The News Rundown
- This entire coronavirus pandemic has been an exercise in figuring out what to do before it’s too late.
- There seemed to be a willful ignorance at the beginning that Canada would get hit at all and it was only a few days before massive shutdowns last March that we were told the risk was low.
- Anyone who understands viral modelling or exponential growth in general could see where this was headed.
- On Thursday this week the federal government banned direct flights for 30 days from India and Pakistan.
- Those transiting through a different country who’s flight may have originated in India or Pakistan are still allowed if they can show a negative and follow existing procedures.
- Procedures which starting in January failed to protect us from new variants.
- The reason being is that India is currently experiencing a massive uptick in cases due to a new COVID variant.
- The “double mutant” variant as it’s being called has been detected in Alberta, BC, Ontario, and Quebec and is sure to already be spreading around the community as some of these cases originated in early April.
- The reason being is that our health authorities weren’t doing genetic sequencing looking for this particular strain and was still at that point not a variant of concern or interest.
- Only now have health officials classed the B.1617 or ‘double mutant’ variant as a variant of interest. A variant of concern is one that is actively spreading through the community and on the uptick.
- Restrictions on flights into Canada from India and Pakistan were not brought in until the opposition as a whole pressured the government to do so. The House of Commons itself passed a unanimous motion urging for restrictions on flights.
- The continual dance of the government questioning whether international restrictions are necessary goes back to the beginning where it was suggested that bringing restrictions in may somehow be racist or xenophobic.
- It remains unclear just who is giving the government this advice or if it’s a construct of cabinet, but this week the group of doctors advising the government said it’s “practically impossible” to keep mutations out of canada.
- They instead want the focus to be on the response to variants when they arrive.
- Citing the UK variant, Dr. Theresa Tam said that “testing has been very helpful” she also pointed to contact tracing and the isolation program the government brought in.
- The thing is though, those variants are now the dominant strain in our country.
- There are three dominant schools of thought on controlling the pandemic.
- The first revolves around getting down to zero cases and keeping it as such. This involves harsh lockdowns and limits on flights. This is easier if you’re an island like New Zealand or Australia.
- The second is what we do here, ensuring that the health care system is not overwhelmed, tightening up, but not that much when the health care system is threatened.
- And the third, which was employed in many US states, involves accepting an amount of infection and death in exchange for keeping things open and protecting the vulnerable.
- The second option does not lead itself to preventing viral spread. The variants are going to spread and we needed to have an honest discussion last March about which way as a country we wanted to go.
- That honest discussion involves talking about how many deaths we are willing to accept as a result of the pandemic and how many individual liberties people and governments are willing to give up.
- Doug Ford this week apologized for granting too many police powers and closing down parks and playgrounds.
- Jason Kenney has already apologized for shutting down businesses while the likes of Walmart and Costco were allowed to operate.
- For any pandemic restrictions to work there has to be public buy in. Buy in is only earned by showing that restrictions work, so far they haven’t.
- Anyone who goes out in Alberta or BC will see people out and about their daily business with a mask on, but aside from that most everything is normal.
- The Canadian media and government officials need to stop acting like they’re trying to control the virus - they aren’t.
- If they wanted to do so, we’d have had to have seen restrictions reminiscing those of China where people were bolted in their houses if sick and were only allowed outside for a brief walk.
- We’ve long said that these types of restrictions are incompatible with western civilization so we need to have an honest discussion on which method of pandemic control is best for our country.
- The government itself needs to be honest. Either relax restrictions as the current ones do not work or find a way to do the impossible because under the right leadership the word impossible should be the greatest motivator and after all things are only impossible until they’re not.
- The government of B.C. is restricting non-essential travel between three regional zones within the province, effective immediately. The province says that the legal orders under the provincial Emergency Program Act are designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said this on the matter: "These measures, most importantly, can save lives. And it's in the best interest of all British Columbians to follow them. There will be consequences for not following [them]."
- The government is using provincial health authority regions to define the boundaries of the zones.
- The three regional zones are: The Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health areas), Vancouver Island (Island Health) and Northern and Interior regions (Northern health and Interior Health).
- The province is also working with police enforcement agencies to introduce additional measures to ensure they have the authority to conduct periodic roadside checks into and out of the defined regions. A contravention of this order may be subject to a $575 fine.
- Farnworth says the order affects those who are travelling across regional zones for recreational purposes, but it is OK to travel for reasons deemed essential, such as: attending school or work, transporting commercial goods, returning to a principal residence, accessing child care, or using health care or assisting someone in obtaining health care.
- B.C. residents will not be able to book accommodations or camping sites outside their zone. Operators will cancel any bookings that have already been made. B.C. Parks will ensure that anyone who has booked a provincial camping site outside of their zone will receive a refund.
- BC Ferries will stop accepting bookings for recreational vehicles such as campers and trailers — and the ferry service will also contact passengers who have already made reservations to ensure they are essential travellers. It will not be implementing any extra sailings this year for the May long weekend.
- Farnworth says that the order is to "ensure that people stop traversing large parts of the province. He encourages people to still "Go hiking, go camping, but do it locally."
- Farnworth also said now is not the time for people from other provinces to travel to B.C, and inter-provincial travellers will be subject to the same consequences as residents.
- "If you are coming into British Columbia from Alberta, and you decide you are now going to Vancouver … you potentially could get a fine," he said. To that end, the province is working with the ministry of transportation and infrastructure to increase signage along the B.C.- Alberta border.
- The formal order for the restrictions are in effect from today, April 23rd as of recording, until May 25, which is the end of the May long weekend. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the date was chosen because it's when the province expects to have 60% of its adult population protected with the COVID-19 vaccine...but it's clear to anyone with a brain that it's to stop people from travelling on the long weekend.
- Farnworth says that the BC government will be working with police to ensure they have the resources to enforce the travel ban order: "Over the coming days, we will continue working with police to establish additional measures to ensure they have the necessary authority to conduct periodic roadside checks like the counter attack program at strategic points into and out of the defined regions."
- However, a group that represents front-line RCMP officers has pushed back against the roadblocks, saying it puts more pressure on limited resources and exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections.
- The National Police Federation released a statement on Wednesday noting it has "grave concerns'' about police taking part in enforcing a COVID-19 ban on non-essential travel.
- Farnworth said officers will not be asked to do random checks but will instead conduct periodic road checks at key points used to travel, adding measures will be taken to limit the effect on what he referred to as "small racialized communities". More details on enforcement are expected to be provided next week.
- “I want to make sure that it’s done right. I want to make sure that we address the concerns that people have. And I want us to avoid the situation, for example, that happened in Ontario.”
- Ontario faced intense criticism after giving police the right to stop pedestrians and motorists to ask where they live and why they’re not at home, prompting the province to walk back those powers days after announcing it. We will see if there will be a big outcry after an NDP premier essentially did the same thing.
- At the same time, critical hospitalizations are at an all time high, at a time when healthcare providers are struggling to keep up with the tolls of a now 13 month long pandemic.
- Officials with the Island Health authority are pleading to residents to follow public health orders and guidelines to alleviate the pressure on healthcare teams amid the third wave of COVID-19. In a public statement released by the health authority on Friday, officials suggest that healthcare teams have been working long hours in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as there has been an increasing presence of the new variants of concern.
- Meanwhile, vaccine supplies remain low. The supply of AstraZeneca vaccine in Island pharmacies has run out after huge demand from those age 40 and up, with some diverted to high-risk spots in other parts of B.C. Bonnie Henry said the province hasn’t received any more AstraZeneca since last week, but hopes more is coming.
- B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said this week saw the lowest supply of vaccines coming into B.C. “for some time,” with only 138,060 doses of Pfizer arriving. A similar shipment is expected next week, along with 87,000 doses of Moderna, which is less than expected. The week after that, Pfizer shipments are set to double. AstraZeneca doses that B.C. was supposed to receive in April didn’t arrive, Henry said.
- “We know the government of Canada is working very strenuously to try and get access to more vaccine, particularly from our neighbours to the south,” she said. “We hope that we’ll get some more in the next little while.”
- This is the legacy of Trudeau's failed vaccine rollout. We will have to continue to hope that countries around the world will take pity on us and supply us with badly needed resources that had things been different, we could have manufactured ourselves.
- In the meantime, there will be no straying from your community, unless you wish to get stopped at a roadblock and sent back with a $575 fine. One wonders if a measure like this much earlier on in the pandemic could have nipped this all in the bud.
- A month ago, the BC government told us that we were to have a 3 week "circuit breaker" restrictions. Those clearly didn't work. And now we're told that they don't even have updated information on how Covid-19 spreads!
