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Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer says it will be safe to vote in the federal election if everyone sticks to lessons from the pandemic.

“There’s a lot that’s been learned about how to make these kind of voting spaces, if you like, safe,” Dr. Theresa Tam told a briefing on Thursday in which she also said Canada is in a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So I think the key advice is really to observe all those good practices, and that would then make safe voting possible whether it’s the social distancing and mask-wearing and all those measures that everyone is pretty used to by now,” she said.

Still, Dr. Tam said it’s necessary to watch local epidemiology and local public health advice as well. “That could vary over time.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is poised to call an election this Sunday, sources told The Globe and Mail.

Asked whether it’s safe for party leaders to campaign at this time, Dr. Tam said there are public-health measures to observe including local rules on gathering sizes, and noted that outdoor gatherings are better than indoors. She said participants should be vaccinated.

“Anyone who is campaigning must observe those best practices, and follow local public-health guidance,” she said. “Regardless of those rules, I would just say layer on as many protective measures personally as you can, which starts with vaccine, masking, hand-washing hygiene, don’t show up if you’re sick – all those things.”

She also said the size of gatherings, and controlling crowd behaviour might come into play.

Dr. Tam said it isn’t her role to advise on whether or not an election should occur. “The role of the public health agency is to provide guidance should an election take place, and how to do that safely.”

Public Services Minister Anita Anand, attending the same briefing, said all she could add at this point is to follow local public-health guidelines and to get vaccinated. She said she will remain focused on the procurement of vaccines, but did not confirm an election call.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

GOVERNMENT RULES OUT ADMIRAL’S RETURN - Admiral Art McDonald, the Chief of the Defence Staff who was sidelined by allegations of misconduct, says he is ready to return to his job now that an investigation has found no evidence against him. However, the federal government is not committing to his return. Story here. UPDATE: Harjit Sajjan, the National Defence Minister, has announced today that Adm. McDonald is on administrative leave effective today and until further notice.

NEW FEDERAL INTERNET INVESTMENT - The federal government is investing $1.44-billion in satellite company Telesat to provide broadband internet to Canada’s rural and remote areas. The announcement comes days before the Liberal government is expected to call a fall election, and follows years of longstanding industry and government efforts to provide high-speed internet to rural households.

QUERY FROM MENG WANZHOU JUDGE - A B.C. Supreme Court judge who must decide whether Meng Wanzhou can be extradited to New York to face a fraud charge says she doesn’t understand the U.S. allegation against the Chinese executive. Story here.

SENATOR RETIRING - Alberta Senator Doug Black announced Wednesday that he would retire from the upper chamber at the end of October, capping off eight years where he has moved from long-time Tory to independent. He is eligible to serve in the Senate until 2027, but has long talked about the importance of term limits and had promised to leave within a decade of being appointed. Story here.

SINGH TO BE A FATHER - In a Tweet posted this afternoon, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife, Gurkiran Kaur, have announced they are expecting their first child.

PALLISTER SUCCESSORS LINING UP - As Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister heads for the political exit, contenders to replace him - one a federal Conservative cabinet minister - are considering whether to enter the leadership race ahead. Bartley Kives of CBC reports here.

THE LOOMING ELECTION:

NDP OUTLINES ELECTION COMMITMENTS - The NDP is promising free mental-health care, a national dental care program, a push for universal pharmacare and an end to private, for-profit long-term care in a new outline of the party’s commitments. The pledges are part of a new document released Thursday that is not quite a party platform, but it lays out the NDP’s priorities ahead of a widely anticipated federal election campaign.

THE LOOMING ELECTION - OPINION:

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail ) on whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is demonizing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney because he can’t go after Ontario premier Doug Ford: “Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is harder to demonize than his predecessor, Mr. Scheer. Though not terribly popular right now with voters – or even with some of his own MPs – Mr. O’Toole has insulated himself against the Liberals’ favourite tactic: warning about some scary, secret, hidden agenda. He has vowed his government would never legislate on abortion, he’s a proud supporter of LGBTQ rights and his climate-change policy includes a carbon tax. The Grits may have no choice but to go after the Tories on questions of policy, which is never as much fun. That leaves Mr. Kenney as the sole remaining punching bag, though the Alberta Premier is hardly an ideal candidate.”

Mike Smyth (Global News) on the contradiction between NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh backing provincial NDP government that called a pandemic election, and now opposing a federal election during the pandemic: “It was just last fall that British Columbia, home to Singh’s federal riding of Burnaby South, was plunged into a needless, mid-pandemic snap election. That election was trigged by NDP Premier John Horgan, much to the chagrin of his opponents. Just as Singh is complaining now about Trudeau, Horgan’s critics were fuming last year when he forced an election just as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering pace. “It’s absolutely irresponsible,” vented Andrew Wilkinson, a medical doctor and then leader of the B.C. Liberal opposition, at the time. But none of that seemed to bother Singh, who enthusiastically hit the pandemic campaign trail in support of his provincial NDP colleagues.”

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office. Also, the Prime Minister speaks to Canadian Olympic gold medallist in the decathlon, Damian Warner.

LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, meeting with local mayors.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole - No schedule provided by Mr. O’Toole’s office.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a virtual roundtable on climate change.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh , in St. John’s, unveils the NDP’s campaign platform, visits local small businesses and meets with student leaders.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on vaccine mandates and passports:Although this page endorses vaccine passports in some situations, on the Quebec model, we also know that ensuring compliance at thousands of doors, millions of times a week, will involve some complexity and probably a certain amount of non-compliance. In contrast, mandating vaccination for certain jobs and for in-person education would cover millions of people, instantly. And these mandates would be relatively simple for employers and schools to enforce. Provinces and the feds, each in their respective spheres, should get moving – now. Canada can bring in both vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, and it should. Why? Because in most of the country, the vaccination level is still too low. We have to aim higher. Public-health officials know it, and they keep saying it. More on that, later this week.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Canada wanting the U.S. to negotiate for its hostages: After he took Beijing to task for the 11-year sentence handed to Canadian Michael Spavor on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau was asked if the ball is now in the Americans’ court. He talked about intense discussions with the U.S. government, and noted the Biden administration has promised to act as though the two Canadians arbitrarily imprisoned in China were U.S. citizens. Translation: Yes. Canada is looking to the Americans to make a deal. This is a case of hostage diplomacy. And Canada is asking the U.S. to negotiate for Canadian hostages.”

Marlène Koffi (Contributor to The Globe and Mail) on Canada is lagging behind on tackling our internet-connection crisis: The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated many inequities, including access to a stable, high-speed internet connection – which now, more than ever, sits at the heart of all our daily activities, from work and school to leisure and health care. This digital divide is growing, with the population fragmenting between those with a reliable broadband internet connection and those who face difficult barriers or painful lag in trying to access this essential service.”

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