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Trudeau agrees to virtual meeting devoted to federal health transfers to provinces

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 11th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed to hold a virtual first ministers meeting on federal health care transfers to the provinces and territories.

His agreement during a conference call with premiers Thursday came one day after Quebec’s Francois Legault and Ontario’s Doug Ford issued a joint call for a significant increase in the funding Ottawa sends them to help cover mushrooming health care costs.

The federal government has already committed to transferring $19 billion to the provinces to help them cope with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including some $10 billion for health-related expenses.

But Legault and Ford pointed out that money is a one-time transfer and argued that what the provinces need is sustainable, long-term funding to cover the ballooning costs of new technologies, drugs and an aging population, as well as ongoing pandemic-related costs.

They did not put a price tag on their demand but said a significant increase to the annual transfer is needed.

The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care in the current fiscal year under an arrangement that sees the transfer increase by at least three per cent each year.

Legault argued that the federal contribution covers only 21 per cent of the cost of delivering universal health care, well down from the 50 per cent share originally agreed to decades ago.

Trudeau has been holding conference calls almost every week with provincial and territorial leaders since the pandemic shut down the country in mid-March.

While those calls — 18 of them as of Thursday — have covered a range of issues, he has now agreed to devote one meeting entirely to the health transfers issue. His office says no date has been set for that call but it is likely to take place before Sept. 23, when Trudeau’s government will issue a throne speech laying out its plan for economic recovery.

Trudeau is to join Ford on Friday for IAMGOLD’s ground-breaking ceremony for their Cote Gold Project in northern Ontario, about 130 kilometres southwest of Timmins.

During construction, the project, which involves international and local First Nations partners, is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs, as well as 450 full-time jobs once completed.

Trudeau is expected to tout the project as a sign that the economy, flattened by COVID-19, is starting to get back on its feet.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 11

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 11th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. EDT on Sept. 11, 2020:

There are 134,923 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 64,244 confirmed (including 5,773 deaths, 56,624 resolved)

_ Ontario: 43,855 confirmed (including 2,814 deaths, 39,474 resolved)

_ Alberta: 15,304 confirmed (including 253 deaths, 13,557 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 6,830 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,190 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,676 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,593 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,378 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,002 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,019 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 269 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 265 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 193 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 188 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 44 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 134,923 (0 presumptive, 134,923 confirmed including 9,163 deaths, 118,989 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Political fallout continues despite shuttering of WE’s Canadian operations

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

OTTAWA — The demise of WE’s Canadian operations won’t take the heat off Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his government’s decision to hire the charity to run a now-defunct student volunteer program.

NDP MP Charlie Angus says WE’s announcement Wednesday that it is shuttering its Canadian operations only underscores the lack of due diligence done by the government before handing administration of the program over to an organization that was evidently in financial distress.

Two months before the government gave the contract to WE in late June, Angus notes that the organization had laid off hundreds of staff and replaced almost its entire board of directors, which had been denied access to the charity’s financial reports.

Angus says WE was “desperate” and cashed in on its connections to Trudeau, his family and his former finance minister, Bill Morneau, in order to persuade them to pay the organization to run the student service grant program.

Trudeau himself has been a featured speaker at half a dozen WE events and his wife, mother and brother have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in expenses and speaking fees.

Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision to pay WE up to $43.5 million to administer the program and are both under investigation by the federal ethics watchdog for possible breaches of the Conflict of Interest Act.

“WE shutting down doesn’t make the Liberals’ scandal go away,” said Angus.

The government insists it was bureaucrats who recommended that WE was the only organization capable of administering the massive national program. However, thousands of documents released by the government suggest public servants may have been nudged to look at WE by their political masters.

Two House of Commons committees were in the midst of investigating the deal and another two committees were preparing to launch separate investigations when Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month, putting an end to the committees’ work.

However, the WE affair is likely to continue dogging the government when Parliament reopens on Sept. 23 with the demise of the organization’s Canadian operations only adding fuel to the fire.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Wednesday that WE must hand over all the documents requested by the finance committee about the student service grant program.

The program was supposed to cover up to $5,000 in education costs for students who volunteered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government initially pegged the cost of the program at $912 million but the sole-source deal with WE put the cost at $543 million.

The deal stipulated that WE was not to make money on the program. The charity has repaid the full $30 million the government gave it to launch the program and has said it will not seek reimbursement for some $5 million in expenses incurred before WE withdrew from the deal in early July amid political controversy.

The organization had already been struggling due to the pandemic-related shutdown but the questions about the student volunteer program prompted many of its corporate sponsors to cut their ties with the charity.

WE said Wednesday it plans to lay off 115 Canadian staff and sell all its property in Canada in the coming months, including its landmark $15-million Global Learning Centre in downtown Toronto, which opened in 2017.

It follows news last month that WE would be laying off dozens of employees in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The net profits will be put in an endowment fund that will be overseen by a new board of governors and used to complete several projects in communities in Latin America, Asia and Africa that were started by WE but remain unfinished.

The fund will also cover the operating costs of several large-scale infrastructure projects, such as a hospital and college in Kenya and an agricultural centre in Ecuador. However, no new projects or programs will be launched.

All future WE Day events are also being cancelled. The organization says it will no longer have staff to work with teachers, though existing resources will be digitized and available online. WE says it was active in 7,000 schools across Canada.

Shutting down its Canadian operations “shows just how much trouble WE was in and how badly they needed this bailout from their Liberal friends,” Angus said.

“They’ve have been in economic freefall for months. This was a group that fired its board of directors for asking too many questions about its finances. The question is why didn’t the government see this before handing them over a contract worth millions?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 10

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2020:

There are 134,293 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 64,056 confirmed (including 5,771 deaths, 56,400 resolved)

_ Ontario: 43,685 confirmed (including 2,813 deaths, 39,332 resolved)

_ Alberta: 15,191 confirmed (including 248 deaths, 13,358 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 6,691 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,086 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,670 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,587 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,365 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 945 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,018 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 269 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 265 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 192 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 186 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 44 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 134,293 (0 presumptive, 134,293 confirmed including 9,155 deaths, 118,254 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Parks closed, tickets for partying as Kingston deals with returning students

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

Massive crowds and parties in an eastern Ontario university town have drawn criticisms from local residents and formal calls for greater co-operation to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Police and city officials in Kingston, Ont., said they’ve had to close a popular pier and beach due to crowding and issue a number of tickets since thousands of students flooded back into the city earlier this month. Local residents said they’ve also taken to the streets to break up parties in recent days.

Jeff Masuda, a Queen’s University professor, spent the early morning hours of Sunday on the long weekend trying to get dozens of Queen’s students — his neighbours — to stop partying and to abide by COVID-19 laws.

It didn’t work.

The maskless group shouted, drank and tossed beer bottles while hanging out outside and ignoring physical distancing guidelines, he said. Some yelled at the two police officers who were called to the area to deal with them, he said, while others took off to continue the night elsewhere.

Masuda walked around his neighbourhood near campus and said there were parties everywhere, including an abandoned hospital site where the same officers had shown up to deal with more revellers.

It didn’t seem like police were doing much, he said.

“There were hundreds of students mixing together across the university district,” he said.

“So now we are left in a position to wait and hope for the best. If COVID came, it’s already spread.”

The region has gone largely unscathed by COVID-19. There is currently one active case of the disease and 112 cases in total since the novel coronavirus made it to Canada. No one has died from the disease.

Kingston has a large student population even during the pandemic. While Queen’s University has limited in-person learning to about 6,600 students, or a quarter of its total population, many students learning online have returned to the city.

That has left Masuda, a professor of kinesiology and health, frustrated with the city’s plan to deal with partying students.

“Whatever plan was put in place, it failed,” Masuda said.

“It was a massive breach of COVID guidelines in the community.”

Mayor Bryan Paterson said the city, the local public health agency, police and Queen’s are doing their best.

Hundreds of Queen’s students flocked to a nearby beach and Gord Downie Pier, which led the city to issue an order to enforce physical distancing through threat of fines, Paterson said.

But police told the mayor there were simply too many people to enforce distancing, so the mayor closed the area through an emergency order on the weekend.

The number of visitors to the area had significantly increased last week after students returned to the city.

“Any other year, that would be OK, we designed and built that area for crowds of people to enjoy, but during a pandemic it’s too much,” Paterson said.

Last month, the mayor vowed to crack down on the massive parties Queen’s students have become known for.

City council approved the use of “administrative monetary penalties” that include fines for shouting, amplified sound coming from speakers and parties.

Bylaw and police officers have been out using the new laws, largely in the university district, officials said.

Since Aug. 28, the city said it has issued 45 such penalties for amplified sound, two for yelling or shouting and one nuisance party charge.

Kingston police said they laid five such charges over the long weekend.

“We’re trying to be proactive to make sure we can curb anything before it lights up here in Kingston, that’s the last thing we want,” Const. Ash Gutheinz said of cases of COVID-19.

Queen’s, for its part, said it’s been sharing all public health protocols with students and was “deeply concerned” to hear of what Masuda witnessed.

“Queen’s takes the safety of our community very seriously,” the university said in a statement. “We want to assure the community that we will continue to impress upon our students the importance of adhering to public health guidelines during these challenging times.”

Masuda said the city and the school should have engaged residents to help.

“We’re willing to put in more effort to do our part as neighbours to help the students help themselves,” he said.

The mayor said he shares the frustration of residents such as Masuda.

“This is a big challenge, I understand that, and if community members are able to help or to reach out to student neighbours, I think that’s actually a great idea,” Paterson said.

Masuda said he has since spoken to his student neighbours.

“They have been contrite and apologetic,” he said.

“With hindsight, I think many of them regret what has happened.”

Nightclubs ordered closed in B.C. over COVID 19 case spike

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

British Columbia’s top doctor is ordering nightclubs and banquet halls to close to control the spread of COVID-19.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she’s ordering the closures after recent spikes in cases linked to them.

Henry says there have been 429 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. since Friday.

She says her revised health orders also include a 10 p.m. cut off for alcohol sales at bars and restaurants.

Canadians reluctant to remove statues of historical figures now seen as racist: Poll

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

OTTAWA — A new survey suggests that while Canadians are divided over removing statues of politicians who harboured racist views or pushed racist policies, many oppose the “spontaneous” toppling of statues of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald.

The poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies follows the controversial tearing down and vandalism of a Macdonald statue in Montreal last month by activists angry over his anti-Indigenous views and policies.

Half of respondents said they oppose the idea of removing statues or monuments to politicians who espoused racist views or implemented racist policies while 31 per cent said they support such moves and 19 per cent did not know.

The divide was smaller when it came to streets, schools and other public institutions bearing the names of historic figures shown to have been racist, with 47 per cent against renaming them and 34 per cent in favour.

Yet 75 per cent of respondents to the poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies were against the Montreal-style “spontaneous” tearing down of Macdonald statues by activists while only 11 per cent said they were in favour.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says the numbers suggests Canadians are more supportive of a deliberate process of dealing with such statues — and take a dim view of activists taking matters into their own hands.

The online survey of 1,529 Canadians took place Sept. 4 to 6. An internet poll cannot be given a margin of error because it is not a random sample.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 9

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Sept. 9, 2020:

There are 133,747 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 63,876 confirmed (including 5,770 deaths, 56,162 resolved)

_ Ontario: 43,536 confirmed (including 2,813 deaths, 39,196 resolved)

_ Alberta: 15,093 confirmed (including 247 deaths, 13,154 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 6,591 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 4,978 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,669 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,587 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,349 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 940 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,018 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 269 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 265 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 192 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 186 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 53 confirmed (including 44 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 133,747 (0 presumptive, 133,747 confirmed including 9,153 deaths, 117,563 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 8

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Sep 8th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Sept. 8, 2020:

There are 132,136 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 63,713 confirmed (including 5,770 deaths, 55,960 resolved)

_ Ontario: 43,161 confirmed (including 2,813 deaths, 38,958 resolved)

_ Alberta: 14,474 confirmed (including 242 deaths, 12,799 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 6,162 confirmed (including 211 deaths, 4,706 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,662 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,580 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,338 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 910 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,085 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,015 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 269 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 265 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 192 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 186 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 47 confirmed (including 44 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 132,136 (0 presumptive, 132,136 confirmed including 9,146 deaths, 116,456 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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