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Good evening to you.

We begin with Canada's auditor general, who in a new report today found that the Public Health Agency of Canada was not as prepared as it could have been -- or should have been -- for the COVID-19 pandemic. Auditor General Karen Hogan pointed to internal audits that found serious gaps in the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS), which were ignored. As CBC News reports, she said the health agency's management failed to address "long-standing issues" in how personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical devices were managed in the NESS, which was created in part to supply provinces and territories with crucial goods during a crisis. She also said given the inadequate inventory control, the agency had little sense of just how much PPE would be needed in a pandemic.

"We found that information needed to govern, oversee and manage the federal stockpile was missing, outdated or lacked clarity. This had a negative impact on the operation of the federal stockpile," the review said.

 Jessica Lovell/Metroland

Still with PHAC, its latest survey of the provinces’ and territories’ capacity to administer shots shows that if Ottawa and the provinces hold up their ends of the bargain, Canada’s vaccine rollout could be completed by August. As of today, just under 22 million COVID vaccine doses had been injected into Canadian arms, including about 1.7 million second shots. More than half the country’s population of 38 million have received one shot. Of the approximately 33 million Canadians who are older than 12, almost two-thirds have gotten one dose.

Over the past three weeks, the proportion of Canadians vaccinated each day has approached one per cent. From May 18 to 24 — the fastest seven-day rate of vaccinations — around 0.97 per cent of Canadians a day were getting a shot. Yet, at that rate, the provinces and territories are still more than 1.5 million doses short the number of weekly doses they say they’ll be able to administer starting next month. The provinces and territories have told the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) that in June, they’ll be capable of giving 4.25 million shots per week. That story from Charlie Pinkerton.

 

In a new report today, Canada’s spending watchdog said a proposed extension of employment insurance sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks would cost over $1 billion in its first year, with costs rising to over $2 billion thereafter, and would likely benefit over 150,000 claimants. Currently, EI sickness benefits are capped at 15 weeks. The government proposed extending the sickness benefits to 26 weeks in the 2021 budget which has not yet been passed by Parliament. Parliament passed Bill C-24 in March as a temporary pandemic measure that provides up to 50 weeks of benefits for those who establish regular EI claims between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021. More from Aidan Chamandy.

Most Canadians are in favour of government subsidizing the creation of Canadian content, according to a new poll commissioned by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. The findings come as the government works to update the Broadcasting Act for the first time in 30 years by passing Bill C-10, which would force online streaming networks like Netflix, Crave, and Disney Plus to make contribution payments to Canadian content (Cancon). Fifty-nine per cent of poll respondents said they support government action that stimulates the creation of Cancon. Rachel Emmanuel reports.

(Richard Lautens/Toronto Star)

In Ontario, there's not at all surprising news that the province is once again failing in the long term care sector. A new report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario projects that the province will fall short of its goal to build 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next four years, casting uncertainty on the timeline set by Premier Doug Ford’s government to improve seniors’ care in the province. The report examines the Ministry of Long-Term Care’s 2021-22 spending plan.

After the first wave of COVID cases devastated long-term care homes last spring, the Ford government promised to build 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next decade, expanding on its existing commitment to open 15,000 new beds in five years. However, it seems the province is on track to open only 8,251 beds by 2023-24, a shortfall of 6,749 beds. Hitting the 15,000 bed goal won't come until 2025-26. Meanwhile, more than 40,000 people are on a wait list for a bed. That backlog is a “significant contributor” to capacity problems in the province’s health-care system, the report says. Iain Sherriff-Scott has that story.

Looking north, the prospect of methane and carbon dioxide emissions from thawing permafrost is not being factored into current targets for reducing emissions and averting a full-blown climate crisis, according to a study published in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. And yet Arctic permafrost stores roughly twice the amount of carbon that’s currently in the Earth’s atmosphere, and is already fuelling climate change. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as global average temperatures increase, a trend that’s threatening the fragile Northern ecosystem.

Canadian scientists are warning that the accelerating loss of permafrost could shave five years off the schedule for reaching global net-zero emissions, if we have a hope of limiting the average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. That story from Shawn McCarthy.

Process Nerd: Current crop of backbench bills may be on a road to nowhere

The Sprout: U.S. seeks trade-dispute panel with Canada over dairy

Net Zero: Alberta breathes new life into ‘turn-off-the-taps’ legislation

In Other Headlines:

Alberta could lift almost all COVID restrictions by late June under reopening plan (Edmonton Journal)
Climate ambition, push for electric vehicles driving down need for oil: report (CP)
Mike Duffy has parting shot for Senate as he reaches mandatory retirement age (Post)
Atlantic airports brace for an uncertain summer as vaccination rates, restrictions, determine fate (CTV)

Internationally:

Fringe theory no more? Fifteen months in, President Joe Biden has asked U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any possibility the trail might lead to a Chinese laboratory.

