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Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron variant, in Ottawa, on Jan. 7, 2022.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Hello,

Canada’s Health Minister is raising the possibility of mandatory vaccination as a means of resolving the pandemic.

“I personally think we will get there at some point – mandatory vaccination,” Jean-Yves Duclos told a news conference in Ottawa on Friday.

The minister described his view as a “personal opinion,” and noted he is not in a position to say when such an approach might be enacted. He said testing is a great, important measure, but vaccination is key. “Discussions need to be had about mandatory vaccination.”

He said there will always be exceptions, such as people who have medical reasons, allowing exclusion from vaccinations.

While Mr. Duclos said the measure is not currently being considered, he said it may come into provincial action plans given how fragile the health care system is in Canada, the aging population and increasing costs of providing care.

“Vaccination is what’s going to get us out of this challenge,” he said, referring to the pandemic, now sustained by the Omicron variant.

During the news conference, Mr. Duclos and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc acknowledged there may be limits to the federal government’s ability to provide assistance to the provinces and territories.

Mr. LeBlanc said there have been 155 requests for help, at varying levels, from the provinces and territories, since the pandemic began, and the government expects an increase in requests for assistance given what they are hearing.

“It shouldn’t surprise anybody that it’s not a limitless number of federal health care resources that we can bring to bear so our job is to take absolutely everything we can and allocate it in the most effective way to support all of our partners,” he said.

Mr. LeBlanc said the answer to requests for help will be yes “inasmuch as it’s possible.”

The Health Minister also provided an update on the case of the Sunwing flight from Montreal to Mexico on Dec. 30, which featured an on board; on-board party that has drawn condemnation from the Prime Minister among other senior politicians. There’s a story here on the incident.

Mr. Duclos noted that, as of Wednesday, 27 of the 130 passengers had arrived back in Canada after taking four different flights.

He said they were “intercepted and interrogated” at four different airports and tested on arrival. He said Quebec police contacted the Public Health Agency of Canada to obtain contact information to make sure they are following quarantine plans.

He said the files of the travellers have been forwarded to the Quebec government for follow-up on the matter while an investigation continues on how they broke Transport Canada rules.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

OMICRON TO LOOM OVER JOB MARKET – The Canadian economy continued to churn out jobs in December, but that’s likely the end of a seven-month hiring streak as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 wallops the labour market.

TARGETING OF TORY CANDIDATE HERALDS POLITICAL INTERFERENCE – Two researchers at McGill University say a disinformation campaign against a Conservative Party candidate during the 2021 election race is a disturbing demonstration of how propaganda tactics could be used by hostile foreign actors to interfere with Canada’s political system. Story here.

CALL BACK QUEBEC LEGISLATURE TO DEAL WITH PANDEMIC: LIBERAL LEADER – The leader of Quebec’s official opposition is calling for an emergency sitting of the National Assembly so the government can answer for its recent handling of the pandemic. Dominique Anglade, who leads Quebec’s Liberal Party, has written to Premier François Legault, saying the debate can’t wait until February, when the National Assembly is set to return from break. Story here, from CBC.

O’TOOLE BACKS MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR COMPENSATION – Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he supports a multibillion-dollar compensation agreement Ottawa negotiated for First Nations children over the failures of the child welfare system, adding he is not concerned about the cost. Story here.

FORMER CFL PLAYER SEEKS MANITOBA SEAT – A former Canadian Football League player is seeking a seat in the Manitoba legislature. Obby Khan, who played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and owns six restaurants, is running for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Winnipeg’s Fort Whyte constituency – a Tory stronghold held by former premier Brian Pallister. Story here.

`I WRECKED THE LIBERAL PARTY OF ONTARIO’: WYNNE – Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne talks about her political career in a wide-ranging interview with Paul Wells of Maclean’s magazine, available here. Ms. Wynne notes, at one point, that because she was defeated in 2018, “that’s kind of my political identity now: I wrecked the Liberal Party of Ontario and I lost so badly.” But she says her work wasn’t about getting re-elected. “My work was about doing the things I believed in and staying true to why I’d gone into politics in the first place.”

ONTARIO’S ENVIRONMENT MINISTER AIMS TO WIN OVER GREEN-MINDED VOTERS- The Narwhal reports on challenges facing Ontario’s Environment Minister David Piccini – the youngest person to hold the post – as an Ontario election looms in which he will have to prove his party cares about climate while defending the unpopular decisions of Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford. “In recent memory, conservative strategists have approached the environment as a shield issue – an area where Tories can’t easily win, but must be able to mount a credible defence if they want a path to victory,” Emma McIntosh writes. “Piccini wants to make it a sword issue instead, one the Progressive Conservatives can wield to beat their opponents.” Story here.

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.

PRIME MINISTER’S BOBBLEHEADS – The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., is marking National Bobblehead Day by releasing two bobbleheads of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One model has a beard and the other is clean shaven. Each is numbered to 2022, and only available through the operation’s online store. The co founder and CEO of the hall of fame and museum said on Friday that Mr. Trudeau is the first Canadian prime minister they have featured since they opened in 2019, and that they are responding to demand. “We pay close attention to bobbleheads that customers and visitors to the museum request and Prime Minister Trudeau has been a frequently requested bobblehead for a while,” Phil Sklar said in an e-mail exchange. “They have already been very popular since going live this morning.”

SINGH ADAPTING TO FATHERHOOD – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh may be less in the political spotlight in coming weeks given the birth of his first child this week. Story here. An NDP spokesperson said Mr. Singh will be spending time with his wife and new little girl so will be sharing his political responsibilities and will have a lighter load in the next while.

ANOTHER NEW NATIONAL POST REPORTER IN OTTAWA – Catherine Lévesque, a journalist with La Presse Canadienne, is joining the Parliamentary Bureau of the National Post as of Jan. 17. “The decision to leave [La Presse Canadienne/Canadian Press] was not an easy one, but I’m excited for the challenges ahead,” she wrote on Twitter. Bryan Passifiume, a reporter with the Toronto Sun, announced his move to the Post’s Parliament Hill bureau yesterday.

THE DECIBEL – On today’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, culture critic and founder of Friday Things Stacy Lee Kong explains how “Potterheads” have reacted to the controversial comments of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling against trans activists, and sometimes raising the possibility of violence from someone who identifies as trans. There’s also discussion on how the books’ legacy endures, and how HBO Max dealt with it in their special, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. Today’s Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings in Ottawa. Also, the Prime Minister participated in a virtual discussion, closed to the media, with the families of the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy. Also participating were Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, and High Commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom Ralph Goodale.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

No schedule provided for deputy prime minister.

LEADERS

No schedules provided for party leaders.

PUBLIC OPINION

CANADIAN CONFIDENCE – Pollster Nik Nanos does a Data Dive on how, as Omicron spreads and provinces ramp up restrictions, Canadians are less confident about the state of the nation and its economy, especially among young people. Story here.

BOOSTER-SHOT INTENTIONS AND THE BORDER – With the Omicron variant sweeping across the country and COVID-19 case counts on the rise, 8 in 10 Canadians say they will definitely get a vaccine booster shot, according to a new poll. Meanwhile, six in 10 Canadians support closing the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential travel to curb the spread of Omicron. Story here.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s choices in its relationship with Beijing:

“There are two things Canada cannot be: Beijing’s partner, or its rival. Partnership with the Chinese government is unthinkable now. We’ve just been through a three-year saga where the Chinese responded to an extradition-request arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou by locking up Canadian civilians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. It would be foolish to accept the bully as a partner. Canadians would not accept it. But rivalry is impossible, too. China is a nascent superpower of 1.4 billion with a fast-growing economy seven times the size of Canada’s. This country can’t take actions alone to rival China, or block its path, or force it to change its behaviour.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on how Canada’s North reveals the limits and humanity of pandemic responses:

“Grandiose pandemic plans by governments tend to look ridiculous in the face of the realities of the North. There, emergencies cannot wait for scheduled departmental briefings; twice-weekly committee meetings to analyze “submissions for assistance” are laughable. Well-meaning politicians and bureaucrats are working to map national plans to these unique local conditions, but they’re trying to manoeuvre in organizations that are as nimble as the Titanic. This system needs to sink. No First Nations band council chief – nor any right-thinking human – has the time to take on multiple siloed departments in federal and provincial governments when in crisis. The North often reveals hard truths about the gross inequities across rich Canada. There are no doctors and health teams or clinics able to handle a surging pandemic in communities of overcrowded homes heated by wood stoves or barrels. There are no volunteers able to fix trucks and broken-down generators, drive around wood and plow the roads. Everyone is either sick or in quarantine.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on why another U.S. civil war is not on the horizon:

“It may be fashionable in academic circles to depict the country as hurtling toward a breakdown, but such depictions are driven more by the politics of those making them than empirical evidence. The Jan. 6 riot was indeed a dark moment in American history. But there have been plenty of those in the past 250 years and the country has survived them all, usually emerging stronger than before. It had a major close call a century and a half ago, but it takes a selective reading of the facts to suggest it is headed again in that direction.”

Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on how the young and the reckless aren’t the biggest pandemic problem:

“So are the heedless tourists really our biggest problem? Presumably if they were allowed to board a plane, they at least fulfilled the requirement that they be vaccinated (not that this excuses their other misbehaviour, of course). But they are an easy target. Perhaps our umbrage is somewhat misdirected. As we face our nadir in Quebec, the unvaccinated are taking a disproportionate toll on our beleaguered health-care system. More than half of the 207 people in intensive care have refused vaccines. If the unvaccinated weren’t there, [Health Minister Christian Dubé] said bluntly, there wouldn’t be a crisis.”

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