Catherine McDonald reports from a Danforth Avenue LCBO where 21-year-old Jakub Sudomericky was murdered.
Catherine McDonald reports from a Danforth Avenue LCBO where 21-year-old Jakub Sudomericky was murdered.
WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Nasdaq is pushing for the more than 3,000 companies listed on its U.S. stock exchange to make their boardrooms less overwhelmingly male and white by hiring directors that better reflect the country's diverse population.The company filed a proposal Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission that, if approved, would require all companies on the exchange to disclose the breakdowns of their boards by race, gender and sexual orientation. Companies that do not comply could be delisted, or kicked off the exchange.The proposal would also require most Nasdaq-listed companies to have at least two diverse directors or, if they cannot meet the mandate, to explain why not. That could include one board member who is female and one who is either an underrepresented racial minority or LGBTQ. Foreign companies and smaller companies would have additional flexibility in satisfying this requirement with two female directors.Nasdaq's plan ups the stakes in what was already a widening push by shareholders and governments around the world for more diversity on corporate boards, which often are composed of mostly white men.It's not just a sense of fairness. Proponents say greater board diversity can improve financial performance for companies — and ultimately their stock prices — by bringing in varying opinions and voices and fostering a better understanding of employee and customer bases.In its proposal, Nasdaq cited a report from the Carlyle Group investment company, which found that companies it invested in that have at least two diverse board members have nearly 12% more earnings growth per year than the average of companies that lack diversity.Companies have heard the criticism and made some moves toward increased diversity, but progress has been slow.Women hold just 23.1% of board seats at companies in the Russell 3000, a broad index that includes most of the U.S. stock market. That's up from about 15% in 2016, according to executive-data firm Equilar.Progress in improving racial diversity on boards has been slower. One difficulty is that tracking racial and ethnic diversity has been tougher than measuring gender diversity, with companies often not disclosing such data, something that Nasdaq hopes its proposal can help ameliorate.“Corporate diversity, at all levels, opens up a clear path to innovation and growth," Nelson Griggs, president of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, said in a prepared statement.The SEC declined to comment on Nasdaq's proposal specifically, but it has made diversity a greater emphasis and released its first diversity and inclusion strategic plan earlier this year.”We welcome dialogue on how to improve diversity, inclusion and opportunity in the financial services sector and our economy more broadly,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement.Shareholders are increasingly pushing companies to improve their board diversity, both in public and in private. Big investors are trying to cajole executives through private channels. For example, Nuveen, which invests $1.1 trillion globally, has been pushing a group of smaller and mid-sized companies without a woman on their board to add one. It's seen more than 30% of them add a woman, as of 2019.In public, investors are getting more chances to vote at companies' annual meetings on shareholder resolutions seeking more disclosures on the makeup of the board.Governments are also requiring improved disclosures or mandating better representation. California was a high-profile example when it required all publicly held companies headquartered in the state to have at least one female director by the end of 2019, the first state with such an edict. After California, other states quickly considered following suit.Such efforts have met some resistance, though.In Illinois, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch introduced a bill that would have required publicly held companies headquartered in the state to have at least one female director and one African American director on the board by the end of 2020.“I never expected a push for diversity to cause one of the most hotly debated bills on the floor of the year,” said Welch, a Democrat. But that’s what he said happened.Early opposition came from manufacturers, who worried they may need to kick someone off the board who was not a woman or an African American to comply. That could invite a separate claim of discrimination, even though manufacturers support diversity throughout the business, said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.The final bill, signed into law last year, no longer had the diversity mandate. Instead, it required only that companies report each year on their boards’ racial and gender breakdowns. Denzler's group was neutral on the final bill.At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, officials were supportive of Nasdaq's proposal on Tuesday. Tom Quaadman, executive vice-president at the chamber's centre for capital markets competitiveness, called it a “business led solution to resolving diversity issues on corporate boards."“This proposal will help accelerate the developments that are already underway and is a positive and balanced way to get to the end result of allowing boards to be more representative of a business’s consumer and employee base,” he said in a statement.The Nasdaq's U.S. exchange is dominated by technology companies, but there are many financial, biotech and industrial companies as well.Nasdaq began in 1971 with the world's first electronic stock market and is home to many of the tech world's most iconic companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's parent company. In 2016, Adena Friedman became its CEO, the first woman to lead a major U.S. exchangeMichelle Chapman And Stan Choe, The Associated Press
Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his top cabinet picks, and selected Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Melanie Mark as the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. Mark holds the distinction of being the first First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. Legislature. She was elected to the riding in 2016 and previously served as the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, before being given this new assignment. Mark’s appointment was heralded by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). “We look forward to working closely with Melanie Mark, the new Minister of Tourism, Arts Culture and Sport to tackle the significant challenges facing the industry, and ultimately moving the sector down the path to economic recovery,” said TOTA President and chief executive officer Glenn Mandziuk. Mandziuk is currently serving as the chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat. The organization is a collaboration between the province’s regional destination management organizations and is giving key input on the province’s tourism recovery plan. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
A fourth route for the Town of Orangeville’s transit system will be delayed thanks to a decision to nix the transfer hub plans on Broadway. The route was set to be established in order to serve an area of town that currently does not have transit service. “(It’s) so frustrating,” Coun. Todd Taylor told the Orangeville Banner. “We are losing precious time to serve all of our community.” He added that Veteran’s Way and the west end of town are two examples. “We currently have entire neighbourhoods not served by transit,” said Taylor. The fourth route would allow the transit service to operate on a four-quad system. Each quad would serve a different area of the town and meet with the rest at a central location, allowing riders to transfer to reach their destination. Council reversed their decision on the Broadway hub in a 4-3 vote on Nov. 23, after hearing numerous concerns from businesses in the downtown core and the BIA. Taylor, along with Councillors Lisa Post and Grant Peters, felt that sufficient work had been completed to prove the safety and benefits of a Broadway transfer point, which would have been located between First and John Street. Instead, several members of council would like to see staff investigate the possibility of using the Edelbrock Centre, an idea which was favoured until more recently. “I am disappointed in the decision,” said Taylor. “The Edelbrock site will cost over $300k to implement, while downtown was minimal.” Until council settles on a location, any work on the transit project, which includes the fourth route, has been put on hold. Taylor added that part of the reasoning behind a centralized station is to improve challenges deterring ridership, such as reliability and access to certain parts of town. “Our buses are underutilized today; this is a fact,” said Taylor. “Why would anyone want to ride a bus that is frequently late and does not get you close to a desired location?” Council is scheduled to vote on a motion to revisit the idea of using the Edelbrock Centre at its Dec. 14 meeting.Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner
Toronto FC will be going after goals in searching for a third designated player.The slot became open this week when TFC announced that while it was open to Argentine winger Pablo Piatti returning, it would not be as a DP."We need someone that can come in and help us score goals at a very high clip, that can create relationships with our players on the field and off the field, that can contribute in a lot of different ways, that has a great character and personality off the field," GM Ali Curtis told reporters Tuesday.Toronto's other designated players are Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo and striker Jozy Altidore.TFC tied for 12th in goal-scoring this season in the 26-team league, averaging 1.43 goals a game.Young striker Ayo Akinola and Pozuelo each had nine goals while fullback/midfielder Richie Laryea and Piatti had four apiece. Altidore, limited to just 13 appearances through injury, had two goals."Obviously our real only consistent goal-scorer this year was Ayo and so that's an area we're looking to upgrade," team president Bill Manning said of his strike force.The hunt will go on in conjunction with the search for a coach to follow Greg Vanney, who stepped down Tuesday.Toronto (13-5-5) posted the second-best regular-season record in MLS in 2020 despite only playing four games at BMO field due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.There will be other changes."How much change? It's such a relative kind of term," said Curtis. "But there will be change. We have to bring in a new coach. We've got to find a way to get better we can win these trophies."Pozuelo has been a hit right out of the box, a member of the league's Best XI in his two MLS seasons and a leading contender for MVP this year. Altidore can be a force to be reckoned with when healthy, but keeping him out on the pitch has been a problem.Curtis said Altidore will be back next year, although his words did not come with a guarantee."Jozy's been a really big part of TFC over the years … Unfortunately he had a couple of injuries and wasn't able to be on the field as much as we'd like but we're looking to have Jozy back next year and we'll go from there."(If) for some reason we were to have a conversation and something were to change or things like that, then just like any player we would have that conversation. But for the most part right now I think the focus is on how we can find a player to fill that designated player slot and how can we find a coach to help lead our team on the field."The team also has high hopes for 23-year-old rookie forward Ifunanyachi Achara, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season.While Toronto has declined its option on Piatti, Manning said there were lots of positives with the 31-year-old Argentine and that Curtis has had "very good discussions" with his agent."So if we're in a situation where we can have a new designated player and Pablo on the team together, I think we're going to be better," he added.Said Curtis: "Pablo was a great addition … We're just looking for something slightly different."As for 21-year-old Scottish fullback Tony Gallacher, Curtis said the club's loan agreement with Liverpool did not come with an option to buy.Curtis said the club continues talks with 33-year-old fullback Justin Morrow, whose contract expires at the end of the season."We'd like for Justin to come back but we also recognize that he's earned the right to be a free agent. He's a good soccer player … He's got a lot of juice in him as a soccer player."Morrow also serves as executive director of Black Players for Change.As for 35-year-old defender Laurent Ciman, Curtis said he plans a conversation with his agent but was unsure about his future.\---Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
MILLBROOK — Cavan Monaghan Township residents from Cavan Ward were able to voice their opinions about off-road vehicles during a virtual public meeting on Monday. A total of 16 individuals signed up to speak for a maximum of three minutes, some who were for and some who were against the concept of ORVs on township roads in the Cavan Ward. Robert Winslow, the founder of 4th Line Theatre, was among the speakers. “I live at 779 Zion Line in Cavan Ward; fifth generation of my family on this property. I was born and raised on our farm which I retrofitted into a live outdoor theatre in 1992, almost 30 years ago,” he said. Winslow said that added noise from ORVs during performances will reduce the appeal of their theatre. “In a movie theatre you can ask the person who is talking in the row ahead of you or behind you to shush so you can enjoy the film properly. Our theatre patrons won’t have that option as ATVs, side-by-sides, or dirt bikes pass by the farm during our plays,” he said. In addition to the hazards of the winding, narrow, steep and shoulder components of the road, along with high speeds of cars, trucks, motorcycles and commercial industrial vehicles along the road, Winslow said, ORV traffic on his road could also be an added danger for both patrons arriving and leaving the theatre and as well as ORV operators. However, Garry Otten, a realtor at Century 21, said many people he deals with move to the region because of the recreational opportunity. “More so today with the pandemic, our ORV interest has gained popularity beyond belief,” he said. The value of many properties in the area will increase if council chooses to allow ORVs on municipal roads, Otten said. “Our location allows us the good fortune of being able to access a trail that could take us all the way to Bancroft. We could certainly use that extra business in this township and our businesses could use that extra business. I would hope our councillors recognize the benefits instead of all the fear mongering that’s taking place,” he said. Comments will be received by the township until Dec. 4. Staff will then summarize the comments and bring forward a report in early 2021 for council to make a final decision. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgMarissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
British Columbia has seen more COVID-19 deaths over the past two weeks than the preceding two months because the virus has found its way back into nursing homes. And with long-term care workers exhausted and families frustrated, it's not clear what can be done.
