Hello Passengers,

This is your Passage Daily newsletter for September 29. It’s Jeremy (@JeremyAppel1025). You may remember me from last Tuesday’s newsletter. Let’s have a look at today’s top stories, shall we?

Medical experts call on Ontario government to return to Stage 2

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is calling on the government to re-impose COVID-19 Stage 2 restrictions in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa after the province announced 700 new cases on Monday, its largest-ever daily increase. Stage 2 restrictions apply to indoor dining and bars, places of worship, banquet halls, gyms, movie theatres and other non-essential services. Schools would remain open in this scenario. 

Premier Doug Ford called the spike in cases “deeply concerning” and acknowledged that the dreaded second wave has begun, but refused to commit to any new public health measures. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government won’t go back a stage “unless we absolutely have to.” Both Elliot and Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams failed to specify what it would take for the province to have crossed that Rubicon. 

Williams said some “targeted” measures were under consideration, but again remained vague on any particular details. 

Meanwhile in Quebec

By contrast, Quebec is putting Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches under partial lockdown for 28 days after announcing 750 new cases on Monday. 

The restrictions include:

  • A ban on home gatherings, with exceptions for caregivers
  • Closing bars, restaurants, casinos, cinemas, libraries and museums
  • Mandatory masks during demonstrations
  • A maximum of 25 people in houses of worship and banquet halls

These restrictions will go into effect Thursday to give business owners time to prepare. Premier François Legault says the government is working on compensation packages for businesses being forced to close. 

Just over a month ago, Health Minister Christian Dubé prematurely announced the province had “really succeeded at controlling the transmission of COVID.” 

Via the CBC:

As Dubé addressed reporters on that Tuesday in late August, public health officials in Quebec City were busy trying to track down patrons of Bar Kirouac, a watering hole in the working-class Saint-Sauveur neighbourhood. A karaoke night at the bar ultimately led to 72 cases and the activity being banned in the province. There were also numerous reports by then of young people holding massive house parties and flouting physical distancing recommendations. One of them, in Laval, led to a small outbreak.

It’s only been a downward spiral from there.

Liberals, NDP fast track COVID aid bill

After federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh agreed to support the Liberal government’s Speech from the Throne, staving off an election just one year into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government, the parties aim to have their new COVID aid bill reach the Senate tomorrow. 

Singh agreed to keep the government afloat in exchange for increasing the Canada Recovery Benefit, which is set to replace the CERB, to $2,000 a month, ensuring its recipients receive the same amount of funding. Singh has also gotten the Liberals to agree to expanding the eligibility criteria of sick leave provisions for federally-regulated workers. 

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois are opposed to fast tracking the legislation, arguing parliament ought to have a full debate on the bill’s contents, despite being in the second wave of a pandemic. 

However, the Tories and Bloquistes do make a valid point that these measures could have been thoroughly debated last month, when the Liberals instead prorogued parliament to avoid further inquiries into the WE Charity scandal. But the insistence upon extensively debating emergency aid measures, holding them up at a time of so much uncertainty for recipients, is poor optics at best and completely careless at worst. 

Opioid deaths in Alberta outpace COVID-19 deaths

According to a new report from Alberta Health, the province saw 449 opioid overdose deaths in the first six months of 2020, 301 of which occurred between April and June at the height of the first COVID-19 wave. By contrast, there have been a total of 265 COVID-19 deaths in the province. 

Elaine Hyshka, a professor of public health at the University of Alberta, told the Canadian Press that the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and opioid overdoses are feeding into each other. 

Hyshka says that border closures have disrupted illegal drug supply chains, which has led to more dangerous drugs being sold on the streets. She also places blame on the provincial government for its refusal to take harm reduction seriously: “These deaths are 100 per cent preventable.”

This news comes after the government ordered the closure of the Lethbridge’s Arches — the most frequented supervised consumption site in North America — at the end of August after a politically-motivated audit revealed severe financial mismanagement. Predictably, its closure has led to an increase in overdoses and needle debris.

ICYMI: Right-wing Saskatchewan radio host doxxes critics

PressProgress has reported that John Gormley, a prominent right-wing Saskatchewan radio host whose station is a major donor to the conservative Saskatchewan Party, has been accused of engaging in targeted harassment of government critics. 

According to a complaint sent to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, Gormley — a former Conservative MP who hosts the eponymous show on Rawlco Radio — doxxed several women who opposed the ruling party’s austerity policies. 

In the instance that lead to the formal complaint, Gormley broadcasted and tweeted the workplace and contact information for Chelsea Flook — an activist with “Stop the Cuts,” which had staged a protest at a fundraising dinner for then-premier Brad Wall in 2017 — encouraging his listeners to contact her. 

The owners of Rawlco Radio are linked to more than $300,000 in donations to the Saskatchewan Party since 2006, including $120,000 under the company’s name. 

That does it for today’s Passage Daily. Check your email tomorrow for more news from a perspective you won’t get anywhere else.

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