Ontario locks down, again – Macleans.ca

Politics Insider for Jan. 4: Ontario’s new restrictions; Newfoundland’s COVID count; and Prince Andrew’s fate

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A tsunami of new cases: Doug Ford imposed new restrictions Monday to come to grips with a wave of omicron infections, delaying the return of students to schools by two weeks, the Globe reports.

Premier Doug Ford, in a press conference Monday, said that 1 per cent of people infected with the Omicron variant will need hospital care. New daily hospital admissions have reached “triple digits” in Ontario, he said. Given Omicron’s rapid spread, the government said it had to take action to slow the spread in order to protect the health-care system and the economy. The province reported 1,232 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with a total of 13,578 new COVID-19 cases on Monday. “We face a tsunami of new cases in the coming days and weeks,” Mr. Ford said. “Virtually everyone in this province will know someone who has been exposed to this virus. Now, we are bracing for impact.”

Frustrated: The news did not go over well with frustrated Ontarians, the Star reports.

Educators and families in Ontario are scrambling after the province’s 11th-hour decision to shut schools to in-person learning and move students online for two weeks, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. The sudden pivot, which starts Wednesday when classes resume after the winter break, has frustrated many and amplified calls for the province to do more to ensure schools reopen safely.

Bad for kids: In Postmedia papers, Dr. Jennifer Grant writes that it is all a mistake.

It is almost impossible to enumerate the harms associated with closing schools, and many will only be discovered years from now in economic and social harms that will take generations to recover.

‘Most people will acquire it’ Newfoundland is also dealing with rising case counts, the Globe reports.

During a press briefing Monday, the province’s chief medical officer of health said active case counts have jumped from 30 to nearly 3,000 in about two weeks, overwhelming public health’s capacity for case investigation. “Identifying every case and contact, that is no longer possible, and our objective right now is to slow the inevitable spread,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told reporters in St. John’s. “The reality of this virus is that it is so infectious, most people will acquire it.”

The American virus: In Maclean’s, your correspondent investigates social media COVID-19 misinformation that is making it much harder to end the pandemic — and leading victims of the infodemic to early graves — and finds the roots of most of our problems in the fever swamps south of the border.

While we are fighting the coronavirus, we are also fighting an American virus—misinformation—which is mostly spread through American social media platforms that have dissolved the old bureaucratic borders against the dark side of American political culture. It’s a virus as dangerous as the one that causes COVID-19.

Do something: Maclean’s also has an editorial on the subject, calling for politicians to get a grip on the problem.

While our media landscape shifted dramatically over the last few decades, creating new pathways for malicious actors and hucksters to mislead the public, legislators sat on their hands. Canada’s policy-makers need to make it easier to monitor toxic misinformation, seek voluntary compliance from the big platforms, regulate where necessary and empower public health communicators to push back harder and faster at dangerous lies.

Families win: An Ontario court has awarded $107 million to the families of six people who died when Iran shot down a civilian airplane over Tehran almost two years ago, CBC reports. In May, an Ontario court ruled that the plane was shot down in an act of terrorism.

[Lawyer Mark] Arnold has said that his team will look to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad. He said Iran has oil tankers in other countries and his team will be looking to seize whatever it can to pay what the families are owed.

F35 or Gripen-E? CBCs’s Murray Brewster has an in-depth look at the choice to be made this year between U.S. and Swedish fighters for Canada’s military.

The decision this year “will be a fork-in-the-road moment,” said an expert in defence and military affairs. “If we buy the F-35, we would be more intricately embedding ourselves in an American military alliance, which we have been a part of for decades, but acquiring that particular aircraft would take that relationship up a couple of notches in a couple of different ways,” said David Perry, a senior analyst and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute based in Ottawa. If the Swedish aircraft is chosen, it would be the first time in almost half a century that Canadians have flown something other than an American-designed warplane.

Desirable coasts: A CBC poll on where Canadians might feel comfortable living finds that British Columbia (65 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (63 per cent) are at the top of the list.

Disgraced prince: In Maclean’s Patricia Treble ponders the fate of Prince Andrew, which seems to be going from bad to worse.

Whatever the final results of this week’s legal proceedings, the damage to “Prince Andrew, Duke of York, a/k/a Andrew Albert Christian Edward, in his personal capacity,” as he’s identified in the American legal filings, is incalculable. It’s been more than two years since the interview he gave BBC about his relationship with Epstein boomeranged on the prince, forcing him to stop undertaking any official engagements on behalf of his mother. The pressure is only intensifying with every new revelation, including photos from Maxwell’s trial of her and Epstein enjoying themselves as guests of Andrew on the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral.

Impotent: The arrest of Cantonese Canadian pop star Denise Ho in Hong Kong — along with six journalists — is a reminder of how little Canada can do to influence China, writes Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun.

Maybe we’ve learned something from it. If we have, the big take-away should be how impotent Canada is to exert any influence over China’s decisions. Long gone are the days of Canada’s boast that its global influence exceeds its middle-power status. And, the notion that somehow with an estimated 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, Canada might have any influence over the future of the former British colony is naïve.

— Stephen Maher

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