As the Associated Press reports, after months of minimizing that possibility as a fringe theory, his administration is joining worldwide pressure for China to be more open about the outbreak, aiming to head off GOP complaints the president has not been tough enough as well as to use the opportunity to press China on alleged obstruction.

Biden has ordered a closer intelligence review of what he said were two equally plausible scenarios of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year he tasked the intelligence community with preparing “a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVI-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”

“As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” he said in a statement.

In a long rambling speech in Belarus today, President Alexander Lukashenko blasted Europe for trying to “strangle” his country with sanctions over the diversion of a passenger jet on the weekend, and accused a dissident journalist arrested after the flight landed of plotting a “bloody rebellion.” He also doubled down on his contention there was a bomb threat against the plane and that it posed a security threat, insisting it was an “absolute lie” that a fighter jet he scrambled forced the plane to the ground.

Meanwhile, colleagues of Roman Protasevich, the journalist who was arrested after being taken off the diverted flight on Sunday, say they are receiving death threats and they fear for their lives. Protasevich's lawyer told the BBC she has not been allowed to speak with him yet.

In Other International Headlines:

Biden orders more Intel investigation of COVID-19 origin (AP)
Prosecutors investigating Trump tell witness to prepare for grand jury testimony (CNN)
Netherlands court orders oil giant to cut emissions (BBC)
Russian court hears Navalny complaints on prison conditions (Al Jazeera)
Ex-Johnson aide lambasts UK government over COVID failures (AP)
Exxon investor scores historic climate win with two board seats (Bloomberg)
Blinken visits Egypt, Jordan to support Israel-Hamas ceasefire (Al Jazeera)
Qatar pledges $500 mln for Gaza reconstruction (Reuters)
Jeff Bezos will step down as Amazon CEO on July 5 (CNN)
Transit employees among 9 dead in shooting at San Jose rail yard (NBC News)
Jean-Pierre makes history in taking podium at White House press briefing (The Hill)

In Featured Opinion:

Merran Smith and Pierre Gratton: To become a major player on the global battery stage, Canada must act fast

Graham Thomson: Kenney’s political survival depends on delivering ‘best summer ever’

The Kicker:

Finally, we leave you with priorities, and why Quebec needs its own emoji "as soon as possible."

Photo: NASA

And while it's obviously not as pressing as an emoji, word today that Canada wants to put a rover on the moon in the next five years is far more exciting in our books. Blame our inner astronaut.

Have a good night.

Evening Brief | Wed, May 26, 2021
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iPoliticsLIVE present: Curtailing Big Tech

Date: June 9th, 2021

Time: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET

Join iPoliticsLIVE for a panel discussion with Parliamentarians about regulating content on the internet. Bill C-10 is currently being reviewed in committee, fuelling contentious debate and prompting a Charter review of the legislation. It has broad support in Quebec.

Facebook just announced a 'News Innovation Test' in Canada. Is it a rapprochement or a shell game? Can the government get big tech legislation passed, or will the web giants find a way to co-opt it?

We'll explore policy solutions for the outsized market impact of social media platforms and internet service providers – and the politics behind new regulations. And we won't shy away from the tough questions, such as:
 
·     How should content be regulated?
·     Who should pay for it?
·     What's at stake for journalism jobs and your community news?

June 9th at noon - 1:00 p.m. ET
SAVE THE DATE! 

Registration information to follow.


Today's Lunchbox is brought to you by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council. Engage with the produce industry. Parliamentarians and government officials are invited to meet with fresh produce industry members about important issues impacting this sector on May 31-June 1, 2021, at CPMA's and CHC's Farm to Plate Event. Contact us at rsvp@hortcouncil.ca.

Ontario won't meet timeline to build 15,000 long-term care beds: FAO

By Iain Sherriff-Scott on May 26, 2021 11:58 am
Ontario will fall short of its goal to build 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next four years, casting uncertainty on the timeline set by Premier Doug Ford's government to improve seniors' care in the province. That projection is from a new Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) report that examines the Ministry of […]
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Process Nerd: Current crop of backbench bills may be on a road to nowhere

By Kady O'Malley on May 26, 2021 11:32 am
There’s a good chance he knew it was a long shot, but it was still a valiant gambit by Bloc Québécois MP Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay. During an afternoon House sitting earlier this month, he used the now ubiquitous Zoom wave to alert the speaker to what he contended was a serious breach of parliamentary protocols in […]
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Ontario could move up booster shots if Ottawa commits to greater supply
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The Rebel to Rabble Review: Anti-lockdown legal battles
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Ontario NDP wants public inquiry into province's pandemic response
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Welcome to Net Zero, your daily industry brief on clean energy and Canadian-resource politics.

