The News Rundown
- We’re back to where we started this week in Alberta as our news keeps repeating itself.
- There have been widespread calls for the Premier, the Health Minister, and Dr. Hinshaw to make themselves available at the midst of what is being called the 4th wave.
- The media has continued to resort to consulting, giving air time, and utilizing Dr. Joe Vipond as one of their “experts”.
- Last time Dr. Joe came up in the media we followed the money and highlighted his excessive donations to the Alberta NDP to the tune of $20,000+
- Yet still today the media treats him as one of the reliable sources on matters related to COVID-19 when he clearly has a partisan interest.
- Other partisan interests have been a resounding push for Jason Kenney to make himself available, for which he was on a 15 day vacation in mid-August and appeared this week to do a Facebook Live Q&A in which he was criticized for not talking to the media.
- In the modern world one would think it would be refreshing that politicians would rather talk directly to constituents rather than through the media mouthpiece.
- The media got their chance on Friday when the province issued a COVID update re-instituting the indoor mask requirements, work from home requirements, and a new incentive for those unvaccinated to get vaccinated.
- The indoor mask requirement makes little sense for those who are fully vaccinated and is quite frankly a feel good measure.
- The City of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities re-instituted their mask policies before the province spoke and given the minuscule amount of power that cities have, it’s probably a good thing that the province acted because constitutionally it seems like a stretch that the city would have the power to impose a mask mandate.
- The real question at hand and determining factor is vaccination and how healthy a person is going into their COVID experience.
- Since January 1, 2021 0.2% of people (or 4,958) with two doses of the vaccine were diagnosed with COVID 14 days after their second dose.
- 90.2% of people hospitalized since January 1, were unvaccinated.
- 91.5% of cases in total were in people who were unvaccinated. The remaining 8.3% were partially vaccinated.
- When it comes to breakthrough cases (those who were completely vaccinated) in the last 120 days, of the total 54,321 cases, 4690 or 8.6% were fully vaccinated.
- The numbers are more stark when it comes to hospitalizations.
- Of the total 3,148 hospitalizations, 218 were fully vaccinated or 6.9%. And with this, 198 of these fully vaccinated hospitalizations had pre-existing conditions, that’s 91%.
- For the unvaccinated crowd there were 2,588 hospitalizations with 1,543 or 60% of them having a pre-existing condition.
- The numbers are even more stark for ICU admissions with 2.8% or 20 people of 718 ICU admissions being admitted to an ICU who were fully vaccinated.
- 7.5% of ICU admissions were those partially vaccinated and the other 89.7% or 644 people were unvaccinated.
- Breaking these numbers down further for ICU admission, there were ZERO people admitted to ICU who were fully vaccinated and had no pre-existing conditions. of the partially vaccinated crowd 81% had pre-existing conditions, and with the unvaccinated, 66% had pre-existing conditions while a third did not.
- As for those who met their end due to COVID-19 in the past 120 days there have been 272 deaths. 39 or 14% were fully vaccinated and all but 2 had or 0.7% had pre-existing conditions.
- Those who were partially vaccinated and had no existing conditions fared better seeing no deaths but those partially vaccinated with pre-existing conditions saw 36 deaths.
- Now for those unvaccinated, 158 or 80% of those unvaccinated had a pre-existing condition while 20% did not. Breaking it down in total however, 58.1% of the deaths have been unvaccinated with pre-existing conditions while 14.3% have been unvaccinated with no pre-existing conditions.
- The data here speaks volumes, the vaccine works and makes COVID a survivable illness.
- The problem though is that our healthcare system does not have flex capacity in the event of a surge due to the centralized nature of it.
- The data also says what no one has dared to say since the beginning of the pandemic. Those who are unhealthy are going to have a harder time but that comes down to life choices.
- Hindsight is 20/20 but the biggest lesson that needs to come out of the pandemic is that we need to focus on making the population healthier on the whole and working on issues like obesity, preventative care (to prevent these comorbidities from manifesting), and quality of life.