- Less than 24 hours after CTV News raised questions around British Columbia's outdated information on how COVID-19 spreads, one of the province's largest health authorities has quietly made changes to its website.
- The scientific and medical communities had been debating how big a role airborne spread is in contracting the disease, with a predominant consensus reached months ago. In the past week alone, three influential medical journals have carried articles to that effect and the Public Health Agency of Canada joined with the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization in updating their websites earlier this month.
- But the BCCDC and Vancouver Coastal Health have stuck to droplet-oriented messaging, with VCH going so far as to write "there is no reported evidence of airborne transmission.”
- As of Thursday morning, that line has quietly been removed, along with another one reading, "Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through airborne transmission."
- The B.C. Centre of Disease Control's website remains unchanged, despite overwhelming evidence from the scientific community and the urging of local and national experts to do so.
- As time moves on, our governments are still behind the times, and still don't know how to effectively put measures in place ahead of time to prevent bad things from happening.
- Alberta is leading the way on solar panels in Canada when it comes to new installs.
- Alberta ranks third in Canada when it comes to wind power.
- Alberta is also home to Canada’s largest solar farm in Claresholm producing 132MW. This is owned by Capstone Energy and Obtain A/S, one of Europe’s largest solar investors.
- In total Alberta is able to generate 290MW from its solar outlets.
- Investment for solar is heating up as the new Travers Solar Project by Greengate Power will generate 465MW. The company headquartered in Calgary will place its solar farm 8km southwest of the Village of Lomond in Vulcan County. The project will be operational by Q4 2022.
- For comparison, 100MW is enough to power roughly 36,000 homes and the small modular reactor nuclear technology we discussed a few weeks back will be able to generate around 300MW from one reactor.
- The bulk of Alberta’s power generation comes from clean burning natural gas, coal, and wind. Alberta generates about 8400MW from gas, 4700 from coal, and 1800 from wind.
- Putting this into perspective from other provinces, Alberta ranks third in wind capacity behind Ontario and Quebec. Wind projects are also on the uptick in Alberta with several hundred megawatts worth of outlets planned.
- How does Alberta do it?
- The conventional wisdom would state that a province needs to have a carbon tax to gather revenue from the population and then funnel that into green energy projects.
- The opposite is true in Alberta.
- Investment in Alberta’s alternate energy sector is fuelled by private investment.
- Private investment is only possible because of Alberta’s deregulated energy market courtesy of the Ralph Klein government.
- Robert Hornung, president and CEO of the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, said that the uptake of solar in Alberta is due to the “unique structure of the Alberta market within the Canadian context and how that provides Alberta with a pretty unique competitive advantage at this time to secure this type of investment.”
- In Saskatchewan if a corporation wanted to buy specifically solar power, they would have difficulties as the only seller of power in Saskatchewan is SaskPower.
- In Alberta, due to the deregulated market, if a large corporation wants specifically solar power, they can approach any solar vendor and buy that power. This competitive environment creates new opportunities for innovative power contracts that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere.
- This kind of setup is commonplace in the US and the corporate procurement of renewable energy is what is driving renewables in the United States.
- It’s this unique market position that has made Alberta the fastest growing market for solar in Canada.
- If passed, the new federal budget will offer $40,000 zero interest loans that Canadians can take out to retrofit their homes with solar. On average, a build that will be able to offset energy costs and send energy back to the grid runs between $15,000 and $20,000.
- The benefit of solar is that when the number of home installations increase or commercial buildings opt for solar, that can limit the amount needing to be generated by large solar farms.
- Going forward in addition to small modular reactors, research and development on battery technology needs to continue.
- The issue with modern solar is that we simply can’t store enough energy with present day battery technology.
- Batteries combined with solar, wind, and nuclear are key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- As Alberta has shown, these technologies, especially solar, will thrive under a climate of private investment and free enterprise. All the government has to do is get out of the way.
- After two years, we finally have a federal budget. Not just a snapshot, or a fleeting glimpse at what the Liberals have done to the economy, but a selectively full accounting for just how much in debt they have accrued over the previous years, before the pandemic and governments took a beating on the economy.
- Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland's first federal budget projects deep deficits for years to come as it promises to support people through the pandemic crisis and make Canada's economy greener and more welcoming to women.
