The News Rundown
- In the latest of BC's fiascos on a failure to prepare for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, a highly transmissible variant that we have known of since the last week of November, it has been confirmed that the BC government does have a whole bunch of rapid tests that could have been used amid the rising cases and hospitalizations over December.
- On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference it was an “urban myth” that millions of COVID-19 rapid tests were sitting unused in a warehouse somewhere in the province. Turns out the number isn’t millions, but closer to 1.3 million, or, according to the Ministry of Health, 1,342,150 tests to be precise. And to confirm, they are indeed sitting in a warehouse.
- Mike Klassen with the B.C. Care Providers Association alluded to something not sitting right with rapid test numbers from December provided by Health Canada. That data, while admittedly dated, showed nearly 2 million tests procured by the province but not used.
- Klassen said: “B.C. has a lot of these tests in storage. They do have a shelf life, they eventually expire. So we have to make sure we get to use them.”
- This confirms what yours truly at Western Context reported on our last regular episode of December, 249, which explained how the BC government was sitting on a large number of rapid tests, sent to us by the federal government (which means we already paid for them through taxpayer money!) and then used a plethora of excuses to explain away why the government has failed to get these to the public. I recommend you listen to that episode first as we delved into interviews with medical doctors as to why the government was well in the wrong.
- Online, information posted on Dec. 17 suggests 3,399,612 were destined for British Columbia, but only 1,261,098 were actually deployed, and just 326,019 have been used, based on what's been reported to Health Canada. That data is weeks old, however, and the website said there's been a delay in reporting on the deployment, though it also claims the numbers listed are "updated regularly."
- With the highly-transmissible Omicron variant spreading around BC, guidance for PCR tests has changed, leaving many without the knowledge of whether their more mild symptoms are just a cold or COVID-19.
- The priority for testing in B.C. is now given to those considered high risk, and some not in that category have waited hours in line, hoping for certainty. Unlike in other provinces, rapid tests have been hard to get for those looking for answers, prompting some speculation as to where the tests allocated to B.C. from the federal government wound up.
- Dr. Henry was asked about a rumour that there are about a million of the tests sitting in a warehouse, being denied to long-term care homes, and smirked at the question. According to the doctor, the tests have been in use for months in B.C., particularly at certain health-care facilities. Henry said: "They have been available… And there's over 100,000 (rapid tests for visitors) distributed – started last week to long-term care homes across the province."
- Henry, who has been the face of the province's COVID-19 response, with Premier John Horgan taking a back seat, says she never felt political interference over the course of the pandemic. Henry also revealed that she has regular meetings with the Opposition party, the B.C. Liberals, as well as with health officials throughout the country and province. This means that it's not exactly unclear as to the reason why BC has failed to deploy rapid tests. Blame can be clearly attributed to Dr. Henry, as well as the NDP government of John Horgan.
- A week ago, Dr. Henry did a year-end interview, in which she describes "agonizing" over the Dec 17th decision to increase indoor capacity restrictions and delay sending K-12 students back to school by one week. Well, that return to school is just around the corner in the upcoming week, and BC's situation has gone from bad to worse. It's clear that restrictions do not work, and that the government should not be following Ontario and Quebec, which have among the world's harshest COVID restrictions currently.
- Thousands of BC students, many of whom are unvaccinated, due to BC's slow rollout of vaccines, and closures of clinics over the holiday season, will be returning to the classroom on Monday amid a historic rise in coronavirus infections.
- Henry, even after delaying school openings for an arbitrary 1 week, said: “It is essential and it is a priority for all of us that we keep schools open and functioning for our children.” She has claimed that schools are not a hub of transmission — saying they’re “not a major source” and “low-risk” environments.
- Henry said: “While schools are most definitely a reflection and an extension of our communities, they have not, and we have seen this consistently and there is no reason to think it will be different now, they are not a major source for transmission.”
- But Jose-Luis Jimenez, a professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado-Boulder and an expert in aerosol transmission, said Henry is wrong when it comes to transmission in school and has harsh words for BC's COVID response leader: “She is lying. She is plain lying. It’s absurd, of course, there is lots of transmission in school. There is nothing magical about schools. You get airborne transmission.”
- Jimenez, who has been openly critical of Henry on social media in recent weeks, explained that COVID-19 is an airborne virus that is strongly affected by mitigations such as vaccination, quality and fit of masks, ventilation, filtration, duration, number of people, size of the classroom among other things. He also said schools are really no different than other public places.
- Dr. Henry claims that she is making decisions on public health policy according to the evidence and the science, but it is ridiculous that a powerful tool in the rapid test is sitting unused in warehouses, when they could be used to curb infection rates to a more manageable level, especially over Christmas when people weren't likely to trust or follow any more gathering restrictions. After all, can we really say that they have worked?
