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Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.

Health officials across Canada and around the world have enlisted celebrities or famous characters to spread the word about how to curb the spread of COVID-19.

North Carolina got a pair of NASCAR drivers. California got comedian Larry David.

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On Alberta’s Blood Tribe reserve, lessons about things like mask wearing are being taught by the Nuppets – the Muppet-inspired creation of Indigenous comedian and puppeteer DerRic Starlight. Nuppet is short for native puppet.

The First Nation enlisted Mr. Starlight to create videos that would target children as they returned to school amid public-health restrictions.

The campaign’s first episode is entitled Listen to Granny. In the video, Granny, an elder Nuppet with long grey braids, teaches students about face masks. Wind Dancer, a youthful Nuppet character, serves as her mask model. Artwork from real students on the Blood Tribe reserve decorates the classroom set.

It’s a clever way to communicate with a difficult-to-reach group – children – while tailoring that message to people in the community.

Devon Greyson, a communications professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says public-health officials have historically struggled with building trust with Indigenous audiences. He says the Blood Tribe’s decision to team up with Mr. Starlight’s Nuppets could go a long way to addressing that.

Mr. Starlight says the Nuppets campaign will also remind non-Indigenous people that their Indigenous counterparts are struggling with the same everyday annoyances – such as getting kids to wear masks properly – as they are.

“We’re all in the same canoe."

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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.


B.C. ELECTION: The week has been disastrous for the BC Liberals, with Andrew Wilkinson spending the week responding to inappropriate comments by two of his incumbent MLAs. On Thursday, he cut Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness loose after Mr. Throness suggested at an all-candidates meeting that the NDP’s platform promise of providing free contraceptives to women was akin to eugenics. The NDP made a video of the remarks widely available. Other sitting MLAs reacted with shock and disgust on Twitter and Mr. Wilkinson himself quickly tweeted a rebuke: “What Laurie Throness said was wrong and against my position as leader of this party. I will be making this very clear to Laurie when we next speak.” By the end of the day, Mr. Throness had been ejected by the Liberals, but he said Friday he would continue the race as an Independent. The controversy came just days after Mr. Wilkinson had to apologize for sexist and belittling remarks by incumbent MLA Jane Thornthwaite about NDP rival Bowinn Ma as part of a roast for a retiring Liberal colleague.

Legislative reporter Justine Hunter has been exclusively reporting that the NDP has been slow to roll out money approved in March by all parties in the legislature aimed at providing relief to hard-hit tourism businesses. Premier John Horgan announced it as part of the NDP’s recovery package on Sept. 17 just days before he called the snap election. Details for qualifying for the package weren’t posted until Oct. 9 and this week, Justine spoke with tourism operators who said the qualifications are so rigid, many of his members simply won’t qualify. The money is unlikely to flow before the end of the year because the election means a new minister must be in place before the dispersals are approved.

This weekend, Justine takes a look at what the future of B.C.'s economic recovery will look like. She finds an economic map turned upside down from what is usual. For years, rural communities in British Columbia hollowed out while the urban centres in the southwest corner of the province – especially Metro Vancouver – generated most of the province’s economic growth.

The arrival of the pandemic early in the year led to massive job losses in every region of the province. But B.C.'s resource industries – forestry, mining, oil and gas – have since rebounded. The fortunes of Metro Vancouver have not. And for many businesses and workers in the province’s most densely populated region, there is stagnation, not recovery, on the horizon.

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NEW RESTRICTIONS FOR MANITOBA: Manitoba is again shutting down Winnipeg bars and casinos, but will keep restaurants and fitness centres open, as the province moves to control a surge in cases of COVID-19 that skyrocketed this past week. “These numbers show we’ve lost our way,” Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said as he renewed pandemic restrictions for Winnipeg, included reducing the limit on gatherings outside households to five people for the next two weeks. Just over half of the 3,173 total reported cases in Manitoba to date are currently active.

CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE: A Coquitlam board’s deals with the Confucius Institute on after-school programs gave the Chinese-backed organization a strong say in how China is portrayed, and internal files suggest administrators were asked to report back on political leaders' attitudes. The Globe investigates. [For subscribers]

SASKATCHEWAN ELECTION AND THE KXL PIPELINE: Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe says if the Democrats win next month’s U.S. election, he has concerns about the future of the Keystone XL pipeline. Moe is himself running for re-election on Oct. 26 and, while on the campaign trail, weighed in on comments about the project made by presidential candidate Joe Biden. Biden has promised to kill the 2,000-kilometre pipeline, which would carry up to 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska and travel through Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says the pipeline is important and he would advocate for any project moving through the province to be built with steel from Regina.

REGINA HOSPITAL DEATH: The family of a young man who took his own life after going to a hospital twice in one day during a mental-health crisis is suing the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the provincial government. A statement of claim filed Friday by the parents of Samwel Uko alleges hospital staff were negligent. Uko’s body was found in Regina’s Wascana Lake on May 21. Relatives of the 20-year-old athlete from Abbotsford, B.C., have said he was in the provincial capital visiting an aunt when he sought help at the Regina General Hospital.

ALBERTA NDP: Alberta’s Opposition New Democrats are seeking to kickstart a conversation about the future of the province’s economy, which has been rocked by COVID-19 and an oil-price collapse that together have deepened problems that started years ago. The party hopes the campaign, called Alberta’s Future, helps them build credibility on the economy, an issue that is widely believed to have contributed to the NDP’s election loss last year, while underpinning the platform for the next vote in 2023.

NATURAL GAS: The use of natural gas in homes is coming under fire, after years of being touted by Canada’s energy industry as an ideal fuel in the transition to a low-carbon economy. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, or CAPE, is the latest group to criticize natural gas, calling for B.C. homeowners to switch over to electricity-powered appliances when gas-powered ones wear out.

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HEALTH CARE RACISM: A First Nations elder says her symptoms were initially ignored and she was questioned about alcohol use during a stay at a Winnipeg hospital. Sadie North, 72, said she was appalled at some of her treatment during a four-day stay at Grace Hospital. She was there for cellulitis, a bacterial infection, on her leg. She said she believes her experience is an example of anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system. Kellie O’Rourke, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said staff have been in contact with North and they are “sincerely sorry for her experience.” She added that the dialogue will help the hospital learn and improve care for all patients. “I want to be clear: unconscious bias, discrimination and racism have no place in our health care system or in our hospital,” O’Rourke said in an e-mailed statement.

OVERDOSE-PREVENTION FIGHT: A proposal to create an indoor overdose-prevention site in a once rundown, now condo-tower-filled area of Vancouver’s downtown highlighted a stark divide in the city this week. On one side, dozens of speakers say people who use drugs need a site like this, where people injecting would be monitored by peers, to stay safe and alive during an epidemic of overdose deaths that is killing more people than COVID-19. On the other, many local condo residents in the downtown neighbourhood of Yaletown say there is already rampant crime on the streets because of problems with drug users who have been pushed or pulled into the area recently. They say this problem will only get worse with a prevention site. In the middle are 11 council members who have to make a high-stakes decision on whether to permit a short-term lease in a city-owned building to a Vancouver Coastal Health-funded organization that will run the site for at least a year.


Kelly Cryderman on Alberta and the U.S. election: “It’s easier for an American politician to condemn a pipeline project originating in Canada, long in the crosshairs of environmental groups, than to run on policies that will cost existing jobs in Ohio or New Mexico. But it’s a quandary for Alberta. Four out of five barrels of Canadian oil are shipped south of the border.”

Gary Mason on the Confucius Institute: “Administrators in this same school district have come under fire in the past, for taking all-expenses-paid junkets to Beijing and other cities courtesy of the Chinese government. Students have also made these trips, which are intended to allow these folks an opportunity to witness firsthand all of the wonderful and joyous things the Chinese government is doing for its people. It’s doubtful that any recent tours have included stops at the prisons where Canadian hostages Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are being kept. Or the detention camps where the Chinese government has rounded up innocent Muslim Uyghurs. But I digress.”

A.J. Somerset on the Liberals' approach to a handgun ban: “In a Throne Speech mostly devoted to far more important matters, the Liberals committed to pressing ahead with the least rational and most disposable of their election promises on guns: their promise to empower cities to ban handguns. Gun-control organizations tell us this is a dumb plan: Any gun laws we make must be uniform across the country, lest we follow the United States in creating an ineffective patchwork of laws and loopholes. Canada’s gun lobby is also adamant that it is a dumb plan, for the same reasons. Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair deserves congratulations: He has achieved the impossible, crafting a gun control proposal on which both sides agree.”

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Gary Mason on the B.C. leaders' debate: “The one and only televised leaders' debate of the B.C. election campaign was a tame, civilized affair with no momentum-shifting blows. In other words, it was a best-case scenario for the front-running New Democratic Party, and much less of one for Andrew Wilkinson and the B.C. Liberals. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, meantime, was the most impressive person on the stage – not counting the moderator, Shachi Kurl, who delivered a master class in how to keep the participants in these often unruly encounters in line and accountable.”

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