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Vaccine rollout and assisted dying debate: In The News for Dec. 14

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 14th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 14 …

What we are watching in Canada …

MONTREAL — The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Canada.

Some of the country’s initial 30,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines touched down last night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Twitter, sharing a photo of a plane being unloaded.

“This is good news,” he said. “But our fight against COVID-19 is not over. Now more than ever, let’s keep up our vigilance.”

The plane touched down at Mirabel International Airport in Montreal.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are bound for 14 distribution sites across the country, across all 10 provinces, and more doses are expected to cross the border today.

Quebec is expected to be the first province to administer the vaccine, saying it’s prepared to start inoculating residents of two long-term care homes as early today.

Other provinces say they’ll vaccinate long-term care residents and front-line health-care workers later in the week.

Also this …

OTTAWA — It’s out of the political frying pan and into the fire today for the Trudeau government’s bill to expand access to medically assisted dying.

Opening debate on Bill C-7 begins tonight in the Senate, where the government has no control over independent-minded, less-partisan senators who appear determined to amend the legislation.

In the House of Commons, the minority government faced delay tactics from a majority of Conservative MPs who vehemently oppose expanding assisted dying to intolerably suffering people who are not already near death.

But, with the Bloc Quebecois and NDP backing the bill, its eventual passage last Thursday was assured; the government did not have to make any significant amendments and it faced no political pressure to do more to help Canadians access medical assistance in dying (MAID).

That is about to change in the Senate, where the government will face a flurry of amendments from both sides of the equation: senators who think the bill is unconstitutional because it goes too far and those who think it’s unconstitutional because it doesn’t go far enough.

Adding urgency to the situation, senators are being pressed to put the bill through all the legislative hoops by Friday, the court-imposed deadline for revamping Canada’s assisted dying regime.

And this…

While some families don’t want pandemic reminders to cloud Christmas within their own homes, others are finding whimsical ways to incorporate COVID-related elements into their rituals.

London, Ont., mom Ursula Goncalves is leaving hand sanitizer for Santa this year, placing a bottle next to the milk and cookies her eight-year-old daughter Halina and six-year-old son Daniel usually set out for the clandestine gift-giver.

Dr. Todd Cunningham, a child psychology expert at the University of Toronto, says adding pandemic themes to our merry festivities can be helpful by reinforcing messages kids have been hearing for months.

“We’ve talked often about ways of keeping ourselves safe,” he said. “So it would make sense to them in terms of our current context to (incorporate) those things.”

It also isn’t surprising some kids are expressing concern for Santa’s safety, Cunningham added, especially if they understand his advanced age might make him more susceptible to the virus.

So it’s a good thing Santa is a magical being, as some of Canada’s top doctors have clarified.

B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry said recently Kris Kringle is likely immune to COVID-19, while Prince Edward Island’s Dr. Heather Morrison announced that Santa and Mrs. Claus had been granted essential worker status along with their elves and reindeer.

Sheri Madigan, a child development researcher at the University of Calgary, says introducing COVID safety elements may help calm worried youngsters, and further their understanding of the virus.

ICYMI …

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is recovering after undergoing an emergency surgery on Friday.

A family spokesman says the “urgent procedure” was a “complete success” and Mulroney was released from hospital this afternoon.

Mulroney is 81.

His daughter Caroline Mulroney, who is Ontario’s minister of transportation, says her dad is “feeling better and is now resting at home.”

She thanked everyone for their good wishes.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould are among those offering support.

What we are watching in the U.S. …  

WASHINGTON — Presidential electors are meeting across the United States today to formally choose Joe Biden as America’s next president.

Today is the day set by law for the meeting of the Electoral College.

In reality, electors meet in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to cast their ballots.

The results will be sent to Washington, and tallied in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress over which Vice-President Mike Pence will preside.

The electors’ votes have drawn more attention than usual this year because President Donald Trump has refused to concede the election and continued to make baseless allegations of fraud.

Also this …

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump says he’s reversing an administration directive to vaccinate top government officials against COVID-19 while public distribution of the shot is limited to front-line health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The U.S. president made the announcement in a tweet last night, hours after his administration confirmed that senior U.S. officials, including some White House aides who work in close proximity to Trump, would be offered vaccines as soon as this week under federal continuity of government plans.

It was not immediately clear what effect Trump’s tweet would have on the government’s efforts to protect top leadership.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BRUSSELS — European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier says he still has the firm belief that a Brexit trade agreement is possible, and has whittled the outstanding disputes to be settled ahead of the New Year to just two.

Barnier said today the nine-month negotiations have come down to finding settlements on fair-competition rules and fishing rights, no longer mentioning issue of the legal mechanisms for resolving future disputes that also long dogged the negotiations.

Both sides are teetering on the brink of a no-deal Brexit departure, but have committed to a final push ahead of Jan. 1, when a transitional period following Britain’s Jan. 31 departure from the bloc is to end.

Also this …

BERLIN — The German government is calling on citizens to forgo Christmas shopping two days before the country heads into a hard lockdown that will shut most stores, tighten social distancing rules and close schools across the country.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he hoped people would only buy what they really needed, like groceries, adding that “the faster we get these infections under control, the better it is for everyone.”

The country’s central disease control centre reported 16,362 new cases today — that’s about 4,000 cases more than a week ago.

Germany will step up the country’s lockdown measures beginning Wednesday and running to Jan. 10.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2020

The Canadian Press

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