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Kenney, Moe condemn Biden’s plan to scrap Keystone XL on Day 1 of presidency

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 18th, 2021

The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are condemning Joe Biden’s plan to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline expansion on his first day as U.S. president.

Biden’s plan is outlined in transition documents seen by The Canadian Press.

Jason Kenney and Scott Moe say halting construction on the controversial project will be disastrous for both the Canadian and U.S. economies.

Kenney says his government — which announced a $1.5 billion investment into the expansion last year — is prepared to “use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project.”

Moe, meanwhile, is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with Biden and says his government will be in touch with its contacts in Washington.

Trudeau has so far been silent on the issue, but his ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, is defending the pipeline, saying it fits into Canada’s climate plan and promises good jobs.

TC Energy Corp. doubled down on that last night, confirming an ambitious plan to spend $1.7 billion US on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030, and to rely exclusively on union labour.

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Jan. 18, 2021

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 18th, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 18, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 27,451 new vaccinations administered for a total of 570,742 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,505.944 per 100,000.

There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 761,500 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 74.95 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis.

Newfoundland is reporting 3,506 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 1,502 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,102 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 61.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 3,769 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,600 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 7.788 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 33.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 2,713 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,732 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 8,838 new vaccinations administered for a total of 146,694 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.144 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 162,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.45 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 11,007 new vaccinations administered for a total of 200,097 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.622 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.22 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,539 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.832 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 33,625 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 40.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 3,232 new vaccinations administered for a total of 20,159 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 17.096 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 24,400 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.62 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 4,374 new vaccinations administered for a total of 85,935 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.522 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 84,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 102.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 75,914 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.794 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 99,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.31 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,184 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 28.372 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 16.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 983 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 25.383 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 16.38 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

*Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

3 experts on how well Canada has fought COVID-19 and how we could do better

MAAN ALHMIDI THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 18th, 2021

As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness’s spread.

The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada’s handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here’s what they had to say.

John Brownstein, Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital

Having a national testing strategy in Canada that uses rapid tests people could do at home would limit the spread of the virus, Brownstein says.

“That would enable us to get insight on infection and actually have people isolate,” he says.

No such tests have been approved in Canada yet.

“We’ve been saying this all along, so it’s not just a purely Canadian issue, but having a strategy that implements that kind of information would go a long way to drive infections down in communities while we wait for the vaccine.”

Brownstein says curfews have unintended consequences because they force people to get together over a shorter period of time during the day.

“We haven’t seen a lot of evidence that curfews have driven down infection.”

He says a mix of testing and quarantine is the best way to make sure international travellers don’t cause outbreaks when they return from the pandemic hot spots.

Testing alone is not enough, he says, because tests can come back negative during the novel coronavirus’s incubation period; people should be careful about relying on test results that could give a false sense of security.

Brownstein says pandemic fatigue is real and the governments’ support for people suffering in the crisis should continue.

He says promoting low-risk activities, including walking and exercising outdoors, is also important.

“Whatever we can do to allow for people to spend more time outside, probably the better.”

David Juncker, professor of medicine and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill University

Canada needs a national strategy for how to use rapid tests for the virus that causes COVID-19, says Juncker.

Juncker is an adviser for Rapid Test and Trace, an organization advocating for a mass rapid-testing system across Canada.

“Initially the Canadian government (spoke) against (rapid tests) and then they pivoted sometime in October or September,” he says. The federal government then bought thousands of rapid tests and sent them to the provinces, where they’ve mostly sat unused.

“Every province is trying to come up with their own way of trying them — running their own individual pilots. There’s a lack of exchange of information and lack of guidelines in terms of how to best deploy them,” he says.

Juncker says the testing regime based on swabs collected in central testing sites was working in the summer but it collapsed in the fall.

He says medical professionals prefer those tests because they are more accurate and can detect low levels of the virus, which is important for diagnoses, but rapid tests can be useful for public health through sheer volume, if they’re used properly.

A federal advisory panel’s report released Friday, laying out the best uses for different kinds of tests, is a step in the right direction, he says.

“I’m happy to see we’re slowly shifting from the point of view of ‘Should we use rapid tests?’ to a point of view (of) ‘How can we best use them?’”

More recent research suggests that rapid tests are more accurate than was previously thought, he says.

“We still don’t have enough capacity to test everyone so we’d have to use them in a strategic way.”

Juncker says the lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec should have happened earlier in the fall, when cases started to rise.

He says the late lockdowns in Canada won’t be as effective as those in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, where early lockdowns effectively stopped the disease from spreading.

