In the News

Sep 29, 2020

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux is projecting that the federal deficit for this fiscal year will reach $328.5 billion, due in no small way to an estimated $225.9 billion in emergency benefits due to COVID-19. Expected to be a major factor in future spending government-wide, it would represent 15 per cent of gross domestic product, the largest in more than 50 years of comparable data. The government said in July that the deficit would be $343.2 billion, but that did not include either new spending or emergency measures which came in under budget.

Sep 29, 2020

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand has announced a plan to buy some 7.9 million rapid point-of-care COVID-19 tests from U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories but procurement is subject to Health Canada regulatory approval. Reporting results from other testing can take days but the molecular ID NOW test can yield results within minutes.

Sep 29, 2020

A Quebec woman suspected of sending ricin-laced envelopes to the White House and to law enforcement officials in Texas remains in custody in New York. Pascale Ferrier, 53, has pleaded not guilty but a judge says there is “convincing material” that she continues to pose a threat. When arrested 20 September at the Buffalo border crossing from Fort Erie, Ont., she had a loaded pistol and other weapons in her possession as well as a forged Texas driver's licence.

Sep 29, 2020

Canadian softwood lumber is trapped in a World Trade Organization logjam created by the U.S. The White House has announced that it will appeal a recent WTO decision favouring Canada in the decades-long softwood lumber dispute but the WTO is unable to appoint the required judges because the U.S. has blocked their appointment. Ottawa’s response is that Washington’s move “significantly reduces the security and predictability that we collectively value in international trade.”

Sep 29, 2020

The Finnish telecom giant Nokia has contracted with British Telecom to provide 5G technology for BT’s “radio access network” as well as replacing its Chinese competitor, Huawei, in BT’s other networks. The government announced in July that all service providers would be prohibited from installing new Huawei technology next Jan. 1 and remove all existing installations by 2027 due to U.S.-driven national security concerns.

Sep 29, 2020

Mamadou Konaté, a refugee from Ivory Coast who worked as a custodian in Montreal long-term care facilities during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, now is in a migrant detention centre pending deportation. As an undocumented alien, he evidently is not covered by a provincial exemption for other asylum-seekers such as nurses and orderlies who worked in the facilities.

Sep 29, 2020

Draft legislation tabled in the new parliamentary session would set up what the minority government describes as a “safe bridge” for Canadians still losing income due to COVID-19. The proposed suite of measures in Bill C-2 would transition them from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to a modified employment insurance regime. It also would establish a 10-day sick leave benefit demanded by the NDP in return for its support to keep the Liberals in power.

Sep 29, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has weighed in on complaints that RCMP policy requiring front-line officers to wear tight-fitting medical grade face masks discriminates against personnel who don’t shave their beards for cultural reasons. “The presence of diverse Canadians in our police force and all our systems of authority is something extremely important for all Canadians and it is something that I certainly hope the RCMP rectifies quickly,” he said.

Sep 29, 2020

The federal government is investing $440 in the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, an international program designed to ensure that vaccines are not acquired only by wealthier countries. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced a deal for up to 20 million doses of an AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, now in final clinical trials, bringing its total commitment in six such arrangements to more than $1 billion.

Sep 29, 2020

An already shaky global order will deteriorate further if leaders fail to come together on human rights, climate change and other challenges, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned. “The world is in crisis, and not just because of the last few months,” he said in a recorded message to the UN General Assembly. “Not just because of COVID-19, but because of the last few decades -- and because of us.”

Sep 28, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016, the year he ran for office, as well as in his first year in the White House, the New York Times says in a report dismissed by Trump as “fake news.” It cites two decades of tax records which also indicated that he paid no taxes at all in 10 of the 15 previous years.

Sep 28, 2020

A majority of Swiss voters have said they want to maintain open borders with their European Union neighbours. Although not an EU member, the traditionally neutral county has treaties which facilitate access. A conservative movement had sought tighter immigration controls but the proposal was defeated in a weekend referendum.

Sep 28, 2020

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, has told a Senate committee that his plan to “impose risks and consequences on cyber adversaries” will involve closer cooperation with the broader intelligence community. He also cited a recent escalation of indictments against alleged cyber criminals, including some linked to the Chinese, Iranian and Russian governments.

Sep 25, 2020

The RCAF marked the arrival of the first aircraft of its future fixed-wing search and rescue fleet. The new fleet will be called Kingfisher. The CC-295 Kingfisher fleet will be based at four locations across Canada, in Comox, Trenton, Greenwood, and Winnipeg. The aircraft will arrive in phases as crews are trained in turn at each location.

Sep 25, 2020

Often a U.S. bellwether on environmental issues, California plans to ban the sale of new passenger cars and trucks with internal combustion engines (ICEs) in 15 years. More than a dozen national governments, mainly in Europe, have already made similar commitments but the automotive industry counters that a shift to “zero emission” vehicles should be cooperative rather than mandated.

Sep 25, 2020

More than a communications medium, social media is described as a “new kind of battle space” in which the forces of good are losing. “A toxic witch’s brew of disinformation, conspiracy theory, and hate continues to plague the platforms through which much of our modern information networks run,” according to a published commentary, which warns that the response from service providers is “woefully late and lacking.”

Sep 23, 2020

As is usual in most appeals, the Supreme Court of Canada has concluded two days of hearings about the constitutionality of the federal carbon levy on greenhouse gas emissions without announcing a decision. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, having lost lower-court challenges, insist that the levy encroaches on their jurisdiction but Ottawa counters that it is in the national interest.

Sep 23, 2020

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the former Royal Canadian Navy medical officer who has become a focus of the national debate about COVID-19 as British Columbia’s provincial health officer, says she has received death threats which require security at home. “I've got a lot of very positive responses but there are many people who don’t like what I do or don’t like the way I say it or don’t like my shoes . . . and feel quite able to send me nasty notes, to leave phone calls, to harass my office staff.”

Sep 23, 2020

Data belonging to 38 Canadian police agencies were made public this summer by a group of computer hackers targeting U.S. police. The Distributed Denial of Secrets group published thousands of documents obtained from the Anonymous collective. However, the RCMP says no secret information was leaked.

Sep 23, 2020

Britain has provided evidence which expected to clear the way for trial of two British expatriates held by the U.S. in Iraq. Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, who have denied the charges, are accused of belonging to an IS cell dubbed “The Beatles” who were involved in Islamic State executions of Western hostages. The evidence was handed over after Britain's High Court rejected a request by the mother of one of the suspects to block the transfer. The U.S. cleared the way for cooperation by stating that the pair would not be executed if found guilty.

Sep 23, 2020

A crime wave which has swept Venezuela since its economy began collapsing several years ago evidently is seeing the increasing involvement of government agents of all stripes who have been accused of complicity in the crimes they are meant to prevent.

Sep 23, 2020

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in 22 September for his sixth term in office amid ongoing mass protests that his re-election earlier this year was rigged. The authoritarian leader has run the former Soviet country of 9.5 million since 1975.

Sep 23, 2020

White House aides are accused to improperly block publication of former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton’s memoir of his time with President Donald Trump. The allegation is in a 22 September court filing on behalf of a senior government official who oversaw a prepublication review but was reassigned after refusing to comply with the political meddling.

Sep 22, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump,  whose own handling of COVID-19 is under scrutiny as his country’s deaths from the pandemic pass the 200,000 mark, used his speech to a mainly virtual UN General Assembly today to demand that China be held “accountable” for having “released this plague on to the world.” China has dismissed Trump’s accusations as a distraction and Chinese President Xi Jinping shifted the exchange to the rising military tensions between the countries by insisted that China has “no intention to enter a Cold War.”

Sep 22, 2020

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says there is “an urgent need to clearly define a central leadership role” in the country’s national cyber strategy, two years after it was set out. “It is still unclear which executive branch official is ultimately responsible for not only coordinating implementation . . . but also holding federal agencies accountable once activities are implemented.”

Sep 22, 2020

Pascale Cécile Véronique Ferrier, 53, of Saint Hubert, Que., has been named as the alleged source of envelopes containing poisonous ricin which were mailed to President Donald Trump and at least two law enforcement agencies in Texas. Despite pleading not guilty to federal charges 22 September, she evidently has told the FBI that she mailed nine envelopes, but there have been no reports of injury.

Sep 22, 2020

Newly-released provincial court documents provide chilling insight into the mindset of the Nova Scotia shooter who killed 22 people during a 13 hour rampage. The RCMP search warrant application released Monday appear to contain new details from Gabriel Wortman’s common-law spouse about the day of the shooting. Families of the victims are still on a quest for answers that a public inquiry would reveal.

Sep 22, 2020

Amid increasing tensions between the two countries, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has offered to do a prisoner exchange with the U.S. Iran has accused many foreign detainees of in its jails of espionage while accusing the U.S. of unjustly detaining Iranians, mainly for breaking sanctions. “We are prepared to exchange all of them and all those who have been kept in jail,” he said.

Sep 22, 2020

An Army reservist who also is a New York City police officer has been charged with being an “intelligence asset” for China, monitoring the Tibetan independence movement in the U.S. Court files state that Tibetan expatriate Baimadajie Angwang worked for handlers at the Chinese consulate in New York.

Sep 21, 2020

The constitutionality of the federal government’s levy on carbon emissions is before the Supreme Court of Canada for two days this week as the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario mount further appeals. Having lost lower-court challenges, the provinces insist that the levy encroaches on their jurisdiction.

Sep 21, 2020

Premier John Horgan has called a provincial election a year earlier than scheduled, seeking a majority for his New Democratic Party minority government a year earlier than scheduled. Citing significant economic and health challenges, he said “stability will come by asking the people of British Columbia where they want to go and who they want to lead.,” he said. Voting will take place 24 October.

Sep 21, 2020

A Bulgarian court has sentenced two Lebanese expatriates to life imprisonment for their role in a fatal 2012 bus bomb attack on Israeli tourists at the country's Burgas airport. The blast killed five Israelis, their local bus driver and the bomber as well as injuring 35 other persons. The accused, identified as Lebanese-Canadian Hassan El Hajj Hassan and Lebanese-Australian Meliad Farah, remain at large.

Sep 21, 2020

Career public servant Iain Stewart has been named President of the Public Health Agency of Canada only two years into his appointment as President of the National Research Council. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision was precipitated by the sudden resignation of PHAC President Trina Namiesniowksi, who said the country needed “someone who will have the energy and the stamina to take the agency and our response to the next level” in tackling COVID-19.

Sep 21, 2020

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on 27 individuals in Iran’s defense ministry and elsewhere in its nuclear program, a move rejected by key European allies as well as Russia and China. It also imposed new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, accusing him of having conspired with Iran “to flout the UN arms embargo.”

Sep 21, 2020

A suburban Montreal condominium is being searched by RCMP for potential connections with envelopes containing ricin which were sent to the White House and several Texas locations. A spokesman says the home is connected to a woman arrested at the border after one of the envelopes was intercepted last week before it reached the presidential residence in Washington.

Sep 21, 2020

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has given all federal departments and agencies until the end of today to deal with a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows which was disclosed more than a month ago. The agency warns that failure to apply an update released by Microsoft could have dire consequences.

Sep 21, 2020

David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2016 to 2019, has been cited by the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for improper lobbying less than a year after he left office. Nine ministers, aides and senior public servants were involved in the meetings requested by MacNaughton on behalf of Palantir Technologies Canada, a subsidiary of a privately-held U.S. software company.

Sep 21, 2020

Military spouses and common-law partners are the focus of a Department of National Defence initiative designed to open up opportunities for employment in the federal public service overall. The new initiative builds on an existing platform designed to identify openings within DND.

Sep 21, 2020

A U.S. billionaire was cleared by the Canada Border Services Agency to enter Canada without following the federal government’s 14-day quarantine requirement. “No special entry exemptions were provided,” said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, referring to the fact that several cabinet ministers can approve exemptions under special circumstances. “Entry should not have been permitted,” the government is “working with the CBSA to ensure that similar cases do not occur.”

Sep 21, 2020

There now are more than 30 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including more than 940,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. The U.S., India and Brazil have the most cases, in that order.

Sep 18, 2020

On Tuesday, New Westminster police arrested a man suspected of setting fire to the city's historic pier. The historic site succumbed to flames late Sunday night, destroying one of the oldest parts of the long-standing pier, which had been incorporated into a new park that opened in 2012. The fire is now contained, but continues to smoulder underneath the deck surface.

Sep 17, 2020

The recent New Brunswick general election, which saw the Progressive Conservatives returned to power with a legislative majority, apparently can be taken as a small example of how voting can be managed as COVID-19 continues to be a national challenge. The province’s chief electoral officer reports that more than 133,000 voters chose advance polls, some 66 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots and results were clear that evening.

Sep 17, 2020

The Boeing 737 MAX crashes which killed 346 passengers and crew, in October 2018 and March 2019 and grounded the global fleet, are described in a U.S. House of Representatives committee report as the “horrific culmination” of engineering flaws, mismanagement and a lack of oversight. “It could have been prevented,” says the committee chairman. “We’re going to take steps in our legislation to see that it never happens again.”

Sep 17, 2020

Newly-published results of a national public opinion poll indicate that 90 per cent of Canadians want to keep the U.S. border closed due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19. The numbers have been published as the federal government considers a further extension on its ban on non-essential visitors from the U.S.

Sep 17, 2020

Iran has rejected two proposed Canadian class-action lawsuits over its missile shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 shortly after takeoff from Tehran last January. “The Canadian court has no jurisdiction,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. However, a Toronto lawyer involved in one action says the case is within Canadian jurisdiction through the 2012 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Sep 17, 2020

Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados plans to remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state, which would set up her country to become a republic in November 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain. “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” she says. “This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of.”

Sep 17, 2020
Michael Caputo, a politically-appointed spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is on a leave of absence after a conspiracy theory rant on Facebook amid the ongoing COVID-19 dispute between the White House and the scientific community. Among other things, he accused government scientists of “sedition” and trying to undermine the White House.
Sep 17, 2020

With 5G becoming the next generation of mobile telecommunications, China’s involvement in the technology remains a widespread concern because of national security questions. Most of the concern is in the U.S. but it also has become a political conundrum for Canada and other allies. The Australian Strategic Policy Initiative has taken a close look at the issue.

Sep 15, 2020

Less than three hours before Canada was set to announce an estimated $3.6 billion in countervailing tariffs, the U.S. agreed 15 September to scrap President Donald Trump’s 10 percent import tariffs on Canadian aluminum. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the reversal is a sign of common sense in Washington, but the U.S. administration promises monthly reassessments.

Sep 15, 2020

Former U.S. Army LCol Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, is scathingly critical of the Administration in his first published interview since he left the service. Among other things, he describes Trump as a “useful idiot” or a dupe of authoritarian regimes, and “fellow traveller” with Vladimir Putin in that he shares the Russian leader’s loathing for democratic norms.

Sep 15, 2020

U.S. intelligence source say that Iran, seeking retaliation for the drone killing of MGen Qassem Soleimani last January, has been considering killing the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, who has been made aware of the threat.

Sep 14, 2020

U.S. administration official Michael Caputo used a Facebook event on the weekend to call government scientists’ handling of the COVID-19 situation seditious. The assistant secretary of health for public affairs also suggested that he personally would be a target for extremists who plan armed insurrection after the November presidential election.

Sep 14, 2020

With little more than a week left before the second session of the 43rd Parliament begins 23 September, the federal cabinet is meeting for two days to address the ongoing challenge of COVID-19 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to “a detailed vision for the future and a plan to keep Canadians safe while we rebuild a stronger Canada that works for everyone.”

Sep 14, 2020

Hoping to compete more effectively with China and Russia in artificial intelligence development, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said his department will launch a new partnership with more than 10 countries, possibly this week. The goal is to “create new frameworks and tools for data sharing, cooperative development, and strengthened interoperability” among allies.

Sep 14, 2020

French and Swedish laboratories have confirmed German conclusions that Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a binary chemical weapon initially developed by a Soviet research agency in the 1970s. Navalny, the most visible opponent of President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany last month after falling ill on a domestic flight. The Kremlin continues to deny responsibility.

Sep 14, 2020

Faced with a resurgence of COVID-19, with thousands of new infections confirmed daily, Israel is gearing up for a lengthy national lockdown, beginning 18 September. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measures would “exact a heavy price on us all” but suggested the latest numbers left him with no option despite criticism from political interests which support his coalition government.

Sep 14, 2020

A group of mayors from Canadian cities and towns close to the U.S. border has called on the federal government to keep the border closed after the current lockdown ends 21 September even though local businesses and the tourism sector feel the pinch.

Sep 14, 2020

When Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency in 2016, significant numbers of Americans indicted that they’d prefer to emigrate north. Preliminary numbers from Citizenship and Immigration Canada indicate that many fulfilled that wish. Following 6,800 in 2015, the total rose to 7,700 in 2016 and then to more than 9,000 in 2018 before settling back by a few hundred.

Sep 14, 2020

Protesting the “injustice and ineffectiveness” of the federal government's prohibition on civil ownership of “assault” rifles, an estimated crowd of 800 marchers descended on Parliament Hill 12 September even though most MPs had gone home to their ridings when the previous was prorogued. The event was coordinated by the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.

Sep 12, 2020

British trials of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Cambridge-based AstraZeneca and Oxford University are resuming after a reported side effect on a patient resulted in a pause in the testing. The university said it had received permission from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and an independent review committee.

 

Sep 12, 2020

In the run-up to the Liberal Party’s 12-15 November national convention, the concept of a guaranteed basic income for Canadians has emerged as a caucus priority. MPs are calling on the government to endorse the idea in a policy resolution which evidently is at the top of their wish-list for the convention.

Sep 12, 2020

Persons who eschew masks against COVID-19 in Quebec’s public places where social-distancing is not possible now are liable for fines up to $6,000. Effective 12 September, the measure was announced by Premier François Legault in response to regional surges in infections. “There’s a trend we do not like here,” he said two days earlier. “We cannot accept that a few irresponsible individuals put at risk the entire population.”

Sep 12, 2020

A year after Cameron Ortis, director its national intelligence coordination centre was charged with sharing information with a foreign entity, the RCMP evidently has not upgraded its protocols despite an internal review. “If the RCMP is publicly saying that they haven't done anything or haven't implemented any of the changes that maybe need to happen in terms of increasing the security posture, what are they telling allies?” asks Jessica Davis, formerly with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and now head of a private consultancy, “They’re obviously still receiving intelligence from the allies. So is the messaging the same to them? And if so, how are they taking that?”

Sep 12, 2020

The International Air Transport Association expects that it will require the equivalent of up to 8,000 large aircraft to deliver enough single COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world’s population. It warns that “severe capacity constraints” on secure storage, personnel training and border controls could hamper distribution.

Sep 12, 2020

Raj Grewal, a short-term Ontario MP who quit the Liberal caucus in 2018 after a police investigation of his gambling debts, now faces a handful of criminal charges for allegedly failing to report to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner that he had secured large personal loans. The RCMP say the circumstances “constitute a criminal breach of trust” but Grewal’s lawyer says his client “adamantly denies these allegations.”

Sep 12, 2020

An Australian-led multinational team of experts says between 30 and 50 per cent of the world’s fresh water is being stolen, mostly for agricultural purposes. “Water crises constitute a challenge for humanity,” they say in a report, calling on governments to recognize the urgency by overhauling policies and regulations.

Sep 12, 2020

Some 8,800 unaccompanied children have been expelled from the U.S. into Mexico, a pandemic-related measure that effectively ended their political asylum. Confirmation by the U.S. Border Patrol brings the total number of deportations to more than 159,000 since March.

Sep 12, 2020

Canadian officials say they expect Ottawa to retaliate by 16 September to the U.S. administration’s 10 per cent tariff on imports of Canadian aluminum. Ottawa has threatened some $3.6 billion in countermeasures unless Washington backed down on President Donald Trump’s initiative.

Sep 12, 2020

Israel and Bahrain have agreed to normalize relations, a month after Israel struck a peace deal with the United Arab Emirates. The news was tweeted by U.S. President Donald Trump, who is reported to have “brokered” the accord. Bahrain is only the fourth Arab country in the Middle East, the others being Egypt and Jordan, to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.

Sep 11, 2020

Andrii Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for being an “active Russian agent” involved in the upcoming U.S. elections. With known ties to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Derkach had already been singled out by the intelligence community for participating in helping Russian efforts to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

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