- Freeland says "This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID. It's about healing the economic wounds left by the COVID recession. And it's about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days and decades to come. It's about meeting the urgent needs of today and about building for the long term. It's a budget focused on middle class Canadians and on pulling more Canadians up into the middle class. It's a plan that embraces this moment of global transformation to a green, clean economy."
- The first federal budget document in two years is enormous — at 739 pages — and staggering in scope. It reveals that, over the past year, Canada ran up a deficit of $354.2 billion and plans to follow that up next year with a reduced deficit of $154.7 billion that is supposed to gradually decline to $30.7 billion in 2025-26.
- Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said he has "real concerns" about the budget's debt and deficit projections: "It seems there is not a fiscal anchor in this plan. It's almost like a floating anchor all depending on a massive debt and no clear plan to actually see economic growth, with risks of inflation on the horizon, no plan for large sectors of our economy, no serious plan to help save the tens of thousands of small businesses hanging on by a thread."
- O’Toole said the Liberal party has promised a national daycare plan “nine times. Even cats only have nine lives.”
- To bring more women into the workforce, the federal government announced $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion a year afterward to create and sustain early learning and child-care programs. Freeland described the measure as a "smart, responsible, ambitious" plan for jobs and growth.
- The budget says Canadians will begin seeing a 50 per cent cut in their child care costs by the end of 2022, and forecasts that the average cost of daycare will be further reduced to $10 a day by 2025/26.
- "The truth is that the tragedy of COVID-19 has created a window of opportunity, which we can open to finally build a system of early learning and child care across our country," Freeland said in the budget foreword.
- That's the key word there: That the Liberals see a 'window of opportunity' to remake the economy in whichever way they choose, and to spend on whatever measures they feel they can.
- During the budget debate Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made clear he doesn’t believe the Liberals will follow through on the child care plan, saying the Liberals promised it simply to get elected. Still, the NDP took credit for pushing the government to pledge it.
- Singh said: "The real problem here is that the Liberals have promised this so many times that people are cynical, understandably. For nearly three decades ... they have made this same promise in some form of another and not delivered it."
- Still, the NDP has kept the government alive through confidence measures repeatedly over the last year and half. Even with Singh saying that "Canadians deserve better" than what the Liberals are currently giving them, he also said that it would be"irresponsible" to trigger an election by not supporting the budget. You lose the right to complain about the state of the country, when you are responsible for allowing things to happen as they are.
- Michelle Rempel Garner, Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill, issued the following statement regarding the release of the 2021 Federal Budget:
- “I am weary of policy happening to Albertans, as opposed to in consultation with them. Today’s federal budget leaves Albertans without a clear path forward which will address the unique challenges people in our province face. In the competition for votes in seat rich areas of the country, politicians continually write off the unique needs of our province and its people. My community is tired of false political calculus that assumes that in order to win votes in Ontario and Quebec, Alberta workers in the energy, agriculture, airline, hospitality, and other ancillary sectors must be left behind."
- Reading the federal budget spending spree as it scrolls on for 720-plus pages, a certain numbness takes hold.
- The columns traditionally assigned millions of dollars are now given extra zeros to become billions, tallied up as 280 handouts in Monday’s epic fiscal blueprint for 2021. To put it in 2020 terms, It was a super-spreader event for spending.
- Canada will be in economic pain for a long time to come. Trudeau's pre-pandemic emptying of the surplus cupboards left us with no leeway once we were hit with the pandemic - and failed policies since then on containing the virus, in harming businesses and the working class, trying to cozy up to China despite their hostile stance, and their failures in procuring vaccines, well, let's just say that this budget wasn't unexpected. The past 6 years have all culminated into this moment. And it will be the younger generations that will pay for it.
Word of the Week
Debtonation - A term coined by economist Ann Pettifor, essentially referring to the slow buildup of a nation’s debt eventually leading to a ‘detonation’ of economic depression.
Quote of the Week
"The truth is that the tragedy of COVID-19 has created a window of opportunity, which we can open to finally build a system of early learning and child care across our country,"
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Reactive, Not Proactive
Teaser: Late government actions have let variants of concern into Canada, BC locks down travel within health regions, and Alberta’s free market leads the way in solar investment. Also, Trudeau’s first budget in two years shows just how much debt we are in.
Recorded Date: April 23, 2021
Release Date: April 25, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes