The Ontario COVID-19 Science Table issued a brief earlier this week laying out the arguments in favour of some kind of “vaccine certificate” system for domestic use in Ontario: a more rigorous kind of proof of vaccination than the receipts people are currently issued that could be used to exclude the unvaccinated from the highest-risk non-essential places, such as bars, restaurants, gyms, and theatres.
There is one problem — one expressly conceded in the document: the authors note that they can’t say with scientific confidence that such certificates would reduce COVID-19 transmission or increase vaccination uptake. It’s still a novel pandemic, after all.
“You also have to remember this is a new virus, and population-wide coverage of these vaccines is also new,” says co-author Karen Born, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. She acknowledges that the case for certificates — more commonly known as vaccine passports — can’t cite peer-reviewed literature to make the case yet, because it doesn’t exist. But, she says, “just because there’s no evidence to date doesn’t mean we can’t make that pragmatic case.”
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In the absence of iron-clad, gold-standard evidence, we can look to other provinces, such as Quebec and Manitoba, and to other countries — both Italy and France have announced they intend to implement a vaccine-certificate system.
But the most compelling case might be Israel, where the government relied on a form of vaccine certificate, the “Green Pass,” earlier this year to control access to some non-essential places while implementing a comprehensive vaccination of its population. The Green Pass was suspended on June 1. But on Thursday, in the face of a higher rate of new cases, the government announced it would return, terming it a policy of “soft suppression.”
(For those people who insist that we need to “learn to live with the virus”: that’s exactly what Israel says such measures are in service of: we’re allowed to choose how we live, intelligently, with a new endemic virus.)
While Israel has a higher share of its population fully vaccinated than Canada or Ontario, it’s still vulnerable to new pandemic waves. Although Ontario is currently seeing low numbers of cases and falling hospitalizations, it’s not hard to sketch out how a resurgence of COVID-19 could happen here in the next few months: the province will likely enter whatever comes after Step 3 in August, and both public schools and post-secondary education will resume in September. Many employers will start calling their workers back to offices in the fall, and all of these things will lead to increased spread of the disease.
Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, has said he expects a new wave of infections in the fall. That’s in part why he repeatedly urges people to get their shots — to try to minimize the severity of a potential fourth wave.
True, the vaccines mean that cases are far less likely to turn into hospitalizations and deaths. But they haven’t changed one crucial thing: it takes only 300 or so people in Ontario’s intensive-care units to start delaying hospital procedures, and we’ve barely started to dig out from the procedure backlog that built up over the past 18 months. There are more than 4.5 million people currently unvaccinated in Ontario as of today; nearly 275,000 of those are over the age of the 60, according to the province’s daily data release. COVID-19 could still throw a wrench into our hospital system if spread isn’t controlled.
And what would the government do if ICU cases were to start creeping north of 200 again in the fall and show no sign of slowing? (Friday’s number is 136.) Another round of broad-spectrum lockdowns would overwhelmingly punish the large majority of people who’ve done the right thing and gotten their shots. It would also rightly enrage businesses that are just starting to get their customers back after a brutal year. Born cites gyms as an example of the kind of business that could be saved by a vaccine certificate in the event of a fourth wave. Movie theatres, already chafing under what they call “arbitrary and unreasonable” restrictions, are another example.
“This could allow for a faster reopening and also allow for increased capacity in those settings,” Born says. “We’re looking at places where certificates should be used and also where they shouldn’t — lower-risk settings and essential settings.”
It doesn’t make sense to let needed medical care be postponed once again in this pandemic because we didn’t maximize our vaccination coverage, especially given that a vaccine certificate could be implemented relatively quickly — we know that the province did the work to develop a digital pass before deciding to abandon the idea.
“It’s either, let’s do a shutdown, let’s close businesses and schools, or let’s lean into this kind of framework,” says Born. “The alternative is closures that we’re all familiar with at this point.”
Not only has the government failed to implement any kind of rigorous proof-of-vaccination policy; it also hasn’t clarified the legal rights of businesses or employers with respect to unvaccinated customers and employees, creating a fog of confusion that helps nobody (except anti-vaxxers).
Vaccine passes raise legitimate civil-rights concerns, and they should obviously be implemented carefully and thoughtfully; the science table’s brief has important advice on how to do that. When Premier Doug Ford says that it’s a constitutional right to take the vaccine or not, he’s not wrong. But the freedom not to be vaccinated should not require the rest of us — or the province’s hospital system — to be held hostage to people’s refusals. And it’s difficult to believe that a government that has compelled the speech of businesses to attack the federal Liberals and prohibited the speech of unions for its own electoral advantage is making a sincere defence of Ontarian’s Charter rights here. In any event, a vaccine certificate is arguably a less intrusive public-health measure than broader lockdowns.
That, then, is the logic behind calls for a vaccine passport: the government shouldn’t let a fourth wave delay needed medical care in our hospitals, and it shouldn’t use the blunt instrument of new lockdowns again. A vaccine certificate would give the Tories a smarter, more targeted alternative — if they’re willing to use it.
So far, Ford has made his position clear: he isn’t considering a vaccine passport. But events could very well press the issue by October, and then he and his cabinet would have a choice. Since I think they’ll end up flip-flopping on this issue out of simple necessity, it would be best if they’d do that sooner rather than later.
28 Percent Of Gulf Of Mexico Oil Production Still Offline Following Ida – OilPrice.com
Crude oil production in the United States had fallen sharply over the last two weeks in the wake of Hurricane Ida, but production for the next reporting period is on track to be down as well, as 28% of all crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico still remains shut-in after the hurricane.
Meanwhile, WTI prices have risen from $69.21 per barrel as the hurricane hit, to $72.62 today—a nearly 5% rise.
Initially, the hurricane wiped out nearly all of the oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Today—weeks later—28.24% of Gulf of Mexico oil production is still shut in, according to BSEE, along with 39.4% of all gas production on the Gulf.
For oil, this is still more than 500,000 bpd shut in.
According to the EIA, US oil production fell from 11.5 million bpd before the hurricane to 10 million bpd for week ending September 3. Production rose a mere 100,000 bpd in the next week, ending September 10. But the next reporting period, which ends tomorrow, will also be depressed, with half a million barrels per day still offline as of Thursday.
As for when production should be back in full swing, the Energy Department anticipates that this won’t be until October—with refinery resumption taking even longer.
The supply problems are creating upward pressure on oil prices, which until very recently were concerned more with demand problems due to the coronavirus pandemic—and this fear of a lack of demand has dogged oil prices for over a year.
It seems, however, that Hurricane Ida has cured that problem for the industry—at least for now.
According to the IEA, oil supplies won’t be high enough until early next year to replenish what has recently been depleted.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.
Opinion: Activist shareholder's bid to oust CN Rail executive, board members is misguided – The Globe and Mail
Imagine for a moment that activist investor Christopher Hohn owned the Montreal Canadiens.
Picture the billionaire British founder of TCI Fund Management telling hockey fans he is firing the Habs’ general manager and coach, and sending the NHL team’s three best players to the Calgary Flames. And Mr. Hohn also owns the Flames.
That’s the sort of misalignment that exists with fellow shareholders in Canadian National Railway Co. as Mr. Hohn presses ahead with a proxy fight at the Montreal-based railway.
TCI owns 5.2 per cent of CN Rail. TCI also owns eight per cent of Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
Over the past four months, Mr. Hohn steadily ramped up a campaign against CN executives. He wanted them to end the pursuit of Kansas City Southern (KCS), the U.S. railway that ranks as the corporate equivalent of the Canadiens’ Hall of Fame goalie and two young forwards who lit it up in last year’s Stanley Cup run. Mr. Hohn now wants four of 14 directors replaced, including chair Robert Pace, and chief executive Jean-Jacques Ruest ousted.
Mr. Hohn’s approach since May effectively has conceded KCS and its coveted southwestern U.S. and Mexican network to CP Rail.
The fact that Mr. Hohn has two horses in the race for KCS, one of which is his clear favourite, means his goals differ from those of fellow CN Rail shareholders. His bare-knuckles approach to such fights has been labelled as “poison,” and Mr. Hohn has been compared to a “locust” by executives at past targets, which include Deutsche Boerse and railway CSX Corp.
Mr. Hohn makes two arguments to support TCI’s activist campaign. In letters and presentations to the CN Rail board, he showed the railway’s results lag those of rivals. Mr. Hohn also said: “The bid for KCS exposed a basic misunderstanding of the railroad industry and regulatory environment.”
The first point is true. For a number of reasons, some outside the railway’s control, CN Rail currently trails other North American railways in efficiency. However, CN Rail executives have made it clear they are on top of the problems. Operations are going to improve, no matter who is on the board.
Mr. Hohn’s second argument is self-serving nonsense. If anything, the CN Rail board and CEO should have been canned if they lost their nerve and failed to take a shot at KCS, the smallest of North America’s seven large railways, and the player with the strongest growth prospects.
For two decades, U.S. regulators at the Surface Transportation Board (STB) made it clear that any consolidation among major railways would face intense scrutiny on competition concerns. In March, when CP Rail kicked off the battle for KCS by striking a friendly, US$29-billion deal, it was universally acknowledged that if the STB was going to approve any takeover, KCS would be the target and no further deals were likely.
KCS represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a network that seamlessly links Mexico’s industrial and agricultural centers to U.S. and Canadian markets. In April, CN Rail tabled a richer offer, and for a few weeks, seemed likely to win KCS.
In early July, U.S. President Joe Biden effectively changed the rules of the takeover game by signing an executive order aimed at limiting corporate concentration across all sectors. The next month, the STB nixed a key element of CN Rail’s takeover strategy on competition issues, while CP Rail raised its offer.
With CP Rail now poised to win KCS – the STB still needs to give final approval – consider what CN Rail accomplished.
Mr. Ruest came close to building the dominant player in an industry that rewards scale. He saw the landscape shift mid-deal, yet still will walk away with US$1.4-billion in termination fees – a hefty consolation prize – and the satisfaction of forcing an arch rival to pay more on an acquisition.
It’s not the outcome CN Rail’s CEO wanted. However, it’s no reason to replace Mr. Ruest and four directors. Unless you are TCI’s Chris Hohn, and your nose is out of joint because the Montreal team ignored your advice, and the Calgary team had to pay a higher price to win the prize.
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Summer travel surge has WestJet and Air Canada asking for volunteer help – CBC.ca
A surge in summer travel across the country has forced Canada’s two biggest airlines to ask staff to help volunteer at airports to overcome staffing challenges — a move that is creating pushback from unions.
In an email to all employees, WestJet described how the rapid growth in passenger numbers is causing operational problems at several airports, including its flagship airport in Calgary.
The “growing pains of recovery requires all-hands-on-deck,” read the message, which included an open call for any staff members to sign up to volunteer to help guests requiring wheelchair assistance at the Calgary International Airport.
Meanwhile, Air Canada has needed extra personnel at Toronto’s Pearson airport since “airport partners are stretched beyond their capacity, which led to significant flight cancellations and missed connections,” read an internal memo.
In late August and early September, air passenger traffic reached its highest point since the pandemic began. The increase in business is critical to the aviation industry, which was devastated early on in the crisis as many countries restricted international travel.
The industry is not immune to the staffing challenges faced by many sectors as lockdowns started to lift; airlines continue to cope with changing government restrictions, while also following a variety of COVID-19 protocols at domestic and international airports.
At Toronto’s Pearson, the international arrival process can take up to three hours, as passengers are screened by Canada Border Services Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada agents, collect bags and possibly take a COVID-19 test.
“As the technology for sharing and displaying vaccine documents improves, passengers become more comfortable with the new process and vaccine-driven changes in border protections take effect, we hope to see further improvement in wait-time conditions in the terminals,” a Pearson spokesperson said in an email statement, which highlighted other steps to reduce delays.
But several unions have advised their members to avoid volunteering for a variety of reasons.
CUPE, which represents flight attendants at WestJet, declined to comment. However, in a letter, it told members that “the company is imploring you to provide free, volunteer and zero-cost labour. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents WestJet’s pilots, also declined to comment. But in a message to members, it highlighted how “if you are injured doing this work, you may not be covered by our disability insurer.”
Unifor, which represents customer service agents at both of Canada’s major airlines, said its members were upset about the call for volunteers and the union wasn’t happy that there wasn’t any advanced warning or conversation.
“Take a group of workers that is already very stressed by the kind of operation that’s going on, the quantity of passengers, the amount of extra processes that are in place because of COVID in order to travel — and then adding these pieces on is not helpful,” said Leslie Dias, Unifor’s director of airlines.
During the pandemic, WestJet decided to outsource the work of guest-service agents, who would help passengers that require wheelchairs, assist with check-in kiosks and co-ordinate lineups.
But the contractor is struggling to provide enough workers, said Dias, and that’s why there was a call for volunteers.
After flying more than 700 flights daily in 2019, WestJet flew as few as 30 some days during the pandemic. Currently, there are more than 400 flights each day.
“WestJet, as is the case across Canada and across many industries, faces continued issues due to labour hiring challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said spokesperson Morgan Bell in an emailed statement.
“As WestJet looks ahead to recovery, we continue to work toward actively recalling and hiring company-wide, with the current expectation we will reach 9,000 fully trained WestJetters by the end of the year, which is more than twice as many WestJetters as we had at our lowest point in the pandemic some five months ago,” she said.
Air Canada said it only asked salaried management to help volunteer at Pearson airport.
Unifor said the airline was short of workers because the company didn’t have enough training capacity to accommodate recalled employees and couldn’t arrange restricted-area passes on time.
Thousands of airline workers lost their jobs, were furloughed or faced wage reductions last year, although the carriers are bringing back workers as travel activity increases.
At WestJet, its customer service agents have been recalled, according to Unifor. Many employees in other positions, though, remain out of work, including about 500 furloughed pilots.
Air Canada said it has been continually recalling employees since last spring, including more than 5,000 in July and August.
Asking for volunteers is an “unusual” occurrence in the industry, said Rick Erickson, an independent airline analyst based in Calgary. But he said it’s not surprising since cutting a workforce is much easier than building it back up.
Airlines have to retrain staff, secure valid certification and security passes, and find new hires as well.
Erickson said he even spotted WestJet CEO Ed Sims helping at the check-in counter in Calgary in recent weeks, as passenger activity was at its peak so far this year.
“This has been the most challenging time, honestly, in civil aviation history; we’ve never, ever seen anything approaching 90 per cent of your revenues drying up,” said Erickson, noting that airlines still have to watch their finances closely.
Asking employees to volunteer isn’t illegal, but it does raise some questions, said Sarah Coderre, a labour lawyer with Bow River Law LLP in Calgary.
“Whether or not it’s fair, and the sort of position it puts the employees in, if they choose not to volunteer, that would be concerning for me from a legal standpoint,” said Coderre.
Air Canada is currently operating at about 35 to 40 per cent of its 2019 flying capacity, but said one bright spot on the horizon is bookings for winter getaways toward the end of this year and the beginning of 2022.
“When looking to the sun leisure markets, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” a spokesperson said by email. “We are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”
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