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Trudeau to shuffle cabinet as Bains departs as innovation minister

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 12th, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to conduct a small shuffle of his cabinet Tuesday, sparked by the departure of Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and industry.

Rumours of the impending shuffle began circulating late Monday.

According to sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the moves, Bains has informed Trudeau that he does not intend to run in the next federal election, which could come as early as this spring.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is expected to replace Bains.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is expected to take over from Champagne at Global Affairs Canada.

Trudeau is expected to elevate Toronto-area MP Omar Alghabra to cabinet to take on the Transport portfolio.

Alghabra has been parliamentary secretary to several ministers, including Trudeau.

Trudeau’s minority Liberal government could be toppled if the opposition parties unite against it _ potentially after the next budget in the spring, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic sent the federal deficit skyrocketing.

Bains’s department will be a key player in the government’s plan to reignite the shattered economy once the pandemic is over.

Trudeau has been clear that critical portfolios need to be overseen by ministers who intend to be around for the long haul and who can sell the government’s agenda during the next election campaign.

He made that argument last August, when Bill Morneau abruptly resigned as finance minister and gave up his seat in the House of Commons. Morneau was replaced by Chrystia Freeland.

 

Squelched by Twitter, Trump seeks new online megaphone

FRANK BAJAK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 11th, 2021

President Donald Trump has been kicked off of most mainstream social media platforms following his supporters’ siege on the U.S. Capitol. But it remains to be seen how fast or where – if anywhere – on the internet he will be able to reach his followers.

The far right-friendly Parler had been the leading candidate, at least until Google and Apple removed it from their app stores and Amazon decided to boot it off its web hosting service by midnight Pacific time on Sunday.

Parler’s CEO said that could knock it offline for a week, though that might prove optimistic. And even if it finds a friendlier web-hosting service, without a smartphone app, it’s hard to imagine Parler gaining mainstream success.

The 2-year-old magnet for the far right claims more than 12 million users, though mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower puts the number at 10 million worldwide, with 8 million in the U.S. That’s a fraction of the 89 million followers Trump had on Twitter.

Still, Parler might be attractive to Trump since it’s where his sons Eric and Don Jr. are already active. Parler hit headwinds, though, on Friday as Google yanked its smartphone app from its app store for allowing postings that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.” Apple followed suit on Saturday evening after giving Parler 24 hours to address complaints it was being used to “plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities.” Public safety issues will need to be resolved before it is restored, Apple said.

A message seeking comment from Parler was sent Sunday on whether the company plans to change its policies and enforcement around these issues.

Amazon struck another blow Saturday, informing Parler it would need to look for a new web-hosting service effective midnight Sunday. It reminded Parler in a letter, first reported by Buzzfeed, that it had informed it in the past few weeks of 98 examples of posts “that clearly encourage and incite violence” and said the platform “poses a very real risk to public safety.”

Parler CEO John Matze decried the punishments as “a co-ordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. We were too successful too fast,” he said in a Saturday night post, saying it was possible Parler would be unavailable for up to a week “as we rebuild from scratch.”

Earlier, Matze complained of being scapegoated. “Standards not applied to Twitter, Facebook or even Apple themselves, apply to Parler.” He said he “won’t cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech.”

Losing access to the app stores of Google and Apple – whose operating systems power hundreds of millions of smartphones – severely limits Parler’s reach, though it will continue to be accessible via web browser. Losing Amazon Web Services will mean Parler needs to scramble to find another web host, in addition to the re-engineering.

Trump may also launch his own platform. But that won’t happen overnight, and free speech experts anticipate growing pressure on all social media platforms to curb incendiary speech as Americans take stock of Wednesday’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a Trump-incited mob.

Twitter ended Trump’s nearly 12-year run on Friday. In shuttering his account, it cited a tweet to his 89 million followers that he planned to skip President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, saying it gave rioters license to converge on Washington once again.

