Joly tests positive for COVID-19

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Good evening to you.

We begin with COVID-19, which once again, is the story of the day.

A short while ago, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced on Twitter that she had tested positive on a rapid COVID test. She is isolating and working remotely until she gets the results of a PCR test to confirm.

The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot

“I’m grateful for the protection that vaccines offer us and encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. It’s the best thing we can do to keep our families safe this holiday season and all year long,” she wrote.

“While it is important to get tested for COVID, remember that testing alone doesn’t protect you from contracting and spreading the virus. Please continue to be cautious, limit your contacts and respect public health guidelines. We will get through this together.”

In Ontario, boosters appointments were opened up to anyone over 18. But much like the scene in April, it was a scene out of the Hunger Games trying to snag one, with many left frustrated after finding no appointments available on the provincial booking system. As it turns out, the province is also running low on the Pfizer vaccine. Today, 3,783 new cases were reported in Ontario, and the positivity rate rose to a level not seen since early May. That comes as people are waiting days for test results, which means there may be some discrepancy between what’s being reported and what’s actually circulating.

In Saskatchewan, there were long lines as well as booster eligibility expanded.

(Screengrab/Kevin Dougherty)

As cases soar in Quebec, setting another record of 4,571 today, the provincial government announced this afternoon that as of 5 p.m., it was shutting down in-person learning at schools, as well as bars, gyms, spas, concert halls and cinemas. “The epidemiological situation is critical. The community spread is astounding,” said Health Minister Christian Dubé. “We are eight million people in Quebec. We are at war. We’re at war right now against this virus. This is du jamais vu, this has never been seen before. It’s unbelievable.” The province is also mandating working from home for anyone who can.

It was also another record-setting day in Nova Scotia, with 485 new cases reported.

Still in Quebec, opposition to the province’s Bill 21 is fanning nationalist flames. Kevin Dougherty has the details.

Meanwhile in the Parliamentary precinct: MPs may be home for the holidays, but some departmental officials are likely working hard to get them detailed answers to the questions they submitted in the House of Commons in the recent sitting period. Since the House returned on Nov. 22, MPs have filed 264 questions on the order paper. More than 100 were filed in the first week alone. That means document dumps will be waiting when MPs return to the House next year. More from Aidan Chamandy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published the mandate letters he gave to ministers’ last Thursday, spelling out to them what their priorities should be in this Parliament. National issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples are focuses of many ministerial mandates, while some are also tasked with more regionally or locally relevant assignments. Housing affordability, improving health and long-term care, and steering people towards using more electric vehicles are some files highlighted in Trudeau’s letters that are specially of concern in Ontario. Charlie Pinkerton has more.

From the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation report, to the request for funds to search for unmarked graves at former residential schools, to the “calls for justice” in the 2019 report on Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, many Indigenous leaders say they’re frustrated and puzzled by the federal government’s slow response.

After six years spent investigating the sad legacy of Canada’s residential-school system, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Murray Sinclair, released its final report in 2015. And yet, nearly seven years later, few of its 94 calls to action have been fully implemented. As Janet Silver reports, they say decolonization should be at forefront of government’s relations with Indigenous Peoples.

Lobby Wrap: Trade concerns with U.S. noted in lobbying circuit

The Sprout: Feds spending $28M to divert, destroy surplus spuds

Net Zero: Manchin to vote against electric-vehicle tax credit

In Other Headlines:

Canadian veterans group calls for government action after shooting death of Afghan girl (Global)
Commons Speaker reflects on dispute over secret documents on scientists’ firing (CP)
Conservative Party will not seek to bring back Commons China committee (Globe and Mail)
A new COVID benefit is now in effect, but no one can access it (CBC)
Federal government deposited nearly $26 million in the wrong bank accounts last year (CBC)
Ottawa spent $560-million on damages over the Phoenix pay system, records show (Globe and Mail)


Coronavirus. Photo: World Health Organization

The World Health Organization sounded a warning on the Omicron variant today, telling reporters in Geneva today that it is spreading “significantly faster” than the Delta variant and more likely to infect those who are vaccinated, as well as reinfecting those who have recently recovered from COVID-19. As Reuters reports, the agency’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said it would be “unwise” to conclude from early evidence that Omicron was a milder variant that previous ones.

The United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. have issued a joint statement expressing their “grave concern” over the outcome of the “patriots” only Hong Kong election, which was swept by pro-Beijing candidates. Critics have panned the election as undemocratic, which saw record low turnout amid China’s crackdown on freedoms. “The overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system…eliminated any meaningful political opposition,” it read.

In Other International Headlines:

Ukraine investigating former president Poroshenko for high treason (Globe and Mail)
UK’s Johnson defies pressure to impose COVID curbs over Christmas (Al Jazeera)
Retired generals warn U.S. military deeply divided and future coup attempt possible (Globe and Mail)
Moderna booster shot appears effective against Omicron variant, company says (Reuters)
Fauci says mask wearing on planes could be here to stay (The Hill)
Conservation groups to sue EPA over manatee deaths (AP)
Leftist Gabriel Boric to become Chile’s youngest ever president (BBC)
EPA will tighten fuel mileage standards (CNN)

The Kicker:

Finally today, things are pretty dark as we head into the holiday season, with things locking down as case counts ramp up. We’re all no doubt in need of a little bit of brightness, so we leave you with this map of where to find awesome Christmas light displays in eastern Ontario.

Have a good night.

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