- The media and government establishments of Canada have focused on the omicron variant and as we’ll hear about on the show this week, dividing Canadians further.
- What does this mean for actual government business though? Lost in the shuffle in the final days of 2021 Canada’s government narrowed the decision about what fighter jet to buy going forward.
- The goal is to replace our aging cold war era CF-18 jets. The choices now are the F-35 manufactured by American based Lockheed Martin or the Saab Gripen-E from Sweden.
- Procurement for the F-35 was started by the Harper Conservatives and ultimately cancelled by Justin Trudeau’s government because they felt that the F-35 contract the Harper government was negotiating was politically motivated even though talk to buy the F-35 started with the Chretien government in 1997.
- But here we are, the F-35 is back on the table along with a jet from Sweden.
- The F-35 is operated by the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, and Norway. Canada could join this list.
- For anyone who understands how the defence of North America works, the F-35 is the obvious option.
- Our forces operate closely with NORAD defending northern airspace aside from any potential NATO missions in which we will be working very closely with the United States.
- If we were to choose the Saab Gripen-e, it would be the first time since World War 2 that we are not operating an American made aircraft.
- This would raise a lot of questions about where Canada sees itself in relation to the United States.
- There have been forces at work over the past few years that have said that Canada should start to question that American alliance given what they see as a rising tide of populism in the United States.
- The answer to fill that gap is to get closer with Europe or in the eyes of some in the government, China.
- In order to further sell the Gripen, Saab is willing to let the planes be assembled in Canada and that all intellectual property rights for sustainment and operations become the property of the federal government.
- What does this mean? Canada would have almost total control of its own fighter aircraft fleet.
- Stéfanie von Hlatky, an associate professor and defence policy expert at Queen's University, said, “the F-35 is more of a foregone conclusion.”
- The reasons are that Sweden is not one of Canada’s longtime defence partners and when you look at who we work with, it’s hard to choose something other than the F-35.
- Case in point: NORAD and NATO.
- The F-35 is also very interoperable with other F-35s from other nations as well as ground stations and warships. It can also link with other fourth generation fighters like the Gripen-E.
- The practical data suggests that the F-35 is the plane that Canada should buy and should have bought had Justin Trudeau decided to not make the process political.
- Going forward we will watch the cabinet, in particular the defence minister, Anita Anand, to see if there are any rumblings of political influences one way or another.
- A choice for the Gripen means that despite most of our operations happening in partnership with the US, NORAD, or NATO, they’ve chosen to become closer to Europe… over the United States.
- It also signifies that Canada will be taking a reduced role in any multi-lateral operations going forward rather than working closely with the United States.
- This will be an opportunity for the government to either listen to the defence experts or continue their virtue signaling based policy initiatives from 2015.
- Which way the government goes will speak volumes.
- From this year's flooding, to heat domes and wildfires, to the recent cold snap, residents and experts in British Columbia have been left to wonder how equipped the province's infrastructure is at handling these extreme weather events. In June, a heat dome contributed to hundreds of deaths. Since then, wildfires have ravaged homes and forests, and floods have forced mass evacuations. For the past two weeks, most of the province has been in the grip of an extreme cold snap, leading to frozen pipes and broken heating systems that weren't built to handle the unseasonal weather.
- Thousands of homes and businesses across the province are being affected by flooding from burst pipes during the cold spell that saw record-breaking low temperatures across the province in the last two weeks.
- Jay Rhodes says his restoration company has dealt with more than 50 calls in Kelowna alone since Christmas Eve. He says poorly insulated pipes are the main culprit: everything from garden hose taps to fire suppression systems in attics. He said: "The calls have just kept coming. It started right before Christmas. And even if I go back to the floods in Princeton and Merritt — our team has just been going extremely hard."
- It’s difficult to determine exactly how much is spent on emergency management in Canada, or to compare it fairly to other countries, since the systems and budget items vary. The 2021 budget line for emergency management was about $273.8 million, or around $7 per Canadian. In the United States, the 2021 budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency was approximately US$14.5 billion, or nearly US$55 per American citizen. That means that the US government allocates almost 10 times as much for emergency management per citizen than Canada does.
- U.S. President Joe Biden also signed a bipartisan infrastructure deal last month — a significant domestic achievement for an embattled president that will flow hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money to infrastructure projects nationwide. The plan is aimed at repairing crumbling U.S. infrastructure that has been ignored for decades. A failing Civil War-era bridge in Maryland, for example, is one of the many 100-year-old-plus structures slated for reconstruction with the $1.2 trillion in new money.
- Buried in the 1,039-page bill are provisions that might also mean new roads and railway service for Canadians. The infrastructure deal offers a multi-billion dollar cash injection to rebuild a 561-km stretch of the Alaska Highway that travels almost exclusively through Yukon — an investment that Congress has pitched as a "necessary reconstruction" with "benefits that will accrue to the state of Alaska and to the United States." Other major infrastructure projects were announced between the two countries such as expanded Amtrak service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, and major Eastern US cities, as well as between Vancouver and Portland.
- All that of course, isn't even mentioning the other extreme emergency that has been ongoing that has also been putting a toll on BC (and Canada's) infrastructure, the almost 2 year long pandemic. We’ve had almost two years of public health and safety orders that have dramatically changed the way we work, travel and live. While requiring evacuation during a flood or wildfire is common sense, we’ve been dealing with emergency orders that vary across the country, come and go with each wave and have divided communities.
- These emergency orders expose how disasters unfold and the status of the emergency management system in Canada. Some of the characters are familiar, like mayors and fire chiefs, while others are equally important even though they are seldom talked about. To understand the role of these emergency managers, we need to understand disasters. In routine emergencies, we rely on our first responders working with partners in health and sometimes utility companies or others.
- But in a disaster, these normal resources and relationships do not have the capability to meet the demand — such as when a mudslide closes a road so no fire engines can arrive — or they do not have the capacity, like when an entire town is on fire and there are simply not enough firefighters. In these situations, emergency management provides strategies to extend our resources.
- When these conditions occur, communities must take extraordinary measures. The federal government and every province have emergency management legislation that empowers them to take actions that are not normally considered acceptable.
- These laws set out who can declare a formal state of emergency and what special powers the government can apply to help tackle the crisis. Most Canadians are now familiar with these powers as governments have used some to deal with the pandemic. Every province has an emergency management system, usually at the local level, designed to guide our responses. The pandemic, along with all the other disasters BC have dealt with over the last year, is showing the cracks in these systems.
- Canada is the only country where major transportation projects are not planned as part of a national long-term strategy. There is little effective coordination among the different levels of government, which can lead to second-rate projects being chosen and work being undertaken at cross purposes. Furthermore, Canada has no discernable system for monitoring performance to evaluate projects after implementation and learn for next time.
- A new report from, of all places, the European Court of Auditors raises important questions about how prepared Canada actually is to deliver this imminent wave of investments, which are key to national competitiveness and quality of life.
- The report provides a rare, detailed comparison of approaches in the European Union, the United States, Australia, Switzerland and Canada, focusing specifically on the planning and delivery of infrastructure projects in major passenger transportation and trade corridors. It shows that the Canadian megaproject system stands out as the least rigorous and the most inflexible.
- The public demands help when a disaster strikes. Politicians hear their demands and meet it with first responders and financial assistance. The public learns about these actions via the media, which can create a misplaced sense of satisfaction when the media moves on to other stories in an action that silences requests to properly prepare for future disasters and to fund preparedness initiatives.
- Behind the scenes, in fact, emergency management systems often perform poorly due to long-term underfunding. The underlying problem is that emergency management resources don’t match the importance of what they have to do in the event of a disaster. This shortfall only becomes apparent amid the disaster, when everything seems to be failing.
- Politicians will accept this status quo because it doesn’t cost anything. The media will move on and the public will be given a false sense of security. Then we will repeat the dance over and over as each new disaster devastates our unprepared communities.
- The pandemic is exposing the symptoms of this neglect. While the media and first responders focus on the cause of the disaster — in this case, COVID-19, but it could be the next the earthquake or tornado, or wildfire, or flood, or cold snap, or heat wave. In any case, the emergency management system should also deal with the social and economic consequences.
- Chronic underfunding has undermined confidence in emergency management so the public, media and political leadership distrust the system when it’s most needed. This creates a leadership vacuum. During the pandemic, public health practitioners have been expected to step beyond their areas of expertise and make decisions that would be better supported by emergency management. Such support requires resources and organizational recognition of the role.
- Correcting these shortfalls is urgent if Canadians are to rely on our emergency management system in a future of more severe events. However, the solutions will require political will … a commodity as rare as toilet paper in a pandemic.
- The relatively haphazard way that infrastructure is planned in Canada is a big risk to future prosperity. We risk spending money on projects that shouldn’t be at the top of the list, based on the economic, social and environmental benefits they will bring.
- Last summer, the Liberal government announced a national infrastructure assessment that is to examine the country’s infrastructure needs over the next three decades and set down ideas for how these can best be met. This exercise promises to be an important step toward bringing Canada more in line with its peers. It’s overdue. With the infrastructure funding taps open, Canada needs to be more strategic about where the money goes.
- Western Context is approaching its fifth anniversary in a couple of episodes and the goal when we started this podcast was to highlight the bias and sensationalism in the mainstream media. It still is.
- We’ve seen this from all media outlets covering the political spectrum from left to right. Both in corporate owned and independent media.
- To highlight bias and sensationalism we often must show the other side of the story whatever that may be. The opposite of those doing the reporting.
- As the new year began a piece was re-published in the National Post, originally published on Substack by a journalist who left the CBC.
- Substack can be thought of like Patreon except for journalists and writers. People go there to get good journalism and reward individual writers with their monetary support.
- When Tara Henley penned a post explaining why she left the CBC, the National Post picked it up and ran with it - no one else did.
- Ms. Henley broadly described why Western Context exists by showcasing what goes on at the CBC.
- She highlighted an emphasis on things such as local issues going unreported, the CBC’s pop culture radio show’s coverage of the Dave Chappelle Netflix special failing to include fans of comics that did not find it offensive, and one of our final firing lines from last year, asking why the taxpayers should be funding articles that scolded Canadians for using words such as “brainstorm” and “lame”.
- She also likened the CBC to a parody of a student press - which we’ve also mentioned in more eloquent terms to the point where journalists can’t do basic research such as a 2 minute Google search on a topic.
- She also touched on her views on things like the housing crisis where despite being not a partisan Conservative, in any newsroom she would be the most conservative voice creating sparking tension on the question of identity politics.
- She then said two big words, cognitive dissonance: “To work at the CBC in the current climate is to embrace cognitive dissonance and to abandon journalistic integrity.”
- What this means is that a person who faces contradictory information will experience personal discomfort when their world view clashes with the new information.
- This is the modern media landscape in a nutshell.
- She also points out that the CBC is onboard with, in her view, “a radical political agenda that originated on Ivy League campuses in the United States and spread through American social media platforms that monetize outrage and stoke societal divisions. It is to pretend that the “woke” worldview is near universal.”
- This political agenda originated in the 2008 US election campaign where Barack Obama was running against John McCain when academics and eventually the media decided it would be racist to question Barack Obama’s credentials.
- This mantra has made its way into Canada, into our media, and into the Trudeau government.
- What Ms. Henley has described is exactly how the current federal government operates and why the majority of journalists appear on side with the government.
- She also points out that she felt that to work at the CBC race is the most significant thing about a person and some races are more relevant to the public conversation than others. And allegedly, racial profile forms are used for every guest booked and an effort is made to actively book more people from some races than others.
- CBC job interviews are also apparently not about qualifications or experience but instead demand the parroting of orthodoxies.
- Now the gold standard of journalistic integrity is to get facts on the record from two independent sources - this hasn’t been done in this case - but given some of the stories we’ve covered from CBC, the part about the woke culture and societal divisions is definitely true.
- Tara Henley also raises the questions about what this means for where North America is headed because of the impact on politics, class divisions, economic inequality, education, mental health, literature, comedy, science, and democracy.
- The full article on Substack is a wonderful read and what I’ve done here is summarize its key points. But on the whole it sums up the problems in the modern media establishment that have been imported into government. If this story was interesting to you, you should give it a read, which you can find linked in our show notes at westerncontext.ca
- This is very important because the media informs the narrative and the CBC and other outlets engaging in this kind of dogmatic approach are doing immense harm to our society.
- By extension Justin Trudeau is doing immense harm to our society for capitalizing on this.
- Erin O’Toole reached out to Tara Henley asking for ideas on how the CBC could be modernized but that misses the boat entirely.
- Canada’s Official Opposition needs to oppose the government but they must also oppose the societal divisions used for gain by the media and the government. They must also oppose anyone who seeks to monetize outrage for personal gain.
- That means any politician, any media outlet, or any organization.
- Until they do, the conversation will not change and our job here at Western Context will become ever more tedious as we enter our fifth year.
Word of the Week
Cognitive dissonance - the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
Quote of the Week
“B.C. has a lot of these [rapid] tests in storage. They do have a shelf life, they eventually expire. So we have to make sure we get to use them.” - Mike Klassen with the B.C. Care Providers Association
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Cycle of Disasters
Teaser: BC decides to warehouse 1.3M unused rapid tests, Trudeau is still undecided on the F-35s, and BC’s 2021 disasters unveil a gap in infrastructure and emergency planning. Also, a former CBC journalist details the problems with the mainstream media.
Recorded Date: January 7, 2022
Release Date: January 9, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes