Politics

Trudeau urges people to get vaccinated


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Good evening to you. And Happy New Year!

As COVID-19 case counts surge across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged people to get vaccinated this morning as he received his booster shot at an Ottawa pharmacy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at a pharmacy in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

With the Canadian Armed Forces being deployed to help with vaccination efforts, health care staff shortages rising, surgeries being cancelled, PCR testing being limited and children in most parts of the country being shifted to online learning, Trudeau is set to give his first COVID-19 update since the holidays tomorrow, alongside Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, as well as Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo.

As more restrictions roll out in most provinces in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, industry experts say debt-ridden businesses are unlikely to survive the latest round of lockdowns.

“Business owners are so deep in debt that there’s really nothing left,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “There are thousands of zombie businesses out there that are essentially dead. This is the time where we start to see businesses fall in large numbers.” He noted that on average, Canadian businesses have taken on an extra $170,000 in debt since the pandemic began. Jeff Labine reports.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller, left, and Justice Minister David Lametti listen during a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 29, 2021. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The federal government has reached an agreement in principle with Indigenous leaders, after a decades-long court battle in which Ottawa was accused of discriminating against First Nations children in the child-welfare system. While the exact terms haven’t been ironed out, the two sides agree on general parameters. The $40-billion agreement in principle covers First Nations children in the Yukon, and on reserves in other provinces, who were removed from their homes and put into the child-welfare system from April 1, 1991, to March 31, 2022. It also offers compensation to parents and caregivers.

The deal also applies to First Nations people who were affected by the “narrow definition” of Jordan’s Principle between Dec. 12, 2007, and Nov. 2, 2017. More on that from Aidan Chamandy.

(Shutterstock)

Turning to news that will do little to motivate as we all return to work: While nearly three million Canadians lost their jobs in 2020, many due to the pandemic that hit the country that March, the nation’s highest-paid CEOs took home an average of $10.9 million, about $95,000 more than the year before, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The “(top) 100 CEOs now make, on average, 191 times more than the average worker,” the report found. Further, nearly one-third of the highest-paid CEOs worked for companies that received a federal subsidy, the Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS), to help pay their employees. Janet Silver has that story.

The federal government still hasn’t said when Finance Canada will release its report on what climate change could cost Ottawa. The report is required by the Canadian Net-Zer0 Emissions Accountability Act, which passed in June 2020. Under the same law, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault must release a plan for how Canada will reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels. More on that from Aidan Chamandy.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives made what many viewed as an about-face last year by pushing a number of pro-worker policies. This was, in fact, the government that cancelled minimum wage bumps, peeled back sick days and resisted for over a year reinstating more for workers sick with COVID-19.

So last fall when the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservatives (PCs) seemed to reverse course — by doing things like increasing the minimum wage and passing laws giving workers new rights — they were met with both surprise and skepticism. There was less than a year until the election, after all. But as Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, explains, the government’s apparent principle change was a long time in the making. Charlie Pinkerton has that story.

The Sprout: Bibeau tests positive for COVID-19

Net Zero: EU proposes classifying gas and nuclear power as green

In Other Headlines:

Ottawa announces details of $40-billion Indigenous child-welfare settlement (CP)
U.S. defeats Canada in first dispute under new North American trade pact (CBC)
Calls grow for inmate releases as COVID-19 cases climb in Canada’s jails and prisons (CP)
Antisemitism envoy, Irwin Cotler, says Quebec’s secularism law is discriminatory (CP)

Internationally:

South of the border, the United States has set a global record, recording one million new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, which is nearly double the peak of 505,000 just a week ago. As Reuters reports, the number of people who have been hospitalized has also risen nearly 50 per cent in the same time and now exceeds more than 100,000 people.

President Joe Biden once again urged Americans to roll up their sleeves today. “There is no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” he said. “This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

He also tried to tamp down worries about the Omicron variant by stressing the protection offered by vaccines. “Folks, I know we’re all tired and frustrated about the pandemic. These coming weeks are going to be challenging. Please wear your mask in public to protect yourself and others. We’re going to get through this,” Biden said. “We have the tools to protect people from severe illness due to omicron if people choose to use the tools.” The Hill reports.

Photo: Boris Johnson / Twitter

In the U.K., although the COVID caseload has crossed 200,000 for the first time and hospitals come under increasing pressure due to staff shortages, Prime Minister Boris Johnson today said there would be no further restrictions implemented. Instead, he’s opted to “ride out” the Omicron wave, acknowledging that parts of the National Health Service would feel “temporarily overwhelmed.”

He was no doubt happy to hear the World Health Organization say that there is more evidence that Omicron is causing milder symptoms than previous variants. “We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike other ones, the lungs who would be causing severe pneumonia,” WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud told Geneva-based journalists. Reuters reports.

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