Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

·9 min read
Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

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As COVID-19 cases soar and regions lock down, Dr. Tam has a blunt message about holiday planning

On a day that saw Ontario and Manitoba announce record-high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, two provinces pull out of the much-lauded Atlantic bubble and close their borders, and millions of people in different regions of the country plunge back into lockdowns reminiscent of last spring, Canada's chief public health officer said the tighter rules are a necessary evil right now. "The longer you wait to increase the measures, the longer it would take to come out of the restrictions," Dr. Theresa Tam told The National co-host Andrew Chang. She said that over the past several months, provincial and territorial medical officers of health tried hard to achieve a balance where they could keep up with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing while keeping society open. "It's just something that people have never tried in the history of the last hundred years," Tam said. "They were trying really hard to minimize impact on the economic side, on schools, on work.... It's just not an easy thing to do."

WATCH | Tam says the message around holidays is the same no matter where in Canada you live:

In the past month alone, Canada's number of confirmed or presumptive cases rose by more than 125,000, increasing from 211,732 on Oct. 23 to 337,555 on Monday. Provinces are seeing daily case counts higher than they ever saw during the first wave. And so now, with the holiday season just weeks away, Canadians are wondering if one of the bright spots in Canada's long, dark winter will be another casualty of 2020 — and whether the country will ever get off the roller-coaster of flattening the curve only to see cases soar again. Tam is blunt when it comes to the upcoming holiday season: No large gatherings. Keep it small. Keep it within your own household. "Christmas is not going to be having any kind of large group interactions," she said. "Even with family, you've got to really think twice. Avoid non-essential travel. Keep to your current household contacts as much as possible." Read more on this story here.

Simian serenade


(Prapan Chankaew/Reuters)

British musician Paul Barton plays the piano for the macaques that occupy the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple site in Lopburi, Thailand, in this photo taken Nov. 21. The audience was a bit unruly as they climbed all over him, pulled his hair and tried to eat his sheet music. Barton said he hoped the music might calm the animals at a time when the pandemic-caused drop in Thailand's tourism industry means fewer visitors to feed them, and less money for their welfare.

In brief

Alberta has reached a "precarious point" in the coronavirus pandemic, the province's top doctor said Monday upon reporting 1,549 new cases and five more deaths. The province's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw also said there were 13,166 active cases in Alberta — surpassing Ontario's 13,004 for the most in the country. Hinshaw said she was meeting with a cabinet committee "to discuss a series of new measures to reduce the rising spread of COVID-19," and said a detailed update would be coming today. "We must take action. Waiting any longer will impact our ability to care for Albertans in the weeks and months ahead," she said. Read more on this story here.

WATCH | Alberta faces pressure for increased restrictions as COVID-19 cases 'snowball':

The Canada Revenue Agency says it's warning about 213,000 Canadians who may have been paid twice through the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) program that they could be called upon to repay the money. But repayment isn't required right away, says the agency. The CRA has suspended collection of debts for the duration of the pandemic emergency. "The Canada Revenue Agency … has issued letters to individuals who may have applied for the Canadian emergency response benefit … from both Service Canada and the CRA, and who may be required to repay an amount to the CRA," an agency spokesperson said in an email. "We will resume collections activities when it is responsible to do so, including collection of debts related to CERB payments." The agency is still recommending people pay back any CERB funds to which they're not entitled by the end of the year, warning that if they don't, the sum will appear on T4A tax slips and will need to be reported as income on next year's tax return. Read more about the possible CERB repayments. Canada has turned away at least 4,400 asylum seekers at the U.S. border since 2016 — including some who were hoping to find refuge here at the height of the global pandemic — according to newly released government figures. Nearly half of those trying to enter Canada over that nearly five-year period made the attempt in the year after U.S. President Donald Trump took office. The figures were released in response to a parliamentary request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, which has been in effect since 2004, Canada and the U.S. consider each other to be "safe countries" for refugees and require them to make their claims in the country they arrive in first. The agreement has long faced criticism and legal challenges from refugee advocacy groups, who say the agreement is an inhumane way to limit the number of people Canada accepts as refugees. They say the U.S. is not a safe country for all refugees and that the dangers they face have increased under the Trump administration. Read more about the figures on asylum seekers. NAV Canada, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, is considering cutting air traffic controller jobs at seven towers across Canada in an effort to save money as the global health crisis continues to drag down air traffic. CBC News obtained an internal memo from Nav Canada president and CEO Neil Wilson informing staff that the not-for-profit company that operates Canada's civil air navigation system is conducting studies of air traffic control towers in Whitehorse, Regina, Fort McMurray, Alta., Prince George, B.C., and Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor in Ontario, which "will result in workforce adjustments." The company also is looking into closing a control tower in St. Jean, Que. These locations were identified as having low air-traffic levels, even prior to the pandemic, the memo said. Some aviation experts and airlines warn that the cuts would amount to removing a layer of protection. "It would degrade the level of safety at Whitehorse," said Joe Sparling, president of Whitehorse-based airline Air North. "We would encourage Nav Canada to look for other cost reduction measures." Read more about possible NAV Canada cuts here. U.S. president-elect Joe Biden can start the formal transition of power process after the federal agency that must sign off on it said Monday that he could. "I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you," General Services Administration (GSA) chief Emily Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden. Yesterday, Michigan certified Biden's victory in that state, while a judge in Pennsylvania over the weekend threw out a lawsuit from U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign that sought to block certification in that state. The move by the GSA means Biden's team will now get federal funds and an official office to conduct his transition. Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will also get access to the regular national security briefings that Trump gets. Read more about the transition here.

WATCH | Trump allows co-operation in presidential transition as Biden chooses cabinet:

Now for some good news to start your Tuesday: Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use honey combs. Tristan Kennedy, 5, shared that joke and more than 100 other knee-slappers outside his home in Pitt Meadows, B.C., this spring in an effort to brighten up the days of his neighbours during the pandemic. For 155 days straight starting in April, Kennedy and his mother, Naya Kohout, searched for jokes and then shared them on a sign at the end of their driveway, with the setup line written up and posted on one side and the punchline on the other. Despite hearing a few groans from those bemoaning the jokes, the response was so positive they asked passersby if they would be interested in a book of jokes. Kohout says the demand was there, so they put together an offering. To date, they have sold more than 120 books, and raised more than $1,200, which they are donating in equal parts to the Ridge Meadows Senior Society and the Friends in Need Food Bank. Read more here about the joke book.

Front Burner: Virus rages in 'precarious' Alberta

In the first wave of the pandemic, Alberta was one of the provinces that seemed to have things relatively under control. Now, the province has daily case rates three times as high as Quebec or Ontario, and ICUs in Calgary and Edmonton have been hitting 90 per cent capacity.

But Premier Jason Kenney hasn't addressed the province at a COVID-19 briefing for almost two weeks, and has resisted repeated calls for lockdowns from doctors and other experts. It's leading some Albertans to tweet the hashtag #WhereIsKenney. Today, Jason Markusoff of Maclean's joins us to talk about how Alberta got here, and what happens now.

Today in history: November 24

1892: Sir John Abbott, third prime minister of Canada and the first PM born in Canada, steps down due to ill health. He is succeeded by Sir John S. D. Thompson. 1937: The Canadian Authors Association sets up the Governor General's Literary Awards. Bertram Brooker wins the first award for his 1936 novel Think of the Earth. 1980: Moretta (Molly) Reilly, the first woman in Canada to get an airline transport pilot's licence and a member of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame, dies in Edmonton at the age of 58. 1981: The Metric Commission of Canada announces the full conversion to the metric system in food stores across Canada. The changeover from imperial units to metric was implemented simultaneously in 21 areas across Canada in January 1982 and covered the rest of the country within two years. 1987: Jehane Benoît, called Canada's first lady of cuisine who published 25 cookbooks and was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1973, dies at age 83.