Historic east-end site is new home to Riverside midrise

The 206-unit Canary House has easy access to the 18-acre Corktown Common park. Photo courtesy

When Ken Tanenbaum, vice-chair of the Kilmer Group, first saw the maroon-coloured brick Victorian pile at the corner of Cherry and Front streets in 2012, he was captivated.

“The building has such great character, with beautiful brick that would have come out of the Brickworks in the Don Valley,” says Tanenbaum.

From the mid-1960s to 2007, the building contained the Canary House restaurant, a popular diner where filmmakers and truck drivers would grab bacon and eggs. To denizens of the then-industrial Port Lands, its sign, with the bright yellow bubble font, was unmistakable.

The Canary District gets its name from the restaurant. Tanenbaum, along with his partners at Dream, chose the handle when they redeveloped the 2015 Pan Am Athletes’ Village site into a 35-acre master-planned community. Canary House will be the fifth building to go up in the community, which will also include a purpose-built rental that Kilmer Group is developing with the province of Ontario in which 30 per cent of the units will qualify as affordable housing.

Before the site held the restaurant, it was a hotel, “and even earlier it was the oldest school in the city,” says Tanenbaum of the Palace School, built in 1859.

But the Canary House’s swan song will finally be sung. In 2024, it will transform into a mixed-use residential building. And scrambled eggs could still be on the menu; the historic portion of the original building is being connected to the residences “as a standalone signature restaurant or retail amenity for the community,” Tanenbaum says.

 Live-edge wood furniture, stone walls and dim lighting in the lobby have the feel of a luxurious alpine retreat.

Its central staircase will be restored, in addition to “a chest freezer that was likely installed during the restaurant’s early operations, as well as a safe and a safe room that were used during the hotel tenure from 1892 to 1909,” says Tanenbaum. He’s linking arms with Dream on the preservation work, alongside building conservation and heritage experts at ERA Architects.

The new 206-suite building, designed by BDP Quadrangle, will be 13 storeys to fit into the community, Tanenbaum says. Prices have been set in the high $500,000s for a one-bedroom starting at 461 square feet to an 872-square-foot three-bedroom starting in the $900,000s.

“This area is all midrise,” notes Tanenbaum. “It’s very much in the spirit of Jane Jacobs and [the idea of] eyes on the street. This is liveable density; the whole Canary District is designed with that midrise approach. So it has a very nice feeling on the street. If you take your bike you’re not overwhelmed by towers.”

“Canary House acts as a gateway to the emerging Canary District community,” adds Les Klein, principal of BDP Quadrangle, who says the design “pays homage to both the Indigenous and industrial heritage of the site. The new building combines references in patterned precast concrete panels to the birch trees that once defined the edges of the Don River.”

 Suites will be clean-lined and sport bleached wood tones and slabs that mimic marble.

Elastic Interiors — the firm behind the suites and public spaces — also borrowed from nature’s playbook.

Wood and wood-inspired materials as well as stone, chosen for their soothing and welcoming qualities, will be found in both public and private spaces in the building, says Enrique Mangalindan, Elastic Interiors’ partner and director of interior design.

Suites will be clean-lined and sport bleached wood tones and slabs that mimic marble, he says.

“We brought a resort mentality to Canary House,” says Mangalindan,” who notes the condo will “feel like a hotel in terms of its rhythm and energy.”

It’s familiar ground for the U.K. firm – they’ve recently relocated to Toronto – known for their design work at luxury resorts in Dubai, Greece and Croatia.

Live-edge wood furniture, stone walls and dim lighting in the lobby have the feel of a luxurious alpine retreat.

“Distinct spaces throughout the lobby invite occupants to relax with a beverage or get to know their neighbours,” says Mangalindan.

A cozy library tucked along a corridor on level six, meanwhile, is lined in wood shelves complete with inset seating.

Muskoka stone fireplaces — in the lobby, the private dining room, by the outdoor pergola on the rooftop patio and in a party room — also bring a relaxed vacation feel to the condo, says Mangalindan. While the fitness room, with double-height ceilings to maximize light, is wrapped in panoramic views of downtown.

 The fitness room, with double-height ceilings to maximize light, is wrapped in panoramic views of downtown.

There’s also plenty of interest at ground level, says Tanenbaum.

“The 18-acre Corktown Common park” – a few blocks from the future Canary House – “is a jewel,” he says. “For me, it’s the entry point into the whole Don River Trail System. You see the river and at the bottom the Bala Underpass. It allows people to go from that park onto the Don River Trail and ride to Edwards Gardens and the Brickworks.”

Units at

Canary House start in the high $500,000s. For more information, contact canarydistrict.com.

Three things

Built in 2015, the state-of-the-art, 82,000-square-foot Cooper Koo YMCA offers childcare, youth programs and fitness classes. Facilities include swimming pools and two Quad gyms. 461 Cherry St.

The 17,000-square-foot Marcheleo’s Gourmet Marketplace, under construction and nearly finished at Canary Commons, sells fresh produce, gourmet groceries and ready-made meals. 475 Front St. E.

It’s two minutes to Terroni Sud Forno Produzione e Spaccio, for takeaway or dine-in habit-forming items like cannoli, salads, pizza and fresh pasta. 22 Sackville St.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Liberals' tougher stance on China part of broader strategy to challenge communist state on matters of international law

Canadian and other foreign diplomats stand outside the Intermediate People's Court where Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Spavor were tried last week. The display of international support for the two men has further emboldened Canadian officials in those efforts, a senior government official said.

