A United Conservative cabinet minister took a vacation in Hawaii in December despite guidance from her own government to avoid non-essential travel, according to media reports Thursday. CBC News reported on New Year’s Eve that Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard visited Hawaii on a family vacation earlier in the month. In response to an inquiry Thursday afternoon about whether Allard had left the country on holiday, her press secretary Justin Marshall told Postmedia the minister was at home in Grande Prairie and was “mostly relaxing but with some work too.”
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Ontario’s finance minister has resigned from his cabinet position after going on a Caribbean vacation during the pandemic. Premier Doug Ford says he has accepted Rod Phillips’s resignation as minister. Phillips returned to Ontario this morning after spending more than two weeks in St. Barts despite provincial guidelines urging people to avoid non-essential travel. “There’s very important work that still needs to be done, and I’d like to continue to be a part of that. But I do understand, people are angry, they deserve to be angry, I have to earn back their confidence,” Phillips told reporters at the airport.
The federal government’s plans to require air travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before landing in Canada will discourage what little globetrotting there is, say Calgary travel agents. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says cabinet ministers decided this morning to quickly enact the new requirement. All passengers on flights entering Canada will require a negative PCR test three days before their arrival. LeBlanc didn’t say when the requirement will be in place but under it, arrivals into the country will still be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Human rights took another beating at the United Nations in 2020 — the global body formed after the Second World War, supposedly to protect them. Despite China’s brutal suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and persecution of its Uighur Muslim minority, the 193-member nations of the UN General Assembly voted in October to elect China to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), starting Jan. 1. “One week from tomorrow, a man who herded 1 million Uighurs into camps, jails human rights activists, crushed Tibet, disappeared courageous men and women who sounded the alarm on the coronavirus, and suffocated freedom in Hong Kong will join the UN’s highest human rights body.”
Canadian taxpayers have subsidized CEO bonuses, Chinese banks, strip clubs and now white supremacist groups all in the name of COVID-19. As if the Trudeau government’s wage subsidy program needed another bad headline, now we find out taxpayers’ dollars went to groups labelled as a neo-Nazi organization. Both the Canadian Association for Free Expression and Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform received the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, although how much money was provided is unknown. While both groups have benign sounding names, they are groups organized by white supremacist Paul Fromm. Fromm disputes the neo-Nazi tag but doesn’t deny being a white nationalist.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a big deal out of announcing his plan to increase his carbon tax from $30 per tonne of emissions today to $170 in 2030, he was quiet as a mouse about slipping in his lesser-known second carbon tax, the Clean Fuel Standard. The Trudeau government’s analysis of the CFS, intended to reduce the carbon intensity of liquid fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel oil and fuel oil), says the price increases it causes will disproportionately impact low and middle-income households, seniors, single mothers, rural Canadians, oil, gas and freight transport workers, single family homeowners and tenants, among others. “It’s a real mess and it’s completely self-inflicted,” “I have been in government and I have never seen a government inflict this kind of cost on consumers.”
The novel coronavirus vaccine should still work against a highly infectious new variant of the virus spreading quickly in the United Kingdom. That’s “good news,” the World Health Organization said on Monday. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19, said the mutated variant may be more transmissible, but there is no evidence it would increase the “severity associated with this disease.” “The U.K. has informed us that they don’t believe that there’s an impact on the vaccine. So that’s good news,” she said. On Friday, South African officials identified a new variant of the virus, known as 501.V2, as the driving force of the country’s second wave as it closed in on 2.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Trudeau government is blocking flights from the United Kingdom as Britain deals with a new strain of COVID-19 that apparently spreads faster and easier than what we have been dealing with over the last year. The ban, which takes effect at midnight Sunday, is also only for 72 hours. The announcement may have come too late though, given the number of flights that have arrived in Canada from across Europe, and Britain in particular in the last few weeks. There have been 107 international flights arriving in Canada over the past two weeks with COVID infected passengers.
Twitter Inc said on Wednesday that it will start removing false or misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccinations that could be harmful, including false claims the vaccines will intentionally cause harm or control populations or that invoke “a deliberate conspiracy.” Twitter’s policy update, announced in a blog post the same week that the first Americans received COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a mass immunization campaign, also said users could be required to remove tweets with false claims about the adverse effects of receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc-owned YouTube have both in recent weeks announced bans on false claims about the vaccine that go against information from public health experts.
Quick, without using Google, name the superintendent of Financial Institutions. Can you do it? Could you name the president of the Public Service Commission? You should know their names because they are among the most important public servants in Canada, among the 53 bureaucrats in Ottawa given a full-time car and driver. That’s right, they and many others, have a chauffeur on standby to shuttle them around Ottawa. There are 53 such bureaucrats with cars and drivers, that’s on top of the car and driver for the prime minister and his 35 cabinet ministers. As one Bay St. executive told me years ago, there are more dedicated chauffeurs in Ottawa than serving the corporate executives that run the biggest companies in the country.