OTTAWA — Provinces are criticizing the federal Liberals for failing to signal more help for health-care systems and strained provincial coffers in its new spending plans, setting up a potential showdown next week between the prime minister and premiers.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Dec. 10 with the country's premiers, who have been demanding a meeting since September to talk about the annual federal transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care.The fiscal update released Monday, which proposed some $25 billion in new spending to top up and expand existing programs and create new, targeted support for hard-hit industries, did not detail a bump in health-care spending beyond increases planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.Federal health transfers to provinces will rise to $43.1 billion next year from $41.9 billion this year, as part of a prearranged three per cent annual increase.Provinces say the proposal still falls well short of what is needed to properly fund their systems, not including the added costs associated with COVID-19.They want the federal government to boost its share of health-care funding by an extra $28 billion this year with annual increases of $4 billion thereafter. "The primary objective of the premiers to to see a structural change in how health care is funded," Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Tuesday in an interview. "And I think they're going to be successful because it is the No. 1 thing that Canadians are interested in right now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is making sure we have stable, long-term health-care funding."The Liberals argue they've sent plenty to the provinces for pandemic-related measures, totalling $24 billion to support health-care systems across the country.On Tuesday, Trudeau said he planned to hear out the provinces about their needs during and after the pandemic, but wouldn't commit to added spending.His Liberal government's fall economic statement must first survive a confidence vote in the House of Commons. Failure to gather the necessary support would mean the minority government falls, which could plunge the country into a federal election."I am reasonably confident that none of the opposition parties wants an election right now. We certainly don't want one," Trudeau told reporters outside his Ottawa residence."We want to get these supports out to Canadians. And there are certainly things in this fall economic statement that every party should be able to support in terms of helping Canadians."Spending to date is putting the federal deficit on track to reach $381.6 billion this year, but the government's math says it could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks.Pandemic-related spending has sent total federal transfers this year to $99.7 billion. Next year, the amount falls to $82.1 billion, near where it was before the pandemic, based on figures in the fall economic statement.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberals' spending binge pre-pandemic has blown the margin now to increase transfers to lower levels of government."There's not a lot of room left for other commitments because of (Trudeau's) irresponsible and insatiable appetite for spending other people's money," Poilievre said.Rebekah Young, Scotiabank's director of fiscal and provincial economics, wrote in an analysis that one-off transfers to provinces were necessary under the circumstances, but there should be a structural shift in the long term to make the country's finances sustainable."And the discussion should be broader than expenditure-shifting, as provinces have been reluctant to take up revenue capacity given up at the federal level in recent years," she wrote.The Liberals are proposing extra help through a revised fiscal stabilization program that sends money to provinces facing a year-over-year decline in non-resource revenues.The economic statement looks to lift funding capped now at $60 per resident up to $170.Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said his province expects to receive $750 million under the new limits, which falls well short of what Alberta could use. He said he was disappointed the Liberals didn't eliminate the cap as provinces have asked."We're going to continue to seek support from other provinces and we're disappointed in what I would call is really not even a half measure," he told reporters at the provincial legislature.Newfoundland and Labrador's Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the province still wouldn't qualify for help through the stabilization fund this year despite a 45 per cent drop in offshore oil revenues.She added the increase in the cap is unlikely to be a big benefit.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.— With files from Shawn Jeffords in Toronto, and Dean Bennett in EdmontonJordan Press, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitobans will likely have to deal with strict COVID-19 measures into the winter, Premier Brian Pallister warned Tuesday.With daily case counts remaining high and intensive care capacity close to the limit, Pallister said some restrictions on public gatherings and business openings will have to continue beyond Friday of next week, when the current orders are to expire."My gut feeling is that as we get into winter, it's going to be critical that we continue with a high level of restrictions for some time," Pallister said."COVID doesn't give up, and we're seeing that all across the country."Manitoba was leading all other provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections until recently, when Alberta surged ahead.To try to bend the curve, the province enacted some of the strictest rules in the country: non-essential businesses have closed, public gatherings have been limited to five people and, with some exceptions for things like medical services, people are not allowed to have visitors in their home.In-person religious services have also been banned — an order that has been met with a small measure of defiance and protests.A church in Winnipeg held four drive-in services last weekend, where people remained in their vehicles while a pastor spoke on a stage. Outside of Steinbach in southeast Manitoba, a church has held in-person services, prompting police to block the parking lot last Sunday.The rules have worked, Manitoba's chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday.The number of new infections has plateaued and even dropped slightly in recent days — there were 282 new cases Tuesday — and people now testing positive are reporting fewer contacts with others.That effect has yet to trickle through to the health-care system, however. A record 16 deaths were reported Tuesday and intensive care units remained close to full."Our health-care system can't sustain daily counts like this," Roussin said.The government is already working on what restrictions might continue beyond next week, Roussin added, although he did not divulge details.Manitoba has backed up its public health orders with added personnel, including a private security firm, to hand out fines.The two churches that held services last weekend are being fined $5,000, Pallister said, and several individuals involved can expect fines of $1,296 each."It's critical right now that we do not gather with people outside of our households," Pallister said."And we need the full participation of all Manitobans in order for these strict public health measures to work."