OTTAWA — Recent moves by the Liberal government to sharpen its criticism of China and level sanctions against Chinese officials marks a shift in policy for Ottawa, part of a broader strategy to intensify pressure on the communist state on matters of international law.

One senior government official with knowledge of the issue says the shift comes as top officials “take stock” of their posture toward China, particularly following the hasty trials of two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The recent display of international support for the two men has further emboldened Canadian officials in those efforts, the person said, as Western allies form a united front against China. A more general recognition that China’s own foreign policy aims have shifted in recent years also prompted the change in Ottawa.

“China has changed,” said the person, who spoke to the

National Post

on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “As China has become more and more aggressive in its language and in its tactics, we have also had to adapt our approach to match the reality of the situation.”

Global Affairs Canada on Monday announced it was imposing sanctions on four Chinese officials and one company, citing the “dire human rights situation in Xinjiang” following the “mass arbitrary detention” of over one million Uyghurs. It marked the first time Canada has imposed sanctions on China since state police killed masses of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

At the same time, comments in recent days by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau about China have been harsher than usual, albeit still largely in line with previous talking points.

It remains unclear whether slightly tougher rhetoric will lead to more sanctions or other material policy shifts. The senior official said the Liberals are currently contemplating their position toward China, and last week recalled Canada’s ambassador to China Dominic Barton in part to discuss how Ottawa should proceed.

“It was time to sit down and take stock and move the conversation forward,” the source said.

The person said Barton was recalled before the trials dates of Kovrig and Spavor were announced, and dismissed outright any speculation that Barton might be removed from his posting.

The shift in tone comes as Trudeau has faced criticism for appearing soft on China, declining to offer anything more than boilerplate responses when Chinese authorities detained Kovrig and Spavor, or when China slapped tariffs on various Canadian exports.

In an interview on CBC’s Power & Politics program on Monday, Garneau was more critical of China than in previous statements, saying international support for the two detained Canadians is growing, and that “China will have to realize that it can’t sweep it under the carpet.”

“That is the message that we’re carrying to China, that you cannot use coercive diplomacy to achieve your ends,” he said.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, former member of the Canada-China Joint Committee on Science and Technology and a senior official in the Department of Finance from 1994 to 2004, said the minister’s comments mark a sharp departure from just three weeks ago when the federal government launched its “arbitrary detention” initiative, which now has 61 signatories.

“At the time, Garneau wouldn’t even use the word China,” McCuaig-Johnston said.

“Clearly the tone has changed, and the Canadian government has developed a backbone. But we’ll have to see what comes next.”

The decision by Ottawa to impose sanctions comes as public polls suggest a sizeable majority of Canadians support a stronger opposition toward China.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been heavily critical of the Liberal record on China, and has for months proposed placing sanctions on Chinese officials as a form of retaliation. The recent move by Ottawa could remove a main distinguishing factor between O’Toole’s platform and that of the Liberals.

“We could be looking at posturing relating to an upcoming election,” said Charles Burton, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “The Conservatives have made a reset with China their number one foreign policy plank, due to public demand by most Canadians.”

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested shortly after Canadian authorities detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, on a U.S. extradition request for bank fraud in December 2018. The arrest of the two men is widely viewed as retaliation for Meng, and Chinese authorities often cite the Meng arrest in rebuttal to Canada’s claims about Kovrig and Spavor.

American officials under the Biden administration have promised to press for the release of the two men as if they were U.S. citizens, part of a push by U.S. President Joe Biden to introduce a more united front against the country, unlike the one-on-one approach under the Trump administration.

“We join our partners in calling on Beijing to immediately release the two arbitrarily detained Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig,” U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken said on Twitter Tuesday. “Human beings are not bargaining chips.”

Chinese officials, meanwhile, pushed back against Canada’s decision to join the U.S., United Kingdom and European Union in levelling sanctions against China.

“If the EU makes erroneous decisions based solely on the lies of ill-intentioned anti-China forces, then it shows clearly this is nothing but political manipulation,” the spokesperson for China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter Tuesday. “Should the EU insist on taking wrong actions detrimental to Chinese interests, we will react with a firm hand.”

The foreign ministry also pushed back against claims that Western allies somehow form a majority opinion on the world stage. The EU, U.S., U.K. and Canada combined accounts for a mere 11 per cent of the global population, the office said.

“They cannot represent the international community.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Olympic surfing hopeful killed by lightning while training

Diaz, 22, tragically died from being struck by lighting on the water while training off El Tunco beach in El Salvador

El Salvadoran surfer Katherine Diaz has been killed after being struck by lightning while training for a qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics.

The 22-year-old was struck just after entering the water on Friday at El Tunco Beach, about 10 miles (16km) south of capital San Salvador, local media reported.

“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” the International Surfing Association (ISA) said in one of many tributes posted on social media.

Diaz had been preparing for the ISA World Surfing Games, which will be held from May 29 to June 6 at the La Bocana and El Sunzal beaches in El Salvador.

The top seven women at the event who have not already qualified will earn a place at the delayed Tokyo Olympics, where surfing will be a medal sport for the first time.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

After shadowy trials, what awaits Canada’s 'two Michaels'?

Police vehicles exit the Intermediate People's Court where Michael Spavor, a Canadian detained by China in December 2018 on suspicion of espionage, stood trial, in Dandong, Liaoning province, China March 19, 2021.

After closed-door trials involving the two Canadians believed to be detained by China in retaliation for the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, no verdict has been released by state authorities. But if the fate of other detained Westerners is any guide, the future for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor likely depends on how useful their continued imprisonment is to Beijing.

It’s virtually guaranteed that both men, who were arrested in 2018 on espionage charges, will be found guilty, as Chinese courts return a guilty verdict in more than 99 per cent of cases. As Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian ambassador to China, explained it in media interviews week, the two Canadians have “

no chance, because it’s all preordained by the Communist party

.”

Saint-Jacques also said it was no coincidence that the trials of the two men were scheduled just as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden prepared to have its first face-to-face summit with Chinese officials in Alaska.

Kovrig and Spavor lived 1,000 km apart at the time of their arrest, and despite having met on brief occasions they were not in regular contact. Although Chinese authorities have never asserted that their cases are connected, both Canadians just happened to be arrested within hours of one another, and to have their cases tried in the same week.

China has also insisted that the detention of Spavor and Kovrig is not connected to the arrest of Meng, who was taken into custody by RCMP in Vancouver on an international warrant issued by the United States. Nevertheless, in a June statement senior Chinese government spokesman Zhao Lijian

said

that if Canada stopped Meng’s extradition proceedings it “could open up space for resolution to [sic] the situation of the two Canadians.”

The case that most closely parallels “the two Michaels” is that of Kevin Garratt, a coffee shop operator in the Chinese city of Dandong who was detained along with his wife Julia on espionage charges in 2014. Their detention followed closely on the arrest in Richmond, B.C., of Su Bin, a Chinese national wanted by the United States for the alleged theft of military secrets.

 Kevin and Julia Garratt embrace at Vancouver airport following his return to Canada.

Julia was soon freed on bail but Kevin would spend two years in pre-trial detention before he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. Despite this, he was soon freed and deported to Canada after a series of high-level negotiations and returned to Canada just before a visit to Ottawa by Chinese Premier Li Keqian.

Then-foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion

told reporters at the time

that Canada did not offer any political concessions in exchange for Garratt’s sudden freedom. Nevertheless, Garratt’s release coincided with the beginning of

high-level negotiations between Canada and China

regarding a possible extradition treaty that would allow Beijing to prosecute alleged economic fugitives on Canadian soil.

More importantly, while Garratt was in Chinese custody Su Bin took a surprise plea deal with the United States, ending his Canadian extradition hearings. “Beijing was stuck with a weak case of espionage against the Garratts and little bargaining leverage to get much of anything out of Ottawa,” was how the Garratts’ Beijing-based lawyer, James Zimmerman, would explain the case to the

New York Times

.

 Canadian Embassy Charge d’Affaires Jim Nickel (L) and United States Embassy Acting Deputy Chief of Mission William Klein (C) and other diplomats speak to the media as they arrive to request entry to the trial for Canadian Michael Kovrig on March 22, 2021 at a court in Beijing, China.

Critically, in the case of Kovrig and Spavor, Meng is still in Vancouver under house arrest at a luxury mansion as her extradition proceedings drag on. For as long as that case remains unresolved, observers say that any hope of the two Michaels sharing Kevin Garratt’s fate ultimately rests on what Canada and the U.S. can obtain at the negotiating table.

“I think until Meng Wanzhou is figured out, it’ll probably keep going,” Garratt

told Maclean’s

last week.

Fortunately, neither Kovrig or Spavor faced charges that could net them execution; the Chinese penalty for espionage ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment.

The story has been far different for Canadians convicted of drug offences in the People’s Republic of China in recent months. In August, Ye Jianhui became the

fourth Canadian

in two years to be sentenced to death in China for narcotics offences.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

John Ivison: Erin O'Toole must put this comedy of errors behind him

Federal Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole speaks via Zoom to the party's national policy convention on Friday, March 19, 2021.

“He must have a long spoon that must eat with the devil”: Dromio of Syracuse in William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.

This quote came to mind while reviewing last weekend’s Conservative convention.

In truth, the plotline was more like one of the Bard’s tragedies, in which the flawed hero is consumed by his own ambition.

In this story, the tragic Red Tory hero is betrayed by the true blue social  conservatives he duped into supporting him in a leadership contest against a rival even pinker than himself.

The denouement sees the hero undone by his erstwhile allies, the so-cons, while his former adversary, who supports his desire to drag the party into the second decade of the 21st century, is not on hand to help because the leader

made it clear he isn’t bloody welcome.

As Shakespeare might have summed up the situation, the leader displayed more hair than wit.

The weekend had started with great promise. Erin O’Toole’s keynote speech was skillfully crafted and well-delivered. He said Canada has changed and the Conservative Party has to change too. “We must present new ideas, not make the same arguments hoping more Canadians will come round to our position,” he said.

A Conservative government would act on Justin Trudeau’s “scandals” by implementing an anti-corruption law and by strengthening the Conflict of Interest Act.

But he said Conservatives will never win by relying on Trudeau to “continue to disappoint.”

O’Toole promised a Canada Recovery Plan that would create a million jobs and  develop a Canadian Mental Health Action plan. “There isn’t a Canadian family that hasn’t been impacted by mental health issues during the pandemic. Including mine,” he said. Stimulus would be “targeted and time-limited” to ensure the costs of the pandemic are not passed on to the future generations.

He promised a “comprehensive, serious” plan on the environment, while scrapping Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. We’ve heard that before from previous Conservative leaders but O’Toole was explicit that the debate about climate change “is over.”

He slammed the NDP for no longer speaking up for working Canadians and promised “security and certainty” for lower and middle income workers, in part by building an economy more resilient to external shocks, with more domestic capacity in vaccines and protective equipment.

It was a solid display at a crucial juncture.

The Conservative leader could be in an election as soon as next month, if none of the opposition parties support the Liberal spring budget.

The pace at which Trudeau is making spending announcements suggests he has his heart set on a spring election.

The polls suggest it will not go well for O’Toole. His personal approval rating fell, even during Trudeau’s own recent disrepute over vaccine shortages. As the pandemic drags on, the desire for change among voters is anemic – by one poll, even weaker than it was at the end of the 2019 election campaign, as voters opt for stability.

But the cause is not hopeless. The public is focused on vaccines and not engaged in partisan politics. O’Toole’s best bet is to survive the pandemic and hope voters decide that, like Winston Churchill in 1945, Trudeau was the right man in the right job at the right time but that the time has passed (two months after Victory in Europe Day, Churchill was dumped unceremoniously, in favour of Labour’s Clement Attlee). Trudeau’s support is soft and tepid, if you believe in the NDP’s recent buoyancy.

But to have any chance, O’Toole needs to present the Conservative Party as a rational, reliable alternative to the Liberals.

Good luck with that after the omni-shambles that transpired at the virtual convention on Saturday.

It was clear that trouble was brewing. The Campaign Life Coalition had been transparent that it was aiming to stack delegate representation with social conservatives and wreak havoc on the leader’s plan to move from some of the positions on which he campaigned last year.

While the party organization was able to quash numerous abortion-related resolutions, the CLC claimed to have recruited 1,100 delegates, who helped pass policies it deemed worthy of support (for example, a national adoption strategy) and, more significantly, defeating those it deemed “bad policy.”

One rambling resolution on the environment called for a Conservative government to balance the environment and job creation; force high-polluting businesses to take more responsibility; and commit to introducing tax credits to support innovations in green technology. One line summed up the approach: “We recognize that climate change is real. The Conservative Party is willing to act.”

For any party in any modern Western democracy (with the exception of the U.S. Republicans), it would go without saying.

The public is already there. Poll after poll says two-thirds of voters believe climate change is real and more needs to be done to combat it.

But the resolution went down to defeat – 54 per cent of delegates voted against it. Campaign Life rejoiced in the O’Toole team’s humiliation. “The science of man-made global warming theory is in dispute. Global warming alarmism is being used by global elites and the United Nations to advance population control through abortion and sterilization,” it said.

The party leadership tried to put a brave face on things. Fred Delorey, the national campaign manager, took to Twitter to point out the Conservative Party policy document already affirms climate change as real. But that’s weak tea – a leader without followers is simply a man out for a stroll.

O’Toole may have to release his climate plan ahead of schedule to blunt Liberal attacks, which are already coming thick and fast.

Some questions in the House of Commons on Monday were ignored, in favour of highlighting O’Toole’s mortification. “I must underscore a matter of deep concern in this House. This past weekend, the deputy leader opposite’s party once again rejected science and reaffirmed its disbelief in the reality of climate change,” said environment minister, Johathan Wilkinson, in response to a question about the pandemic.

Campaign Life has demonstrated it is neither impotent nor ineffectual. On its website, it boasted that seven out of 20 national council seats are now held by social conservatives, who will, it anticipates, ensure the number of “discriminatory disqualifications” of social conservative candidates will fall. This was the revenge of the so-cons and O’Toole is culpable.

Veterans of convention management are angry that the party did not do its home-work. One party stalwart said in prior years, national council and the leader’s team would usually spend months before every convention, working on every single resolution. “We had a team of people organized and ready to avoid exactly what happened on the weekend,” he said. “Clearly that didn’t occur, which is stunning, since it was the main theme of the speech.”

A bigger indictment of the leader and his team is that O’Toole has alienated many of the people who might have helped him. Party members who supported Peter MacKay’s candidacy – MPs, former staffers and grassroots members – say they have been frozen out or made to feel unwelcome since the leadership contest. The irony is that O’Toole delivered a speech that most of them could have endorsed.

AJ Wray, a party member from Waterloo, tweeted that O’Toole created his own problems by “leaning into the worst elements of the party” during the leadership race. “I could have easily delegated through my EDA (electoral district association) this convention. I was uninspired though. I knew Red Tories weren’t welcomed by the leader, so why bother?”

Unless he can pull his party together, O’Toole is destined to suffer the fate of many a Shakespearean tragic hero – being stabbed in the back, but this time fatally.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Gen. Vance 'was not truthful' in 2015 about sexual misconduct allegations, ex-Harper aide tells MPs

Then-Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance speaks to the media in Ottawa, Monday, March 30, 2020.

OTTAWA — Former prime minister Stephen Harper had limited information about sexual assault allegations levelled against former defence chief Jonathan Vance in 2015, and would have cancelled his appointment of the former general if any misconduct had been verified, a former senior adviser said.

In a House of Commons committee testimony on Monday, Ray Novak, who served as chief of staff to Harper between 2013 and 2015, said he was “very confident” that the Conservatives would not have appointed Gen. Vance if they were able to corroborate allegations that have recently come to surface.

Vance “was not truthful” when Harper directly asked him in a March 2015 meeting whether the former general might be subject to any allegations of misconduct over his long career, said Novak, who attended the meeting. Two separate “rumours” of misconduct that surfaced months later were investigated by the federal government’s National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSA), but did not find any material evidence of improper conduct, the former top aide said.

“If either of those two issues had yielded additional facts, or frankly any additional questions or avenues that needed to be pursued … I am very confident in saying that that appointment would not have proceeded at that time.”

Novak’s testimony comes amid explosive allegations of sexual misconduct against Vance that have left the military establishment reeling, raising questions around how much successive Conservative and then Liberal governments knew about the claims.

The issue has in recent weeks ensnared Liberal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, prompted by a series of Global News reports that said Vance allegedly had an ongoing relationship with Maj. Kellie Brennan, a woman he significantly outranked.

Novak said the recent allegations suggest he was not forthcoming in his conversations with Harper in 2015.

“I think it’s clear she made extremely serious allegations,” he told the committee. “And if they are true — and I have no reason to doubt her — that means the general was not truthful with the prime minister in their meeting of March 2015.”

Sajjan has faced particularly fierce criticism, following a committee testimony earlier this month that said the defence minister was fully aware of serious allegations against Vance in 2018, but went so far as to refuse to accept evidence that was offered.

Critics of the Liberal government say those actions run counter to the prime minister’s feminist mantra. Media reports, citing anonymous sources, have meanwhile questioned the robustness of the 2015 internal investigations under Harper.

Intensifying criticism directed at Sajjan and Trudeau, their newly appointed defence chief Admiral Art McDonald, who replaced Vance, also stepped down last month amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

In his testimony Monday, Novak said questions around Vance first came to light in March 2015, after the NSA gave a routine briefing to the Prime Minister’s Office that said the former general had engaged in a relationship with female U.S. officer Kerry Wheelehan, who he would later marry, during a NATO deployment in Italy.

Both the NSA and U.S. military investigators, Novak recalled, concluded that the relationship did not breach military protocol in part because Wheelehan, who was by then Vance’s fiancé, did not work directly under his command.

The Harper government officially appointed Vance in April.

Months after the appointment, in early July, the chief of staff to then-veteran affairs minister and current Conservative leader Erin O’Toole brought forward a “rumour” that Vance “had an inappropriate relationship” with a junior officer. Around the same time, a senior officer in the Department of National Defence, then headed by former defence minister Peter MacKay, received an anonymous email alleging an “inappropriate relationship” that involved Vance, according to Novak’s testimony.

Both rumours were investigated by the NSA, a top military-facing position within the federal government’s Privy Council Office.

Novak appeared to regret the appointment of the former general given more recent allegations levelled against him, but maintained that the NSA investigations into both matters did not produce new information.

“Obviously, looking back on this six years later, we have a range of very disturbing allegations that have been made, and when one makes an appointment to a position as senior as the Chief of Defence Staff, the head of the Canadian armed forces, one of the most historic and storied military institutions in the world, one is expecting that individual to uphold the proud record of that institution,” he said. “Unfortunately, clearly that has not been the case.”

Vance is currently under military police investigation, prompted by Brennan’s allegations first reported by Global News. The allegations suggest relations between the two began when they were both stationed at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick in the early 2000s, then resumed when he was her superior in Toronto in 2006.

Global also reported Vance is alleged to have made a sexual suggestion to a second, much younger soldier in 2012, before he was appointed chief of the defence staff.

Novak said he could not confirm whether Brennan’s allegations were the same ones that were investigated by the NSA years earlier.

“I don’t recall hearing major Brennan’s name until recent weeks when she did the interview. That said, I cannot recall with certainty the name that was conveyed to us.”

Novak also said he was “absolutely struck” by a recent Global interview of Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor, a “decorated” officer who said she quit the military due to persistent atmosphere of sexism faced by female officers.

“Potentially we have an entire generation of young Canadian women who may have taken their skills into the Canadian Armed Forces to protect our country, and now they may be looking elsewhere thanks to what’s going on,” Novak said.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Expert panel finds Canadian bureaucrats didn't understand value of national public health surveillance system

Health Minister Patty Hajdu set up a three-person panel to review the government’s use of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN). Media reports earlier this year revealed the system had been downgraded in recent years

OTTAWA – Senior managers put in charge of Canada’s world leading public health surveillance system didn’t seem to understand the value of the tool they had, according to an interim report.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu set up a three-person panel to review the government’s use of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN). Media reports earlier this year revealed the system had been downgraded in recent years, issuing fewer alerts about disease outbreaks and was being restrained by an overly bureaucratic system.

The network is an event-based surveillance (EBS) tool, first set up in the 1990s, that scans media reports in multiple languages looking for signs of a disease outbreak.

GPHIN got a boost in the early 2000s after the SARS crisis and was considered a world leader in detecting new disease, having seen some of the first signs of the H1N1 crisis and the Zika virus.

In an interim report, the panel found the system is valuable and unlike any in the world.

“While there are now several open‑source EBS systems operating publicly and privately, GPHIN is the only state‑owned moderated system in the world,” reads the interim report.

The system is split between two primary focuses: a daily roundup of news articles and other details of possible infectious diseases, and an alert system for particularly concerning disease outbreaks that the international community should be concerned about.

Those alerts had to go through senior management approval before being sent out and the panel found some senior managers didn’t seem to understand why they were valuable.

“The panel has also heard from some senior management directly overseeing GPHIN who could not describe the purpose or audience for alerts, and may not have had a complete understanding of their intent,” reads the report.

They also found it is clear someone inside government decided to downgrade the alert process, but they can’t find any indication yet as to who made that decision or why they did it.

“The panel has not seen any written documentation in respect to the timeline of those changes, who requested them and why they might have occurred.”

The panel has until May to release a final report on the system, but this interim report has already found problems they intend to address.

“The panel will also be carefully considering the operational context for GPHIN based on findings to date, which confirm a high degree of management turnover, a decline in the number of internal experts with public health credentials.”

While the panel has found issues, the interim report said they don’t believe it could have provided an earlier warning to the government or the world about COVID-19.

“The panel has seen no evidence suggesting that earlier identification by GPHIN of the outbreak would have been possible,” they wrote. “Canada’s response to COVID‑19 effectively began on the first day of 2020, in part due to event identification and notification of the initial signal by GPHIN staff.”

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said the interim report suggests the government was slow to act in response to the threat of COVID-19.

“This is another indication of the fact that I really don’t think the government took the pandemic as seriously as they could have in the first critical months of the pandemic.” she said.

The report details the government ramped up an operations centre to respond to the crisis, but didn’t do so until Jan. 20 and even then only brought the situation up to its second highest alert level.

Rempel Garner said the report along with a host of other government decisions around rapid tests and vaccines indicates a far too bureaucratic response to the pandemic.

“Across different levels of responses the processes have been overly bureaucratized and I think that that has left us slow to react,” she said.

In a statement, Hajdu said the report is a good step towards understanding how the system was used and she said she looks forward to the panel’s final report.

“Our government initiated this independent review to identify what changes are required to keep Canada well positioned to detect and respond to future public health events,” she said. “While the panel notes in its interim report the role GPHIN staff played in Canada’s early response to COVID-19, it also raises important questions on how this system could and should operate.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Waiting is the hardest part: A year into the pandemic, COVID fatigue has given way to vaccine envy

People wait in line at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal in early March for their COVID-19 jab as Quebec began vaccinations for seniors.

Humans are complicated animals, said Eldar Shafir. Loving, mean, altruistic, egotistic. All are part of the human condition, said the Princeton University behavioural scientist. “All of it is there.”

But there are subtleties, he said, which is why he understands how otherwise well-meaning COVID vaccine selfies might sometimes come across as annoyingly tone-deaf. “Maybe they think it’s encouraging — ‘I got it, and you’ll get it soon, too,’” Shafir said.

He also sympathizes with those who don’t yet qualify for vaccinations, or who can’t get an appointment if they do, and why they might harbour mixed sentiments — joy for the vaccinated, but also envy and frustration. The shots are our salvation, the only true route out of the pandemic. A year of stay-at-home orders lost its charm months ago, he said.

Shafir is co-author of Scarcity: The True Cost of Not Having Enough. In marketing, the scarcity bias holds that the subjective value of a good increases when it’s harder to get. Like frantic Black Friday crowds, people go mad looking for it. In this case, there are good reasons to want the vaccine, like stopping death from COVID.

A year into the pandemic, fatigue has given way to envy.

In Germany, it’s known as impfneid,

envy of those who have been vaccinated. “Envy is understandable,”

William Falk writes in The Week.

“These miraculous shots confer nearly total protection against hospitalization and death, and can parole us from the lonely gloom of our COVID prisons.” U.S. president Joe Biden has promised that every eligible adult American who wants the shot will be vaccinated by end of May. By the Fourth of July, “there should be clinking glasses everywhere,” Falk writes.

After a lethargic start, Ottawa has promised this country is on course to receive eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this month, 36.5 million by June’s end, and 118 million by the end of September. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military man leading Canada’s vaccination task force, suggested this week that it’s possible every Canadian who wants the vaccine could get their first dose by Canada Day.

But liberation for millions is still months away, COVID levels are “getting out of control” in Ottawa, and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health declared an amorphous third wave is underway in the province. A slight undulating wave? Large, breaking wave? To be determined, Dr. David Williams said.

We’re entering a “bizarre period,” infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said this week at an Ontario Medical Association briefing, where some will be fully vaccinated, some will have one shot of two, and some no shot. As provinces expand their eligibility lists, we try to do the math: “Based on your profile….there are between 11,305,154 and 22,057,270 people in front of you,”

an online vaccine calculator co-created by Toronto web content developer Jasmine Mah

and Steve Wooding from the U.K. computes for a 50-something person who fits into none of the priority categories.

Until everyone is vaccinated, it could mean a new regime of have’s and have not’s, said McGill University anthropologist and cognitive scientist Samuel Veissière. European countries are already discussing immunity passports, permitting only the fully vaccinated entry to restaurants, pubs and concert halls. “That’s going to raise another set of challenges,” said Veissière, associate professor in McGill’s department of psychiatry and co-director of the Culture, Mind and Brain program. “It’s going to create more envy.”

The desire to preserve one’s health and that of our loved ones, our family, our tribe, is inherent and universal, he said. “But we’re also a very individualistic society, and in individualistic societies people’s expectations tend to be high, and as a result their sense of entitlement and their sense of envy also tends to be higher than more collective societies with high trust in one another.”

Absolutely no one begrudges prioritizing shots for the most vulnerable — those living and working in long-term care and retirement homes, frontline health workers, those with underlying illnesses, those living in racialized communities, those who bear the sheer brunt of severe disease. But the longer the wait for everyone else, the more envious people become.

Crashing online vaccine booking portals, regions slipping from “orange” to “red” and drumbeats of a third lockdown in Ontario driven by super transmissible variants — all are frying patience. No one knew the psychological endurance that was going to be needed, said Yale University clinical psychologist Dr. Joan Cook.

The arrival of safe and effective vaccines less than a year after the SARS-CoV-2 virus revealed itself to humans is nothing short of a medical marvel. But when the “vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to the virus,” as Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer daily reminds the nation, it can be hard to be patient.

“There is some pretty clear evidence most people are not obvious cheats and liars, but there are lots of fuzzy lines, and most of us are very happy to transcend those few little fuzzy boundaries,” Shafir said.

“If you look at the guidelines in the U.S. today, if you have asthma (the person gets priority). Well, asthma now? Childhood asthma? Summer asthma?” Being overweight or obese makes people eligible. “Well, what is overweight exactly? Is it medically overweight? Overweight slightly? It’s very easy for somebody who is well-intentioned and really wants the vaccine who says, ‘oh, according to these rules, I’m pretty close,” Shafir said.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control said it’s safe for the fully vaccinated to hug and meet indoors, “and I can see that creating a lot of envy, because we’re all craving social connection and meeting with people,” said Caroline Roux, Concordia University Research Chair in Psychology of Resource Scarcity.

There’s both a downside and upside to the scarcity principle. On the dark side, people tend to become more selfish, more competitive, more willing to cheat, like the queue-jumping Vancouver casino executive and his wife, who flew into a remote community in the Yukon, pretending to be hotel workers. “People put their own needs first and forget about the greater good,” Roux said.

The flip side is that scarcity can make people less pro-self and more pro-social, more empathetic, more focused on the needs of others. There are stories of people turning the vaccine down, “because they think they’re not as high priority as whatever list-making process decided that they were,” Roux said. In fact, her colleagues are finding, in experimental settings, that people are less likely to want to accept a vaccine if it’s framed as being scarce.

Public trust is crucial. The latest flip-flopping on the AstraZeneca vaccine — first not safe for over 65-year-olds, now safe — and concerns over blood clots reports in Europe can sow doubt in the already hesitant. A review by the European Medicines Agency found no evidence the AstraZeneca jab raises the overall risk of blood clots.

While some might find it superficial, posting selfies online could help blunt vaccine hesitancy. Toronto is planning selfie stations at immunization clinics. They offer a kind of social proof, Roux said, signalling to others, “I’m doing the desirable thing.”

For better or worse, vaccine envy is a sign of our entitled individualism, Veissière said. “We all want the solution now. We all want it for ourselves. It’s an extremely complicated global situation.

“Things are getting a little better. People are just going to have to be patient.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

O'Toole declares 'the debate is over' on climate change, but his party's grassroots disagree

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole

OTTAWA — Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has made it clear he wants to move past debates about the existence of climate change, but the party’s national policy convention this weekend has shown it’s not so simple with his party’s base.

On Friday night, O’Toole gave a keynote speech to the convention promising his party will put forward a serious environment plan. “We cannot ignore the reality of climate change,” O’Toole said. “The debate is over.”

But the next day, it was announced that the 3,100 voting delegates at the convention had narrowly rejected a resolution to add language into the party’s policy book saying that: “We recognize that climate change is real. The Conservative Party is willing to act.”

The resolution would have also added in language calling on “highly polluting” businesses to do more to reduce their emissions and “be accountable for the results,” and said the Conservatives would support “innovation in green technologies.”

Fred DeLorey, who ran O’Toole’s leadership campaign and is now running the Conservative Party’s election effort, pointed out after the resolution failed that the party’s policy book already has language accepting climate change.

For example, the policy book says the Conservative Party believes “that an effective international emissions reduction regime on climate change must be truly global and must include binding targets for all the world’s major emitters, including China and the United States.”

But the rejection of the environment resolution shows the challenge O’Toole faces from within as he promises to change the party’s messaging and broaden its appeal beyond its power base in Western Canada and rural Ontario. O’Toole’s speech called on the party to have “the courage to change,” saying it can’t just rely on Liberal scandals to bring down Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The regional breakdown of the vote shows it was a majority of delegates in every province and territory west of Quebec who voted against the resolution, which was put forward by the Quebec riding association of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. A majority of delegates in Quebec and every Atlantic province voted in favour of the resolution. Overall, the resolution failed with 54 per cent opposing it.

During a question-and-answer session with delegates on Saturday afternoon, O’Toole was asked to respond to the resolution failing.

“It’s an important question,” O’Toole said. “The debate is over, climate change is real. And the Conservatives, we will have a serious and comprehensive plan on climate change to reduce emissions in the next election. It’s important to me as a father of young children, as a Member of Parliament. Climate change and fighting it is important to the Conservative Party of Canada.”

O’Toole has not said what exactly his environmental plan will be, though he has promised to scrap the federal carbon tax put in place by Trudeau. In his leadership platform, O’Toole pledged to target large industrial emitters, saying he would make “industry pay rather than taxing ordinary Canadians by forging a national industrial regulatory and pricing regime across the country.”

During the debate on the environment motion at the convention, there weren’t any delegates who declared climate change is false. Some, however, argued the Conservatives should be focused on other types of polluting than greenhouse gas emissions.

“Not sure why the Conservative Party needs to specify the climate change is real, or why that is necessary to mention when talking about pollution, since many types of pollution have nothing to do with any notion of climate change, like dumping raw sewage into the Saint Lawrence River,” said one delegate from the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough Centre.

“I’m opposed to this amendment because it unfairly centres greenhouse gases as the major pollutant that we have to be worried about, which is not true,” said a delegate from rural Ontario. “We can have clean air with carbon dioxide in the air. We should be focused on clean land, clean water.”

But a delegate from northern B.C. argued in favour of the motion, noting that he comes from an area dependent on the oil and gas industry.

“Canada is the best at resource extraction, but we still need to recognize that there is an impact on the environment,” the delegate said. “To say that we are in support of making technology better and recognizing that climate change is there is not to say we’re killing our industry, it’s to say that we are going to continue being the best at resource extraction.”

The policy convention wrapped up on Saturday afternoon. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held virtually with all speeches and debates being conducting over video streaming.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

As Canada goes from scarcity to vaccine flood, can we handle the challenge?

What has been an interminable drought is becoming a flood, but that doesn’t mean it is clear sailing from here.

OTTAWA – Canada’s long winter of vaccine scarcity should mercifully come to an end next week, but in a global race for doses another shortage could still derail the effort.

Next week, Pfizer is set to deliver approximately 1.2 million doses of its vaccine and then repeat that again in the final week of March. Moderna will deliver 846,000 doses of its shots next week, making it the first time Canada has received two million doses in a seven-day span.

Provinces are managing their own vaccine campaigns and targeting both seniors and people in vulnerable sectors, as well as frontline workers.

But to put those figures in context, the deliveries over the next two weeks should be more than enough to give a first dose to all of the roughly three million Canadians in their 70s. In April, with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca shots that have been committed, provinces could cover most of the people between 55 and 70.

Canada is still behind many Western countries, but the coming surge in vaccines that is expected to continue through the spring should get millions of people in this country at least their first doses of protection.

The ramp up is expected to continue through the spring. Pfizer has committed to delivering more than a million doses of vaccine every week through May. Moderna is scheduled to deliver about two million in April and a total of 12.3 million before June.

Canada will receive a further 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from the Serum Institute in India, split between April and early May. And a deal with the U.S. announced Friday should see another 1. 5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine before the end of this month.

What has been an interminable drought is becoming a flood, but that doesn’t mean it is clear sailing from here.

The Liberals have been hit in the press, the House of Commons and the polls for the slow pace of the roll-out. Despite the upward trend, Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand isn’t celebrating yet.

“We are in a globally competitive environment where all countries want the same product,” she said. “From our experience with supply chains in this pandemic that the job isn’t done until the product that we need is in this country.”

The government has consistently said all Canadians will be fully vaccinated by September and it currently expects to have 118 million doses of vaccine in Canada by then, which would be enough to vaccinate all Canadians nearly twice over.

Much of that volume relies on Pfizer and Moderna, who manufacture their vaccines in Europe, and countries on the continent have been increasingly agitated about vaccine shipments leaving their borders to go elsewhere.

Anand said that is one area she is watching closely.

“We are seeing vaccine nationalism take hold in various areas of the world and in particular Europe. Obviously, my concern rests there,” she said.

Canada has also approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and has an order for 10 million of that one-dose shot. Before the end of September, the government expects an additional 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

But both of those shipments are expected to come from the U.S. Outside the 1.5 million doses approved for Canada on Friday, the Biden administration has insisted that vaccines made in the U.S. stay there, until America’s needs are fully met.

Anand said she is pushing for a delivery schedule for both of those vaccines and hopes to have it soon, but she has learned to be cautious.

“One of the key lessons that I think we all should take is that, in a time of crisis, where all countries in the world are seeking the same product. There are bound to be bumps in the road,” she said.

Vaccine diplomacy has the potential to throw a wrench in Canada’s vaccine effort, but the provincial rollout is a big unanswered question as well.

Provinces have had problems with online booking systems and in some weeks vaccine doses have piled up in freezers rather than go into arms.

 Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, opens a box with some of the first 500,000 of the 2-million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India, March 3, 2021.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford insists his province is ready and is missing only the federal supply.

“We have the ability to administer over 4.8 million doses per month, and again that’s a conservative figure, but in March. We’ve only received enough supply to do just over 1.6 million,” he said.

Ford insisted his province has a plan that can “move on a dime” if more supply arrives, moving the vaccine into more pharmacies and doctors’ offices, but he said without consistency the ups and down can be a major logistical problem when the vaccine shipments slow down.

“We have to bring everything back down. It’s a massive, massive undertaking,” he said.

British Columbia’s Health Minister Adrian Minister Dix said this week that the government has tried to keep a flexible approach through the earlier shortage of vaccines. The province is set to start vaccinating people in their 70s next week.

“When our supply was less certain in the month of January, we adapted to make sure we did not waiver,” he said.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist who sits on the Ontario government’s vaccine task force, is confident the provinces are ready. He said even when Ontario had small amounts of vaccine in January it managed to vaccinate 15,000 people a day in long-term care homes, which comes with a lot of logistical challenges.

He said scaling that up will be a challenge, but provinces are up to it. He pointed out Toronto has three mass vaccination sites now, but plans for nine when the vaccine supply increases.

“That massive inflection point of turning a small trickle of vaccines into a flood is really coming at the tail end of March and into April,” he said.

Bogoch said he expects to see a drop in infections and hospitalizations once those vaccines get out into arms. He said obviously it would have been better for Canada to have had more doses sooner, but he said many of the countries ahead of us are using vaccines from Russia and China that Canadians would be unlikely to take.

“Stating the obvious, faster and more widespread vaccination equals earlier benefit,” he said. “Are we happy with where we are? No, of course not. But at least let’s have a fair comparison and a fair conversation.”

Pfizer Canada’s president Cole Pinnow appeared before a parliamentary committee earlier this month and said Canada was among the early movers to sign a deal for vaccines. He said the government’s initial contract had the first deliveries scheduled in 2021, not late 2020 which ended up happening, because the vaccine was approved more swiftly.

“We initiated our application in October, and by mid-November we had made sufficient progress that a regulatory decision in December became a possibility,” he told MPs. “This was almost two months earlier than originally anticipated.”

Anand said she believes the ability to get doses moved forward was a success and one she hopes to continue.

“In this volatile environment the Government of Canada has continued to weather the storm to ensure vaccines are coming into this country at an increasingly accelerated basis,” she said. “Our negotiations with the vaccine suppliers continue there, continuing every day, because we are always looking for accelerated deliveries on an expedited basis.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques