Morning Update

December 5, 2021

Morning Update: Liberals offer ‘good faith compromise’ to end stand-off over fired Winnipeg lab scientists

Beatrice Paez

Good morning,
The Liberal government offered what it called a “good faith” compromise to end a stand-off over its refusal to release secret documents related to the firing of two scientists at Canada’s high-security infectious-disease laboratory.
Government House Leader Mark Holland told the House of Commons late Thursday that the federal cabinet is now prepared to turn over all the documents to a special committee of MPs from the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and New Democrats. It would fall to a panel of three former senior judges to settle any dispute about whether to make the records public.
“We believe this proposal constitutes a good-faith effort by the government to resolve this matter responsibly,” Holland said. “It recognizes the role of the House of Commons to do its work and it also recognizes the government’s obligation to protect Canadians from the harm that could occur from the release of sensitive national security information.”
The National Microbiology Laboratory
The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba on June 17, 2021. SHANNON VANRAES / THE GLOBE AND MAIL Shannon VanRaes/The Globe and Mail
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Omicron variant is three times more likely to cause reinfections, new data show
The Omicron variant is three times more likely to cause reinfection in people, compared with earlier strains of the coronavirus, new data from South Africa suggest.
The study, released Thursday, is the first strong indication of why Omicron has surged so rapidly in countries such as South Africa, where a large percentage of the population was believed to have immunity to the virus because of a prior infection.
The findings have huge implications for countries such as India and many other African countries, where vaccination rates are low and immunity had been achieved through infection. Even if the new variant is not more transmissible than other variants, such as Delta, it could still spread more rapidly because people are more vulnerable to it, scientists say.
Read more coverage of COVID-19:
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U.S. rebuffed decades of pleas from B.C. to shore up a dike for $29-million. Now, flood damage will cost $1-billion
For most of the year, the sediment-laden waters of the Nooksack River slip unremarked behind the tree-lined banks that keep it from spilling into northern Washington state.
But every once in a while, when the rain is heavy or the snowmelt fast, the river transforms into a writhing churn, leaping over its banks near the town of Everson before landing in another country: Canada. When the Nooksack flooded in mid-November, the Abbotsford area was also hit, with the damages for the Canadian city estimated at $1-billion.
Politicians and engineers in B.C. have implored Washington State to do something about the Nooksack. More than 30 years ago, they created a Nooksack River International Task Force. They have flown to the Pentagon to plead their case. They have attempted public shaming to create pressure. “The Americans have not touched a stick or pebble in that river since the flood of 1990,” George Ferguson, Abbotsford’s mayor at the time, said in 1992. “Up here we have cleaned out the mess … but they just continue to leave the channels alone and rely on more studies.”
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Canada has no plans to deploy additional troops to Ukraine, Chief of Defence Staff says: Canada won’t be boosting its troop presence in Ukraine amid the European country’s escalating border crisis with Russia, as the head of the Canadian military acknowledged worries that such a move could provoke, rather than deter, Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are widespread fears that Putin may be considering wider military action against Russia’s neighbour, which Moscow has been trying to wrest back into its orbit since a pro-Western revolution in Kyiv seven years ago.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland sets Dec. 14 as date for fall fiscal update: The federal government will release its latest economic forecast on Dec. 14, just days before the current four-week sitting is scheduled to break on Dec. 17. The House will return on Jan. 31, 2022. The Trudeau Liberals have been facing criticism over fiscal transparency as the government has yet to release the previous year’s public accounts, which would provide a detailed breakdown of how Ottawa spent about $600-billion during the height of the pandemic.
Meghan Markle scores victory as court dismisses U.K. tabloid’s appeal: London’s Court of Appeal has sided with Britain’s Duchess of Sussex in her long-running privacy battle with a British newspaper that had printed a personal letter she wrote to her estranged father. The court threw out an appeal by the Mail on Sunday against an earlier ruling that it infringed Meghan’s privacy and copyright by publishing parts of a letter she penned to her father, Thomas Markle, three months after she wed Prince Harry. She accused the paper of dragging out the case to generate more headlines and sell more papers, saying the industry’s “harmful practices” are in need of reform.
New ROM gallery showcases the weird, wonderful first drafts of animal life on Earth: With the opening of a new permanent gallery at the ROM, called “The Dawn of Life,” curator Jean-Bernard Caron wants to transform our understanding of evolution’s journey before the age of dinosaurs – and long before mammoths, sabre-toothed cats and our own primate ancestors were on the scene. This is not simply the first chapter of life as we know it. It’s more like the first several volumes of a rich drama that highlights some of biology’s greatest innovations, as championed by a cast of bizarre-looking heroes with unfamiliar names.
Listen to The Decibel: Business case for being bilingual: A debate over the importance of French in Canada’s corporate world was set off after Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau gave a speech mainly in English in Montreal and afterward said it was “testament” to the city that he hasn’t needed to learn French in the 14 years that he has lived there. His comments drew much criticism from politicians and ended up having a ripple effect onto other English-speaking CEOs. Report on Business columnist Rita Trichur explains why bilingualism is a key component of being a corporate leader in Canada.


European markets attempt rebound: European shares opened firmer on Friday as markets appeared to be slowly accepting the possibility of more COVID-linked activity curbs and an accelerated pace of stimulus tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Around 5:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.03 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC were little changed. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei gained 1 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.09 per cent. New York futures were muted ahead of U.S. employment data. The Canadian dollar was trading at 77.86 US cents.


Lower the voting age? You could make just as good an argument for raising it
“The judgment call that human societies around the world have made is that cognitive ability should matter up to a point, but only up to that point: the point at which children become adults. Children are assigned, not only different rights from adults, but also different responsibilities – they are denied the right to vote for the same reason that they are not tried in adult court.” - Andrew Coyne
Coming soon: a big, hairy fight over health care funding
“...Health care funding has always been about control. The provinces believe they know best when it comes to spending money on health care. The federal government insists there needs to be national standards when it comes to some of the areas previously mentioned like long-term care.” - Gary Mason


Brian Gable Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail


Ask a design expert: I’d like to refresh my holiday decor on a budget but I’m not crafty. Can you help?
Decking the halls should never be a source of financial or DIY dread. Whether it’s taking the au naturel approach or shopping your pantry, there are plenty of creative, unfussy ways to bring holiday cheer and sparkle to your home without spending a lot or picking up a glue gun.

MOMENT IN TIME: Dec. 3, 1984

Do They Know It’s Christmas? is released
The recording of the Band Aid charity single, Do They Know it's Christmas?, in a London studio, Nov. 26, 1984, was an effort organized by Bob Geldof (not shown) and other musicians for Ethiopian aid. Steve Hurrell/Redferns / Getty Images
Getting a group of rock stars together is like herding cats, even when they’re recording a charity single. When the cream of British pop gathered on a Sunday in West London to record Do They Know It’s Christmas?, the song’s co-writer, Bob Geldof, didn’t know who would show up. Boy George got the date wrong and had to be roused from his New York hotel room to jump on the Concorde. Bono didn’t want to sing the line “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” The song’s lyrics were scribbled by Geldof in the back of a cab after he saw a BBC report about the devastating famine in Ethiopia. He convinced his friend, Ultravox’s Midge Ure, to co-write the song and other friends to sing it. It was a smash, flying to No. 1 on the British charts, selling more than a million copies in its first week and raising millions of pounds for famine relief. But the years have not been kind: The lyrics were criticized as patronizing and ignorant, and when it was re-recorded in 2014 to raise money for Ebola victims, lines were rewritten. Even Geldof called it one of “the worst songs in history.” Elizabeth Renzetti
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