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The 2021 Juno Awards are moving to May for their 50th anniversary.Organizers behind Canada's biggest night in music say the golden celebration, set to take place in Toronto, is being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The televised show will happen on May 16, 2021, about a month and a half after its originally planned date in March.Allan Reid, head of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, says the move is intended to give artists and the local community more options to celebrate in a time when physical distancing measures are expected to still be in place."We also hope that the warmer weather will bring more opportunities for some unique outdoor programming," he said in a press conference."The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a huge effect on the city and our music community, but we will be resilient and live music will return, and we will be there to help in any way we can."The return of the Juno Awards to Toronto, for the first time in a decade, was billed as a splashy affair when it was announced last year. Thousands of fans were expected to gather inside the Scotiabank Arena, with many past honorees in attendance.How the momentous occasion might take shape in the pandemic is a work in progress, Reid said, and it's still undetermined whether any of the Juno performances will be permitted to take place indoors.The organization also stopped short of announcing details for Juno Week, a series of concerts and events leading up to the broadcast that in other years have proven to be a business boon for local bars and concert halls.Other changes will be introduced as part of the Junos anniversary, including three new looks for the award statuette.The updated designs take inspiration from designer Shirley Elford's human-shaped molten-glass award, first handed out in 2000.A gold Juno will be given to Juno Award winners, while a silver version is for recipients of a special Juno prize, and a gold and silver variation goes to Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees.There's also a notable change within the R&B categories, first announced in October. The R&B recording of the year award will now be two distinct prizes, one for contemporary R&B recording of the year and another for traditional R&B/soul recording of the year.Reid noted that artist submissions for the Junos reached a record high, though he did not offer specific figures. He said the historic interest shows the resiliency of Canadian musicians in a difficult year that saw many of their concert tours cancelled.Nominees for the Juno Awards will be announced early in 2021.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.David Friend, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Alberta Health projections released by the Opposition NDP predict COVID-19 hospitalization rates could soar to 775 by mid-December and the number of intensive care patients could reach 161.NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the numbers suggest the United Conservative government waited too long to act then introduced ineffective half measures to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.“Our province is reporting the highest rate of COVID in the country,” Notley told Premier Jason Kenney during question period Tuesday. “The models showed you a second wave was coming. Why did you not prepare?”Kenney’s government has in recent weeks declined to provide internal projections on potential COVID-19 effects on hospital and intensive care wards, although Kenney said this week those numbers may be provided in the coming days.The latest numbers were leaked to the NDP.Alberta has seen new daily case counts above 1,000 for almost two weeks, putting a significant strain on the health system.There are a total of 173 intensive care beds in Alberta. On Tuesday, there were 97 COVID-19 ICU patients, part of a total 479 in hospitals.Alberta Health Services, the front-line operational arm of Alberta Health, is now rearranging and reassigning space, staff and patients to create another 250 ICU beds. AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson, in an email, said Calgary exceeded maximum ICU capacity Monday but had space because 10 new beds were added. Edmonton was at 95 per cent ICU capacity but had 18 spaces available because 20 new beds were added.On top of that, 20 acute-care hospitals, including the major ones in Calgary and Edmonton, are dealing with COVID outbreaks of their own.To stem the surge, Kenney announced new health restrictions last week aimed at reducing community spread while keeping businesses and the economy as open as possible.No gatherings are allowed in people’s home beyond those who already live there. Restaurants and bars can stay open under tight restrictions: only six people at a table and they all must be from the same home.The province will review the new rules around mid-December and may intensify or add to them if the skyrocketing spread continues.The NDP and some physicians say the new rules, while aimed at balancing health and the economy, will ultimately fail both and that a short, sharp lockdown of the economy is the way to go.Alberta is also facing the challenge of tracking spread while not knowing where most of the recent cases came from. As of Monday, there were 16,454 active cases. Of those, it’s not known where more than 80 per cent of them contracted the virus. The contact tracing program has been triaged twice in recent weeks to focus on recent and high-priority cases, such as children and health-care workers.Kenney reiterated that Alberta has 800 contact tracers but is working to hire 400 more while moving more part-time tracers to full-time status.“Alberta Health Services is pulling out the stops and has been for weeks to add capacity,” Kenney told the house.“We made it clear to them from Day One that budget is not an issue, that we are giving them maximum resources to surge in hiring and training, and bringing people on board."Notley criticized Kenney for not moving faster during the summer to hire more contact tracers. She noted Alberta lags behind other comparable provinces.“B.C. has 26 contact tracers per 100,000 (people). Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 30. Ontario, 27. Alberta, 18,” said Notley.“Contact tracing is strained across the country, that is true, but only in this province is it broken.”The NDP said that for Alberta’s population of about four million, 1,300 contact tracers are required.