- The province aims to entice more people to get vaccinated by sending anyone who gets vaccinated between now and October a $100 VISA gift card.
- The NDP is absolutely opposed to this plan which is odd since it utilizes redistribution of wealth which is a core pillar of many NDP policies.
- The NDP, if in power and given the chance by their union allies and instigators seeking to divide the UCP would be in favour of vaccine passports, which we talked about last week being discriminatory and segregationist, and in favour of more shutdowns.
- We also need to be 100% honest with our listener base. COVID does not end until 70-80% of the population has been vaccinated and has been exposed in some variety to the virus.
- The American Center for Disease Control estimates that by the end of 2022 all Americans will have been exposed to COVID in some way. It’s this combination of exposure plus vaccination that’s thought to be the best defence against any infection.
- Just as we were about to begin recording the Calgary City Council voted to make vaccines mandatory to access city services in a 10-4 vote and will report back to council on September 13th.
- Policies that put in place restrictions for the vaccinated and restrictions in general when we are now clearly in a pandemic of the unvaccinated only raise more questions in the eyes of those who are vaccine skeptics. Entirely wrong move.
- If this continues the province will have to step in to ensure the freedom of its citizens and ban localized vaccine passport use despite the Premier saying when it came to individual businesses that the free market should decide.
- Ideally this week I wanted to be talking about the economy recovering here in Alberta.
- Due to lower corporate tax rates, a reduction in red tape, and a rebound in the energy industry, Alberta’s bottom line looks a whole lot better this year.
- The budget deficit initially forecast to be around $17b has been shaved down to $7.8b. A drop of almost $10b.
- Alongside the wonderful budget news the economy is expected to grow by 6.7% and overall employment to increase by 5.2% meaning a faster fall than anticipated in the jobless rate.
- This is a contrast to the rest of Canada where the economy contracted by 1.1%. Economists expected a 2.5% growth nationally.
- Alberta leads the way in economic growth due to pro-growth policies and a resurgence in the energy industry.
- This can be Canada’s future if later this month Canada elects a pro-growth government that doesn’t put its foot on the energy industry.
- This is all the evidence one needs for keeping the economy open and despite what some say, Alberta has no lockdown and never has.
- We currently have a mask mandate and those unvaccinated are encouraged to limit contact with anyone who says otherwise is attempting to spread misinformation and division.
- Things have been heated in BC ever since the NDP government announced last week that they would be instituting a vaccine passport program on September 13th. On Wednesday afternoon, thousands of demonstrators gathered outside hospitals in Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, Victoria, Prince George, and Nanaimo to protest the BC government's decision to restrict the movement of those who do not get their COVID vaccinations.
- No Canadian government has made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for the general public, though B.C. has announced immunization will be required for health-care workers in long-term care homes. BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are going to require proof of vaccination for certain non-essential activities while many employers are requiring vaccines for people returning to the office.
- The protests were organized by Canadian Frontline Nurses, a group founded by two Ontario nurses who have promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and attended rallies in the U.S. for those who think the pandemic is a "fraud." In posters for the event, dubbed "worldwide walkout," the group urged supporters to "stand up for freedom" and "reject the tyranny of mandatory vaccines." Protesters carried signs with slogans criticizing vaccine passports as a form of discrimination and chanted "freedom" and "crimes against humanity."
- In Nanaimo, one healthcare worker was physically assaulted by a protestor, while many others were verbally abused as they came to and left work during these protests.
- Island Health's president and CEO Kathy MacNeil said some of the protests on Vancouver Island had disrupted people's safe access to health care. Reports have come out of cancer patients having to walk through the protests to get to their chemotherapy appointments, and immunocompromised people having to walk several blocks through unmasked, likely unvaccinated people just to get to the hospital.
- MacNeil said: "What happened to our health-care teams today is not acceptable to me nor to the people and communities they serve. Our health-care teams deserve respect and support, no matter what personal beliefs we hold."
