Politics

Evening Brief: Mulling mandatory jabs


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Good evening to you.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said today vaccination remains the only way out of the pandemic, and for that reason, Canada will probably follow the lead of European countries and start mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all eligible citizens.

“Not now; I don’t think we’re there yet,” he told reporters today. “But I think discussions need to be had about mandatory vaccination, because we need to get rid of COVID-19.”

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam is seen via videoconference as Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos looks on during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron variant, in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. (Justin Tang/the Canadian Press)

Duclos said he’s basing his opinion on international trends, as well as conversations he’s had with his fellow ministers in the last few weeks, but it would be up to the provinces and territories to decide, he added.

“Fifty per cent of hospitalizations now, in Quebec, are due to people not having been vaccinated,” he said. “That’s a burden on health care workers, a burden on society which is very difficult to bear and for many people difficult to understand. That’s why I’m signaling this is a conversation which I believe provinces and territories, in support with the federal government, will want to have over the next weeks and months.”

No surprise, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was the first to chime in and say that would be a no go in his province. Rachel Emmanuel reports.

Or perhaps all provinces could mandate vaccination for anyone looking to set foot in a liquor store or pot shop? In Quebec, first-dose vaccinations have quadrupled since the province announced a vaccine passport would be needed to enter either come Jan. 18. Today, Health Minister Christian Dubé said on Twitter that first jab appointments are up to more than 6,000 a day from 1,500 a day. What’s the old saying? Hit ’em where it hurts?

This all comes as the number of COVID case in the country has jumped 65 per cent from a week ago. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said today that hospitalizations are up 91 per cent but severe illnesses are not rising at the same “explosive rate.” CTV News reports.

Today, the head of Ontario’s science advisory table shared data to illustrate what the province’s hospitals would look like if everyone was vaccinated.

Bearskin Lake First Nation Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin (Joe Howell)

The Bearskin Lake First Nation is “almost at the breaking point,” because nearly half of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19, Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin said today. The remote community of about 400 people is about 600 km north of Thunder Bay. Yesterday, it had 201 confirmed cases of COVID, after declaring a state of emergency on Dec. 29.

Kamenawatamin is asking the federal government to send in the military. About 30 people are delivering firewood, food, and water to the community, where homes rely on wood stoves for heat. Community leaders say it’s not nearly enough. Late Thursday, Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones submitted an official request to the federal government for the military’s help in Bearskin Lake, a request the community says it made days ago.

On Dec. 30, Indigenous Services Canada deployed a rapid-response team to the community and has provided $1.2 million for food, personal protective equipment, isolation accommodations, wages, and transport. Today, Minister Patty Hajdu said the government is ready to do more. That story from Janet Silver.

An economics professor says Canada could fill its short-term labour shortage by admitting more temporary foreign workers. “Rather than ramp up immigration to solve short-term global disruption, I think we should be looking at the temporary foreign worker program,” said Christopher Worswick, an economics professor at Carleton University, told iPolitics.

Canada has recovered all the jobs it lost to the pandemic, but certain sectors, especially restaurants, are still short staff. In his mandate letter in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directed Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser to find ways to bring “newcomers to Canada to drive economic growth and recovery.” Jeff Labine has more on one possible solution.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly pictured in Ottawa on Nov. 2, 2021 (Blair Gable photo)

Further afield, a recent defence agreement signed by Australia and Japan is a sign that alliances are beefing up in the Indo-Pacific, and Canada risks being left behind without a regional strategy of its own, experts say. The two Pacific nations signed a deal for their militaries to work more closely in the face of Chinese strength in the region. It follows other major agreements in the region, including one in which Australia, the U.K., and U.S. will develop nuclear submarines, stockpile missiles, and share technology.

The deals illustrate that the security situation in the Indo-Pacific is evolving despite the pandemic, said Jonathan Berkshire Miller, a fellow with the Macdonald Laurier Institute and a former official with Global Affairs Canada. More on that from Aidan Chamandy.

The Sprout: Farm sector worried Omicron will lower production

Net Zero: Indigenous communities more vulnerable to flooding

The Rebel to Rabble Review: Royal rejection of Rebel mortgage

In Other Headlines:

Conversion therapy is now illegal in Canada (CTV)
Grocers pressured to bring back ‘hero pay’ amid Omicron surge (CP)
Ottawa still hasn’t delivered on promise to test all travellers entering Canada from outside U.S. (CBC)
RCMP detachments across the country brace for pandemic-driven staff shortages (CBC)
Disinformation campaign against former MP a disturbing precedent, researchers say (Globe)
27 passengers from Sunwing plane party now back in Canada, interrogated on return (CTV)
Sunwing party plane passengers fired, facing other repercussions at home (CTV)

Internationally:

Today, NATO ruled out any halt to the continued expansion of the military alliance to address Russia’s security concerns, rejecting a key part of President Vladimir Putin’s demands for easing tensions with Ukraine.

“We will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels after an extraordinary meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

That comes a month after Putin laid out demands for the U.S. and NATO as part of efforts to ease tensions over Ukraine, where Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops outside its border amid fears of an invasion. More from The Hill.

Ahead of talks with Russia next week, today U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moscow of “massive consequences” if it continues what he called aggressive actions in Europe, particularly its military buildup on the Ukrainian border. He told reporters Washington is still looking for a diplomatic resolution here, but noted that progress must be a “two-way street.”

Meanwhile, France says Putin is trying to bypass the EU over Ukraine by talking solely to U.S. Reuters reports.

In Other International Headlines:

Supreme Court skeptical of Biden’s workplace vaccine rule (AP)
Kazakhstan unrest: Troops ordered to fire without warning (BBC)
Two Haitian journalists killed in gang attack (BBC)
Iran says it has begun paying families over downed Ukraine plane (Al Jazeera)

In Opinion:

Jeffrey Simpson: Don’t count on COVID to convince us that medicare needs reform

The Kicker:

Photo: The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

His father may have an airport named after him, but Justin Trudeau has not one, but two bobbleheads modelled after him. You can find them at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, in a clean-shaven or fuzzy-faced format.

They were released today to mark national bobblehead day in the U.S.

Come on now, don’t shake your head.

Have a great weekend.

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