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the need for more robust cybersecurity and anti-fraud measures as government employees are forced to work remotely.However, he says the provincial government isn't working fast enough to manage those risks.Acting auditor general Terry Spicer notes in a report released Tuesday that the federal government's Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity has warned of an increase in attempts to access and attack networks used by remote workers.The audit finds that 10 provincial government departments, nine public service units and 19 government organizations have not completed fraud risk assessments.It adds that Service Nova Scotia, which helps citizens access government programs and services, is lagging behind on finalizing its regulations around cybersecurity.The auditor general cautions that fraud in the public sector can result in the loss of taxpayer funds and erode the public’s confidence in government if the risk isn’t properly handled.Tim Houston, leader of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, said in a statement that the auditor general's findings reveal the province is failing to protect the information of residents."As governments around the world find themselves increasingly at risk of cyberattacks, Nova Scotia has shown that it doesn’t place a high importance on keeping our health and other records safe from improper access," Houston said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. \- - - This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News FellowshipThe Canadian Press
Multiple B.C. First Nations continue to demand the provincial government release the location of COVID-19 cases near their communities. The Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government said despite being engaged in government-to-government negotiations, there has been no result. Public health emergencies, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “do not impact all populations in the same way” noted a recent report by Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, which discovered widespread systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in B.C’s health-care system. “First Nations people are significantly more likely to experience an overdose event or death, and more likely to contract COVID-19, than non-Indigenous people in B.C.,” the report stated in one of its 11 key findings. Specific challenges reported to the review included lack of access to data, lack of resourcing for prevention and security, and lack of integration of First Nations in the supply chain for personal protective equipment and other necessary emergency supplies, the report added. The First Nations leaders said while they feel vindicated by Turpel Lafond’s report, the report’s recommendations must be immediately implemented and address COVID-19 information sharing. They have been requesting the location of coronavirus cases near their communities, if the case involves a person who has travelled to their territories within the last 14 days and the name of positive members to be used for culturally-safe contact tracing since May. Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Judith Sayers said the health ministry’s ongoing refusal to share the information is based on stereotypes of First Nations governments that receive and work with confidential information every day. “It’s insulting to suggest that we can’t be trusted with this information,” she said in a Dec. 1 release. A complaint by the First Nations was filed in September 2020 with the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner, which has opened a file into the matter.Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
GENEVA — The U.N. humanitarian office says needs for assistance have ballooned to unprecedented levels this year because of COVID-19, projecting that a staggering 235 million people will require help in 2021.This comes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and global challenges including conflicts, forced migration and the impact of global warming.The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, expects a 40% increase in the number of people in need of such assistance in 2021 compared to this year — a sign that pain, suffering and torment brought by the coronavirus outbreak and other problems could get worse even if hopes of a vaccine are rising.OCHA made the projections in its latest annual Global Humanitarian Overview on Tuesday, saying its hopes to reach 160 million of those people in need will cost $35 billion. That’s more than twice the record $17 billion that donors have provided for the international humanitarian response so far this year — and a target figure that is almost certain to go unmet.“The picture we’re painting this year is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs we’ve ever set out, and that’s because the pandemic has reaped carnage across the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet,” said U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who heads OCHA.“For the first time since the 1990s, extreme poverty is going to increase, life expectancy will fall, the annual death toll from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is set to double,” he said. “We fear a near doubling in the number of people facing starvation.”Lowcock told a U.N. briefing in New York on the overview that he thinks the U.N. appeal will probably raise a record $20 billion by the end of the year -- $2 billion more than last year. But he said the gap between needs and funding is growing and the U.N. is looking to “new players” coming on the scene in 2021, including U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration.The U.N. aims to reach about two-thirds of those in need, with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations trying to meet the rest, Lowcock explained.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humanitarian aid budgets are now facing dire shortfalls as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, and said extreme poverty has risen for the first time in more than a generation.“The lives of people in every nation and corner of the world have been upended by the impact of the pandemic,” he said in a video statement. “Those already living on a knife’s edge are being hit disproportionately hard by rising food prices, falling incomes, interrupted vaccination programs and school closures.”The overview, which is billed as one of the most comprehensive looks of the world’s humanitarian needs, has put together nearly three dozen individual response plans for a total of 56 “vulnerable” countries.Lowcock said the biggest problem is in Yemen where there is danger of “a large-scale famine” now, saying a prime reason is lack of funding from Gulf countries that were major donors in the past which has led to cuts in aid and the closing of clinics.He said the biggest financial request is for the Syrian crisis and its spillover to neighbouring countries where millions of Syrians have fled to escape the more than nine-year conflict.OCHA said other countries in need include Afghanistan, Congo, Haiti, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Venezuela. Newcomers to this year’s list are Mozambique, where extremist activity has increased in the north, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.Lowcock said it’s not the pandemic, but its economic impact that’s having the greatest effect on humanitarian needs.“These all hit the poorest people in the poorest countries hardest of all,” he said. “For the poorest, the hangover from the pandemic will be long and hard.”Lowcock told the launch of the overview, speaking virtually from New York, that the world faces a clear choice.“We can let 2021 be the year of the grand reversal – the unravelling of 40 years of progress – or we can work together to make sure we all find a way out of this pandemic,” he said.___Lederer reported from the United NationsJamey Keaten And Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. — President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Wisconsin seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state's two most Democratic counties, a longshot attempt to overturn Joe Biden's win in a battleground state he lost by nearly 20,700 votes.Trump filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state's 10 Electoral College votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court, and order Evers to withdraw the certification.The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Evers until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit, an unusually tight deadline that speaks to how quickly the court is likely to decide the case.The state's highest court, controlled 4-3 by conservatives, also is considering whether to hear two other lawsuits filed by conservatives seeking to invalidate ballots cast during the presidential election. Separately, two Wisconsin Republicans filed a new federal lawsuit Tuesday that mirrors some of Trump's claims and asks a judge to declare him the winner in Wisconsin.Trump's lawsuit repeats many claims he made during a recount of votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties that large swaths of absentee votes were illegally cast. Local officials rejected his claims during the recount, and Trump is challenging procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.Trump is not challenging any ballots cast in conservative counties he won.Biden campaign spokesman Nate Evans called the lawsuit “completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground." Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said it was “without merit.”Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, noted that the lawsuit doesn't allege that anyone was ineligible to vote, but instead seeks to create a two-tiered election system where voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties are disenfranchised “under much stricter rules than citizens in the rest of the state.”Trump's Wisconsin attorney, Jim Troupis, said in a statement that voters "deserve election processes with uniform enforcement of the law, plain and simple.”Similar Trump campaign lawsuits have failed in other battleground states.In Phoenix, a judge has scheduled a Thursday trial in Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s lawsuit that seeks to annul Biden’s victory in the state. A judge is letting Ward’s lawyers and experts compare the signatures on 100 mail-in ballot envelopes with signatures on file to determine whether there were any irregularities. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office, which certified Arizona’s election results on Monday, said there was no factual basis for conducting such a review.Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14 and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.Trump's Wisconsin lawsuit seeks to discard 170,140 absentee ballots where there was not a written application on file and all absentee ballots cast in person during the two weeks before Election Day.People who vote in person early fill out a certification envelope for their ballot that serves as the written record. But the vast majority of absentee requests these days are made online, with a voter’s name entered into an electronic log with no paper record.Trump wants to toss 5,517 ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted. The practice has been in place for at least the past 11 elections, and the state elections commission told clerks it was OK.Trump also challenges 28,395 absentee ballots where a voter declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined” under the law. Such a declaration exempts voters from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it is up to individual voters to determine whether they are indefinitely confined, a designation used by nearly four times as many voters this year than in 2016 due to the coronavirus pandemic.Trump also alleges that Madison opened illegal voting sites when the city held events at parks where election workers accepted 17,271 completed absentee ballots from voters looking to avoid crowds and mail delays. City officials said the poll workers at the 220 parks served the same purpose as ballot drop boxes.The federal lawsuit came from Bill Feehan, the La Crosse County Republican Party chairman, and Derrick Van Orden, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress this year in western Wisconsin. Sidney Powell, a firebrand conservative attorney who was removed from Trump's legal team, is among the lawyers.Van Orden said after the lawsuit was filed that he had spoken with someone in Powell's office about the case but had not given permission to be named as a litigant. Van Orden said he tried calling Powell to ask that his name be removed but could not get through. Powell did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment.“Why they would want me on there, I'm not quite sure,” Van Orden said.The same lawsuit asks for 48 hours of security footage from the “TCF Center,” which is in Detroit, not in Wisconsin.Also Tuesday, Republicans on the Wisconsin Elections Commission asked the Democratic chairwoman to resign after she finalized election results on Monday. They argued the commission should have been involved with that process, while the chair, who refused to resign, said she was following state law and precedent.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies like Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year, experts said Tuesday.Ottawa said in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years.Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications. The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same. KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef said it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals."Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef said."And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices."A regular monthly subscription for a streaming service that delivers video or music would be a simple calculation, with the tax rate applied to the purchase price.But Micallef said it is be more difficult to estimate how much additional tax individual consumers, or businesses, will pay for other types of digital purchases, he said.Something like gaming software might cost little or nothing itself, but offer the option for subsequent charges to add features that make the experience better."How many times? How many transactions? It adds up," Micallef said.Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price. "I mean, this is really not a very substantial amount, when we're talking about corporate finances," said Winseck, who is a professor of journalism and communication.He said that the term "Netflix tax" has become highly politicized and is often used as "code" for levelling the playing field between U.S.-based digital media companies and traditional Canadian broadcasters."And if the idea is to create a level playing field between those two services, then that by all means that makes great sense," Winseck said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.David Paddon, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed concerned Tuesday about the impact of siding with food giants Nestle and Cargill and ending a lawsuit that claims they knowingly bought cocoa beans from farms in Africa that used child slave labour.The court was hearing arguments in the case by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. If the court were to accept Nestle and Cargill's arguments, that could further limit the ability of victims of human rights abuses abroad to use U.S. courts to sue. But both liberal and conservative justices asked questions that were skeptical of arguments made by the companies' attorney.“Many of your arguments lead to results that are pretty hard to take,” conservative Justice Samuel Alito told attorney Neal Katyal, who was arguing on behalf of Nestle and Cargill. The court's three liberal justices were particularly critical of Katyal's position, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor at one point saying it “boggles my mind.”The case before the justices has been going on for more than 15 years. It involves six adult citizens of Mali, referred to only as John Does, who say that as children they were taken from their country and forced to work on cocoa farms in neighbouring Ivory Coast. They say they worked 12 to 14 hours a day, were given little food and were beaten if their work was seen as slow.The group says that Minneapolis-based Cargill and the American arm of Switzerland-based Nestle “aided and abetted” their slavery by, among other things, buying cocoa beans from farms that used child labour. The group is seeking to bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and what they say are thousands of other former child slaves.Both Nestle and Cargill say they have taken steps to combat child slavery and have denied any wrongdoing.The case involves a law enacted by the very first Congress in 1789, the Alien Tort Statute, which permits foreign citizens to sue in U.S. courts for human rights abuses. The justices are being asked to rule on whether it permits lawsuits against American companies.Justice Brett Kavanaugh was among the justices with tough questions for Nestle and Cargill's attorney. “The Alien Tort Statute was once an engine of international human rights protection,” Kavanaugh said before quoting a brief that argued that the companies' position would “gut the statute.” “So why should we do that?” he asked.Alito, for his part, was also skeptical about this particular case against Nestle and Cargill. “You don't even allege that they actually knew about forced child labour,” Alito told attorney Paul Hoffman.“We do contend that these defendants knew exactly what they were doing in that supply chain,” Hoffman responded.The case had previously been dismissed twice at an early stage, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived it. The Trump administration is backing Nestle and Cargill.The high court in recent years has limited the use of the Alien Tort Statute. Most recently, in 2018, the court ruled that foreign businesses cannot be sued under the law. In that case, the court rejected an attempt by Israeli victims of attacks in the West Bank and Gaza to use U.S. courts to sue Jordan-based Arab Bank, which they said helped finance the attacks. Cargill and Nestle are asking the court to take another step and rule out suits against U.S. companies.A decision is expected by the end of June.Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) opened its doors last week to a new primary care clinic located on reserve at the OKIB Health Centre. The new clinic is a partnership between Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice and Interior Health. The primary care clinic, which is open to OKIB members living both on and off-reserve, is an expansion to the existing facility but now providing patients with access to doctors. “There has been a need for a long time for these types of services,” says Chief Byron Louis of Okanagan Indian Band. “The idea has always been there, it’s based upon community growth.” OKIB, which is located at Inkumupulux (Head of Okanagan Lake), near Vernon, B.C., currently has 2030 members, with half of its members living on reserve. It’s the growing population that has fueled discussions of the need for a new primary care clinic. “We also have a growing need when we start looking at that,” says Louis. “Even with half of our population being non-reserve, but band members, you’re starting to get into the size of a small community.” The clinic is now open and accepting new patients via appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 p.m. The services available range from medical assessments, to diagnosis and treatment plans, diabetes and physical exams for newborns, seniors and elderly care. (See the full list here.) “It represents a new approach to providing health care services and access to doctors on OKIB reserve land. Now, OKIB members can receive care at all stages of life, right here in community,” Louis says. A healthcare system right at home in the community builds on pre-existing programs and services, but meets the needs of “the ageing population,” he explains. “It’s good that you’re able to provide a home base for your health care.”Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
TORONTO — The Oscar-nominated Canadian star of the film "Juno" has come out as transgender.The Halifax-raised Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, made the announcement in a powerful post on social media.The star of the Toronto-shot Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy" says his preferred pronouns are he/they.Page's letter thanks those who have supported him along the journey, and addresses the trauma trans people face from discrimination, hateful acts, and a lack of rights.He says it feels remarkable "to finally love" who he is enough to pursue his "authentic self."And he's been "endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community.""Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place. I will offer whatever support I can and continue to strive for a more loving and equal society," Page said in Tuesday's post."I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I'm scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the 'jokes' and of violence." Page said he's not trying to "dampen a moment that is joyous" but wants to address the full picture. "The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences," Page wrote."In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx trans women. To the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all of those with a massive platform who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community: you have blood on your hands."Page concluded the post by saying he loves that he is trans and queer."And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive."Page got an Oscar nomination for playing a pregnant teen in 2007's "Juno," and two Emmy nominations for his reality series "Gaycation," which explores LGBTQ experiences around the world.Page often uses his platform to speak out against injustices and amplify underrepresented voices.In his documentary "There's Something in the Water," which hit Netflix in March, he shines a light on marginalized groups in Nova Scotia affected by what's known as environmental racism.Netflix said Tuesday it was in the process of updating all of the titles the performer and producer is involved with on its service to credit Elliot Page.The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD praised Page for delivering "fantastic characters on-screen" and being "an outspoken advocate for all LGBTQ people.""Elliot will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. We celebrate him. All trans people deserve to be accepted," said a tweet from GLAAD, which also issued a tip sheet for journalists covering Page's story, to help them write it in a respectful and accurate way. Alphonso David, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, thanked Page for sharing his truth and "shining a bright light on the challenges too many in our community face.""We are proud of you, and we love you. And we will never stop fighting alongside you for change," David posted on Twitter.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Canada's decision to block American imports of certain prescription drugs from north of the border is getting stony silence from the Trump administration — a sign, one expert says, that the U.S. proposal is "dead in the water."The measure, first floated by Donald Trump a year ago as a strategy to help reduce America's staggering drug costs, took effect Monday after the president signed a pre-election executive order in September. On Saturday, however, Health Minister Patty Hajdu parried the effort with just days to spare, prohibiting bulk drug exports if they pose a risk of creating or worsening drug shortages in the Canadian market. The White House referred questions about the new limits to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has yet to respond to repeated media queries about where Canada's move leaves Trump's plan.That plan was "a desperate act by desperate people at a desperate time," said Dr. Allen Zagoren, a policy administration professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Canada represents only two per cent of global drug sales, and gets 68 per cent of its drugs from outside the country, Health Canada said in a news release announcing the export prohibitions. The U.S. market, on the other hand, comprises 44 per cent of pharmaceutical sales around the world. Buying drugs in Canada "was never realistic, ever," Zagoren said. "Even if Canada said, 'Sure,' there's no way — Canada doesn't have enough drugs. But it allowed them to make a promise. And then they could argue, 'Well, Canada won't let us. So it's them, not us.'"Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said the two countries have been discussing the issue of drug imports for more than a year. In those meetings, Canada has made it clear that given the relatively tiny size of the Canadian market, bulk imports from north of the border simply wouldn’t have the desired effect."We've been saying to them all along: one, we sympathize with your policy concern; two, buying bulk drugs from Canada isn't the solution to your policy concern; and three, above all else, we will always protect the supply of drugs to Canadians," Hillman said.Canada's response is not a blanket export ban, but a "narrow and tailored" measure that applies only to those drugs meant for domestic consumption that are already in short supply or at risk at becoming scarce, she added. Zagoren, who called Trump's proposal "dead in the water," said its failure could prove useful for president-elect Joe Biden's own efforts to address drug costs once he takes over the White House in January. Biden has promised to reduce drug costs, including through imports, and to give the U.S. government insurance program known as Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices — a plan that has the blessing of congressional Democrats. The fact that Trump's proposed solution has failed could provide Biden with helpful leverage in discussions with the all-powerful pharmaceutical industry, which has spent aggressively in its lobbying efforts to head off pricing reforms. "I think it helps the Biden administration, because it sets the stage. The Canadian argument signals to the Biden administration, 'Don't come here for this.' But Biden being the internationalist he is, and a very good friend of Canada, that's not going to happen in the Biden administration anyway." Biden has also promised to expand health insurance coverage to include more Americans, a move that has the potential to broaden the existing U.S. drug market. Much will depend on the outcome of a pair of Senate run-off elections next month in Georgia, where Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock are seeking to unseat Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Should they both succeed, the 100-seat Senate will find itself in an even 50-50 split, giving the tiebreaking vote to Biden's vice-president, Kamala Harris. "It really hinges on the Georgia election as to how far the U.S. government will go with regard to drug prices, and especially on Medicare," Zagoren said. "There'll be a lot of negotiation in the backrooms with regard to pharmaceutical prices going forward. I do think there's going to be an attempt to bring them down, but I don't think it will be on the backs of the Canadians."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. James McCarten, The Canadian Press