won’t have to quickly reverse.

“I hope that they make the decision as soon as they possibly can, but I hope they make a decision that is lasting,” he said.

Maryscott Greenwood, Washington-based head of the Canadian-American Business Council, said part of the reason for the border remaining closed could be uncertainty about the vaccination status of those entering the country.

“I think part of the reason could be that the U.S. administration said that they’re not going to validate, verify whether or not someone’s vaccinated before they cross,” she said.

Greenwood’s group speaks regularly with U.S. government officials. She said she hopes the U.S. land border will reopen before Aug. 21 and the country doesn’t apply the same rules to both its northern and southern borders.

“Policy makers and business leaders and communities, not just along the border, are all very frustrated with the decision to stay closed for another month,” said Greenwood, adding some businesses might not survive.

“We’re hoping that the administration will take another look at this next week and find a way forward to reopen the border to fully vaccinated Canadians. I know the White House is paying very careful attention to all of these voices and is trying its best to balance the pressures that it is getting.”

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca

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Prepping Your Home for the Canadian Winter

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The arrival of autumn is a traditional sign that it’s time to start preparing for winter. Such rituals once had a good deal to do with human survival, such as the need to gather enough food to ensure people had enough to eat during the sparse or non-existent growing season. Of course, providing adequate shelter and warmth through the coldest months was also an essential concern.

For most people today, the task of winter preparation in Canada has to do with taking care to be comfortable while also avoiding any possible emergencies that might arise due to rough weather; this means that the main areas of concern tend to have to do with either

  • Warm Clothing
  • Reliable Transportation
  • Keeping Your Home Warm and Well-Maintained

When it comes to ensuring that your home is ready for the winter season, your top priority should be to check that your living areas can stay warm without sacrificing heating efficiency.

The Importance of Windows in Winter

One of the most critical aspects of this preparation involves checking your windows to ensure they are ready to withstand the coldest temperatures to keep you and your family safe and warm. Like everything else on your home, your windows experience normal wear and tear as they do their job of keeping the cold out and the heat inside each year.

While it might seem evident when windows are getting old, less obvious imperfections can quickly arise that may prove a tremendous burden if only discovered during the coldest weather. That’s one of the key reasons why preparing easy on can save you many headaches later in winter.

Trusting the Experts

Rather than play a guessing game with the condition of your windows, you can get in touch with a professional company that can ensure your windows are in proper working order. For example, you can contact a company specializing in windows and doors in Toronto to see whether the time has come to replace your windows.

Check Your Heating System

Another vital aspect of preparing your home for winter is to check your heating system and perform any tests available to guarantee everything is in working order. If your house is equipped with an oil furnace or contains a heating system that uses fuel, make sure that your tank is full so that you don’t run out at the wrong time. You might also want to contact your utility company to see if they recommend any other maintenance services.

General Weatherproofing

Along with heating and window condition, there are many more general ways to weatherproof your home. Some of these include:

  • Replacing or installing insulation
  • Weatherstripping and caulking
  • Repairing any leaks

Preparing your home for winter isn’t very difficult as long as you take the time to check a few essential things if you want to be ready. As always, the best way to be sure is to talk to the experts, like a professional window supplier who can make sure you are free from drafts when the cold weather hits.

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B.C. says it can't take patients from Alberta's overwhelmed ICUs – CBC.ca

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B.C. says it won’t be able to take any of Alberta’s extra intensive care unit patients at a time when that province’s hospitals are buckling under the weight of patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

In a statement, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the ministry met with its Alberta counterparts Thursday.  A day earlier, Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services (AHS) said she would ask other provinces if they would take ICU patients who need care, or spare staff that can work in intensive care units.

But Dix said B.C. can’t take on Alberta patients now.

“Given the current demands on B.C.’s health-care system, we will not be able to assist with taking patients at this time,” he said.

“However, we have told Alberta that if there are things we can do to support them, we will. And if we can take patients on in the future, we will.

“We are in a global pandemic, and our thoughts are with Albertans as they respond to COVID-19 in their province.”

Yui said Thursday some Alberta patients may be transferred to Ontario.

Alberta is in the midst of a punishing fourth wave with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. As of Thursday afternoon, the province had 18,706 active cases.

As well, there were 896 patients in hospital across the province with COVID-19, including 222 in intensive care. 

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, a physician and assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, told CBC News that “Alberta hospitals really are on the brink of collapse.”

In comparison, as of Thursday, B.C. has 291 people in hospital with the disease, 134 of whom are in intensive care.

The effects of Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis are being felt in B.C. 

Many British Columbians in border towns rely on the Alberta health-care system, said Mike Bernie, MLA for Peace River South.

He noted that for his own hometown, Dawson Creek, the closest major hospital is in Grande Prairie, in northwestern Alberta.

WATCH | Alberta faces new restrictions as COVID-19 cases soar:

Anger, acceptance in Alberta over renewed COVID-19 restrictions

11 hours ago

There’s a mix of anger and acceptance in Alberta after Premier Jason Kenney reversed his stance on renewed COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine passports. 2:01

“A lot of these border communities rely on Alberta as the closest centre for triaging, acute care or emergency situations. It’s faster and easier to go to Alberta,” Bernier said. 

He said B.C. is in a tough position when it comes to helping its eastern neighbour. 

 “As Canadians, we want to help each other, so if there is opportunity in communities to help our neighbouring province, we will all want to do that. But we also have to get our numbers down in British Columbia if we want to be able to help other provinces.”

A warning to B.C. 

Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University, said while Alberta is in a tough situation, B.C. isn’t too far behind. 

“We’re on that knife edge where if we [were to take on patients] in an area that then saw an increase in COVID transmission, that would place a burden on that region’s ICU and capacity for providing care,” Colijn said. “[Our ICUs] are not relaxed or well under-capacity here from what I understand.”

Dr. Don Wilson, who has worked in Alberta and currently works in B.C., said he’s worried about people in Alberta and his fellow health-care professionals. 

“I’m very concerned for my colleagues as well as the population of Alberta for the way COVID has been handled and the crisis that they’re facing at the moment,” Wilson said. 

Wilson said that Alberta’s late adoption of public health measures, like its proof-of-vaccination program and masking measures serve as a reminder for British Columbia to stay vigilant.

“That’s the warning for British Columbia. To be proactive and not as reactive for Alberta.”

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Between violence and vandalism, the parties are experiencing a very ugly campaign – CBC.ca

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The three main parties say they’ve experienced ugly incidents on the campaign trail, ranging from vandalism to assault. Some party operatives say it’s the nastiest campaign they’ve ever experienced.

One high-profile incident happened earlier this month when someone threw gravel at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, resulting in charges against a former People’s Party of Canada riding president.

Protests are a common sight during any election but many party workers say the ones they’re seeing during this campaign have been more alarming. The Liberal Party had to cancel a late August stop due to security concerns.

WATCH | Trudeau, security detail hit by gravel stones

Trudeau, security detail hit by gravel stones

11 days ago

A protester threw what appeared to be a handful of gravel stones at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau outside a campaign stop in London, Ont., on Monday, striking him and members of his security detail. 0:08

Calgary Nose Hill Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel Garner released a statement earlier in the campaign saying she has been a victim of harassing behaviour on the campaign trail. She said she’s been accosted by men with cameras “demanding I respond to conspiracy theories.”

“In the last two weeks, I have also received a death threat from someone who called my office in escalating states of verbal abuse over the course of days,” she said in an Aug. 28 statement.

“It’s unfortunately an all too frequent occurrence for me and many of my colleagues, particularly women, of all political stripes. And this increase in violent language, threats and abuse certainly isn’t confined to politics.”

Canadian Anti-Hate Network executive director Evan Balgord said that this has been the worst campaign he’s seen in recent history in terms of far-right activity, which he sees as largely motivated by the pandemic.

“They believe that there is this awful situation going on, like the apocalypse, right? They think that they’re using mask mandates and stuff to kill or kidnap children or render them infertile,” he said.

“The scapegoats they’ve picked are the people they think are the puppet masters — Trudeau, provincial health authorities. And amongst the most hardcore adherents it would be the Jews, the shadow globalists, the elite and so on and so forth.”

