The News Rundown
- BC on Tuesday and Alberta on Wednesday unveiled their plans to de-escalate restrictions into the summer as more and more people get vaccinated and the nightmare of the pandemic begins to appear in the rear view mirror.
- BC, is taking a measured 4 step approach, where immediately on May 25th, outdoor gatherings and gradual easement of workplace restrictions. Stage 2 begins on June 15th with 65% of people with 1 dose, where indoor gatherings go up from 10 to 50 people, the health zone travel restrictions are lifted allowing for provincewide travel, and all indoor sports teams can resume play.
- Stage 3, a few weeks later on July 1st, with 70% of people with one dose, will allow for Canada-wide recreational travel, a return to usual indoor gatherings, masks becoming recommended not mandatory, and no group limit on dining, along with other easings.
- And Stage 4 on September 7th, masks will become a 'personal choice', we can have normal social contact again, increased capacity on indoor events (like concerts and sport events), and fully reopened offices and workplaces.
- Premier John Horgan said of the reopening: “British Columbians have sacrificed so much over the last 15 months to help keep people and our communities safe. We have made tremendous strides with our vaccination program, and we are now in a position where we can move forward with a plan to slowly bring us back together. As we have done throughout this pandemic, we will be closely following the guidance of public health and supporting people and businesses as we take the next steps in putting this pandemic behind us.”
- This is all running under the assumption that everything goes well, and that everybody continues to get vaccinated. As CBC reporter Justin McElroy says, "if you’ve been following the guidelines for the last 14 months but are desperately hoping for a 'return to normal', this plan will make you happy. If you’ve been upset for the last year at B.C. not being cautious enough, you’ll have some issues."
- And certainly, if you're wanting things to open up faster, you'll want to look at the province to the east, which is doing much of what BC is doing but on a much faster scale.
- Set in three stages, Stage 1 immediately eases restrictions on outdoor gatherings. In mid June is where things really open up for Stage 2, indoor gatherings are eased, and many other in person activities can resume. In early July for Stage 3, all remaining public health restrictions will be lifted, with no indoor gathering requirements.
- The Alberta Government is touting it's plan as being "Open For Summer". Kenney says that the Stage 3 date is up to ordinary people now: “If more Albertans book more vaccines more quickly, that day could even come more quickly. That’s just how close we might be, folks. It’s up to Albertans now.”
- Alberta will take a province-wide approach to easing the restrictions and the rules will be the same in all regions, regardless of their vaccination rates, Kenney said: “We’re talking about the protection of the overall population here, about 4.5 million Albertans. That’s the science behind herd immunity when we look at the whole population. We are concerned where there are pockets of below average vaccination. We will make special efforts to reach out in those communities with both information and vaccination opportunities that break down barriers.”
- When asked about his response to the NDP and other people who think that Alberta should be still shut down, Kenney delivered a blistering response: “Are we supposed to lock ourselves into permanent fear and lock ourselves down because of potential worst case scenarios?”
- Alberta has set the tone for foreign policy in Canada relating to China but no one has noticed.
- This week Alberta’s Ministry of Advanced Education ordered the province's four research based institutions to suspend the pursuit of partnerships with individuals or organizations linked to the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party.
- The government is concerned about national security and the risk that research could be used to facilitate human rights abuses.
- Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said, “I am deeply concerned about the potential theft of Canadian intellectual property and further concerned that research partnerships with the People’s Republic of China may be used by Chinese military and intelligence agencies.”
- The Minister was also very careful to highlight that these national security concerns were about the Chinese government and not the Chinese people.
- The institutions affected are the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, and Athabasca University. The institutions have 90 days to submit a report with the requested information to the government.
- The universities will also have to provide details on the “scope and scale” of any university ties to Chinese companies, government agencies or institutions.
- The University of Alberta in particular has close ties with China that involves sharing and transferring research in areas such as nanotechnology, bio technology, and artificial intelligence.
- China is a country that has an immense manufacturing capacity and is widely seen by western countries as a major thief of intellectual property.
- This means we can invent something or innovate in an area and all China has to do is manufacture it and sell it back to us to come out ahead.
- Last year on Western Context 184 we covered the downfall of Canadian telecom giant Nortel which more and more looks like an early cyber-attack by the Chinese military.
- The end result? China wants Canada to buy Huawei 5G technology and the federal government has been the only member of the Five Eyes intelligence group to not ban Huawei.
- Had we guarded our intellectual property and stood up to China years and years ago, Nortel might still exist today.
- Concerns about China’s theft of intellectual property have been raised by Australia and the United States. It has also appeared in the House of Commons Committee on Canada-China relations including testimony that said that some of the technology China uses for surveillance was developed in Canada and the technology could be used to forward the aims of the Chinese military and security apparatus.
- An Australian study done a few years ago by the Australian Strategy Policy found that Canada became the third largest destination for scientists associated with the Chinese military.
- The skeptical person may say that all academic collaboration is inherently good and there’s an argument to be made for that, but China and the Chinese Communist Party are solely concerned with the advancement of their economic progress.
- A person may also say that this is Alberta being anti-China or racist, but in actuality, Alberta is acting because a source in the US government has privately flagged collaboration between Alberta’s universities and China as an area of concern.
- Now had a member of the Trump administration done this, the story would be wiped away but let’s remember how happy the media establishment was crowning Biden as President-elect.
- Surely we should trust the Biden administration more than the Trump administration they’d think?
- Former CSIS head Richard Fadden said that Alberta is taking a sensible approach to ensure that leading edge research won’t be transferred to the Chinese communist party.
- Fadden said that in recent years President Xi Jinping has made science and innovation a key element of modernizing the country’s armed forces, security services, and tech companies.
- He also said that Ottawa should step in to prohibit universities from receiving money from foreign powers in strategic areas of research such as avionics, space, nuclear, and high level optics.
- The federal government’s foreign affairs department announced in March that universities should develop new risk guidelines to integrate national security considerations into the evaluation and funding of research projects.
- Alberta has also called for the federal government to set stronger national standards.
- This story was originally published in the Globe and Mail and was largely copied by the CBC while only being lightly covered on CTV Calgary this week.
- As a final note, this story also appeared in ANI, an Indian publication citing intellectual property theft concerns.
- India as a neighbour of China has to be on guard. We all should be on guard today and India’s concern highlights how important it is that this story attain national prominence.
- Canada's telecommunications regulator, the CRTC, has reversed a 2019 decision to drop wholesale internet rates. In a victory for Canada's largest internet and phone companies, Rogers, Telus, and Bell, the CRTC says it made errors when it ordered major phone and cable companies to slash their wholesale internet rates.
- It said all of the 2019 rate changes have been set aside. That means the majority of the wholesale rates set in 2016 remain in effect, with the exception of a markup by phone companies. This undos 5 years of progress to try and make Canada's internet providers give more competitive rates and open up the market for smaller providers.
- Matt Stein, chair of the 30-member Competitive Network Operators of Canada and chief executive of Distributel, said he was "absolutely dismayed" by the CRTC's reversal. He predicted internet prices will go up "immediately" and there will be fewer of the smaller competitors, because they've counted on some relief from the higher 2016 rates.
- Stein predicts that "the competitors have to raise rates, just to stay in the game. And when competitors raise their rates, all that does is create more room for the incumbent phone and cable companies to raise theirs."
- The reversal came despite the CRTC previously condemning the large carriers’ rate-fixing as “very disturbing” and the 2019 Rates Order being upheld on appeals by the Federal Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Federal Cabinet.
- It's clear that the CRTC's reversal was due in large part to the extensive lobbying and money thrown around by the big 3 Canadian telecom oligopoly, widely known as Robelus. All three companies defend the rates they've charged since 2016 and say the CRTC's 2019 rates would have them selling at a loss.
- They argue that maintaining and expanding their network infrastructure is a significant cost the independent companies don't bear, and that the lowered rates could limit their ability to invest in wireless or internet services in rural areas — growth the federal government has pledged to support. A brief statement from Bell, Canada's largest telecommunications company, said the ruling is a "positive decision" that enables major infrastructure investments.
- But smaller independent internet providers like TekSavvy and Distributel say they've been overcharged for years — a position that was supported by the CRTC's decision in 2019. While the smaller ISPs had celebrated the 2019 price reductions and the larger ISPs worked vigorously to have them set aside, CRTC chairman Ian Scott says that the ruling is fair to both sides.
- Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s VP of Regulatory & Carrier Affairs, was a bit more scathing of the decision, calling it "a tombstone on the grave of telecom competition in Canada.”
- François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, says the federal government is reviewing the decision, to "ensure it aligns with its priorities of affordability, competition and innovation in the sector".
- Anyone with an internet connection will know that the biggest telecoms have been making large profits even amidst the pandemic and job cuts. Bell, for example, was called out for this just a few months ago which we covered on Western Context 206.
- The decision is bad news for consumers, as it effectively guarantees internet prices will continue to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2020 price study found that Canadian internet prices increased across all service baskets over 2019, making Canada a huge international outlier among its peer countries for affordability.
- As Canadian internet rates continue to climb during the current inflation crisis that we are experiencing, consumers will want to ask the question, who will stand up for affordability?
