It’s the last day of summer, and COVID is back!
Hi there! Welcome to the first edition of the Passage Daily Newsletter. We’ve got a bunch of very cool writers — and also me — lined up to bring you a progressive look at what’s making news in Canada. And here you are, reading the very first one.
We hope to give you an overview of the day’s events you aren’t getting from anywhere else. Join us, won’t you? And tell your friends!
I’m Robert Hiltz, and I’ll be your news guide for the day. I’ve been working as a freelance writer for several years, putting out columns, magazine articles and, so help me, a Twitter feed. Way back, I also worked for one of our country’s storied media chains. Thanks for inviting me, and the rest of the Daily Newsletter team, into your inbox.
With that, here are some things making news today:
COVID Cases are climbing, and governments aren’t ready — they should have been
Through the spring and summer, we’ve endured a series of restrictions to what we can do and adopted things such as mask wearing, all to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These largely worked, and the curve we’ve heard so much about was flattened and then dropped off. Governments, you might have thought, would have taken this time to prepare for the second wave of infections that’s been foreseen since the beginning of the pandemic.
Well, it turns out that’s a bit of wishful thinking. Governments didn’t use this time to improve critical measures like testing capacity that can help limit infections. Now things are, predictably, a mess. Where lines for testing were once a matter of a few hours wait, some testing centres are now hitting capacity and turning people away before they even open their doors.
Testing is the key: From the very beginning, testing has been highlighted as the thing we need to keep a lid on COVID-19 without going into another lockdown.
A report in the National Post — yes, really, an earnest link to the Post in Passage — illustrates the failure of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government to make any preparation for the increased need for testing this fall.
From the report: The thing is, experts and frontline workers say, this surge was entirely predictable. [Dr. Andrea] Chittle, among others, had been literally predicting it for months. “Not only should we have seen this coming,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto. “There are many who did see it coming and who were vocal about this.” The question now is, if that’s the case, why wasn’t the government ready? “It’s just absolutely shocking that we are where we’re at today,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, also an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto. “We’ve had months to do this.”
The province was able to ramp up daily tests from 10,000 in April to 33,500 in June. But from there, the ramping up flattened like the infection curve. It wasn’t until mid-September that the province was able to do 35,000 tests per day.
Of course, if you’re someone who hasn’t been able to work from home through the pandemic, the long lines are nothing new. But the return of both cold weather and the start of a new school year has a system that was near capacity completely overwhelmed.
Not just an Ontario thing
Testing backlogs aren’t just a problem in Ontario. In Quebec, demand at testing centres in and around Montreal have “exploded,” according to a Montreal Gazette report. Things are so bad there that a person hired at a testing centre wasn’t able to get an appointment for the necessary test to start their job.
Ontario, for its part, promises more capacity and is working on a plan to get tests to Shoppers Drug Marts throughout the province. The health minister promised today to unveil the full plan for fall tomorrow.
For now, though, if you need a test, you’re left with the prospect of getting up at dawn and standing around for hours. Good luck!
A First Nation started its own lobster fishery. You won’t believe what happened next
The Sipekne’katik First Nation in southwestern Nova Scotia opened up their own moderate livelihood fishery, as part of Mi’kmaq treaty rights in the region.
It’s being operated by the first nation, who are issuing their own licences. So, naturally, commercial harvesters have responded by sabotaging the traps set by the Mi’kmaq, firing flares at Indigenous boats and other threatening behaviours, according to a story in APTN. The commercial, non-Indigenous lobster harvesters are upset because the Indigenous fishery has been set up outside the commercial fishing season.
The Sipekne’katik First Nation have set up a checkpoint to limit access to the wharf where they’re based to protect themselves and their equipment.
Today, commercial fishermen changed their tactics, gathering outside the homes of people they think are buying lobster from the Sipekne’katik First Nation, according to a CBC reporter.
“It is so disheartening to have had a progressive meeting with the minister yesterday [Saturday] to reinforce that we are following our moderate livelihood fishery plan and to be repeatedly sabotaged by this criminal conduct,” Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack said in a weekend statement.
Something to keep an eye on as things develop.
It’s election time in B.C.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan pulled the plug on his government today, sending the province into an election set for October 24, a year ahead of what was previously scheduled.
The NDP leader is hoping to turn his minority government, held aloft by the Green Party, into a majority one. The trouble in this case is the province is in the middle of a pandemic.
Naturally, as Global B.C. reports, it’s a strategy that comes with some risks:
Hamish Telford, University of the Fraser Valley political scientist, told Global News in a recent interview that voters could punish the NDP for triggering a vote during COVID-19. “There is no apparent need for an election. At least, I think that is what most people think, and he risks a voter backlash,” Telford said.
Things worked out for the Progressive Conservative government in New Brunswick this month, which won enough seats to get a majority in this summer’s election. The main difference there is that New Brunswick has largely contained COVID (they reported two cases today) while cases are increasing in B.C. (139 new cases reported on Saturday).
It’s tough for leaders to ignore record-high approval ratings. Horgan may not be the last.
Liberal ministers want you to lower your expectations
You might have been under the impression a few weeks ago that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had big plans to reshape the country into a more progressive place in the wake of the pandemic.
Like he said at the time:
“As much as this pandemic is an unexpected challenge, it is also an unprecedented opportunity. This is our chance to build a more resilient Canada: a Canada that is healthier and safer, greener and more competitive.… This is our moment to change the future for the better. We can’t afford to miss it because this window of opportunity won’t be open for long.”
That was August. Now that we’re in September it’s clear the government always intended to miss the window and your hopes should never have been too high.
The throne speech is now imminent, and the government will lay out its agenda for the next while in broad terms. It’s a road map for Trudeau’s priorities, which aren’t focused on changing the future for the better.
Via the Globe and Mail:
Federal ministers spent the first part of the past week huddled in a largely empty federal building in Ottawa for a cabinet retreat. The common theme from their public comments was that the government’s top priority is the COVID-19 crisis. Action on an economic recovery plan would have to wait.
This is more or less how Trudeau’s government has operated. Set very high goals by way of lofty rhetoric, then when it comes time to get down to business dial things back. Take your pick of an issue, and this is how they do things. From electoral reform on down, remember that better is not possible, and real change just isn’t.
ICYMI: Canadian banks not to be left out of global financial crimes
Worldwide, criminals are moving around huge sums of money through the biggest global banks. This was confirmed in a massive investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and spearheaded in North America by BuzzFeed, thanks to a cache of leaked documents from the U.S. agency that tracks financial crimes.
The documents are made up of “suspicious activity reports” which lay out transactions that raise red flags. While the bulk of the reports are about transactions in the U.S., Russia and the United Kingdom, never fear: Canada finds itself in a second tier of countries alongside Germany, China and others.
From a post on Canadians for Tax Fairness:
Major Canadian banks including CIBC, RBC, TD, Bank of Montreal, UBS and HSBC Canada, also were involved in 183 suspicious transactions — $15.6 million coming in and $16.9 million going out, the investigation found. In one case identified by reporters, money was wire transferred to Canada for fentanyl deliveries with the ringleader operating from a Canadian jail cell.
It’s just another reminder of the minimal effort the Canadian government puts into punishing financial crimes and tax avoidance. Whether it’s the international popularity of Canadian $1,000 bills among crime-doers, not really cracking down on tax cheats or laundering money through real estate, Canada’s a pretty good place to skirt financial laws.
That’s it for today’s Passage Daily. Join us tomorrow when you’ll get another round up of the day’s news with a perspective you’re not getting elsewhere. Thanks for being there right from the beginning.