The Lead  

Alberta's Environment Minister Jason Nixon has announced his government is reviving its "turn-off-the taps legislation," which was originally to be used as a "last resort" to cut off oil and gas supply to B.C., during a dispute regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline, writes the Canadian Press.

Although B.C. has since co-operated, Nixon believes the legislation is still necessary. The bill's new amendments "asserts Alberta's authority over its primary natural resources."

"This shows Alberta is serious, that we have a serious law in place," Nixon said Tuesday before the bill was introduced in the legislature. "This is like a fire extinguisher, having it on the shelf ready to go. Hopefully, we never need it, but we need to have it in place."

The old legislation, which expired on April 30, granted Alberta authority to limit shipments of natural gas, oil, and refined fuels outside of the province. The "revamped" legislation, titled Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act, is retroactive to May 1, and will allow Alberta to further restrict oil and energy exports but will "exclude refined products such as gasoline and diesel." The Globe and Mail has the latest.

Internationally

ReconAfrica, a Vancouver-based oil and gas exploration company, announced it's currently drilling into a potentially "massive onshore oil deposit" located in a region of the Kalahari Desert that covers parts of northeast Namibia and northwest Botswana.

The company believes it could produce 100 billion barrels of oil and gas. However, the region contains two world heritage sites as well as three national parks.

"Good oilfield practices ... if they're employed, there is no risk to the environment. Zero," said Craig Steinke, the founder of ReconAfrica. The Vancouver Sun has more.

Meanwhile, California and the U.S. government announced they have approved the development of wind energy farms off  the state's coastline.

The agreement would see 380 windmills established across a "1,035-square-kilometre expanse of sea," and approximately 32 kilometres northwest of Morro Bay. The farms would ultimately power 1.6 million homes.

"California, ... has a world class offshore wind resource, and it can play a major role in helping to accelerate California's and the nation's transition to clean energy," said National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy. The Associated Press has this story.

Still with the U.S., Sen. Ben Cardin said he is working on legislation that would introduce a tax credit for nuclear power plants, "which are virtually free of carbon emissions and provide high-paying union jobs."

"We'll attempt to get that included in an energy package," Cardin told Reuters on Monday night.

Lastly, Wyloo Metals Pty Ltd., an Australian private-equity firm, announced it will acquire the Ring of Fire, a mining district in northern Ontario, for $133 million. The Ring of Fire is currently held by Noront Resources Ltd., an exploration company. The Globe and Mail has more.

On Wednesday morning at 9:52 a.m., West Texas Intermediate was trading at US$65.73 and Brent Crude was going for US$68.37.

In Canada  

Suncor Energy Inc. has announced a new goal of attaining net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Previously, the Calgary-headquartered company had promised a 30 per cent emissions cut by 2030.

The company also said its planned $5-billion annual capital spend will be primarily allocated to improving "carbon competitiveness." Furthermore, Suncor Energy plans to reduce emissions by 10 megatonnes (MT) per year across its operations by 2030. Reuters has more.

According to new research from Allan Chapman, an independent researcher and former senior scientist with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, a rise in "more damaging earthquakes can be expected" in northern B.C. due to fracking oil and gas wells increasing pressure underground.

"It makes earthquakes more common and it makes larger ones more common," said Chapman. "There appears to be a fairly strong relationship between this cumulative water loading underground and the magnitude of an event. For many of these large events, there may be no warning." The Canadian Press has all the details.

Finally, Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. announced it "will pilot a molten carbonate fuel cell capable of producing 1.4 megawatts of electricity," the Financial Post reports.

The fuel cell is "one of our promising carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) projects within the multiple pathways to reducing industry's greenhouse gas emissions, bringing the cost of carbon capture down to make it a more viable solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate electricity," said Canadian Natural spokesperson Julie Woo.

Canadian Crude Index was trading at US$51.53 and Western Canadian Select was going for US$51.57 this morning at 9:33 a.m.

Noteworthy

Wed, May 26, 2021
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Good day and welcome to the Sprout, where it's National Blueberry Cheesecake Day and National Cherry Dessert Day. For the non-foodies, it's also National Paper Airplane Day -- a pandemic-safe activity.

Here's today's agriculture news.

The Lead 

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has initiated a trade dispute against Canada over American dairy exports.

As the Canadian Press reports, U.S. Trade Secretary Katherine Tai formally requested a dispute settlement panel on Tuesday under the new NAFTA agreement to examine allegations from American producers that Canada is denying them fair access to the Canadian market. You can find the full USTR request here.

In related headlines:

Around Town 

Statistics Canada released the latest farm income data this morning. Realized net income for Canadian farmers rose 84.2 per cent to $9.9 billion in 2020, as strong growth in receipts outpaced slightly higher expenses. You can find the full release here.

Statistics Canada also released data about farm cash receipts in the first quarter of 2021. You can find that information here.

On Tuesday, the national statistical agency released dairy statistics for March 2021 (found here), data about food and drinking places for the month of March (found here), and details about the delivery of major grains for April 2021 (found here).

In Canada 

Health officials in Ontario's Haldimand-Norfolk region say they will investigate the death of a migrant farm worker who died on May 20 after contracting COVID-19. As CBC News reports, the Haldimand-Norfolk health unit has released very few details around Fasuto Ramirez' death, saying only he had been hospitalized and that his death was "attributed" to the coronavirus.

And farmers in the southern parts of the Canadian Prairies are celebrating after rainfall happened in the region over the weekend. Real Agriculture has more on the collective sigh of relief.

Internationally 

European ministers say negotiations are close to reaching a deal to reform the bloc's extensive farm subsidy regime, to protect small farms and to make the agriculture sector more climate friendly. As Reuters reports, the pending deal comes after three years of bartering.

Noteworthy 

The Kicker 

We end today with a tale about Sherman the tortoise, who arrived in New Brunswick from Ontario in 2014. As CBC News reports, Sherman loves dandelions and gets around the Magnetic Hill Zoo thanks to a makeshift wheelchair.

Until tomorrow.

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This Brief is provided to iPolitics subscribers for their individual use, and should not be forwarded to non-subscribers. If you would like to subscribe, go to: ipolitics.ca/subscribe/

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Morning Brief | Wed, May 26, 2021


Today's Morning Brief is brought to you by GCT's #BetterDeltaport campaign. The Port of Vancouver's business case for Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is falling apart. Why keep pushing ahead with a flawed plan instead of considering a better option for Canada, taxpayers, and the environment? Learn more about the better option.

Good Wednesday morning,

-- Pandemic audit out today: Canada's auditor general will release reports today on how the federal government performed in terms of its response to the pandemic. The reports will look at PPE and medical device procurement before an during the pandemic, as well as whether Ottawa supplied enough assistance to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

-- Kady O'Malley looks ahead to the rest of the day in politics with iPolitics AM: "Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is set for a special primetime appearance on the floor of the House of Commons, where she can expect to be cross-examined over her department’s spending plans for the coming year, as well as her overall fiscal priorities, including — but not limited to — her first-ever budget plan, which was presented to the House last month."

-- Canadians approve of slow border reopening: While Prime Minister Trudeau begins to sketch out a plan to reopen Canada's border with the U.S., Canadians are apparently happy to take it slow. According to an Angus Reid poll, nearly half of respondents were happy to keep the border closed until at least September. More than three-quarters said they would support a vaccine passport.

-- Anxiety about the return to normal: More than half of Canadians are nervous about the return to "normal" after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Leger survey. It found that 52 per cent of respondents felt that returning to pre-COVID life was a source of anxiety, given how governments are announcing plans to reopen.

-- Pallister apologizes for foul language: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister apologized yesterday after using "unparliamentary" language during a committee hearing. Appearing before a legislature committee examining the provincial budget, he was caught on mic suggesting someone was "an a--hole".

____________________

News tip? Let us know: morningbrief@ipolitics.ca

____________________

AROUND THE WORLD

-- Mourning Floyd one year on: Americans marked the anniversary of George Floyd's murder with rallies, moments of silence, and street festivals. Some of his family members, including his daughter, met with President Biden and VP Harris at the White House. His younger sister, however, attended the Minneapolis memorial and expressed frustration over the lack of progress the past year. Gunfire was heard at the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died shortly before the festivities began; one person was reportedly shot.

-- Mali latest: West African mediators will meet Mali's detained president and prime minister today, after they were yesterday taken to a military base by officers who led last summer's coup. France, Britain, Germany, and the UN have called for the immediate release of the interim leaders, who were themselves instated by military officers last year. The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today at France's request.

-- U.S. reengages with Palestinians: The U.S. announced it will reopen the consulate in Jerusalem that handled relations with Palestinians, which was shut down by the Trump administration. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also ask Congress for an additional $75 million in aid to help rebuild Gaza after the 11-day conflict.

-- Elsewhere: France hit by mystery campaign to discredit Pfizer using influencers. Manhattan district attorney convenes special grand jury in Trump probe. Biden and Putin to meet in Geneva next month. Alexei Navalny says he is facing three new criminal probes. Russia deploys nuclear-capable bombers to Syria for training.

IN OTHER HEADLINES

WHAT WE'RE READING

ICYMI FROM IPOLITICS

CARTOON OF THE DAY

THE KICKER

An amateur fossil hunter found an 84-million-year-old fossilized turtle on Vancouver Island. As The Globe reports, the fossil is so old that when the turtle was alive, Vancouver Island was in a completely different location — and below the ocean's surface.

Morning Brief | Wed, May 26, 2021
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