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COVID-19’s effect on Halloween and the time change: In The News for Friday, Oct. 30

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Oct 30th, 2020

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

What we are watching in Canada …

As spooky season reaches its climax in a particularly frightening year, some historians argue the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to explore a different side of Halloween.

The holiday has no fixed meaning and has been celebrated differently over the centuries, so there’s a deep well of traditions to draw from — including some that honour the dead, said Nick Rogers, a professor at York University who wrote the book on the history of Halloween.

The holiday is linked to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, which has some of Halloween’s celebratory spirit but is also a day to remember loved ones who have died.

“Halloween is about everything you want to avoid in a pandemic. It’s about scaring us. It’s about risk-taking. It’s about inversion,” he said. “…In a way, Day of the Dead is a much better holiday for addressing these things.”

Officials across the country have said that those who want to celebrate Halloween will need to make sacrifices — of varying degrees, depending on location — in order to keep their loved ones safe.

Those in some COVID-19 hot spots have been urged to forego trick-or-treating altogether, while others in regions with few cases are being told to keep their parties small.

For instance, in Quebec — Canada’s COVID-19 epicentre — children will be permitted to trick-or-treat with members of their own household, but adults can’t celebrate in groups.

British Columbia’s top doctor has also ruled out massive Halloween bashes, saying families need to keep gatherings to their immediate households and their “safe six,” though trick-or-treating is still a go.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have given trick-or-treating the green light as well, so long as people keep a physical distance from those not in their household.

Meanwhile, Ontario and New Brunswick are taking a regional approach to holiday regulations, barring trick-or-treating in hot spots.

“COVID sucks. What can I say, it’s terrible,” Premier Doug Ford said earlier this month, as he announced the rules. “We need to work together this Halloween to protect Christmas.”

Also this …

Much of Canada is set to turn back the clocks at 2 a.m.  Sunday, giving people an extra hour of sleep in exchange for darker evenings as winter sets in.

But experts say the end of daylight time may feel a little different this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our usual schedules.

Some professors predict the time-warping nature of the crisis could ease the autumnal adjustment, while a critic says the one-hour shift may compound the discombobulation of life under lockdown.

While the seasonal tradition continues to be a source of fervid contention, University of Toronto medical professor Donald Redelmeier says we have much bigger worries this year.

Redelmeier says the supposed negative side-effects of clock switching will be eclipsed, if not alleviated, by the global upheaval of the pandemic.

But Wendy Hall, a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia’s school of nursing, says the switch to standard time will only exacerbate sleep disruptions linked to the COVID-19 crisis.

Psychology professor Steve Joordens says the change in light patterns could provide a natural sense of structure by making people feel more energized in the morning and ready for bed at an earlier hour.

Yukon moved to permanent daylight time in March, and lawmakers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario are considering measures to do away with the twice-yearly time change.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

When Joe Biden was last in Iowa, his campaign was on the verge of collapse and he was soundly trounced in the caucuses.

He returns today as the Democratic nominee, believing he’s just days away from becoming president-elect.

Iowa is among the clutch of GOP-leaning states that Biden is trying to bring back into the Democratic column.

He’ll also swing through Wisconsin today while his running mate, Kamala Harris, courts voters in Texas.

Trump, meanwhile, is playing defence in Michigan and Wisconsin. The president and Biden will both be in Minnesota, a longtime Democratic state that Trump is trying to flip.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

HANOI — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has wrapped up a five-nation anti-China tour of Asia in Vietnam as the fierce American presidential election race enters its final stretch.

With just four days left in the campaign in which China has been a central theme, Pompeo visited Hanoi today ostensibly to celebrate 25 years of U.S.-Vietnam relations.

But as he has at his previous stops in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia, Pompeo’s main aim was to shore up support for pushing back on China.

The Trump administration has made confronting China, its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, human rights record and aggressiveness towards its smaller neighbours one of its main foreign policy priorities.

On this day in 2001 …

After 63 years of selling music to Canadians, the Sam the Record Man retail chain declared bankruptcy. But Sam Sniderman’s sons Jason and Bob bought the company’s assets from a bankruptcy trustee and re-opened the Toronto flagship store in 2002, but it closed in June 2007.

In sports …

TORONTO — Ontario’s minister of sport is expected to have updates today on bids to host FIFA World Cup games and the Commonwealth Games in the province.

Lisa MacLeod will be speaking at the Empire Club of Canada in downtown Toronto this afternoon.

She said earlier this month that the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries would be making announcements about those international sporting events by the end of October.

Canada is co-hosting the 2026 World Cup along with Mexico and the United States but the venues for the men’s soccer tournament have yet to be named.

A committee has also been formed to put together a bid for Hamilton to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

The quadrennial Commonwealth Games features 6,500 elite athletes and coaches from 71 countries competing in summer sport.


VANCOUVER — The maker of Canada Dry ginger ale has agreed to pay more than $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits.

A B.C. Supreme Court decision on costs released Monday shows Victor Cardoso claimed he bought Canada Dry on the basis it was “made from real ginger,” but the marketing was false and it contained none.

The decision says Cardoso later conceded that the soda contains small amounts of ginger derivatives, but he continued to allege that the company’s representations of its product were false.

The soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability.

Under the settlement agreement, the company is not required to change its labelling or advertising for products marketed in Canada.

The class-action followed similar lawsuits in the United States, which saw the company drop the “made from real ginger” line from its products sold there.

COVID-19 death rates higher in neighbourhoods with more visible minorities: StatCan

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 29th, 2020

OTTAWA — A new Statistics Canada report says communities with the most visible minorities had the highest mortality rates during the first wave of COVID-19.

The report’s authors say it is more evidence that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting visible minorities, who are more likely to live in overcrowded housing and work in jobs that put them more at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

In the four biggest provinces — which account for 99 per cent of the deaths from COVID-19 between March and July — death rates from COVID-19 were twice as high in communities where more than one in four people identify as a visible minority, compared with communities where less than one per cent of residents did.

In Ontario and Quebec, the rates were 3.5 times as high in communities where more than one-fourth of residents identify as visible minorities.

Nearly 8,800 people died in the first wave of the pandemic in Canada, 94 per cent of them in Quebec and Ontario.

Canadian and provincial public health agencies did not collect much data on race of patients with COVID-19 at first, so Statistics Canada used the national database on deaths and census data on visible minorities and neighbourhoods to compile the report.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press

A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

MIA RABSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 29th, 2020

OTTAWA — The day after Americans go to the polls to choose their next president, the United States will become the first and only country in the world to withdraw from the Paris climate change pact.

Whether that withdrawal becomes permanent will depend on who wins that election — Donald Trump, who is behind the withdrawal, or Joe Biden, who has promised to put the U.S. back into the agreement as soon as possible.

For Canada, having the U.S. back in the Paris pact, and the resulting domestic U.S. policies on the environment that will follow, could both open markets for Canadian clean energy technology, and level the playing field for Canadian companies competing against Americans with fewer environmental regulations and taxes.

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place, with state governments going it on their own, renewable energy prices becoming more attractive, and global investors increasingly viewing carbon footprints as a critical element in their investment decisions.

“It all depends on what the policies are that you put in place,” said Gary Mar, president of the Canada West Foundation.

“Canadian companies are already paying carbon taxes. And so if their competition in the United States was compelled to do the same thing then it would make it a more level playing field for Canadians to enter into the marketplace.”

In the last four years, Canada has in some places slowed or amended its own environment policies to reflect concerns American companies not regulated in the same way might hurt Canada’s competitiveness.

That includes methane regulations — which Canada delayed by three years when Trump paused similar targets in the U.S. — and limiting the carbon pricing on industries that face heavy competition from U.S. firms that don’t pay the same kind of tax.

If Trump stays in office, Canada will continue to measure its environmental regulations against competition in the U.S. facing less regulation. If Biden wins, he hasn’t just promised to rejoin Paris, he has pledged to use the power of the United States to influence, or even name and shame, countries that aren’t doing their part to slow climate change.

Gerald Butts, vice-chairman at the political-risk consultancy Eurasia Group and former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said Biden’s climate policies are the most aggressive any American presidential candidate has ever proposed.

That includes eliminating fossil fuels from the U.S. power grid by 2050, and using the power of the federal procurement system to spur growth in electric vehicles.

Butts said Biden’s plan would not only put pressure on the world, including Canada, to up its climate game, it opens a “big opportunity to grow the Canadian clean energy and clean-tech footprint in the United States.”

“It tilts the scales toward renewable energy and decarbonization in the United States in a way that no potential president has ever attempted to put his or her thumb on the scale,” said Butts.

“We’ve got a lot of hydro power, we’ve got a lot of nuclear power, we’ve got a lot of low- to zero-emissions electricity here. And that’s a real opportunity.”

Canadian mining could also benefit. Canada produces 14 of the 19 metals and minerals needed for solar panels and Quebec is home to one of the 10 biggest lithium mines in the world.

Butts said a Biden presidency might have negative effects Canada’s fossil-fuel sector. Biden has promised to halt the Keystone XL pipeline between Alberta and Nebraska, for instance.

That project, which was killed by Barack Obama when Biden was his vice-president, was revived by Trump and is supported by the Trudeau Liberals. Lack of pipeline space to ship more oil has left Canadian producers to accept significant discounts for their product, and limited growth.

Earlier this year, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney threw his province’s fiscal weight behind Keystone, with a $1.5-billion equity investment and a $6-billion loan guarantee.

Even under Trump, the pipeline has hit snags in the courts over its environmental impact, and construction on the U.S. portion has been halted.

Christopher Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center political think tank in Washington, D.C., said the pipeline has taken on an outsized role in the U.S. climate fight, as it was something environment groups could seize on.

But he said it’s possible that if Biden starts moving aggressively on other climate fronts, the pipeline may fall in importance.

Mar says that Biden may ultimately see the pipeline as a good thing for a transition period. The U.S. has sanctions against Venezuela, including oil imports, and he said it is cheaper for the U.S. to get oil from Canada through a pipeline than it is to seek other sources in the Middle East.

Sands is also careful to point out that Trump’s anti-climate rhetoric may be overshadowed by the economic opportunities of clean energy that a pro-development president cannot resist.

And even when and where he doesn’t, state governments and the private sector are moving on climate policies without him, said Mar.

“They might happen more quickly with the Biden administration, but I think again, because of the importance of states, even under Trump, I think that trend line will still continue,” Mar said.

Trump halted regulations to insist automakers produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, but a number of states and several automakers are sticking to the plan without him.

Trump has also done everything he can to “bring back king coal”, rolling back environmental regulations that made coal less palatable.

But cheaper natural gas and renewable sources of energy are crowding coal out of the market, and since Trump took office coal production has fallen almost 20 per cent, and coal’s share of the U.S. power grid fell from about one-third to less than one-quarter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 29th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Oct. 29, 2020:

There are 225,586 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 102,814 confirmed (including 6,189 deaths, 87,638 resolved)

_ Ontario: 72,885 confirmed (including 3,108 deaths, 62,303 resolved)

_ Alberta: 26,565 confirmed (including 313 deaths, 21,459 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 13,875 confirmed (including 261 deaths, 11,244 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 4,701 confirmed (including 61 deaths, 2,306 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 2,908 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 2,217 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,102 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,032 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 337 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 284 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 291 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 282 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 64 confirmed (including 63 resolved)

_ Yukon: 22 confirmed (including 17 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 9 confirmed (including 8 resolved)

_ Nunavut:  No confirmed cases

_ Total: 225,586 (0 presumptive, 225,586 confirmed including 10,032 deaths, 188,866 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Canada surpasses 10,000 deaths from COVID-19

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 28th, 2020

More than 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a grim milestone reached by a pandemic that is far from over.

Twenty-eight new deaths reported in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta pushed the death toll to 1,001 on Tuesday.

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first death was reported.

COVID-19 case counts slowed across the country through the summer, but have taken a big jump in many areas this fall, with new daily highs reached regularly in Central and Western Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the pandemic a “horrific national tragedy,” and warned that Canadians should brace for more.

“Families have lost loved ones, been devastated by these tragedies, and we need to know that there are more tragedies to come,” he told a briefing in Ottawa.

The death toll has climbed much more slowly since April and May, when outbreaks in long-term care homes and a lack of medical knowledge about the novel coronavirus resulted in a higher proportion of fatal infections.

However, the pandemic has grown deadlier over the past month. More than 600 COVID-19-related fatalities have been reported in October so far compared with 165 COVID-19 in September, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Ontario reported 827 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and four new deaths due to the virus.

Quebec, where residents in its biggest cities will have to live with partial lockdowns for at least another four weeks, reported 963 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths.

Manitoba tallied its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with health officials reporting 184 new infections on Tuesday and three more deaths.

Alberta reported another two deaths from COVID-19.

The pandemic’s second wave could jeopardize large gatherings with friends and family over Christmas after a reined-in Thanksgiving.

“It’s frustrating knowing that unless we’re really, really careful, there may not be the kinds of family gatherings we want to have at Christmas,” Trudeau said.

He sought to spur hope ahead of a “tough winter.”

“We will get through this. Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.

But the current situation he summed up with a single verb.

“This sucks. It really, really does.”

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities, despite frustrations over conflicting information on Halloween as well as varying COVID-19 testing requirements for students.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has suggested hockey sticks as a tool to hand out Halloween treats, while others are resorting to candy chutes or self-serve stations. But the Ontario government has recommended against trick-or-treating in parts of the province that have been hardest hit by the resurgence of the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, school reopening plans sowed confusion about what symptoms in students demanded COVID-19 tests, triggering massive lineups at assessment centres and overwhelming laboratories where the tests are processed.

And Quebec Premier Francois Legault had his own ideas Tuesday about the prospects for a festive holiday in December.

“I really hope and I’m confident that in 28 days we’ll be able to maybe not have big parties, for Christmas, but to be able to see our families,” he said in his own briefing.

In Prince Edward Island, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison had unwelcome news for residents hoping to reunite with family from outside the Atlantic bubble over the December holidays.

“While we are always evaluating our decisions and guidance using the best available evidence, I do not expect right now that we will be reducing the 14-day self-isolation requirement prior to the Christmas holiday season,” she told a briefing in Charlottetown.

Under their bubble arrangement, the Atlantic provinces limit who can enter and require people who do come in from outside the region to quarantine for two weeks.

Mixed messaging threatens to chip away at trust in public health advice, said Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Public Health.

Dance studios in Ontario’s “hot zones” have been allowed to stay open, while gyms have been forced to shutter along with cinemas, casinos and performing arts venues, he noted.

“Quite honestly I don’t know why a distinction is made between those two,” Sly said.

Trudeau said circumstances have changed since the spring, when little was known about the novel coronavirus and there was one main message: “Everyone stay home.”

“We can be a little more targeted (now). But yeah, that means a little more complicated in our messages,” he said Tuesday.

Epidemiologists across the country have stressed the need for massive testing in order to stop the spread of the virus.

Sly pointed to Germany as a model, despite a recent spike in case numbers. Authorities there have made both rapid testing and “open public testing,” which lets asymptomatic people access tests, crucial weapons in the war against viral resurgence.

“Testing is absolutely key and, at the other end after the fact, contact tracing. And we’ve been not prepared for these things – behind the 8-ball,” Sly said.A proximity interaction occurs when one device is within 50 metres of another device for more than five minutes in a given hour, she said.

While McGahan praised Canadians, she also said the worrisome side of the study is that this may be the best we can do.

The proximity data is already really low, she said, considering that the average family household in Canada has 2.9 people.

“In many parts of Canada, and certainly on average, proximity is still low,” McGahan said.

“It doesn’t look like by shutting down everything again, having broad restrictions on our mobility, that we’re going to be able to get much more reduction in social interactions.”

She said the researchers are now planning to incorporate medical and economic data in an effort to tease out any associations.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Oct 28th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2020:

There are 222,886 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 101,885 confirmed (including 6,172 deaths, 86,786 resolved)

_ Ontario: 72,051 confirmed (including 3,103 deaths, 61,530 resolved)

_ Alberta: 26,155 confirmed (including 309 deaths, 21,108 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 13,588 confirmed (including 259 deaths, 10,954 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 4,532 confirmed (including 58 deaths, 2,236 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 2,841 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 2,164 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,102 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,031 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 334 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 273 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 291 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 282 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 64 confirmed (including 63 resolved)

_ Yukon: 22 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved), 3 presumptive

_ Nunavut:  No confirmed cases

_ Total: 222,886 (3 presumptive, 222,883 confirmed including 10,001 deaths, 186,460 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Where is Ontario’s real gun violence epidemic?

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, Oct 28th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, you might think that it’s gang-related shootings in Toronto that drive gun-violence statistics in the province. You’d wind up surprised. A new study examined in detail firearms-related injuries and deaths in Ontario for 15 years, from 2002-2016. What the authors found was that while urban gun violence drives headlines, a larger part of the problem happens outside of the spotlight, outside of the cities, in quiet, lonely places…

GUEST: Dr. Natasha Saunders, co-author of Firearm-related injuries and deaths in Ontario, Canada, 2002–2016: a population-based study

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Oct 27th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Oct. 27, 2020:

There are 220,212 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 100,922 confirmed (including 6,153 deaths, 85,822 resolved)

_ Ontario: 71,224 confirmed (including 3,099 deaths, 60,839 resolved)

_ Alberta: 25,733 confirmed (including 307 deaths, 20,949 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 13,371 confirmed (including 259 deaths, 10,734 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 4,349 confirmed (including 55 deaths, 2,177 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 2,783 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 2,108 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,101 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,031 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 331 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 265 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 291 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 282 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 64 confirmed (including 63 resolved)

_ Yukon: 22 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved), 3 presumptive

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 220,212 (3 presumptive, 220,209 confirmed including 9,973 deaths, 184,303 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Testimony to continue today in extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Oct 27th, 2020

VANCOUVER — Testimony will continue today in the Meng Wanzhou court case in Vancouver.

The lawyers for the Huawei executive are trying to show her arrest two years ago was unlawful and she should not be extradited to the U.S. for alleged fraud.

An RCMP officer who arrested Meng testified Monday, saying a plan for police to board her plane and arrest her immediately upon landing in Vancouver was merely a suggestion.

Const. Winston Yep says it was an idea shared by text message from another officer — and one that Yep didn’t believe was wise because it could compromise public safety.

Instead, he agreed in a meeting with Canada Border Services Agency officials that Meng should go through customs and screening before the arrest.

The witnesses called to testify in court this week have been requested by Meng’s defence, but a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada was the first to question Yep.

About 10 witnesses are expected to testify this week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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