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Are you ready for a late summer federal election?

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, Jun 24th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, over the past few weeks there have been unmistakable signs that the governing Liberals as well as opposition parties are getting ready to send Canadians to the polls—whether they want to go or not. From fundraising to renting rooms, passing bills that will look great in campaign literature and reminding voters how long they waited for their vaccines, it’s pretty clear that the machines are revving up.

So why now? What will a federal election in a country still recovering from COVID look like? Are the Liberals planning this because they think they can come back with a majority? And will there be room for any issues beyond the pandemic?

GUEST: Cormac Mac Sweeney, Parliament Hill Reporter

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

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Wednesday, June 23, 2021

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 23rd, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 482,991 new vaccinations administered for a total of 33,049,022 doses given. Nationwide, 7,818,433 people or 21 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 87,202.249 per 100,000.

There were 1,953,600 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 37,033,950 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 89.24 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

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

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 40,181 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 419,095 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 800.363 per 1,000. In the province, 9.59 per cent (50,234) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 39,760 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland and Labrador for a total of 503,410 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 96 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

P.E.I. is reporting 12,363 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 129,054 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 813.559 per 1,000. In the province, 12.66 per cent (20,080) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 12,180 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 151,565 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 96 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nova Scotia is reporting 84,949 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 790,514 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 810.038 per 1,000. In the province, 9.92 per cent (96,781) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 72,240 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 923,020 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 95 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

New Brunswick is reporting 66,147 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 669,041 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 857.701 per 1,000. In the province, 17.83 per cent (139,120) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 752,645 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 96 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Quebec is reporting 86,458 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,472,859 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 873.339 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 8,285,035 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 97 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Ontario is reporting 199,535 new vaccinations administered for a total of 12,869,310 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 876.114 per 1,000. In the province, 21.41 per cent (3,145,372) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 1,382,500 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 14,475,845 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 99 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Manitoba is reporting 21,726 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,178,692 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 855.983 per 1,000. In the province, 23.16 per cent (318,956) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 1,347,420 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 98 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 87.48 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Saskatchewan is reporting 6,496 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,005,275 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 852.539 per 1,000. In the province, 25.04 per cent (295,202) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 94,560 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 1,146,365 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 97 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 87.69 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Alberta is reporting 49,508 new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,854,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 875.549 per 1,000. In the province, 26.28 per cent (1,156,974) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 352,360 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 4,234,685 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 96 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 91.02 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

British Columbia is reporting 75,491 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,511,923 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 879.247 per 1,000. In the province, 19.51 per cent (1,001,192) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 5,005,680 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 98 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.14 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 57,017 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 1,366.298 per 1,000. In the territory, 63.30 per cent (26,415) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 65,690 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 160 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

The Northwest Territories are reporting 1,625 new vaccinations administered for a total of 58,840 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 1,304.107 per 1,000. In the territory, 60.76 per cent (27,413) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 82,230 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 180 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 71.56 per cent of its available vaccine supply.

Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 33,194 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 857.15 per 1,000. In the territory, 39.17 per cent (15,169) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 60,360 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 160 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 54.99 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 some approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 12 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published June 23, 2021.

The Canadian Press

What do you do when you’ve been blamed for a COVID outbreak?

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, Jun 23rd, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, one year after being singled out—first by Premier Blaine Higgs, then by members of his own community—as “Patient Zero” for a New Brunswick COVID-19 outbreak, Dr. Jean-Robert Ngola is still putting his life back together. Last May an outbreak in Campbellton, NB, was blamed by Higgs on an “irresponsible medical professional”, and online Dr. Ngola was identified less than an hour later.

Since then he’s been suspended, had charges filed, then eventually dropped. He’s asked for and been refused an apology. He’s left Campbellton, and now lives in another province and is still wondering where he might be if the premier had been patient and waited for proper tracing to occur.

GUEST: Judy Trinh, CBC’s The Fifth Estate

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

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 22nd, 2021

TORONTO — Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today.

Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont.

The designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

But relatives of his victims are adamant he should never be allowed out of prison.

They will be making that case to the Parole Board of Canada, which took just 30 minutes to reject his release in October 2018.

Bernardo is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault among other offences.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2021

What happens when police won’t ID a murder suspect?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Jun 22nd, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, usually when someone is charged with murder their name is all over police statements, and then all over the media. But when police neglect to release that information—and some forces have been doing that more and more frequently—the murder itself can go missing. From the media, from the conversation, and eventually from the statistics kept that guide community safety policies.
Why have police begun withholding the name of people accused of murder, and what are the ramifications for the criminal justice system and vulnerable communities?

GUEST: Alyshah Hasham, Toronto Star courts reporter

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

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Canada to unveil travel rules for fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents

STEPHANIE TAYLOR, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jun 21st, 2021

Canada is set to detail what quarantine rules citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon have to follow when entering the country.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said last week that “measures” would be announced Monday that will apply to immunized Canadians, as well as foreign nationals who are permitted entry.

Currently, those without citizenship or resident status can enter the country only if their travel is related to work, school or other essential business, but not for leisure.

As more Canadians get inoculated against COVID-19 and summer weather has people itching to take some long-awaited trips, pressure is building for the Liberal government to begin relaxing some of its border and quarantine rules.

Over the weekend the country hit an important target of having 75 per cent of its eligible population receive one dose and 20 per cent get two, providing the latter group with full protection against COVID-19.

These were benchmarks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and top health officials said needed to be met to safely relax pandemic-related health measures.

Those hoping to see some loosening this month were disappointed on Friday when the Liberal government announced its restrictions on non-essential international travel would remain in place at the Canada-U.S. border until July 21.

In the lead up to Monday’s announcement, the federal government spent the past week teasing at some of the travel changes it considered making for vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said that starting in early July, the government looked to exempt fully vaccinated travellers from having to pay for a three-night stay at a government-approved hotel.

The sites are where Canadians entering the country by air, regardless of their vaccination status, must currently begin a 14-day quarantine while awaiting a negative result from a COVID-19 test required upon arrival.

Among the Canadians who recently went through the process was Trudeau himself, who’s currently in quarantine after spending five days in Europe attending international meetings with G7 and NATO leaders.

The prime minister said that in terms of being able to show border security some proof of vaccination, the country would rely on Canadians uploading images of their records to its ArriveCAN app, which is where returning travellers already have to share where they will stay for their 14 days of quarantine.

Both he and Hajdu say the country’s border rules would be relaxed in phases.

In particular, Hajdu has said the government intends those who are fully vaccinated to still be tested for COVID-19 before leaving for Canada and again on their return, where they would also need a plan for where to quarantine while awaiting a negative result.

An expert panel comprised mainly of doctors that studied Canada’s COVID-19 border measures recently recommended the government scrap hotel quarantines altogether for fully vaccinated travellers, provided they test negative for the virus and have proof they have been inoculated.

As for those with one dose, the doctors suggested travellers quarantine at home until receiving their negative COVID-19 test after having a swab done before departure.

And for those who haven’t been vaccinated at all, the panel said they should be allowed to leave quarantine if they test negative before departure, upon arrival and seven days into the full two-week self-isolation period.

Here’s the thing about vaccine lotteries: They work

THE BIG STORY | posted Monday, Jun 21st, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, when Alberta announced last week it would join several U.S. states in offering the chance of life-changing prizes to citizens who get their Covid-19 vaccine, they were chasing a simple truth: For some reason, we tend to value the remote chance of a big reward far more than the certainty of a small one.

This is something that governments and companies are proving true right now as they try all sorts of things to help everyone get vaccinated and get life back to normal. And it begs the question: If it works for vaccines, what else could governments entice us to do by dangling a lottery lure? And what’s happening in our brains when we do it?

GUEST: Adam Rogers, senior correspondent at WIRED

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

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jun 18th, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and case numbers drop across the country, the provinces and territories have begun releasing the reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down.

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health says it appears the third wave of COVID-19 is subsiding across Atlantic Canada ahead of a resumption of regional travel next week.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the province now has 35 active cases ahead of its June 23 target to permit travellers from the other three Atlantic provinces.

She says people entering the province won’t have to self-isolate, but will have to fill out a travel form before arrival and show identification at their point of entry to prove they are a resident of the Atlantic region.

The province’s reopening plan begins with a transition period during which some health restrictions, like limits on gatherings, will loosen.

Requirements for testing and self-isolation lift entirely for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on Canada Day, while those requirements ease over the next few months for travellers with just one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

If case counts, hospitalization and vaccination targets are met, the province expects to reopen dance floors as early as Aug. 15, and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, restaurants and lounges while maintaining physical distancing between tables.

As early as Sept. 15, mask requirements for indoor public spaces would be reviewed.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has moved into Phase 2 of its five-step reopening plan, which allows such things as indoor dining at restaurants and bars, a 50 per cent customer capacity for retail stores and increased gathering limits.

The province has allowed all public and private schools to reopen. A limit of 10 people gathering informally indoors is in place, and up to 25 people are allowed to gather informally outdoors without social distancing.

Festivals and special events may take place at 25 per cent of the venue’s capacity with a maximum of 50 people indoors and up to 75 people outdoors with social distancing.

Indoor and outdoor restaurant dining is allowed with two metres between tables and a maximum of 10 people at each table. Restaurants can only serve dine-in customers until 11 p.m. and must close by 12 a.m., however take-out, delivery and drive-thru service can still be offered after 12 a.m.

Hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments are open but by appointment only.

New Brunswick:

New Brunswick is moving into Phase 2 of its reopening plan, having reached its goal of having 20 per cent of people 65 or older vaccinated with two doses of a COVID vaccine.

Premier Blaine Higgs says the change, which began at midnight, opens travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed into the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot will have to isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Other changes allow restaurants, gyms and salons to operate at full capacity as long as customer contact lists are kept.

In the third phase, the province will lift all COVID-19 restrictions.

Prince Edward Island: 

The province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

The province projects that on July 18, its non-medical mask requirement will ease, and organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization will be permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits.

Quebec: 

Montreal and several other regions have moved from the orange pandemic alert level to yellow, permitting indoor gatherings with members of another household, the resumption of outdoor team sports and expanded capacity for weddings, funerals and religious services. Bars in yellow zones can also welcome patrons inside at 50 per cent capacity.

Earlier in June, the province permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen as the province moved all regions out of the red alert level. Bar patios have reopened and supervised outdoor sports and recreation are allowed in groups of up to 25 people.

The province ended its nightly curfew on May 28 and allowed restaurant patios to open as well as limited outdoor gatherings on private property. It also lifted travel bans between regions.

On Thursday Quebec increased the number of people allowed to attend sporting events and festivals to 3,500 — just in time for the Montreal Canadiens’ home game tonight in the NHL playoffs.

Ontario:

Ontario is following a three-step reopening plan that will see public health restrictions lift every 21 days based on vaccination rates and other health indicators. Workplaces and public spaces need to follow pandemic guidelines including masking, physical distancing and capacity limits during the reopening plan.

The first step took effect June 11, allowing limited outdoor dining, in-store retail, camping, outdoor religious services and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.

Greater retail capacity, personal care services, outdoor sports and performances, amusement parks and limited indoor religious services will be permitted under the second step, which kicks in if the province has vaccinated 70 per cent of adults with one dose and 20 per cent of adults with two doses.

The third step will further expand capacity limits for gatherings and retail outlets, and allow indoor dining, cinema, performing arts, museums, sports, casinos and other indoor activities with restrictions.

Manitoba:

The province’s reopening plan is based on COVID-19 vaccination rates and holiday dates.

If certain vaccination rates are met by those dates, limits will be loosened on gatherings, travel, shopping and dining.

More than 70 per cent of Manitobans 12 and older will have had to receive a first dose — and more than 25 per cent a second one — by Canada Day to hit the first target. If that happens, businesses and other facilities will be able to open at 25 per cent capacity.

Businesses will be allowed to open at half capacity if 75 per cent of people have had one shot and 50 per cent have had a second by the August long weekend.

The final target calls for 80 per cent of the population to have had one shot and 75 per cent to be fully vaccinated by Labour Day in September. In that case, most businesses, services and facilities would be able to open with limited restrictions.

Saskatchewan:

Large retailers must reduce the capacity of their stories to 25 per cent, while other retailers must cut their capacity to 50 per cent.

Restaurants and bars must maintain two metres of physical distance between tables or erect a structural barrier between tables if distancing isn’t possible. Tables are limited to six people at a time. Dance floors and buffets remain closed.

Places of worship are allowed up to 30 per cent of their seating capacity or 150 people, whichever is less. And individuals must be separated by two metres, unless they are part of the same extended household.

A maximum of 30 people are allowed to attend gatherings at banquet and conference facilities, which includes wedding and funeral receptions. No food or beverages are allowed.

A maximum of 30 people are allowed in a movie theatre, but staff and customers must be able to maintain two metres of physical distance. The same rule applies to live theatre.

Alberta: 

Outdoor social gatherings recently increased to 20 people with proper distancing.

Indoor recreation, entertainment and other settings can open at one-third of fire code occupancy. Places of worship can also open to one-third capacity and restaurants are allowed up to six people per table, indoors or outdoors.

Youth activities have resumed with restrictions and outdoor public gatherings, such as concerts and festivals, are allowed with up to 150 people. A work-from-home order has been lifted, but it is still recommended.

British Columbia:

Seated gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed at banquet halls, movie theatres and theatre performances. High-intensity fitness classes are allowed and bars can serve liquor until midnight.

Indoor faith gatherings are allowed with a maximum of 50 people or up to 10 per cent of a building’s capacity.

Recreational travel within B.C. is allowed, but the province is asking those planning to visit from other provinces to delay those plans until more people have had their vaccines.

The province is testing every positive COVID-19 case for variants of concern and testing, tracking and tracing for each case remains a priority.

Rules for masks and physical distancing remain in place.

Nunavut:

Public health orders affecting what is allowed to open vary by community.

In Iqaluit, travel to the community is restricted to residents, medical officials and critical workers, as well as those who have authorization for a compassionate exemption. Outdoor gatherings are restricted to 25 people, while indoor gatherings are restricted to a household plus five people.

Meanwhile in Kinngait and Rankin Inlet, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people and those indoors are restricted to a household plus 15 people. Restaurants and bars are allowed to open for regular business at 50 per cent capacity, and there must be a two metre distance between tables, with no more than six people seated or around each table.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory travel is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

Yukon:

Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity with restrictions, while social bubbles have increased to 20 people. Social gatherings indoors of up to 20 people are allowed with physical distancing, while outdoors up to 100 people can gather. Organized gatherings, such as festivals or weddings, of up to 200 people are allowed with physical distancing.

Camp and recreational programs are allowed to have 20 participants indoors with physical distancing and mask wearing; and 100 participants outdoors with physical distancing. Gyms and recreation centres can operate with up 200 people with physical distancing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2021

The Canadian Press

Trudeau expected to unveil U.S. border plan with restrictions set to expire Monday

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jun 18th, 2021

The federal government is expected to unveil its United States border plan as early as Friday, or as late as Monday — which is the day the current order expires.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, still in quarantine at Rideau cottage following his trip overseas, has a news conference set for Friday morning.

The accelerated vaccine rollout in Canada is adding on the pressure to at least partially reopen the U.S. border after a fifteen-month shutdown.

Trudeau has said his plan to ease travel measures will take a phased-in approach and some cabinet ministers suggest the gradual plan won’t begin until early July.

There could also be some clarity provided on vaccine passports when the border plans are finally unveiled.

Premiers said they hoped to hear more details about the reopening plan in a call with the prime minister on Thursday night. Trudeau called the meeting with premiers amid concerns Canada is lagging behind other nations on resuming travel.

The government has already laid out its plans to lift restrictions for certain travellers arriving to Canada by air.

It says the first step will be to allow people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and who are permitted to enter the country — to forego mandatory hotel quarantine.

Travellers will need to have been fully vaccinated 14 days or more before they arrive in Canada. The only vaccines that will be accepted will be those approved for use in Canada.

People will still be required to have a negative PCR test before boarding their flight to Canada and will still need to be tested upon arrival. People will be expected to quarantine until they get their negative test result back.

The federal government says it is confident airports in Canada will be prepared to start accepting an influx of travellers when the borders start to reopen for non-essential travel.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the government has been in contact with airlines and airports about the plan but says reopening may not happen as soon as the restrictions expire.

In a panel discussion on Thursday, Canadian tourism groups say tens of thousands of jobs are on the line and many businesses are relying on a tourism season this summer.

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