Evening Brief: Another U-turn for unvaccinated truckers

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Good evening to you.

The House of Commons’ Ethics committee has called on the federal Health minister and chief public health officer to testify about a plan to continue giving Canada’s health agency access to Canadians’ mobility data to help manage the pandemic. A second motion to suspend the proposal is still before the committee, which met today after four MPs requested that it meet to discuss a motion from Conservative Ethics critic John Brassard. The motion asked that Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam testify about the plan.

“It becomes increasingly concerning that government is seemingly using this pandemic as a means and a cause for massive overreach into the privacy rights of Canadians,” Brassard said. “As parliamentarians, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we protect those rights, (and) that there is proper scrutiny and oversight.” Rachel Emmanuel reports.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hadju says she shares the frustration of Bearskin Lake First Nations Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin and other leaders who’ve been pleading for help to battle a COVID-19 outbreak in the remote community.

About 400 people live in Bearskin Lake, which is located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. Late last month, Kamenawatamin declared a state of emergency as COVID case counts went up with about half the residents testing positive last week. At the beginning of the month, the community also asked for the military to help.

“I would say I am frustrated as well,” Hadju told reporters during a virtual press conference on Thursday. “(I want) to better understand, (so) we can meet their needs (and) open up lines of communication. … It’s important to feel that we’ve done everything we can to support (Bearskin Lake).” Janet Silver has that story.

As the federal government finalizes its national plan to limit the risks of climate change, a new report out today on disaster resilience is urging the country to implement and act on policies to mitigate those risks. According to “Building a Resilient Canada,” written by the non-profit Council of Canadian Academies and commissioned by Public Safety Canada, governments and their citizens should be aware of the choices described in the report that they can make to mitigate climate-change risks.

“These risks are in every region of the country,” said Scott Vaughan, a former federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development who chaired the report. “Given the urgency of climate risks … across Canada, we really can’t have different silos working separately on different (actions) to reduce risks of climate change.” He noted even getting flood maps for the report proved to be a challenge, and that big gaps remain in information that decision-makers need. Janet Silver has that story too.

A wind turbine at the McBride Lake East array is silhouetted against the sun near Fort Macleod, Alta., in July 2003. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Still with climate, a new report from the International Energy Agency says if Canada is going to hit its ambitious climate targets, it’s going to need to boost its capacity to produce electricity. That will require regulatory changes and close collaboration with provincial governments.

The global energy agency noted Canada’s existing electricity grid is already quite clean, by global standards. More than 80 per cent of its sources are green, “thanks in large part to the dominance of hydro power and the important role of nuclear,” the IEA said. Key to boosting production is ensuring it’s done using climate-friendly sources such as hydro and wind. More from Aidan Chamandy.

Juno award-winner Bruce Cockburn is speaking out against a plan to build a $2.8-billion hospital campus on Experimental Farm in Ottawa, which is a designated historic green space. The new hospital is to replace the 100-year-old Civic.

“It’s come to my attention that there’s a plan afoot to locate a new hospital where there’s a popular park, (which is) part of the Experimental Farm,” the Canadian folksinger and officer of the Order of Canada said in a YouTube video posted on Jan. 7.  “Aside from my own sentimental feelings about a place I enjoyed spending time at as a child, the notion of replacing precious green space with a hospital and its parking lots, which would be better placed elsewhere, makes no sense,” he continued. Jeff Labine reports.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe (The Canadian Press/Mark Taylor)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced on Twitter today that he tested positive today for COVID-19. He said he’s feeling fine and isolating. As CTV reports, he was in-person at the province’s COVID briefing yesterday for over an hour and took off his mask to talk.

Hill Movers: Shakeups for Murray; new chiefs of staff on the Hill

The Sprout: No temporary foreign workers in Windsor-Essex for now

Net Zero: IEA chief blames Russia for European energy crisis

In Other Headlines:


Photo: Secretary Antony Blinken / @SecBlinken

After first showing up in Cuba in 2016, four more U.S. diplomats working in Geneva and Paris have fallen ill with a suspected neurological illness known as “Havana syndrome.” The cases were reported last summer and today Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the American government is stumped as to the source. “To date, we don’t know exactly what’s happened and we don’t know exactly who is responsible,” he told MSNBC. The fear is that the diplomats have been targeted with microwaves. It’s an issue he said has been raised with Russia, but no determination has been made about responsibility.

Still south of the border, the Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden’s big-business vaccine mandate. Aimed at employees of large companies, the mandate required them to be vaccinated or masked and undergo testing each week. The court said that exceeded the Biden administration’s authority. In a separate ruling, however, the justices said a more limited mandate at government health facilities was fine.

Despite the ruling, Biden called on states and employers to mandate vaccines and vowed to put pressure on companies to voluntarily create their own vaccine-or-test requirements. That story from The Hill.

In Other International Headlines:

In Opinion:

Michael Coren: Ontario’s social conservatives are a force Ford must reckon with

Alan Freeman: ‘Birth tourism’ might be down, but we still need to rein it in

The Kicker:

Photo: PDSA/PA

Finally, we leave you with sad news out of Cambodia. The award-winning and hardest working little mine-detecting rat named Magawa, who we’ve spoken of more than once in this space, has died. The charity where he worked said he passed away last weekend — not all that long into his retirement.

Have a good night.

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