- Premier John Horgan called out what he described as "harassment" of health-care workers during the protests: "While everyone has the right to peaceful protest, the targeting and harassment of health-care workers at health-care facilities today is completely unacceptable. We stand by our health-care workers and support them fully."
- The largest protest was in Vancouver, where demonstrators gathered outside Vancouver General Hospital before marching toward city hall, but Vancouver Coastal Health reported that there were no disruptions to the hospital's operations or patient care. By 3 p.m., police estimated that as many as 5,000 people blocking traffic in downtown Vancouver.
- Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart described the protesters as "kooks," "fringe lunatics" and "a bunch of jerks" and said they were rubbing salt in the wounds of exhausted front-line workers. "They should stay the hell home and stop doing this," he said.
- Vancouver nurse Shana Aguilar wrote on Instagram: “The place for that is outside the legislative buildings. They are the ones making policies. Health-care professionals are just trying to care for the ill and injured, including COVID patients.”
- The protests have shocked and disgusted many across the political spectrum. We here at Western Context would like to say that harassment of healthcare workers is unacceptable. With that in mind, it is important to note that protesting is a fundamental right shared by all Canadians.
- Meghan McDermott, interim policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), said she understands people are stressed out and scared right now, and many may be angry that protesters gathered outside hospitals where health-care workers are treating people with COVID-19: "However, the bottom line with Canadian law and with living in a free and open democratic society is that we generally have the right to protest and to express dissent about government measures."
- McDermott noted that the right to protest is not absolute though, and demonstrations could reasonably be restricted if they interfere with things like access to health care or harm people in other ways.
- McDermott said that people who have questions about bodily autonomy and informed consent have a right to ask those questions. She also argued that there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about how the province is rolling out its B.C. vaccine card program.
- "While this isn't a vaccine mandate … so it's not interfering with our bodily autonomy, some people really do think that it's an indirect way [of doing so]."
- The BCCLA was one of 25 community organizations, including Disability Alliance B.C. and Pivot Legal Society, that signed a letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix this week calling for changes to the plan.
- The letter points to several groups of people who may be unfairly denied service because of the vaccine passport program, including undocumented migrants who don't have access to MSP, people who can't be vaccinated because of complex medical conditions, low-income people without government-issued identification, people who use drugs, and LGBTQ people whose IDs contain inaccurate information about their gender.
- The groups are asking for measures to ensure that people who aren't enrolled in MSP or who have inadequate identification still have a way to prove their vaccination status. They're also asking for accommodations so that people who might have a reaction to the vaccine can receive the shot in a hospital setting, and exemptions for those who simply can't be vaccinated.
- It's clear that there were many ways that the BC government could have gone about persuading people to get a vaccine. It chose one of the most heavy handed ways there was to get people to comply with what the government wanted to do. There has to be a better way to convince people to get these safe, effective vaccines. Unfortunately, the way that the pandemic was handled since the beginning has led to a lack of trust. Forcing people into an option just has created more anti-vaxxers and protestors, many of whom had never been to a protest before. We're headed for dark times ahead if this is the BC that emerges from this summer.
- The WE Charity Scandal that saw Justin Trudeau’s government award money to a charity that was too close to his family was a hallmark of the last Parliament.
- It was a typical Trudeau scandal in one that started out with a drip drip of information from some inside sources that gradually picked up steam. Justin Trudeau initially denied it before admitting wrongdoings and the fall guy this time was former Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
- For the sake of the media it was made to look like Morneau was the primary culprit but it was indeed the Trudeau family.
- This week the Conservatives are asking the federal Ethics Commissioner to investigate the ties, troubling as they call them, between Trudeau and the Pierre Elliot Trudeau foundation.
- Justin Trudeau claims to have ceased interaction with the Foundation upon getting involved in politics.
- The question that the Conservatives are wondering is, could Trudeau continue to sit on one of the foundation’s governing bodies — a non-partisan charity created in 2001 thanks to a $125 million contribution from the federal government to fund and promote academic research — as a “succession member” while he was an MP and then prime minister?
- The Conservatives and Democracy Watch, a democratic accountability watchdog say no because of the foundation’s monetary ties with the federal government and the powerful position that Trudeau holds.
- The question starts to become murky because as of 2016, Trudeau said he cut all ties but information in the foundation’s latest annual report says otherwise.
- Despite the report saying that Trudeau has withdrawn, every report still lists him as a “succession member.”
- “Members” of the foundation are a select group of people that form one of two governing bodies and whose role is to elect the board of directors every year.
- Trudeau Foundation CEO Pascale Fournier, says that, yes, Trudeau is still a succession member but has committed to remain inactive.
- The problem comes from the Conflict of Interest Act, in that it prohibits all Ministers and the Prime Minister from continuing as “a director or officer in a corporation or organization.”
- The Conservatives have already said in their platform they will strengthen the Conflict of Interest Act.
- A Conservative government will pass an Anti-Corruption Act, strengthening the existing Conflict of Interest Act by increasing penalties for all violations, including the ones that Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau were guilty of breaching with regards to WE. The maximum fine will be increased from $500 to $50,000.
- Only the federal Ethics Commissioner can grant exemptions and no such exemption has been made for Justin Trudeau.
- It’s also worth noting that Justin Trudeau did not have a formal conflict of interests screen through the commissioners office; the law as is, prevents anyone from asking if he had one.
- Conservative candidate Michael Barret who made the request said that being a member of the Foundation is similar to being a major shareholder in a company.
- He said, “The Foundation’s family members are in a very powerful position to direct and control the Foundation’s affairs… Despite having ‘withdrawn’ from the affairs of the Foundation, as Mr. Trudeau has claimed, his rights and powers as a family member of the Foundation did not lapse, extinguish or cease. It is, at most, a voluntary restraint against exercising them.”
- Going back to 2016, the National Post reported that since becoming Liberal leader and Prime Minister, gifts to the Foundation had increased significantly and a large portion of the charity’s donors, directors, and members were tied to organizations lobbying the federal government.
- Alongside this report, an audit conducted by the auditors for Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada note that the agreement the foundation has says that members of the House of Commons cannot be appointed as foundation members. The Auditors also recommended that “the Foundation shall comply” with that part of the agreement given Trudeau’s family member status since he was elected in 2008.
- Fast forward to today and no sanctions were imposed on the Foundation and the matter was considered resolved by the Foundation in 2014.
- This story has the hallmarks of how all the previous Trudeau scandals started. SNC-Lavalin, Mark Norman, WE, and Justin Trudeau’s groping activities. They start small with a trickle of information and grow bigger.
- We’ll have to wait and see what happens next but this story wasn’t mentioned anywhere else this week and that’s a problem in a national campaign.
- The Liberal Party has given southwestern Ontario candidate Raj Saini the green light to seek re-election for his third term as Kitchener Centre MP despite a series of allegations of inappropriate behaviour toward young female staffers that spanned his six years in office.
- Seven sources with knowledge of the claims described four different cases where Saini allegedly made unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments. Saini said he has never acted inappropriately toward staff and denies the allegations.
- A former senior staffer who filed a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint against Saini last year alleging unwelcome advances and harassing behaviour said it's upsetting the party is allowing Saini to campaign again under the Liberal banner in Kitchener Centre. The staffer said her experience in Saini's office contributed to her mental distress, and she eventually tried to take her own life in his office in March 2020.
- "That's pretty devastating to me, knowing what I have gone through and that I've raised concerns over the last more than year and a half," said the former senior staffer. "It's disturbing to me.... It's also concerning to me that it could continue to happen to other people."
- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has maintained he has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment in the workplace, and that he has led a feminist government. But his party also allowed MP Marwan Tabbara to run in the 2019 federal election despite a party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against him in the previous mandate. Tabbara later left caucus after police charged him with break and enter, assault and criminal harassment in an unrelated case last year. Tabbara's next court appearance is scheduled for tomorrow.
- The complaints against Saini date back to the Liberals' holiday party in December 2015, which more than 2,000 people attended including Liberal MPs, staff and supporters at the Shaw Convention Centre in downtown Ottawa. Four female staffers reported to a senior Liberal staffer that Saini, along with his friend and mentee, Tabbara, were acting inappropriately with young female staffers at the holiday party, including "touching" or being "handsy," according to multiple sources.
- That information was shared with a senior member of the government who brought the concerns to the Prime Minister's Office and Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, sources said. Both Tabbara and Saini remained in caucus. The Liberal Party says "it has no record or knowledge of the matter." Tabbara's office declined to comment.
- In a third case, a female employee felt so uneasy with Saini calling her to his Ottawa office late at night, in some cases around 10 p.m., she brought an employee with her from another MP's office so she wasn't alone with him, according to another source. The Liberal Party also said it had no knowledge of this matter.
- A fourth case involved the former senior staffer who wrote to Saini to say she was going to take her own life in his office by overdosing on pills in March 2020, according to a written complaint to the human rights commission. She said Saini alerted mental health services, and paramedics were sent to his office to attend to her. She was admitted to hospital.
- Sources said the Liberals conducted an internal survey in 2018 that flagged concerns about the number of people who experienced some form of harassment or pay inequality between male and female workers. The survey also found issues with how the Liberals handled sexual harassment.
- Multiple junior staffers wrote in the survey last year that the Prime Minister's Office should "fire" Brett Thalmann, who is listed as the PMO's executive director of planning, administration and people. His role includes signing off on hirings across the PMO and the ministers' offices and working closely with Telford.
- Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel Garner was critical of the Liberals' saying that women suffer when powerful men are allowed to cover up misconduct: "Justin Trudeau's past actions show that he will not act on allegations of sexual misconduct in both the Liberal Party of Canada and the federal government. He has a pattern of covering up or looking the other way on these kinds of allegations. To the women in this story, rest assured we will continue to fight for better."
- NDP candidate Lindsay Mathyssen said her heart goes out to women that have the courage to come forward and share their stories: "Sadly, there is a clear pattern with Justin Trudeau. All of his talk about feminism isn't reflected in his actions. From his mistreatment of women in his cabinet, to his mishandling of sexual assault cases in the military, and his lack of action around sexual misconduct allegations against his candidates, he has consistently failed to stand up for women."
- Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould condemned Trudeau’s support for Saini in a blistering comment. “Anyone who has a responsibility to address this and does not is not fit to lead. Anyone who stands by and does nothing is complicit. Anyone who is surprised has not been paying attention.”
- Justin Trudeau faced fresh demands for an independent inquiry on Friday into the sexual harassment allegations against Saini. At a news conference, the Liberal leader ruled out a further probe into the conduct of Raj Saini, saying that there were already “strong, rigorous, independent processes in place.’ Trudeau faced further questions about whether the “processes” that looked into the Saini allegations were sufficiently independent. Trudeau said he took such allegations “extremely seriously.”
- The Liberals allowed Marwan Tabbara to run in 2019 despite the ongoing investigation of sexual harassment. And now they're repeating the same mistake with Raj Saini in 2021. It's clear there is a pattern of behaviour within the Liberal party and that the culture of dominance comes straight from the top. Many times Trudeau has come under fire for protecting male Liberal MPs from allegations. Canadians deserve better from their leaders. It's time for Trudeau to go.
Word of the Week
Harassment - aggressive pressure or intimidation
Quote of the Week
"I remember being incredibly stressed out, feeling completely helpless. I felt like he had shown he could do pretty much anything he wanted to do to me. I felt like there was nowhere for me to turn." - A former staffer for Liberal MP Raj Saini, speaking her truth on how she felt about his alleged sexual harassment
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Unwanted Harassment
Teaser: Alberta’s economy rebounds as mask mandates reappear, thousands protest the BC NDP’s vaccine passport system outside hospitals, and yet another Trudeau ethics scandal gets buried. Also, a Liberal MP is allowed to run again amid sexual harassment claims.
Recorded Date: September 3, 2021
Release Date: September 5, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes