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When a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over Canada, why didn’t we shoot it down?



Amid all the suspicion and intrigue that’s been swirling around the Chinese spy balloon are questions related specifically to the time it was flying in Canadian airspace.

The balloon was first sighted Jan. 28 as it flew over Alaska, according to U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, and it flew ovethe Yukon and B.C.’s Interior before returning to American airspace over Montana.

Some Canadians — including opposition party members and CBC readers — have questioned why this country didn’t act sooner, why we didn’t shoot it down ourselves, and whether Canada’s military was even capable of doing so.

Should Canada have acted when it flew into Canadian airspace?

The short answer, according to military experts, is no.


“To say that, oh, Canada should have shot this balloon down on its own — that’s just silly,” said University of Calgary history professor and military historian David Bercuson.

“That just completely ignores the fact that NORAD exists that we’re part of it and have been part of it for almost 80 years now.”

Trails from an aircraft are shown in the sky, along with a white object.
The remnants of the balloon drift above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, on Feb. 4. (Submitted by Chad Fish/The Associated Press)

NORAD is the North American Aerospace Defense Command, responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning.

Retired major general Scott Clancy, who at one point served as deputy commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, says while each country has sovereignty over its airspaces, “the binational command of NORAD is both Canada and the United States. It’s not one or the other.”

He said any decision to act within Canadian airspace would be the purview of the Canadian government, and the NORAD agreement makes NORAD an executor of that decision making.

So in this case, Clancy says as soon as the balloon was identified over Alaska, Canada would have been informed by the commander of NORAD, who would inform “the hierarchies — political and military — of both governments in the United States and Canada simultaneously.”

And the decision as to how to react, he said, would be a “balance between intelligence and operational security and public safety.”

NORAD commander U.S. Gen. Glen VanHerck said there was some action taken when the balloon was over Canada.

“There was some speculation about a second one,” he told reporters during a briefing Monday. “I launched NORAD fighters, Canadian CF-18s, and we were not able to corroborate any additional balloon.”

Why was the balloon allowed to fly in North American airspace for as long as it did?

Both Clancy, the retired NORAD deputy commander, and Bercuson say that once the balloon was deemed not to pose any tactical threat to people on the ground, it actually offered up an opportunity for Canadians and Americans to gather important information.

“Just having the balloon move across the country was an opportunity to watch it and gather our own intelligence about how it was doing — and what it was doing,” Clancy said.

NORAD commander VanHerck confirmed the move was strategic in the same Monday briefing.

“This gave us the opportunity to assess what they were actually doing, what kind of capabilities existed on the balloon, what kind of transmission capabilities existed,” he said.

VanHerck did not elaborate on what they were able to learn, but Clancy says it could have included insight into their uses of technology.

“It would be very interesting to know the kind of emission devices that were sending information back to China from this balloon,” Clancy said. “I think that’s going to be very indicative of some things.”

And, said Clancy, allowing the balloon to continue to drift helped keep China a bit in the dark.

“In the early days, the predominant factor at play was trying to allow this to play out so that the Chinese did not know whether or not NORAD knew of — NORAD being the United States and Canada — knew of the presence of this balloon in Canadian and U.S. airspace,” he said.

Head shot of man wearing a button down shirt and dark sweater
Retired major general Scott Clancy once served as deputy commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region. He says the decision on whether to shoot down the balloon would have been a ‘balance between intelligence and operational security and public safety.’ (Trevor Godinho)

Bercuson agreed, saying China didn’t just want to make sure the North Americans saw the balloon — it wanted to know how they would react to seeing it.

“They don’t just want to take pictures of missile fields in Montana, for example. They want to know how we’re responding. How good is our technology to respond to the existence of this balloon,” he said.

Bercuson says as it has become clear that this was not the first such balloon China has deployed, the Chinese were likely saying to themselves, “well, that clearly they’re not picking this stuff up, so why not keep doing it until they do?”

A map of North America is shown, charting the balloon's trajectory.
A map shows the trajectory of the balloon over North America. The specific duration it was over Canadian airspace is not yet clear. (The Associated Press)

VanHerck did admit in his comments Monday that this was not the first time this kind of surveillance balloon had flown over North America and that such balloons evaded detection by North America’s aging early warning system in the past because of a “domain awareness gap” that has since been closed.

While VanHerck didn’t elaborate on that “gap,” Clancy says it might have been that the radar systems poised to detect threats are set to ignore data that is below a certain airspeed.

“When humans are looking at those screens it is impossible to pick out threats from all the rest of the data without some filters to screen out unwanted contacts,” he clarified in a later email, adding that NORAD may have closed the gap by adding enhanced data processing on top of the existing radar systems in order to pull out the data at these low airspeeds to recognize it as an actual contact.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday said he told the Pentagon on Wednesday to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon as soon as possible. On Saturday, the balloon was downed over the Atlantic Ocean.

Was the plan always to shoot it down over water?

U.S. President Joe Biden said that he gave the order to shoot down the balloon on Feb. 1, and it was eventually shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.

A big part of the decision of where to do it had to do with the sheer size of the balloon.

VanHerck said the balloon was 200 feet tall — or about 60 metres — with a payload he characterized as “a jetliner type of size” weighing “in excess of a couple thousand pounds” or at least 900 kilograms.

The debris field was expected to be about 1,500 metres by 1,500 metres.

But Clancy said, had the balloon posed an imminent threat, assessments about bringing it down sooner over land would have been made.

Would Canada’s fighter jets have had the capability to shoot the balloon down?

The operating altitude of Canada’s CF-18 Hornet fighter jets is 50,000 feet (15,000 metres), while Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the balloon had been flying at about 60,000 feet (18,000 metres) — potentially out of range for those jets.

Some CBC readers have raised concerns that Canada wouldn’t have been able to take action against it had the balloon been a threat.

Not an issue, according to Bercuson. He says one of the main points of NORAD is that Canadian and U.S. military aircraft need not seek permission every time they need to fly over each other’s territory.

“So once the decision was made that this thing would be shot down,” he said, “if we didn’t have the capability of doing it, the Americans would do it.”

Head shot of a man with glasses
University of Calgary history professor David Bercuson says to suggest Canada should have shot down the balloon itself — or even question whether it could have — ignores Canada’s involvement in NORAD. (Submitted by David Bercuson)

What does this incident say about our overall security?

Opposition parties also wanted to know why Canadians didn’t even find out about the balloon until it had already left Canadian airspace and what’s now being done to prevent and punish Chinese espionage efforts.

“It is high time the government took action to counter Chinese influence and modernize Canada’s defence systems,” Bloc Québécois defence critic Christine Normandin said in a statement in French.

National Defence Department spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said the decision about when to tell Canadians was a joint one.

“While the object was moving, analysis ruled out the possibility the balloon posed an imminent threat and further steps were taken to analyze it in collaboration with the U.S. and NORAD,” she said in an email.

“Through this collaboration, Canada and the U.S. jointly decided to publicize the presence of the balloon at an appropriate time, taking into account operational security.”

Close up shot of a small boat with about 8 people on board, pulling a large white item out of the water.
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover the balloon Feb. 5 from the waters off South Carolina. (U.S. Fleet Forces/U.S. Navy/Reuters)

As for modernizing NORAD, historian Bercuson couldn’t agree more. “Of course we have to upgrade NORAD,” he said, “we’ve known it for a long time.” But he says governments have been reluctant to do so.

“So now we’re going to have to because we know that the Chinese have been doing this, have clearly gotten away with it,” he said.

“So, okay, do we want them patrolling our skies, taking pictures, listening to our signals or tapping into our conversations? Well, I would think we wouldn’t want them to know that.”


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Canada's economy rebounded in January in surprise 'double-barrelled blast of strength' – CBC News



Canada’s economy showed a rebound in January, with real gross domestic product growing by 0.5 per cent for the month, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The figures came after a contraction of 0.1 per cent in December.

January’s report was better than economists had been expecting. In a note, Andrew Grantham of CIBC Economics said the January figure was above the 0.4 per cent consensus expectation of economists’ forecasts.


Statistics Canada said the main drivers of growth for the month were also the largest contributors to the December decline.

“In January, the wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sectors all rebounded from declines recorded in the previous month,” the federal agency said.

After remaining relatively flat in the second half of 2022, the accommodation and food services sector was also among the top contributors to growth in January.

Advance figures for February released at the same time by Statistics Canada indicate that the economy continued to expand that month, although the 0.3 per cent increase is less than what was seen in January. 

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‘Double-barrelled blast’

Douglas Porter, the chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, said today’s “double-barrelled blast of strength is well above even the most optimistic views.” He said the January and February figures have BMO projecting first-quarter growth of 2.5 per cent.

Grantham said the strong growth in January, plus the surprise further advance in February, leaves overall GDP tracking at almost three per cent for the first quarter of the year, which is above the 0.5 per cent expected by the Bank of Canada.

Forecasters said the good start to 2023 economically could impact the central bank’s path on interest rates. Earlier this month, the Bank of Canada left its key interest rate target unchanged at 4.5 per cent. It was the first time the central bank kept its key policy rate on hold since it began raising it last year in an effort to cool rising prices.

“Suffice it to say that if the strength seen in the opening months of the year persists, the [Bank of Canada] is going to find itself in a tough spot,” Porter said.

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Canada saw economic growth resume in January following small contraction – Global News



Statistics Canada says economic growth resumed in January following a small contraction in December.

The agency says real gross domestic product rose 0.5 per cent to start the year after contracting 0.1 per cent in the final month of 2022.

It also says that its initial estimate for February indicates growth continued with a gain of 0.3 per cent, though it cautioned the figure will be updated.

Read more:

Canada heading into recession – but not as deep as previously forecasted: Deloitte

For January, the growth came as the wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sectors all rebounded after falling in December.

Wholesale trade gained 1.8 per cent in January, helped by wholesalers of machinery, equipment and supplies, while the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector grew 1.1 per cent after falling 3.3 per cent in December.

The transportation and warehousing sector added 1.9 per cent in January, more than offsetting a drop of 1.1 per cent in December that was due in part to bad weather.

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Canada’s Climate Crisis: An In-Depth Look at the Current State and What’s Being Done to Combat It



Canada's Climate Crisis

Canada’s annual average temperature increased by 1.9C from 1948 to 2021. According to the Government of Canada, northern regions exhibited an increase in annual mean temperature three times over the global mean warming rate.

Climate change affects food security, biological diversity, and people’s health. Many believe that Canada’s dealing with a climate crisis and wondering what’s been done to combat it. Here’s a quick overview of the current situation and the plans the government has available to tackle this problem.

What’s the Current Climate Situation in Canada?

According to the last update from the Climate Action Tracker, the action taken by Canada has been rated as “highly insufficient.” That means the country isn’t in line with the global agreement made in Paris to stick to the 1.5C limit.

Furthermore, CAT experts believe the emission reduction target by 2030 is only enough to be in line with a 4C warming. They warn that Canada should strengthen their climate policies and targets while offering more support to others to reach set goals.


Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan

The plan for reducing emissions by 2030 was adopted in March 2022, and the government itself describes it as achievable but ambitious. The idea is to lower emissions in 2030 by 40% when compared to 2005. It’s worth noting that Canada has a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

According to this plan, the country will invest over $9 billion to promote pollution-cutting effects. The strategy includes:

  • Improving electric vehicle infrastructure. People who want to purchase ZEVs (zero-emission vehicles) can hope for financial support.
  • Greening buildings and homes. The idea is to adopt revised building codes that are in line with the environmental goals.
  • Clean energy projects. These include investing in solar and wind power, electricity, and other projects.
  • Reduce gas and oil emissions. It seems to be the most ambitious part of the plan, especially since Canada keeps supporting the Trans Mounting pipeline and exporting LNG to Europe.

Some other details include empowering farmers to implement sustainable practices and communities to launch climate action projects.

What Can You Do to Help with Climate Change?

Collective action is important to restrict climate change, and some suggestions for individuals include the following:

  • Consider how you travel. Use public transport or walk when possible. If you are heading to far destinations, consider not taking frequent long-distance flights. For example, if you want to go to Vegas to enjoy casino games, consider playing online roulette while at home, which can provide immersive fun while reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Use LED lightbulbs and energy-efficient appliances. Many modern appliances come with an energy efficiency rating.
  • Eat veggies to reduce a carbon footprint. It takes less energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce vegetables. Apart from lowering your carbon footprint, this is a healthy diet that could help you lose pounds and manage weight.
  • Focus on reusing and recycling items. Consider shopping for second-hand clothes and not purchasing anything you don’t absolutely need. Consider donating the items you don’t need anymore, and make sure to recycle those that you throw away properly.

A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy

The federal authorities adopted this long-term plan in 2020, and its goal is to secure a future with a healthier environment and economy. The main principles of this plan include the following:

  • Making energy-efficient structures more affordable. The idea is to make locations where Canadians live easier to purchase, maintain, and upgrade while ensuring houses and buildings energy-efficient.
  • Affordable and eco-friendly transportation. From clean electricity supply to ZEVs and other details, the idea is to reduce congestion while making communities healthier.
  • Carbon pollution pricing. The idea is for pollution to be pricey but ensure that the households get back more than they pay.
  • Achieving a clean industrial advantage. The country aims to focus on “Made in Canada” services and products with low carbon footprints.
  • Embrace the power of nature. Restoring and conserving natural spaces while planting billions of trees is another way to reduce pollution and fight climate change.

The government has released the final National Adaptation Strategy for comments. It’s the first strategy of this type that was designed by working with Indigenous People, municipal, territorial, and provincial authorities, as well as other relevant platforms. The idea is to design shared priorities and unite everyone across Canada to take joint action to decrease climate change risks.

Final Thoughts

Scientists are racing to find the most effective climate change solutions, with the potential options leaving them divided. However, they agree on one thing – it’s necessary to take strong action in the soonest possible timeframe.

Canada has already adopted a climate change action plan, and the only question is if it’s aggressive enough. It remains to be seen whether some changes to the strategy will be made in order to reach the long-term goals of dealing with the climate crisis.

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