Facebook and Instagram have suspended Trump at least until Inauguration Day. Twitch and Snapchat also disabled Trump’s accounts, while Shopify took down online stores affiliated with the president and Reddit removed a Trump subgroup. Twitter also banned Trump loyalists including former national security advisor Michael Flynn in a sweeping purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Capitol insurrection. Some had hundreds of thousands of followers.

In a statement Friday, Trump said: “We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.”

Gab is another potential landing spot for Trump. But it, too, has had troubles with internet hosting. Google and Apple both booted it from their app stores in 2017 and it was left internet-homeless for a time the following year due to anti-Semitic posts attributed to the man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Microsoft also terminated a web-hosting contract.

Online speech experts expect social media companies led by Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube to more vigorously police hate speech and incitement in the wake of the Capitol rebellion, as Western democracies led by Nazism-haunted Germany already do.

David Kaye, a University of California-Irvine law professor and former U.N. special rapporteur on free speech believes the Parlers of the world will also face pressure from the public and law enforcement as will little-known sites where further pre-inauguration disruption is now apparently being organized. They include MeWe, Wimkin, TheDonald.win and Stormfront, according to a report released Saturday by The Alethea Group, which tracks disinformation.

Kaye rejects arguments by U.S. conservatives including the president’s former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, that the Trump ban savaged the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from restricting free expression. “Silencing people, not to mention the President of the US, is what happens in China not our country,” Haley tweeted.

“It’s not like the platforms’ rules are draconian. People don’t get caught in violations unless they do something clearly against the rules,” said Kaye. And not just individual citizens have free speech rights. “The companies have their freedom of speech, too.”

While initially arguing their need to be neutral on speech, Twitter and Facebook gradually yielded to public pressure drawing the line especially when the so-called Plandemic video emerged early in the coronavirus pandemic urging people not to wear masks, noted civic media professor Ethan Zuckerman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Zuckerman expects the Trump de-platforming may spur important online shifts. First, there may be an accelerated splintering of the social media world along ideological lines.

“Trump will pull a lot of audience wherever he goes,” he said. That could mean more platforms with smaller, more ideologically isolated audiences.

Pelosi: House ‘will proceed’ to the impeachment of Trump

DARLENE SUPERVILLE, ALAN FRAM AND MARY CLARE JALONICK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 11th, 2021

Pelosi: House ‘will proceed’ to the impeachment of Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday the House will proceed with legislation to impeach President Donald Trump as she pushes the vice-president and the Cabinet to invoke constitutional authority force him out, warning that Trump is a threat to democracy after the deadly assault on the Capitol.

The House action could start as soon as Monday as pressure increases on Trump to step aside. A Republican senator, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, joined Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to “resign and go away as soon as possible.”

A stunning end to Trump’s final 10 days in office was underway as lawmakers warned of the damage the president could still do before Joe Biden was inaugurated Jan. 20. Trump, holed up at the White House, was increasingly isolated after a mob rioted in the Capitol in support of his false claims of election fraud.

“We will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat,” Pelosi said in a letter late Sunday to colleagues.

“The horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

On Monday, Pelosi’s leadership team will seek a vote on a resolution calling on Vice-President Mike Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment, with a full House vote expected on Tuesday.

After that, Pence and the Cabinet would have 24 hours to act before the House would move toward impeachment.

During an interview on “60 Minutes” aired Sunday, Pelosi invoked the Watergate era when Republicans in the Senate told President Richard Nixon, “It’s over.”

“That’s what has to happen now,” she said.

With impeachment planning intensifying, Toomey said he doubted impeachment could be done before Biden is inaugurated, even though a growing number of lawmakers say that step is necessary to ensure Trump can never hold elected office again.

“I think the president has disqualified himself from ever, certainly, serving in office again,” Toomey said. “I don’t think he is electable in any way.”

Murkowski, long exasperated with the president, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply “needs to get out.” A third, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., did not go that far, but on Sunday he warned Trump to be “very careful” in his final days in office.

House Democrats were expected to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. The strategy would be to condemn the president’s actions swiftly but delay an impeachment trial in the Senate for 100 days. That would allow President-elect Joe Biden to focus on other priorities as soon as he is inaugurated Jan. 20.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat and a top Biden ally, laid out the ideas Sunday as the country came to grips with the siege at the Capitol by Trump loyalists trying to overturn the election results.

“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,” Clyburn said.

Corporate America began to show its reaction to the Capitol riots by tying them to campaign contributions.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s CEO and President Kim Keck said it will not contribute to those lawmakers – all Republicans – who supported challenges to Biden’s Electoral College win. The group “will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy,” Kim said.

Citigroup did not single out lawmakers aligned with Trump’s effort to overturn the election, but said it would be pausing all federal political donations for the first three months of the year. Citi’s head of global government affairs, Candi Wolff, said in a Friday memo to employees, “We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law.”

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said an impeachment trial could not begin under the current calendar before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

While many have criticized Trump, Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive in a time of unity.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that instead of coming together, Democrats want to “talk about ridiculous things like `Let’s impeach a president”‘ with just days left in office.

Still, some Republicans might be supportive.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he would take a look at any articles that the House sent over. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, said he would “vote the right way” if the matter were put in front of him.

The Democratic effort to stamp Trump’s presidential record – for the second time – with the indelible mark of impeachment had advanced rapidly since the riot.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I, a leader of the House effort to draft impeachment articles accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, said Sunday that his group had 200-plus co-sponsors.

The articles, if passed by the House, could then be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors to acquit or convict Trump. If convicted, Trump would be removed from office and succeeded by the vice-president. It would be the first time a U.S. president had been impeached twice.

Potentially complicating Pelosi’s decision about impeachment was what it meant for Biden and the beginning of his presidency. While reiterating that he had long viewed Trump as unfit for office, Biden on Friday sidestepped a question about impeachment, saying what Congress did “is for them to decide.”

A violent and largely white mob of Trump supporters overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were finalizing Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.

Toomey appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Clyburn was on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN. Kinzinger was on ABC’s “This Week,” Blunt was on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and Rubio was on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Transport Canada warns Canadians of ‘significant delays’ in returning from Jamaica

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 11th, 2021

Transport Canada is warning Canadians planning on visiting Jamaica that they may be in for “significant delays” when returning home because they may not be able to get a COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.

As of Jan. 7, anyone 5 years old and up travelling to Canada, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a negative test when boarding a flight to the country. Results must be no more than 72 hours old.

Exceptions were made for 24 countries/territories, including Jamaica, where tests can be done within 96 hours of departure.

However, the agency’s latest warning suggests it may not be possible to take a test in Jamaica for quite some time.

A CityNews viewer called in from Jamaica saying he expected to fly home on Jan. 17, but the first available date for a COVID-19 test in Montego Bay is not until mid-February.

On their website, Transport Canada says in order to deal with a shortage of tests in that country, travellers coming from Jamaica who were not able to take a COVID-19 test prior to boarding may still be allowed to travel if they “consent in advance to take a COVID-19 test at the Toronto Pearson International airport immediately upon their arrival in Canada.”

The temporary measure is only valid for flights coming in to Pearson International Airport and is subject to daily volume limits. Travellers using this option will also “be subject to other measures as deemed suitable by a Public Health Quarantine Officer.” The exemption went into effect Sunday and will last until Jan. 18

Travellers from Haiti and Saint Pierre et Miquelon do not need to present a negative COVID-19 test due to lack of testing facilities, but they will have a choice to either take a test upon landing or quarantine at a federal facility.

The agency continues to caution Canadians against non-essential travel as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country.

Ford warns of ‘turbulent waters’ ahead of new COVID-19 modelling data to be released Tuesday

RICHARD SOUTHERN | posted Monday, Jan 11th, 2021

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is warning of “turbulent waters” over the next several months ahead of new COVID-19 modelling data scheduled to be released on Tuesday.

In a brief video tweet on Sunday, Ford says the healthcare system is on the brink of being overwhelmed and he urged Ontarians to stick together as it will be late spring before mass vaccination is available.

“I’m asking one more time we need to band together, we need to stick together. We’re going to see some real turbulent waters over the next couple of months,” Ford said. “The healthcare workers, the hospitals, the public health units are all doing everything they can to make sure we vaccinate as many people as possible. Mass vaccination won’t happen till April, May and June but until then, over the next few months we need to practice the social distancing and washing hands.”

On Friday, Ford offered an ominous hint about what to expect, telling Ontarians “you will fall off your chair” when the new data is released.

“They are actually scary numbers, this is crunch time right now,” he said

When it comes to possible new restrictions, sources tell 680 NEWS that no decisions have been made, but that recommendations on further lockdown measures will be put forth to cabinet by the health table on Monday for approval.

All options are said to be on the table, including a possible curfew which would be the government’s most severe restriction since the first wave of COVID-19 last spring.

While a recent public opinion poll found a majority of Ontarians support continuing and even enhancing current lockdown measures, it was also clear that many draw the line on restrictions which would limit their movement outside of their homes, such as a curfew.

Ontario would be the second province to issue a curfew after Quebec imposed one on Saturday night for the next four weeks.

Ontario surpassed 200,000 total coronavirus cases last week, only six weeks after it topped 100,000 cases back on Nov. 20.

Ontario government didn’t replenish PPE stockpiles before COVID-19: LTC commission

PAOLA LORIGGIO, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 8th, 2021

Ontario faced a shortage of personal protective equipment at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in part because it did not replenish its stockpiles over the previous years, an independent commission examining the impact of the health crisis on long-term care has heard.

Ontario’s former deputy minister of health and long-term care, Bob Bell, told the independent commission that the province’s supply of personal protective equipment should have been refilled around 2017 or 2018, under the previous and current provincial regimes.

Bell, who served as deputy minister for four years until mid-2018 and now chairs an advisory panel for the Revera chain of nursing homes, said there was no conscious decision to let the stockpiles dwindle. The issue simply fell through the cracks, he said.

“In the midst of everything else that goes on in government, the decision to replenish stockpiles was not undertaken as an affirmative action kind of thing that should have been done,” he said in his Dec. 21 testimony that was posted online recently.

He also said the move to destroy expired N95 masks was, in hindsight, “not a smart decision” because only the elastic posed a potential problem and the masks still had “ventilatory capacity.”

As a result, he said, there was not enough personal protective equipment in the provincial health system when the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year, and skyrocketing demand made it difficult to obtain once the crisis began.

What’s more, the personal protective equipment that was available was largely earmarked for hospitals rather than long-term care, he said.

“We also focused the stocks distributed to the hospital sector thinking that, should a pandemic arise … the response will be led by hospitals,” he said.

“That’s what happened in 2003 (with SARS). That’s what would have happened with Ebola, and that’s where we focused our stocks of PPE.”

Dr. Samir K. Sinha, director of geriatrics for the Sinai Health System and the University Health Network, told the commission that other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, were able to deploy their supply of personal protective equipment more efficiently than Ontario and get it to the long-term care system faster.

Sinha, who is also on the Revera advisory panel, said the B.C. government took control of the province’s entire supply of personal protective equipment and distributed it with a science-based approach, preventing any “unnecessary hoarding.”

“As they had prioritized long-term care and congregated care settings early on, they were able to actually get PPE very quickly to those settings, including to primary care practices, much earlier on than we were able to get in Ontario,” he said.

A spokesperson for the minister of health did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

More than 2,900 long-term care residents and 10 staff members have died as a result of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Of the province’s 626 long-term care homes, 218 reported an active outbreak on Thursday.

The independent commission, led by the Superior Court’s associate chief justice Frank Marrocco, isn’t open to the public, but transcripts of testimony are later posted online.

Maple Leafs, Senators get provincial approval to play NHL home games

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 8th, 2021

The Ford government has given the go-ahead for the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs to play home games in their respective arenas when the new NHL season gets underway.

The two teams are set to play in an all-Canadian division when the NHL season starts Jan. 13.

The league and its teams are set to play an abbreviated 56-game season and has realigned its divisions in order to limit travel during the pandemic, especially as the Canadian border remains closed.

Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries says the approval was granted after close scrutiny of the rigorous health and safety protocols that have been adopted to keep players, staff, and communities safe from the spread of COVID-19.

“I look forward to continued work with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators on a public relations campaign to warn Ontarians against the spread of COVID-19 and to rebuild confidence in minor sports post pandemic,” she said in a statement.

However, at around the same time her announcement was made public, Dr. David Williams – the province’s top doctor – seemed unaware of MacLeod’s statement.

“We are assessing that at this time, we have not made a final decision [but] it’s getting very close,” he said during his daily provincial update. “I haven’t signed off on it at this time.”

The decision comes as the province of Ontario is currently in a lockdown which prevents minor hockey organizations from getting together and playing games.

The federal government gave the start of training camps a thumbs up and also waived the 14-day quarantine rule under “national interest grounds” in favour of a modified plan for players and team staff returning to the country.

The Maple Leafs are set to start the season at home against the Montreal Canadiens on opening night while the Senators will play host to the Maple Leafs two nights later on Jan. 15.

British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have already given approval for their respective teams while Manitoba has yet to officially clear the Winnipeg Jets to play at home, but has expressed confidence they will be able to.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

Trump returns to Twitter with video condemning rioters

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 8th, 2021

President Donald Trump condemned the “heinous attack” of the U.S. Capitol in his return to Twitter on Thursday evening, adding he was “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.”

Trump also promised “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power” in a video posted on the social medial platform, which had suspended him from tweeting for 12 hours on Wednesday evening.

“To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country, and to those who broke the law, you will pay, ” he said, in stark contrast to his tone the previous day.

Trump’s suspension from the platform came after three tweets that Twitter deemed a breach of their Civic Integrity policy, including a video in which Trump addressed the riotous, violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to halt the confirmation of Biden’s presidential election win.

n that video he commiserated with the mob and reiterated that the election was stolen from him while also gently asking them to go home.

“I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now,” he said. “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special,” he said.

In Thursday’s video, Trump claimed he “immediately deployed the national guard,” to quell the violence, in contradiction to reports the previous day that it was Vice-President Mike Pence who spoke with senior defence leaders about calling up the National Guard.

He added that he contested the election results so fiercely because he was “fighting to defend American democracy” and believes elections laws need to be reformed. He added that he will now focus on a smooth and seamless transition of power.

“This moment calls for healing and reconciliation,” he said, just over 24 hours after his rally in Washington, which is believed to have sparked the hours-long riot thereafter.

As officials sifted through the aftermath of the pro-Trump mob’s siege of the U.S. Capitol, there was growing discussion of impeaching him a second time or invoking the 25th Amendment to oust him from the Oval Office.

The invasion of the Capitol building, a powerful symbol of the nation’s democracy, rattled Republicans and Democrats alike. They struggled with how best to contain the impulses of a president deemed too dangerous to control his own social media accounts but who remains commander in chief of the world’s greatest military.

“I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about getting through the next 14 days,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s staunchest allies. He condemned the president’s role in Wednesday’s riots and said, “If something else happens, all options would be on the table.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that “the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.” She called him “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. This is urgent, an emergency of the highest magnitude.”

Neither option to remove Trump seemed likely, with little time left in his term to draft the Cabinet members needed to invoke the amendment or to organize the hearings and trial mandated for an impeachment. But the fact that the dramatic options were even the subject of discussion in Washington’s corridors of power served as a warning to Trump.

Fears of what a desperate president could do in his final days spread in the nation’s capital and beyond, including speculation Trump could incite more violence, make rash appointments, issue ill-conceived pardons – including for himself and his family – or even trigger a destabilizing international incident.

Files from The Associated Press were used in this report

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