March 1, 2022

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Alberta launching proof-of-vaccination program, declares health emergency amid COVID-19 case surge

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday introduced strict and sweeping new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 as he apologized for his government’s handling of the pandemic.

The measures include a new program that requires people to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry to participating businesses and social events.

A decision this spring to move from a pandemic to endemic approach — or learning to live with the virus — seemed like the right thing to do based on data from other jurisdictions with similar vaccination rates, Kenney told a news conference.

“It is now clear that we were wrong, and for that I apologize,” Kenney said.

Alberta has declared a state of public health emergency and is taking immediate action to stave off the ongoing crisis in the health-care system, the premier said.

“To prevent an ongoing crisis, we must do three things urgently,” he said. “First, we must maximize our health-care capacity. Secondly, reduce transmission of the virus by reducing interaction with other people. And thirdly, we have to get as many people as possible vaccinated.”

Alberta has more than 18,000 active cases — the most of any province. On Wednesday, there were 877 people in hospital with the illness, including 218 in intensive care. By contrast, Ontario, with a population more than three times Alberta’s, had 346 in hospital, with 188 in intensive care.

In recent weeks, the government had faced repeated calls from doctors, the Opposition NDP and business groups to introduce a vaccine passport, as other provinces have done. The government’s response is what it calls a “restrictions exemption program.”

Under the program, beginning Monday, vaccine-eligible Albertans will be required to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative COVID-19 test to enter some non-essential retail outlets and indoor events. However, businesses that opt out of the program can operate with reduced capacity and distancing restrictions. Read more on this story here.

‘We have been failed,’ Olympic champion Simone Biles says in emotional testimony on sex abuse

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles testifies Wednesday during a U.S. Senate hearing about a scathing report on the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts. Read more on the testimony from Biles and other gymnasts.

In brief

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul says the only distinction between the Conservative and Liberal climate change plans is that the Conservatives are being candid about their ability to hit their emission reduction targets. “The difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives is that the Conservatives are being honest that what they’re planning to do is not going to get us past 30 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” Paul told CBC News. “The Liberals are pretending that is going to get us to net zero by 2050 when they know full well that it won’t. It’s a choice between one party who is up front about it and one who is still misleading people in Canada about it.” Paul made her remarks during the fourth and final instalment of The National Presents: Face to Face with the Federal Party Leaders — a series of interviews giving four undecided voters five minutes to ask questions of one of four federal party leaders. Read more from Paul’s comments.

WATCH | Paul on pushing climate policies forward:

Annamie Paul on pushing climate policies forward

 

For the Conservatives to win this election, analysts say they’ll have to make significant inroads in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), a vote-rich ring of suburban communities surrounding Toronto that the party was largely shut out of in the last federal election. In 2019, the Tories failed to break through in the region, and in the end, the Liberals took every seat in Toronto and all but five of 29 seats in the surrounding suburbs. “It seemed like winning in the GTA was the thing that the Conservatives needed to do, but it was kind of unlikely,” said analyst Éric Grenier. Now, he says, “there’s actually legitimate chances that the Conservatives can pick up some seats in the GTA. And if they do that, then that kind of whittles away the Liberal plurality.” The Tories have been generally stronger in regions just north and east of Toronto, Grenier said, and the block of northern seats, like Richmond Hill and Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, are key. But he noted that Oakville, along with Oakville-North Burlington, are also important for the Tories. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau visited Oakville last weekend, a signal perhaps that the Liberals feel the riding is in play this election. Read more on the fight for votes in the Toronto area

The federal NDP and Conservatives typically don’t agree on much, but they have aligned on at least one topic this election campaign: making sure Canada’s wealthiest “pay their fair share.” You can find that line in the Conservatives’ 2021 platform. And of course, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has talked about making the wealthy “pay their fair share” at just about every available opportunity. Here’s what we know about the personal taxation plans for each of the major federal parties, and who exactly they’re talking about when they mention the “ultra-rich” or “the top one per cent of earners.” Read more on this story here.

If you have a question about the federal election, send us an email at [email protected]. We’re answering as many as we can leading up to election day. Today: why Canadians isolating due to COVID-19 will be unable to vote on election day.

Canadian data suggests people who are pregnant face significantly higher risks of serious COVID-19 requiring hospitalization, ICU admission, or life support — a particular concern because pregnant people tend to have lower rates of vaccination. “We know that the infection has an impact both on the health and well-being of mom and the outcome of the pregnancy,” said Dr. Wendy Whittle, a maternal fetal-medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Whittle co-authored a new briefing document from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which notes the risks of getting COVID-19 while pregnant include having a higher chance of needing a C-section or having a preterm birth, according to preliminary evidence. The latest available Canadian data compiled by the Canadian Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pregnancy team also suggests people who are pregnant are nearly five times more likely to be admitted to hospital for COVID-19 than their non-pregnant peers — and 10 times more likely to be admitted to an ICU. Read more on pregnancy and COVID-19 here

WATCH | Pregnancy increases risk of severe COVID-19, new research shows: 

Pregnancy increases risk of severe COVID-19, new research shows

A surge in summer travel across the country has forced Canada’s two biggest airlines to ask staff to help volunteer at airports to overcome staffing challenges — a move that is creating pushback from unions. In an email to all employees, WestJet described how the rapid growth in passenger numbers is causing operational problems at several airports, including its flagship airport in Calgary. The “growing pains of recovery requires all-hands-on-deck,” read the message, which included an open call for any staff members to sign up to volunteer to help guests requiring wheelchair assistance at the Calgary International Airport. Air Canada has needed extra personnel at Toronto’s Pearson airport since “airport partners are stretched beyond their capacity, which led to significant flight cancellations and missed connections,” read an internal memo. In late August and early September, air passenger traffic reached its highest point since the pandemic began. Read more on the airlines’ calls for volunteers.

After more than two decades without clean drinking water, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation on the Ontario-Manitoba border is celebrating the opening of a water treatment facility and the end of water advisories for the community. Despite drawing water from the same source as the City of Winnipeg, Shoal Lake 40 has never had a centralized water treatment facility. Construction of the new $33-million water treatment facility and system started in 2019. Now all the homes in the community are hooked up to clean drinking water from the plant. “It’s unbelievable and it’s also about damn time,” said Vernon Redsky, chief of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. Read more about the First Nation’s drinking water.

WATCH | 24-year boil-water advisory lifts for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation: 

24-year boil-water advisory lifts for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

Now for some good news to start your Thursday: When Lori Stephenson and Brad Thorman decided to elope to St. John’s and watch Alan Doyle in concert this past weekend, they had no idea they would be the only ones who would get to see him perform. The couple travelled from Ontario ahead of Doyle’s show at the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent. Doyle, who happens to live in the neighbourhood of the Winsor House Bed & Breakfast, where the couple were staying, had already planned to make an appearance ahead of the concert after getting word from the owner of their arrival. But when the performance tent was destroyed by Hurricane Larry and the concert had to be postponed, his trip down the road turned into an exclusive two-song concert for the newlyweds. “It was just a nice thing to be a part of their special day,” Doyle said. Check out the couple’s story here.

Front Burner: Election platform primer (Part 2 of 2)

In the conclusion to Front Burner‘s 2021 election primer, we’re back with Part 2 of our rundown on the major national parties’ platforms.

We’ve had deep-dive conversations on the election’s top issues like housing and climate, but this is your guide to the other big promises and defining policies. It’s what you need to know to make an informed vote in Monday’s election. 

Today, CBC’s Ryan Maloney returns to highlight the NDP and Green Party platforms, and touch on the People’s Party of Canada as well. 

Front Burner18:52Election platform primer (Part 2 of 2)

Today in history: September 16

1908: General Motors is formed by William C. Durant.

1916: Prohibition begins in Ontario. It lasted until 1927.

1964: The Columbia River Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States, comes into effect. Canada built three dams for water storage to produce maximum flood control and power downstream. The United States made a lump sum prepayment of $254.4 million for the power benefit in the first 30 years.

1987: At a conference in Montreal sponsored by the UN Environmental Program, 24 countries and the European Community sign an agreement to protect Earth’s ozone layer. The agreement called for the control and the reduction of the use of chlorofluorocarbons.

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