- This week the Biden administration in the US pushed forward on its own initiative to identify the source of the COVID-19 virus causing the global pandemic.
- The US Senate has also passed a Bill that requests the administration to be transparent about the origins of COVID-19. The Bill received unanimous support in what is normally a starkly politically divided US Senate chamber.
- The Bill gives the Office of the Director of National Intelligence 90 days to declassify all information concerning the origins of COVID-19.
- Following this move by the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada supports the move by the United States to better understand the origins of COVID-19.
- The theories about the origins of COVID-19 are that the virus originated in a bat and then jumped to humans via an intermediate species at a wet market, perhaps a mink. Or that the virus was a genetically modified coronavirus at the Wuhan institute of Virology and escaped the lab via lab workers.
- In reporting by the Wall Street Journal it was revealed that three researchers at the Wuhan lab fell ill in November 2019 with symptoms very similar to that of COVID-19.
- There was also a letter published in the journal, Science, signed by 18 scientists asking for a proper investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
- Nicholas Wade, a science writer having worked on the staff of prestigious journals such as Nature and Science as well as the New York Times penned a 10,000 word article online at the end of April detailing how the lab escape theory should not be thrown away.
- Put simply and more briefly, the lack of evidence to support a specific claim does not disprove that claim.
- The city of Wuhan which hosts the Wuhan Institute of Virology is hours away from the caves in Yunnan province where the bats thought to be the origin of COVID-19 reside.
- For the natural emergence story to be credible a huge link in the chain is missing or we somehow got randomly unlucky that a bat virus could infect humans, normally they have to mutate through a host space or hundreds of iterations.
- It was only months after SARS first appeared that we understood where it originated, no such intermediate origin species for COVID-19 has been found yet.
- Last year if you suggested that the virus may have leaked from the Chinese lab you were labeled a spreader of conspiracy theories just because this was an idea that was mentioned by the Trump administration.
- YouTube also had policies in place where if you published content saying that the virus was not naturally occurring (which would be the case if leaked from a lab) your account would be suspended.
- It’s important to realize that the probe done by the WHO was done at arms length since China was very reluctant to allow full access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and early case data going back to December and earlier.
- The Wuhan Institute of Virology worked with corona viruses undertaking gain of function experiments which entails modifying a virus to become more virulent in an effort to better understand coronaviruses.
- After SARS and MERS there was an effort by the wider virology science community to understand how these viruses work and this kind of research was one way of doing so.
- The goal of course, to be able to develop a vaccine but thankfully the MRNA technology has proven very effective.
- Since the pivot China has changed its COVID-19 origin story to blame the US, the Washington Post published an article saying “How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible” and even Justin Trudeau has been seen as open to the idea.
- But it wouldn’t be a Justin Trudeau story without the Prime Minister taking cheap political shots.
- In responding to opposition questions in Question Period he accused the opposition of pushing too far into intolerance and anti-asian racism in their “zeal” to make personal attacks against the Prime Minister.
- The questions the opposition were asking about were the partnership between Canada’s top microbiology lab and the Chinese regime.
- In particular, Erin O’Toole asked, “Can the prime minister tell this House, how a person with deep connections to the Chinese military obtained a high-level Canadian security clearance?”
- So while the Prime Minister is going along with his pal Joe Biden and what he aims to do, within Canada it is still racist to ask legitimate questions about our national security when Chinese individuals are involved.
- The idea that the COVID-19 virus leaked from a lab is gaining prominence and even Dr. Anthony Fauci in the US, (an equivalent to Dr. Theresa Tam in Canada) says that the theory should be investigated.
- One has to wonder when the federal government will drop the blindfold, stop virtue signalling, and approach these issues with the seriousness they deserve.
- If they don’t it signals a very disturbing issue and we’ve seen this globally.
- Our officials, government and otherwise, tell us to trust the science. The government chooses their own scientific officials to report day to day findings. Then the media picks these up with almost no questions asked. But when actual science comes along it is so distilled that the original point being made (as was the case last year) looks very weak or like a conspiracy theory. This in itself is a recipe for modern dictatorship at the whims of governments and national media organizations.
Word of the Week
Oligopoly - a state of limited competition, in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers.
Quote of the Week
“Are we supposed to lock ourselves into permanent fear and lock ourselves down because of potential worst case scenarios?” Jason Kenney on people who want perpetual lockdowns
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Open For Summer
Teaser: BC and Alberta outline their re-opening strategies, Alberta orders universities to cut ties with China, and the CRTC deals a crushing blow to internet affordability. Also, Trudeau is on board with Biden’s search for the pandemic origin.
Recorded Date: May 28, 2021
Release Date: May 30, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes