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 signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is not recommending the newly approved AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine be used on people 65 or older, a move that comes after Health Canada approved the vaccine last week.
The committee explained the stand on their website, saying it is “due to limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group at this time.”
Health Canada has previously given regulatory approval to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
There has been no direct head-to-head study of COVID-19 vaccines, but current data suggests the AstraZeneca shot is as effective as Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines as preventing serious illness and death, though it may be less effective at preventing mild illness.
On Monday, British Columbia announced it will start a second-track vaccination campaign for essential workers using the refrigerator-stable vaccines such as the AstraZeneca shot. Older and vulnerable populations will continue to receive the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require deep freezing and more preparation.
Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, said essential workers will have the option to continue waiting their turn for mRNA vaccines if they do not want the AstraZeneca dose. However, she noted, “We encourage people to get the vaccine available to them.”
In Ontario, several regions are proceeding with plans to vaccinate those 80 and older against COVID-19 faster than the province’s timeline, but Toronto says it has to use more of its supply for health-care workers and other priority groups and doesn’t have enough to start on the general population yet. The province’s vaccine booking system won’t be running until March. 15.
In Quebec, Daniel Paré, the head of the province’s vaccination program, said Monday that people will not get to choose which vaccine they get, although they will be informed of which dose is coming before they get the needle.
As of now, 1.4 per cent of Canada’s population have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reached out to a former clerk of the Privy Council, whom he abruptly removed shortly after he came to power in late 2015, to fill in for the current top bureaucrat who is taking medical leave. Mr. Trudeau announced Monday that Janice Charette, a career civil servant and current high commissioner in London, will take over on an interim basis as Clerk of the Privy Council, the most senior position in the federal public service.
Canadians tempted to shop for a preferred COVID-19 vaccine have been given simple advice from experts who have examined the country’s three available options: Take what is offered as quickly as possible.
The Trudeau government is pressing ahead with efforts to counter economic-based threats to national security, such as theft of valuable intellectual property and damage to critical energy and information networks.
As the politics of refining Canada’s medical assistance in dying program continue, the story of one man who decided to end his life with the program. “ On Friday, [Dr. Ronald] Bayne received a medically assisted death at the home he shared with his daughter and son-in-law in Victoria. He was 98, exhausted and in pain from bladder cancer that had spread to his spine. He urged Canada’s seniors to speak up for themselves, to demand better care and more autonomy in their twilight years.”
Elections Canada has issued a tender for 240,000 transparent masks in case of a COVID-19 trip to the polls, with the aim to put a literal human face on the balloting process.
Canada’s economic growth in the fourth quarter was stronger than expected and it likely rose again in January, boosting speculation that the Bank of Canada will reduce its bond purchases soon.
After months of defending a forecast of plunging home prices and soaring mortgage arrears in 2020, the nation’s housing chief has conceded the prediction was wrong.
New challenges for the Newfoundland and Labrador election: Rough estimates from the province’s elections authority indicate it could be April before a winner is declared in the province’s chaotic pandemic vote – almost two months after the original election day.
Karim Kurji, medical officer of health for York Region, has been a public-health outlier in the Greater Toronto Area during the pandemic. He resisted the region north of Toronto being put into full lockdown in December as cases were rising, and alarms sounded from Toronto and elsewhere. And he has called for York Region to remain in the province’s looser “red control” zone for now, even with Simcoe Muskoka to the north, as of Monday, added to the list of regions locked down over fears of new, more contagious variants.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
The Prime Minister will speak with the Premier of Prince Edward Island, Dennis King.
IN THE COMMONS:
WE Charity Founders Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger will be appearing before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on Monday. On the agenda: Questions of Conflict of Interest and Lobbying in Relation to Pandemic Spending.
Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the comeback of cash-for-access to Canadian politics: “Money can be toxic in a democracy, and as always the dose makes the poison. As long as individuals can continue to donate thousands of dollars, there will be the perception – and very real possibility – of the buying and selling of influence. This page has long advocated for the coast-to-coast adoption of Quebec’s $100 limit. Five years ago, elections and governments in too many parts of the country were compromised by their dependence on union and corporate money. The problem was tackled, thanks to public pressure. The next battle begins.”
Robyn Urback on a Toronto crackdown on “tiny shelters”: “There are only a few conceivably worse headlines for a municipality’s communications department than “Toronto seeks injunction to stop man from building tiny shelters for the homeless.”
Dini Ze’Lho’Imggin and Dini Ze’ Smogilhgim on Indigenous people being ready to challenge Canada’s foot-dragging on climate change a year after the Wet’suwet’en blockades: “It was a year ago that a heavily armed RCMP tactical unit staged its second operation in as many winters to clear Wet’suwet’en people off their Indigenous territories, to facilitate construction of yet another fossil-fuel pipeline. The operations were necessary, as one RCMP officer put it in leaked RCMP notes from a strategy session, for “sterilizing the site.” Many arrests were made but no criminal charges or civil contempt proceedings were ever completed.”
Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on federal government changes to its industrial carbon-pricing system: “Very soon, Ottawa will begin rolling out long-promised rules for a domestic carbon offsets market. Once that’s done, large polluters that exceed the industrial pricing system’s emissions caps will be able to purchase emissions-reductions credits from businesses in certain other sectors that are investing in new climate-friendly practices.”