Good morning. It’s Wendy Cox in Vancouver and James Keller in Calgary today.
On Tuesday, Manitoba showed the rest of Western Canada what happens if the cajoling, encouraging, warning and begging by premiers and public health officials for people to refrain from risky gatherings goes unheeded.
Manitoba announced it is shutting down parts of its economy starting Thursday, limiting non-essential retail outlets and restaurants to delivery and curbside pickup only. Churches will not be allowed to hold in-person services and bars, museums and theatres will have to close. Recreational activities will be suspended and people will be forbidden from social gatherings with anyone from outside their household.
The restrictions are expected to be in place for four weeks at least.
Manitoba leads all other provinces in per-capita active cases. Intensive-care beds in the province are running close to capacity and there is widespread community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The province has lost the ability to reduce case numbers simply by targeting specific areas such as bars and restaurants, its chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said.
“Our test positivity rate is up. We’re seeing a lot of community-based transmission, so now we just have to reduce contacts, period,” Dr. Roussin said.
Dr. Roussin’s counterpart in British Columbia didn’t go quite that far. Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with Health Minister Adrian Dix, held a rare Saturday news conference to announce new restrictions that include banning gatherings outside of a person’s immediate household. New rules were also placed on recreation, with yoga studios and spin classes being shut down. The new orders are in place for two weeks, but could be extended if necessary. They apply only to the Lower Mainland, which includes the Vancouver area and its suburbs, Surrey and the Fraser Valley.
But Dr. Henry avoided veering the province into the kind of lockdown experienced in the spring. She noted that while exercise classes would no longer be permitted, one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer remain okay as long as COVID protocols are exercised. She also clarified that a household might include people who are part of a regular routine, including immediate family members or a close friend. Dr. Henry encouraged people to patronize restaurants that are strictly following protocols.
Still, Premier John Horgan was blunt on Monday after a weekend that saw 998 new cases over a two-day period. There was a further 525 cases overnight Monday. Mr. Horgan said if people aren’t willing to do their part with such measures, then the alternative – more comprehensive measures like those of the spring – would be likely.
“That’s the end result if we don’t start to see these numbers come down,” he told reporters.
“Our objective is to make sure that our economy can remain open,” he added, “but it is going to require people to get with the program and there’s a whole bunch of people that are not abiding by the minimalist rules we had in place.”
Alberta has been setting its own records for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, which remain among the highest rates in Canada. The province added 713 new cases yesterday and seven new deaths, as active cases more than doubled in less than three weeks. There are 207 people in hospital and 43 in intensive care.
Premier Jason Kenney has repeatedly rejected the possibility of widespread lockdowns or economic closures, which he described as “massive” infringements of people’s rights that do more harm than good. Instead, the province is relying largely on voluntary measures, such as asking people in Calgary and Edmonton to stop hosting parties and to limit the people they come into contact with. One of the few mandatory restrictions is a 15-person limit on social gatherings in Calgary, Edmonton and other communities with high rates of infection.
Mr. Kenney argues that people calling for lockdowns are ignoring the financial and emotional pain that another lockdown would create, and that any benefit from a lockdown would be outweighed by the negative side-effects. He has also pointed to statistics that show about three per cent of infections in Alberta are tied to the restaurant and hospitality industry. However, experts have noted that more than half of the province’s recent cases have no known source, so it’s not clear where those people are becoming infected.
Dozens of hospital physicians and infectious disease experts wrote the Premier this week, urging him to implement a two-week lockdown to act as a “circuit breaker” to curb infections, warning of “catastrophic” consequences if the province continues on its current course. “We need rules, not suggestions,” the letter said.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said her office is considering a range of possible recommendations , including business closures, but she hasn’t offer any hints about what those might look like or when she might make recommendations about what should happen next.
The decision is ultimately up to provincial cabinet .
Mr. Kenney said he’s confident that Albertans will do what they need to do to bring infections down without the need for more stringent, mandatory measures.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged premiers and mayors across the country to avoid loosening COVID-19 restrictions for the sake of the economy and suggested that localized shutdowns are needed in areas seeing a surge in cases.
“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressure not to shut down businesses or slow down our economy,” Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
AROUND THE WEST
MOE’S NEW CABINET: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe revealed his 18-member cabinet during a swearing-in ceremony held at Government House on Monday, two weeks after his Saskatchewan Party’s Oct. 26 election win. It was the first time Mr. Moe, who became Premier in 2018 through a leadership contest, made significant changes to his cabinet, which stayed largely the same after former premier Brad Wall retired from politics.
Social Services Minister Paul Merriman moved into Health as the province grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, and Health Minister Jim Reiter is now responsible for SaskBuilds, procurement and infrastructure. Everett Hindley, who represents Swift Current and served as an assistant to Mr. Wall before successfully running to replace the former premier in the legislature, entered cabinet as minister of mental health and addictions, seniors and rural and remote health. Monday’s announcement saw longtime Saskatchewan Party member and former deputy premier Don McMorris return to cabinet after his exit in 2016 following an impaired driving charge. Finance Minister Donna Harpauer stays in her portfolio, while also assuming the job of deputy premier from Gord Wyant, who leaves Education to become attorney-general.
CHRISTY CLARK ON THE BC LIBERALS: Former BC Liberal premier Christy Clark is calling on her party to broaden its appeal to voters by assertively talking about issues beyond the provincial party’s traditional focus on the economy. Ms. Clark said that while the economy is key, “I think the public has an expectation that we’re going to talk about some other issues as well.” To be specific, she cited climate change, addressing the wage gap for women, systemic discrimination, supporting First Nations and the LGBTQ community. “We need to find a way through what used to be called those conscience issues,” she said. “I think that’s going to be tricky. With the right leader, we can find a way through those things.”
SLAVE LAKE COUNCILLOR APOLOGIZES: A northern Alberta councillor says she is deeply sorry for recommending her town stop feeding and “being so nice” to its Indigenous homeless population. At a Sept. 8 council meeting, Slave Lake councillor Joy McGregor gave a five-minute update on the homeless population in the town, about 250 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. In a video of the meeting posted on YouTube, Ms. McGregor said that Slave Lake’s homeless population is made up of Indigenous people from nearby communities, including Trout, Loon, Atikameg and Wabasca. She didn’t cite any evidence to back that up. A 500-word apology was posted on Ms. McGregor’s Facebook page Monday addressed to “the community.” “I acknowledge that I have upset many people by using language that was inconsiderate,” her apology reads. “If I had the language that I now know I need to learn, I would have approached this situation completely different. I am deeply sorry to you all and those affected by poor choice of language and the feelings you have felt since the September town council meeting.”
B.C. LAND OWNERSHIP REGISTRY: Provisions in the Land Owner Transparency Act come into force Nov. 30 requiring anyone buying property or signing a lease longer than a decade to file a report declaring if they have hidden, or beneficial, partners in the deal, with corporations, trusts and partnerships also having to disclose the true identities of their ownership group to the registry. But the rules buttressing the system – the first of its kind in Canada – will do little to stop money laundering in the province’s housing market because the penalties for lying about secret owners won’t include the potential for a prison sentence and it will not require photo identification, according to a report released Monday by C.D. Howe’s Kevin Comeau.
MANITOBA LTC COVID-19 OUTBREAK: The owners of a Winnipeg care home that called paramedics to deal with a crisis of sick and dying patients amid a COVID-19 outbreak later provided false information that hid the extent of a staff shortage, health officials said Monday. Revera initially said it had 13 of the normal 19 health care aides working the evening shift last Friday at the Maples Personal Care Home, where eight residents died over a 48-hour period and paramedics were called to provide hydration, transport to hospital and other services. But the actual number of health care aides who were on duty for much of that shift in the 200-bed facility was seven, the Winnipeg Regional Healthy Authority said Monday. Revera, which operates long-term care homes across Canada, said the erroneous information was a mistake.
LAWSUIT AGAINST THE RCMP: The B.C. Civil Liberties Association said Tuesday it is launching a lawsuit against RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki over what the organization calls inexcusable delays in preventing the release of a report from the force’s civilian watchdog. The BCCLA said it filed a complaint in February, 2014, against the national police alleging they illegally spied on democratic activities of organizations and Indigenous people opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline, a now-rejected project that would have delivered 520,000 barrels a day of oil-sands bitumen to the B.C. coast. The complaint also alleged the RCMP improperly shared the information they collected with oil companies and the National Energy Board. The BCCLA believes the RCMP’s surveillance created a chilling effect and violated constitutional rights. RCMP Cpl. Caroline Duval said in a statement that the RCMP are aware of the lawsuit filed by the BCCLA and it would be inappropriate to discuss the specifics of the case because it is before the court. Cpl. Duval said the force considers all public complaints to be important and its initial target to respond was Nov. 7 and the date has now been revised to the end of the month.
Alexandra Gill on Vancouver’s new vegan restaurant MILA: “The original plan for MILA, which was slated to open in May as an upscale vegan restaurant (more akin to The Acorn Restaurant on Main Street), fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chef Jim Vesal, who is also the director of culinary and business development for sister restaurant mini-chain Virtuous Pie, redesigned the menu to make it easier to pack up in takeout boxes. The burger, pasta and Pan-Asian mash-up actually feels more appropriate for the bright and cheerful Chinatown room, which doesn’t look all that different from its days as Juniper Kitchen and Bar. The casual menu also seems like a good fit for MILA’s other sister company, TMRW Foods, which makes a faux-beef mince with kidney beans, split peas and quinoa that puts Beyond Meat burgers to shame. … What’s also commendable is that Mr. Vesal isn’t beholden to TMRW Foods. His menu includes a vast range of faux meats and cheeses – whichever suits the dish best. He also uses whole vegetables to great effect. The ‘fish’ and chips is made with roasted celeriac (a three-day process) in a crunchy beer batter that holds up well for delivery and comes with thick tartar sauce, tangy slaw and a charred lemon. The extra touches are nice.”
Adam Radwanski on Joe Biden’s victory and Canada’s climate goals: “For the past four years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has lacked an ally in the White House who shares his government’s interest in the issue. Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals will be glad for the chance to co-operate on continental efforts, in some cases even being able to follow the Americans' lead. At the same time, Mr. Biden could also challenge Mr. Trudeau and other Canadian leaders to up their game, including when it comes to competing with the U.S. for clean-technology investment. And the president-elect’s promised push to decrease U.S. reliance on fossil fuels could exacerbate regional tensions in Canada, by adding to the woes of its oil and gas industry.”
André Picard on Jason Kenney and Doug Ford’s approach to the pandemic: “A week ago, Alberta’s average number of new coronavirus cases was 275; now it’s 730. Despite that threefold increase, Premier Jason Kenney has dismissed the idea of any sort of lockdown. He describes this do-nothing approach as “balancing” the need for protecting the population from a deadly pandemic and the desire to protect the economy. Fasten your seatbelts folks (voluntarily of course, no rules required) because much of Canada is now barreling down the Barrington Highway.”