“Countries that were most aggressive early on, are the ones that have, I think, the best outcome.”

He says countries where health decisions are fragmented across the country, including Canada, have added challenges.

“If you live in Ottawa-Gatineau, you have one province (that) allows one thing, the other province allows another thing, so this creates confusion among the citizens,” he said.

Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force

Canada’s federal-provincial sharing of power over health care is highly inefficient and has led to major problems, says Sheppard.

“There’s a lot breakdown in communication, a lot of territorialism. It’s greatly impacted the efficiency of the response,” he says.

The problems in long-term care homes are examples.

“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long term care,” he says. “I think it’s heinous.”

He says highly centralized authority and decision-making has had a stifling effect on innovation.

“It puts up roadblocks, and has led to the Canadian health-care system having lost any attempt to be innovative and nimble,” he says.

Sheppard says he doesn’t think there will be mass vaccinations for Canadians this summer and the September timetable that the federal government is talking about for vaccinating everybody is optimistic.

“Remember that we don’t have vaccines that are approved in under-11-year-olds,” he says. “There will still be opportunities for the virus to circulate in children, particularly children are in school settings.”

He suggested that the current immunization campaign’s goal is not herd immunity, eliminating transmission of the virus and rendering is extinct.

“The goal here is to create an iron wall of immunity around the ‘susceptibles’ in our population, such that this becomes a virus of the same public health importance as influenza.

International students frustrated by federal work limits during pandemic

HOLLY MCKENZIE-SUTTER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 15th, 2021

TORONTO — Pooria Behrouzy was honoured to be offered a full-time job as a COVID-19 vaccine support worker at Trillium Health Partners last month.

The international student in health informatics at George Brown College was already on staff at the Mississauga, Ont., hospital network after working on an IT project, and he was eager to contribute to the rollout of the vaccine that’s brought hope during the pandemic’s increasingly grim second wave.

But a roadblock stopped Behrouzy from accepting the full-time shifts offered: as an international student, he can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session or he risks losing his study permit and legal status in Canada.

Behrouzy, who is now working part time at the hospital, said it’s disappointing that he can’t contribute fully.

“I can work and I can help against this COVID … why (am I) not able to do that?” said the 42-year-old, who is from Iran. “It’s very sad that I’m not fully available.”

His colleague Passang Yugyel Tenzin had a similar experience.

Tenzin, a 26-year-old graduate of health informatics currently studying in another IT program, was working on the same project at the hospital as Behrouzy before he received an offer to work on the vaccine support team as well.

The non-medical role involves providing scheduling support to ensure all available doses are administered and other administrative tasks that keep the process running smoothly.

Tenzin, who is from Bhutan, signed on for the job in a part-time capacity but noted that the 20-hour limit would make scheduling 12-hour shifts a challenge.

Working full time would be beneficial for his own education and for the health-care system that’s struggling to keep up with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and other important services, he said.

“We can learn more and on top of that, we can contribute more to this situation currently, because they actually need a lot of people,” Tenzin said in a phone interview.

“We can contribute a lot if we were given the opportunity to work full time.”

Ottawa temporarily lifted the restriction on international students’ work hours last April, saying the change was aimed at easing the staffing crunch in health care and other essential workplaces.

The measure expired on Aug. 31, 2020, and has not been reinstated.

The press secretary for the office of the federal immigration minister said the government is grateful for the role newcomers have played in Canada’s pandemic response.

“As more students returned to regular studies in the fall of 2020, the work hour restriction was reinstated at the request of provinces, territories and educational institutions, due to concerns about students working full time while also completing a full course load,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

Behrouzy said he doesn’t understand why the limit on work hours was reinstated while the pandemic is still ongoing and hospitals need more support than ever.

“I’m available to work and all the schools, the universities and colleges are remote now, so why not extend this exception again?” he said. “It’s really disappointing.”

Trillium Health Partners said in a statement that it’s continually assessing staffing needs at its COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and international students currently work on its vaccine team in administrative functions.

“THP supports and accommodates international students within the federal government requirements,” it said.

Sarom Rho, who leads the Migrant Students United campaign with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the pandemic is an opportunity to ditch the restriction on work hours that advocates have long fought to remove.

Rho said she’s spoken with students in other health-care fields like nursing who are also eager to work more but are hindered by the limit on their hours.

“This kind of unfairness is totally based on status,” Rho said.

“The fact that they are migrants is what is causing the limitation and the restrictions of how they can work, where they can work and when they can work, and how that work will be valued.”

Migrant Students United also wants Ottawa to make work hours done in essential jobs count towards permanent residency applications. Rho said it’s time to consider how work done by people on study permits is valued in Canada.

“Respecting the labour is fundamental,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 15th, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 40,283 new vaccinations administered for a total of 459,492 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,212.403 per 100,000.

There were 5,850 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 594,975 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 77.23 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis.

Newfoundland is reporting 3,506 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 2,982 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,102 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.163 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 6,075 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 1,111 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 3,831 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 3.926 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 13,450 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 28.48 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 2,713 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,732 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 8,339 new vaccinations administered for a total of 115,704 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.522 per 1,000. There were 5,850 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 162,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 14,237 new vaccinations administered for a total of 159,021 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.826 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 196,125 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.08 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 12,409 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.012 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 25,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 48.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 1,585 new vaccinations administered for a total of 11,985 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.164 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 17,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 8,809 new vaccinations administered for a total of 66,953 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 15.21 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 59,800 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting 6,316 new vaccinations administered for a total of 69,746 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.592 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 71,200 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 97.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 685 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 16.415 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 9.514 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting 121 new vaccinations administered for a total of 521 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 13.453 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 8.683 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

*Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

COLETTE DERWORIZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 15th, 2021

A towering stainless steel monolith set up along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta comes with a message.

The three-metre-tall structure, which reflects its surroundings, is one of many that have been found around the world in recent months. Monoliths have been discovered on a California trail, a Utah desert and at sites across Canada.

Many have popped up without explanation, but the woman who built the one in southern Alberta says she wanted to draw attention to the threats the area is facing as the province moves to open a vast stretch of the mountains to open-pit coal mining.

“This land holds the bones and dreams of our ancestors. This soil remembers the thunder of buffalo hooves and … still fosters wild grasses. These mountain-fed waters are the lifeblood of southern Alberta,” Elizabeth Williams wrote in an Instagram post on her wildstonestories page earlier this month.

“They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat,” she wrote.

“The shiny beacon is not the focal point, but the land, which it reflects.”

Williams, who couldn’t work as a massage therapist during COVID-19 restrictions, said she’s been watching some of the provincial government’s recent decisions.

“I felt compelled to take action,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Williams is most concerned about the potential for mining along the eastern slopes and the reallocation of water rights in the area.

“It’s staggering to me so few Albertans are aware that this is happening,” she said.

She wanted to do something to inspire others to pay attention and take action.

Similar concerns were raised this week by Alberta country singer Corb Lund, who criticized the plan for an area that contains the headwaters for freshwater on which millions depend. Coal mining can release selenium, a highly toxic element already poisoning watersheds downstream of coal mines in British Columbia. Paul Brandt, another country music star from Alberta, added his voice to protest the coal mines Thursday.

Williams, who hopes her monolith adds to the growing conversation in Alberta, said she built it after talking to an artist, ordering the stainless steel and borrowing a welding shop. She installed it with the help of volunteers after getting permission from private landowners to put it on their property.

“I thought, ‘If I make this to last, if I make this extra beautiful and I get it on private land, it can stay and it can become a beacon for the curious.’”

The monolith, which was installed in early January, has come with challenges.

Williams broke her hand as she and some volunteers were installing it on a windy day where the Oldman River meets Highway 22, known as the Cowboy Trail. And her creation was vandalized by a man who pulled his big truck over at a pullout along the highway and tried to take the monolith apart.

“I have it all on camera,” said Williams, who noted people are keeping a close eye on the area.

Others have expressed intrigue and interest after spotting it on the landscape.

“It looked a little bit startling to see it where it hadn’t been before,” said Kevin van Tighem, a conservationist and author who owns property in southern Alberta. “It’s really beautiful. It’s a real work of art.

“It’s really striking how it reflects so much of the landscape and by doing that moves us into thinking about reflecting on the landscape.”

He said he hopes it draws attention to the natural beauty of the eastern slopes, which he believes are under serious threat as companies start exploring for coal.

“Things are happening out of sight and out of mind,” said van Tighem. “This thing stands up like a giant reflective beacon that says we can’t leave these things out of sight and out of mind.

“We have to reflect on who we are and where we’re going. We’re on the cusp here. This is leading us to permanent change and permanent loss.

“We cannot not be paying attention.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Feds look at using border data to find travellers applying for sickness benefit

JORDAN PRESS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 14th, 2021

OTTAWA — A federal official says the government is considering using data on incoming travellers to prevent vacationers from claiming a benefit for people who must quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19.

The Canadian Press isn’t identifying the source because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on behind-the-scenes discussions.

The government promised earlier this week to introduce legislation to prevent anyone who returns to Canada after a vacation or another non-essential trip from receiving the $500-a-week benefit during the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The source says officials are drafting the legislation and expect it to include information-sharing mechanisms among agencies and departments to identify anyone looking to flout the rules.

The earliest legislation could be introduced is later this month when the House of Commons is scheduled to return from a break.

In the meantime, the government says it will hold off processing applications from anyone who returned from overseas until the new rules are in place, retroactive to Jan. 3.

It wouldn’t take much to for the government to start matching up names of incoming travellers with those who have applied for the sickness benefit after having updated a similar program in the last year.

That program now sees roughly 20 million names of anyone arriving by land or air shared with Employment and Social Development Canada to help its investigators identify improper payments of unemployment and seniors benefits.

Federal border officials have since 1992 shared information on arriving travellers with their counterparts overseeing benefits like employment insurance to flag claimants who didn’t tell the government about absences from Canada and whi might have received benefits they weren’t eligible to receive.

At first, the information was shared from the declaration cards people filled out on arrival, but it has since gone digital with self-serve kiosks at airports tracking names. It also now includes people arriving by land.

Those details are in two briefing notes from late 2019 and obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Employment and Social Development Canada said it began looking for EI recipients in the data just before the calendar turned to 2020. The data started being scoured for old-age security recipients over the summer.

A November 2019 briefing note to the department’s deputy minister said officials expected to “significantly increase the recovery of payments made to ineligible El claimants” because the new measures “(do) not rely on travellers to self-disclose absences from Canada.”

The department was unable to share any results from the program, but also noted it began during an unprecedented drop in cross-border travel as a result of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported only 146,000 Canadians driving home from the United States in December, a 92.4 per cent year-over-year decline from the 1.9 million in December 2019.

But enough have returned home that the government was forced to address concerns some were using the two-week sickness benefit to finance the quarantine period, even though that wasn’t its purpose.

The sickness benefit is supposed to go to anyone who has to stay home for at least half their usual work week because they are sick or have to quarantine because of COVID-19. Anyone with underlying medical conditions can also qualify for the aid.

More than $271.4 million has been paid out in benefits since the program launched in late September, with the number of applications in each two-week pay period falling steadily since mid-October.

The government is allowing anyone exempt from the quarantine rules, such as health-care workers who need to cross the border for their jobs, to be eligible for the sickness benefit upon their return to Canada.

While the government is holding up processing of some claims, it is urging anyone who received the benefit after travelling to contact the Canada Revenue Agency to avoid repayment orders.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 14th, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 30,716 new vaccinations administered for a total of 419,209 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,106.113 per 100,000.

There were 43,875 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 589,125 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 71.16 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis.

Newfoundland is reporting 3,506 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,291 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.104 per 1,000. There were 2,925 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 47.35 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 2,106 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 4,226 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 26.641 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 6,075 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.56 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 1,111 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 3,831 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 3.926 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 13,450 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 28.48 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 3,627 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,732 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 11,175 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 7,855 new vaccinations administered for a total of 107,365 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.548 per 1,000. There were 40,950 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 156,325 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.68 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 11,231 new vaccinations administered for a total of 144,784 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.857 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 196,125 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting 2,056 new vaccinations administered for a total of 12,409 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.012 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 25,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 48.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 520 new vaccinations administered for a total of 10,400 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 8.82 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 17,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.17 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 5,826 new vaccinations administered for a total of 58,144 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.208 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 59,800 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 97.23 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting 1,136 new vaccinations administered for a total of 63,430 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 12.361 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 71,200 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 89.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting 190 new vaccinations administered for a total of 685 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 16.415 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 9.514 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 512 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 11.348 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 7.111 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting 371 new vaccinations administered for a total of 400 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 10.329 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 6.667 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

*Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Emergency doctors call for greater transparency on vaccine rollout

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 14th, 2021

OTTAWA — The professional group for emergency doctors in Canada wants more transparency about COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians is calling for a clear description of who is being prioritized for the first doses and why.

It also wants priority to go to those directly caring for patients who are critically ill or suspected of having COVID-19.

The association says many members in areas with limited human resources have not been vaccinated, but urban providers who have less patient contact appear to have received doses.

A Wednesday statement says communication about the process so far doesn’t support claims that the vaccine rollout will follow an ethical framework.

Many doctors don’t know when they will be vaccinated and the association says that needs to change.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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