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How this election will, and won’t, be different

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, Aug 18th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, the promises and criticisms aren’t going anywhere. Neither is the partisanship. But there’s a whole lot of uncertainty about the first federal election of the pandemic era. What happens if Covid hits a campaign, or a community hosting a leader? How is Elections Canada adjusting its plans? And did you know you can vote right now if you don’t want to deal with any of it?

GUEST: Cormac Mac Sweeney, Parliament Hill Reporter

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

Liberals maintained healthy lead on eve of federal campaign, new survey suggests

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 17th, 2021

New survey results suggest Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were clinging to a five-point lead on the eve of the federal election campaign.

Thirty-five per cent of decided voters who took part expressed support for the Liberals, 30 per cent for the Conservatives and 20 per cent the NDP.

Seven per cent would vote for the Bloc Québécois, which is fielding candidates only in Quebec, while five per cent supported the Greens and two per cent the People’s Party of Canada.

The online survey of 2,007 Canadians, conducted Aug. 13 to 15 by Leger in collaboration with The Canadian Press, cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered truly random samples.

Trudeau quickly framed the election that began Sunday as a referendum on the party most able to guide the country through the months and years after COVID-19 subsides.

The 36-day campaign, the shortest allowed under the election law, concludes Sept. 20.

How Canada and the Western world failed Afghanistan

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Aug 17th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, there are millions of Canadians for whom the rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has been a shock. The images coming from the country right now are disturbing and will likely only get worse in the days and weeks to come.

This war was the longest in Canada’s history, featuring 12 years of military efforts. For America, it was two full decades. But now that the US has left the country, it’s worth asking: If this is the result, why were we there? What were we doing? What did decades of death and trillions of dollars get the people of Afghanistan?

GUEST: Stephen Saideman, Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, author of Adapting in the Dust: Lessons Learned from Canada’s War in Afghanistan

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Prolonged COVID complications rare in kids, but experts say more studies needed

MELISSA COUTO ZUBER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 16th, 2021

Jessie-Lynn MacDonald was surprised to hear her doctor suggest a COVID-19 test last September when her 10-year-old developed an unusual rash behind his ears.

She didn’t know exactly how Finlay would have picked up the virus, but a positive result confirmed the rash was COVID-related.

The skin condition soon subsided, MacDonald said, but the boy later developed headaches, stomach issues and a ringing in his ear that still plagues him periodically.

“It’s really hard emotionally because he doesn’t know when he’s going to all of a sudden feel it,” MacDonald said. “The time span in between him getting those attacks is definitely improving, but he’s still getting them.”

MacDonald sought answers from a specialist in February.

While she said that doctor told her Finlay’s symptoms likely sprung from his COVID-19 infection, there wasn’t much they could do for him.

“To be fair, nobody really seems to have a good grasp on this,” she said.

MacDonald describes her son’s condition as “long COVID,” a rare phenomenon in which symptoms including fatigue, brain fog and headaches seem to manifest in the weeks or months following a COVID-19 infection. Long COVID has been more prominently described in adults, though some children appear to be experiencing it, too.

With schools reopening soon, MacDonald and other Canadian parents are worried infections among children will soar. And although most kids won’t experience lingering effects, MacDonald is concerned some might.

A direct link between long COVID and the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been established, experts say, and studies aiming to understand more about COVID’s impact on Canadian kids are underway.

Dr. Stephen Freedman, the lead investigator in a Canadian Institute of Health Research study on COVID-19 outcomes in kids, says the majority of children who test positive will only experience mild illness.

One rare complication is a delayed reaction to the virus called multisystem inflammatory syndrome of children, or MIS-C, which Freedman said impacts roughly 1 in 3,500 kids infected with COVID-19.

Freedman, a pediatric emergency physician at Alberta Children’s Hospital and a clinician-scientist at the University of Calgary, said MIS-C is different from long COVID, which can be harder to define and diagnose.

The problem, Freedman said, is that it’s typically not clear whether the viral infection is causing prolonged symptoms or something else altogether.

“When it’s things like headache, (feeling) dizzy, tired … it’s much more challenging,” said Freedman, who was not associated with MacDonald’s case.

“It doesn’t mean it’s not there – these symptoms clearly exist – but we need studies that look at these children over time to figure out: Are they more likely to have it following a COVID infection, relative to a child who presents with the same symptoms but did not have COVID?”

Freedman said the “verdict is still to be determined” on whether long COVID-19 is a major concern in children going forward.

But he said there’s merit in finding out more.

“Understanding long COVID is one of the most important things we can do to quantify: Is it a real entity in children? How common is it? How severe is it? How long-lasting is it? – so that we can make informed policy decisions.”

Children have been a neglected group when it comes to COVID-19 research, Freedman said, partly because adults have always been more prominently struck by the virus.

But with schools opening next month and more children coming into contact with others, Freedman said we’re likely to see infections creep up in the under-12 age group, which isn’t yet eligible for vaccination. And there’s risk they can spread the virus to vulnerable groups.

Dr. Earl Rubin, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Montreal Children’s Hospital, says the more transmissible Delta variant will likely make things worse.

While cases and hospitalizations among COVID-infected children are rising predominantly in heavily unvaccinated areas of the United States, Rubin said we still don’t know whether Delta causes more severe disease in kids. But the fact it’s more contagious is concerning.

“If somebody is infected in a classroom setting, chances are there will be a greater attack rate within that classroom than we saw with the Alpha (variant) or the original strain,” he said. “You have two things working against them: it’s more contagious and they’re not vaccinated.”

Freedman said jurisdictions that recently relaxed restrictions might have to consider reintroducing mask mandates when kids return to school.

Ensuring proper ventilation and physically spacing students out can also help limit the spread within classrooms, Rubin said.

MacDonald said that while she’s looking forward to getting Finlay back to in-person learning, she and her son have both expressed worries about returning to school.

“He’s terribly afraid of getting (COVID-19) again,” MacDonald said. “That’s been a huge issue.”

Why are we having an election right now?

THE BIG STORY | posted Monday, Aug 16th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, it’s August. It’s hot. People are on vacation. Parents are preparing for back-to-school. There’s a fourth wave of COVID-19 rising. A lot of forests are on fire. And Canadians are going to the polls. Why?

Is this a power grab by the federal Liberals? Or is it a critical time for Canadians to make decisions about the future of their country in the face of multiple crises? Or … both of those things?
GUEST: David Moscrop

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Over 75 per cent of Canadians want vaccine status identification: poll

MEREDITH BOND | posted Friday, Aug 13th, 2021

A strong majority of Canadians, over 75 per cent, would like to see some form of COVID-19 vaccine status identification, according to a new poll.

It comes as the federal government is working with provinces on a vaccine passport document that fully vaccinated Canadians could use when travelling internationally.

Quebecers, where a mandatory vaccine passport is currently being developed, were the strongest supporters of an identification document with 81 per cent in favour. B.C. and Ontario were next with 80 per cent and 76 per cent respectively.

The poll from Maru Public Opinion also found that the majority of Canadians would want to see health care workers either fully vaccinated or fired from their jobs, including paramedics and nurses.

For other front line jobs like police officers and teachers, 64 per cent of those surveyed also felt those workers should be fully vaccinated or lose their jobs.

The Ontario Medical Association and Registered Nurses Association of Ontario have both called for mandatory vaccines for health care workers. Ontario long-term care homes have also called for workers to be vaccinated.

The Ford government has staunchly opposed mandatory vaccines and/or a vaccine certification system.

B.C. announced Thursday they would require long-term care home workers to be fully vaccinated.

The survey of 1,504 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada online was conducted from August 9 to 10 with a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Kansas City Southern to delay vote on CN deal if regulator doesn’t decide on trust by Aug. 17

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Aug 13th, 2021

CALGARY — Kansas City Southern says it will delay a shareholder vote on its deal to be bought by Canadian National Railway Co. that is set for Aug. 19 if a U.S. regulator does not release its decision on a key voting trust by Aug. 17.

The trust would allow KCS to remain independent while a full review of the transaction is conducted, but allow shareholders to be paid without having to wait for a final decision on the deal.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has said it will make a decision on whether to allow CN to use the trust by the end of August.

The KCS board also reaffirmed its support for the CN offer despite a sweetened bid by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. earlier this week.

KCS says the CP Rail’s new offer, which is up from its bid earlier this year, did not constitute a “superior proposal” to the CN deal.

CP Rail’s offer valued at US$31 billion is less than CN’s proposal valued at US$33.6 billion, but CP Rail says its offer comes with less risk for shareholders because it is more likely to be approved by regulators.

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s formal extradition hearing in B.C. enters Day 2

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 12th, 2021

Government lawyers are expected to argue today that an international bank risked losses due to the alleged misrepresentations by one of Huawei’s most senior executives.

Meng Wanzhou, who is the Chinese telecom giant’s CFO and daughter of the company’s founder, is facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges that both she and the company deny.

Today is the second day of formal arguments in her extradition hearing, which is unfolding more than 2 1/2 years after her arrest at Vancouver’s airport soured Canada’s relationship with China.

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about Huawei’s control of another company during a 2013 presentation, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions in Iran.

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general, who represent the United States in the case, are trying to convince the judge that American prosecutors have provided enough evidence to support a case against her, while Meng’s team has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Her long-awaited extradition hearing is proceeding as courts in China prosecute Canadians whose sentencing or detentions are widely seen as retaliation for her arrest.

Will you ever shake hands with strangers again?

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, Aug 12th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, at the height of the pandemic last year, top public health officials were openly hoping that COVID-19 meant the end of the handshake. Even if the greeting doesn’t effectively transmit the coronavirus, it’s a very effective way to pass on other bacteria. After 18 months of non-contact greetings, will society at large return to shaking hands in casual settings? Will you? And will it become another battleground in the culture war that has already politicized masks and vaccinations?

GUEST: Daniel Dumas, Editor-at-Large, Esquire

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify.

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

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