While the Liberal Party appears to be the prime target, Balgord said members of the far-right see the Conservatives as complicit.

Vandalism, alleged assaults

Liberal candidate Carla Qualtrough, seeking re-election in the British Columbia riding of Delta, said she’s seen more expressions of hate and rage during this campaign than in previous years, including anti-LGBT and antisemitic graffiti.

“The police are involved. They’re investigating some of the issues that we’re facing. So yeah, it’s a definite tone and it’s hateful and it’s unacceptable,” she told reporters earlier this week.

A lone protester heckles Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as he takes part in an interview with Global reporter Neetu Garcha in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. The interview was set to take part outside but had to be moved inside due to the protester. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“It’s not just anger or difference of opinion. It’s really spiralled to hateful and unacceptable behaviour.”

She’s not the only candidate to involve the police. Kitchener South-Hespeler Conservative candidate Tyler Calver said Waterloo Regional Police are investigating after one of his volunteers was assaulted at a campaign office earlier this month.

Greater Sudbury police charged a 56-year-old woman for allegedly assaulting incumbent Liberal Marc Serré in his campaign office in the federal riding of Nickel Belt in northern Ontario. Police said she pushed a table against him, pinning him against the wall.

Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel Garner says she’s received a death threat. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

On the East Coast, Liberal candidate Dominic LeBlanc said he reported vandalism to the RCMP after someone spray-painted a campaign sign with the words “COVID Nazi.”

“There have been some other disgusting, personal things,” he said. “Somebody spray-painted one talking about my mother, who passed away a year and half ago.”

Liberal candidate Anita Anand, seeking re-election in Oakville, said her campaign has seen about 35 per cent of its signs destroyed.

Ottawa South NDP candidate Huda Mukbil said her signs are constantly being torn down.

She blames the vandalism on people opposed to the changing racial and gender makeup of Canadian politics.

“It’s particularly difficult for women generally. And then for racialized women like myself, that much more,” she told CBC Ottawa.

“So what we have to do is just come together and say that this is unacceptable in Canada.”

Balgord said the violence this year follows the trajectory of what’s been percolating online.

Ottawa South NDP candidate Huda Mukbil said police have been alerted to vandalism done to her election signs and are investigating. (Twitter )

“We’ve allowed online hate to just fester in all the online platforms that Canadians use every day,” he said.

“When online hate festers like that, people start to think it’s normal and acceptable to not just say those things online, but to do those things kind of in person.”

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was egged at a campaign event earlier this month in Saskatoon.

In an August 26 news release, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul raised concerns about mounting threats to her campaign. The party says that while the Green campaign has not seen any hecklers at press conferences, it’s aware of online posts threatening to disrupt events.

‘We will not allow them to define us’: Trudeau

As the campaign enters its final days, nerves appear frayed.

Trudeau is standing by his response to a heckler who used a sexist slur against his wife.

“Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?” Trudeau said.

On Thursday, the Liberal leader said he won’t step back in the face of protests or harassment.

WATCH | Trudeau to heckler: ‘Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother?’

Trudeau to heckler: ‘Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother?’

4 days ago

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau can be heard responding to a man who shouted obscenities at him as the Liberal leader arrived for a media interview in Vancouver on Monday. 0:34

“We will not allow an angry minority that does not believe in science — and we have a lot of examples of their intolerance of women, the fact that they are racist — we will not allow them to define us and decide the direction we will take to put an end to this pandemic,” he said in French.

But NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said such snide remarks only bait protesters, who that day had picketed hospitals across the country.

“He shouldn’t have been joking about that because it’s it is dangerous and it’s really causing problems for lots of people,” he said this week.

When asked to comment on campaign violence, the NDP accused Trudeau of sowing divisions with rhetoric that has led to heightened frustrations and backlash.

“Justin Trudeau called a selfish election and throughout his campaign, rather than provide solutions for the challenges families face, he’s talked about divisions,” said a party spokesperson.

“Families are paying the price for his rhetoric — protesters blocking hospitals and assaulting health care workers, a rise in COVID-19 cases across the province and even violence on the campaign trail.”

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