Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the UN Security Council’s rare universal condemnation of and call for an investigation into Israel killing Palestinain-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh harassed in Peterborough, Francois Legault refusing to participate in an English Leaders’ Debate and Elon Musk pausing his purchase of Twitter.

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the news that the US Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade and what it might mean for Canada & the Federal Conservative Party Leadership Race plus try and find some lighter news.

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the giant and expensive ring coming to Downtown Montreal and the reaction to it, Canada lifting the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood (and Hema-Quebec doing something “distinct”) and Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter.

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Montreal’s pilot project to allow the S.A.T. to serve alcohol without a last call, Russia banning 61 more Canadians, the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial and more

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Pope Francis’ planned visit to Canada to meet with Residential School survivors, Elon Musk’s attempt to buy Twitter (and Twitter’s attempts to block him), the City of Montreal moving forward on Falaise St-Jacques Park and more.

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Dawn McSweeney and Jason C. McLean discuss Elon Musk purchasing 9% of Twitter and not declaring it right away to make some cash, 10 Montreal streets going pedestrian-only for the next three summers and Will Smith being barred from the Oscars for 10 years.

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On a Saturday edition of FTB Fridays, Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the recent deal between Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, François Legault and the upcoming Quebec election and the ongoing Ukraine invasion.

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy and read her book The Mountains We Climb by Accident

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Jagmeet Singh and the Federal NDP struck a deal with Justin Trudeau’s Minority Liberal Government to support them electorally when it comes to confidence motions until 2025, giving the Libs a defacto Majority Government. In exchange, the NDP (and Canadians) get dental care gradually implemented until everyone earning less than $70 000 a year is covered by 2025, a Canada Pharmacare Act passed by the end of 2023 and other New Democrat priorities that, until now, the Libs have only given lip service to, actually worked on.

This is exactly how minority parliaments can produce good results. It’s also another smart political move on the part of Singh and a surprisingly cautious one on the part of Trudeau. Or, as some commenters have put it, a tyrannical power grab.

Allow me to address the last group first: I won’t bother explaining how parliamentary democracy works or even go beyond seat counts and mention that in 2021, the total combined vote percentage for the Liberals and NDP was 50.44%, compared to 48.65% if you add up the percentages the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois, the People’s Party and (why not) the Green Party got. You won’t think anything but what you want happening is legit.

I will, though, ask you what’s worse: a defacto Trudeau Majority until 2025 with free dental or a proper Trudeau Majority until 2027 with nothing but what the Liberals want? Because the latter is exactly what we would get if there was an election next year with Pierre Poilievre leading the Conservative Party (CPC).

A right-wing CPC Leader might please the party base, neutralize the People’s Party and win a handful of seats in the Prairies, but even tacit association with or presumed endorsement of the unrest in Ottawa would destroy the party’s chances in the 905 and 519 area codes, the riding-rich areas surrounding Toronto, where federal elections are generally decided in Canada. Also, Poilievre’s flirtation with hard social conservatives would cause some progressive-minded voters to not risk voting NDP and select the Libs out of fear.

So, the question I have for fellow progressives and NDP supporters who may be less than thrilled at the prospect of the New Democrats propping up Trudeau is a slightly altered one (I already assume you understand how parliamentary democracy works): Would you prefer supporting three years of Liberal rule with key NDP policies being enacted or Liberal rule until at least 2027 with no concessions and a weakened New Democrat caucus?

Some opposition members have also dubbed this a “power grab” by Trudeau. They’re wrong, of course. If this is a power grab by anyone, it’s by Singh on behalf of those who support NDP policy.

The “on behalf of” part is crucial. This isn’t a formal Coalition Government. Don’t expect NDP MPs to occupy cabinet posts. It’s the policies that have power, policies that when implemented Trudeau may very well get credit for.

Yes, that’s a risk, but it’s a calculated one and a worthwhile one to take. Singh is getting things done and doing an excellent job as an opposition leader. While he won’t get the full credit if and when these plans are implemented, he is showing the power of voting NDP and giving New Democrats a larger voice.

Sure, these wins aren’t perfect (I, for one, would have preferred immediate coverage of all dental for everyone under the Canada Health Act) and they aren’t confirmed wins yet. Quebec Premier François Legault has already promised to challenge dental care and pharmacare on provincial jurisdictional grounds and says other premiers such as Doug Ford will do the same (Let’s make “Legault wants me to have a toothache” an election year slogan, shall we?).

Regardless of the outcome, though, it is a great step forward for Singh and the NDP. I am surprised why Trudeau jumped on, though. He could have waited a year and got the majority he was setting himself up for.

Maybe he thought that Poilievre wouldn’t win the CPC nom after all (Jean Charest is polling well) so he decided to play it safe. Maybe he thought that he could get some popular policies through and use the NDP deal as political cover for his corporate donors who may not like some of them.

Or maybe, for Trudeau and Singh, this is about exactly what they said it was: stability.

Regardless, I’m really starting to like the possibilities minority parliaments have to offer.

So Jean Charest is running to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Yes, THAT Jean Charest. The former Quebec Premier and Maple Spring antagonist who lost power after over a decade because people took to the streets en masse after he refused to budge an inch.

I have three thoughts on this completely expected announcement last week (the fact that he caught COVID and is campaigning from home was a bit of a surprise, but doesn’t change my thoughts on him) :

1. I despise Jean Charest

He is the living embodiment of bourgeois arrogance and austerity for everyone but the rich. Charest was kicked “dehors” but wasn’t someone supposed to find him “un job dans le Nord”? I guess that didn’t work out and instead we have the most undeserving and undesirable of political comebacks.

Maybe he feels that others in Quebec may remember his political exit in 2012 more than anything else, which could be why he chose to launch his campaign in Alberta. That or a desire to appeal to the party base. Either way, typica crafty, slimy Charest.

2. He’s the Conservatives’ Best Chance of Actually Winning

Sadly, it’s true. The first time he ran for Conservative leadership (it was the PC party then, not the CPC), Charest lost his bid but was one of only two MPs to keep their seat when Jean Chretien wiped the Kim Campbell-led party off the political map.

Unless Quebec decides to collectively do something unexpected (which they do every few decades or so), federal elections in Canada are decided by hockey moms and dads in the 905 and 519. Charest can play to that crowd, a right-winger cannot.

And Charest is the one with name recognition. Sure, in Quebec it’s complicated, but that’s not the case everywhere else, like in Calgary where he announced his candidacy.

3. He Won’t Win the Nomination

Pierre Poilievre will most likely get the nomination. He’s Justin Trudeau’s dream opponent. Getting the CPC base to replace Erin O’Toole with a far right winger was part of his reasoning when he called the last election.

Canada is a center-left country and Trudeau knows it. Neo-Cons like Charest or right-wingers in centrist clothing like Harper can win here. Right wingers like Poilievre only appeal to the base which can maybe swing a few ridings and are thinly spread out across the rest. Just ask Maxime Bernier (or maybe don’t, that guy doesn’t need any more attention).

So it may be a little premature to dust off those old anti-Charest posters, but then again, who knows.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government invoked the Federal Emergencies Act to counter anti-vaccine mandate and anti-health restriction protests centered around the trucker convoy. This is the first time in Canadian history that the act has been used.

Passed in 1988 as a replacement for the War Measures Act (used in both World Wars and by the current Prime Minister’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau during the 1970 October Crisis), the Emergencies Act gives the Federal Government temporary powers to “take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times” and to supersede the jurisdictions of provincial and local authorities in order to deal with an “urgent and critical situation” (in this case a “public order emergency”).

The measures taken, though, must fall within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Government must declare which areas of the country the emergency extends to, unless it applies to all of Canada. In this case, Trudeau promised to geotarget the scope to places like the City of Ottawa, where big rigs have been parked and some protesters and residents have had altercations since the convoy first arrived two weeks ago, and other sites where traffic is blocked.

Both Quebec Premier François Legault and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet have stressed that they think the measures should stop at the Ontario/Quebec border, pointing to the fact that anti-vaccine mandate protests in Montreal and Quebec City already ended peacefully. Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, says that the fact Trudeau had to resort to this unprecedented measure shows a “failure in leadership”.

Quebec Premier François Legault laid out his government’s reopening plans for the next few weeks  culminating in the lifting of almost all measures by March 14th. Mask mandates and vaccine passport requirements will remain in effect for some time following that date.

Legault made the announcement at an early afternoon press conference joined by accompanied by Minister of Health Christian Dubé and Interim National Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau. The Premier noted thar some regulations are turning into recommendations and that we will have to “learn to live with” COVID.

Here’s the timetable:

February 12: This Saturday, there will be no restrictions on home visits. The current rule of no more than ten people or three households will become a recommendation. Restaurants will be allowed to seat 10 people or the members of three households at the same table. Caregivers with valid vaccine passports will be able to visit loved ones living in group homes.

February 14: Gyms, spas, climbing gyms and indoor golf facilities can reopen at 50% capacity. Indoor sports and recreational activities can resume, but tournaments and competitions can’t yet. Locker room capacity will be limited to 50%.

February 21: Theatres, showrooms and ampitheatres (including the Bell Centre) will be able to re-open at 50% capacity while stores can be at 100% capacity. Places of worship will be able to accommodate up to 500 people.

February 28: Bars and casinos can re-open at 50% capacity with the previous sanitary regulations in place and no dancing or karaoke. Showrooms, except for the Bell Centre and Videotron Centre, can open at 100% capacity along with places of worship. Working remotely whenever possible will turn from a rule to a recommendation. Competitions and tournaments can resume.

March 14: Restaurants and bars are back at 100% capacity with karaoke and dancing once again permitted. Same with showrooms and large venues like the Bell Centre.

Restaurant dining areas in Quebec can re-open at 50% capacity and home visits of up to four people or two households are once again allowed as of this Monday, January 31st. The following Monday, February 7, cinema, theatres and places of worship can reopen, also at 50% capacity.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early afternoon press conference joined by Health Minister Christian Dubé and Interim National Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau.

Legault specified that restaurants would also have to observe a four person or two household limit per table. Theatres, including ampitheatres like the Bell Centre, will also be limited to 500 people max per room.

The Premier added that Montreal’s Biodôme, Planetarium and Botanical Gardens along with ski chalets and cafeterias will also open on the 31st at 50% capacity. The same day, elementary, high school, CEGEP and university team sports can resume. The vaccine passport will be required for all these places and activities (for those 13 yeas old and up in the case of team sports).

Bars, gyms and spas aren’t included in these first two phases of reopening. Legault mentioned spas and gyms when talking about the third phase but the timeframe for bars remains unclear.

François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

Quebec’s first pandemic curfew lasted for a few months in early 2021, the second one will last just over two weeks. It started on New Year’s Eve and ends Monday (January 17th).

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at a mid-afternoon press conference joined by Health Minister Christian Dubé, interim National Director of Public Health Luc Boileau and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge. The latter was there because the premier also announced that elementary and secondary schools will re-open for in-person learning on Monday with students wearing masks indoors.

Legault also said that he hopes to re-open restaurant dining areas and performance venues in the coming weeks. That is, of course, for those who can prove they are “adequately vaccinated” against COVID.

The vaccine passport, meanwhile, will be required to enter big box stores (with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies) as of January 21st.

The premier said that experts are telling him that the Omicron variant case numbers have peaked and that hospitalizations soon will as well. He cited the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) predictions that came out today to justify loosening of some measures.

Adult Quebecers who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon have to pay a fee if they don’t have a medical exemption preventing them from being vaccinated.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early-afternoon press conference joined by the new Interim National Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau (replacing Dr. Horacio Arruda, who resigned last night) and Health Minister Christian Dubé.

This tax or fee, which Legault described as a “health contribution” will be of a “significant” amount (and Legault doesn’t consider something in the $50-$100 range substantial). According to to the premier:

“All Quebec adults who refuse in the coming weeks to at least get a first dose, will be getting a bill.”

The premier didn’t appear to be concerned about possible legal challenges or opposition to the tax when asked by reporters, arguing instead that the roughly 90% of Quebecers who are vaccinated are “tired” of bearing the brunt for the 10% unvaccinated who make up 50% of those in the hospital with the Omicron COVID variant.

Dr. Horacio Arruda has resigned as Quebec’s National Director of Public Health. While he has held this position since 2012 under governments of different parties, he became a household name in Quebec over the past two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arruda had become a regular fixture on the government’s COVID briefings alongside Premier François Legault and various other government officials.

A spokesperson for the premier confirmed that Arruda had offered his resignation and Legault has accepted. CTV News reported that they had received the resignation letter and printed some parts of it:

“The recent remarks made on the credibility of our opinions and on our scientific rigor undoubtedly cause a certain erosion in the adhesion of the population…In this context, I consider it appropriate to offer you the possibility of replacing me before the end of my term of office, at least as DNSP…Do not see in this gesture as an abandonment on my part, but rather the offer of an opportunity for you to reassess the situation, after several waves [of the pandemic] and in a context in constant evolution.”

The full letter (in French) has since been shared on Twitter.

The government wouldn’t comment further on the resignation at this time but said they would address it in a press conference tomorrow (Tuesday).