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Good morning, readers.
— Quebec makes global headlines with tax for the unvaxxed: Quebec Premier François Legault yesterday announced a new financial penalty for residents who are unvaccinated for non-medical reasons. In what he called a “healthcare contribution,” the unvaccinated will need to pay at least an additional $100 into Quebec’s pharmacare plan at tax time.
The news made headlines around the world. But in fact some penalties already exist. Austria is charging unvaccinated citizens aged 14 and older €3,600 ($5,150 CAD) every three months. In Greece, unvaccinated people over 60 will soon be fined about €100 ($143 CAD) per month. Singapore is making unvaccinated people pay for their own hospital stays, rather than benefitting from the universal health care system.
— Kady O’Malley looks ahead to the rest of the day in politics with iPolitics AM: “Members of the House FINANCE committee are set to gather via video this afternoon to consider Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s pitch to hold mid-recess hearings on what he describes as ‘Canada’s housing inflation crisis,’ which now seems all but guaranteed to succeed with the support of both the Bloc Québécois and the New Democrats.”
— Trudeau and Zelensky talk Russian sanctions, PS752: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, yesterday. They reportedly discussed the possibility of extending Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, as well as potentially slapping more sanctions on Russia. Today, Russian diplomats are meeting with NATO’s council in Brussels to discuss tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border. Zelensky tweeted that the two leaders also “agreed to seek fair compensation for families of #PS752 victims together.”
— Another trickle of Afghans arrives in Canada: Some 250 new Afghan refugees landed in Canada, the federal government announced yesterday. Most of those who arrived in Calgary on a charter flight from Islamabad are described as human rights defenders. Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, some 6,750 Afghans have been resettled in Canada, the government said.
To put those numbers into context, the U.S. says it evacuated some 73,500 Afghan civilians from Kabul in August, while the U.K. flew out some 8,000. Meanwhile, an estimated 3.5 million people remain internally displaced within Afghanistan.
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AROUND THE WORLD
— WHO calls for new, better vaccines: A WHO expert group says that, as new strains of the coronavirus emerge, continuing to administer fresh booster shots of the same vaccines is not the most effective strategy. Instead, it said it could be better to update existing vaccines to target emerging variants.
It also called for new vaccines to not only protect people from getting very sick once they contract COVID, but rather to prevent them from catching it at all.
— Djokovic admits to breaking COVID rules: Tennis player Novak Djokovic admitted in an Instagram post to breaking his isolation when he was COVID-positive by giving an interview to the French publication L’Equipe. He also said his support staff made a mistake on his travel documentation. He said the “human error” was made by his agent, who said Djokovic had not traveled for 14 days before entering Australia, when in fact he had traveled to Serbia and Spain. “My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box,” he wrote.
Though a judge ordered his release from detention on Monday, Australia’s immigration minister could still cancel his visa based on the prior infection not counting as an exemption — or based on “character grounds,” in light of his breach of rules. Given Australia’s controversial immigration policy, especially when it comes to asylum-seekers, some advocates argue the saga exemplifies the problems with the country’s “degrading” system.
— Beginning of the end for BoJo? U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a “make-or-break” prime minister’s questions period in the House of Commons today after it emerged that he may have attended the May 2020 Downing Street garden party that was held during the first lockdown. News that such a party took place while Brits were still being told to avoid large gatherings caused a scandal last year when it first emerged, but the PM has so far declined to say whether or not he was present.
Now, U.K. media are reporting that witnesses said he and his wife were there, and a leaked email was published in which his private secretary invited staff to the event. The opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader said Johnson’s position as PM could be “untenable,” depending on what is revealed, and analysts say it could be the beginning of the end for him.
— Elsewhere: Hong Kong will create its own national security law, like the one imposed by Beijing in 2020, with a host of new “national security crimes.” Taiwan is setting up $1 billion fund in Lithuania. Both the World Bank and World Economic Forum issued (separate) reports about growing global inequality. The WHO says Omicron could infect 50 per cent of Europeans in the next two months. Zimbabwe puts New York Times freelancer on trial.
IN OTHER HEADLINES
WHAT WE’RE READING
ICYMI FROM IPOLITICS
CARTOON OF THE DAY
Though we may picture ancient war horses as mythical beasts towering over us, it turns out most were about the size of a modern-day pony.