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Did Bernier’s party split votes on the right? The answer is nuanced, expert says

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OTTAWA — If Conservative incumbent James Cumming narrowly loses his seat to the Liberals, he might want to blame Brock Crocker.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Cumming was almost 140 votes behind Liberal Randy Boissonnault, who held Edmonton Centre from 2015 until the Conservative flipped it in 2019.

The result might have been different if not for Crocker, the People’s Party of Canada candidate who garnered just over 2,000 votes, signifying a potential pocket of support on the right that could have launched Cumming into the lead.

The situation is one that repeated itself in other parts of the country as the maverick movement led by Maxime Bernier picked up votes, but fell short of winning a seat in the House of Commons.

Trevor Tombe, an economics professor at the University of Calgary, took a look at the results and plotted 25 seats where the combined Conservative and PPC vote was greater than the winner’s share of the votes.

Among the ridings on the list was Edmonton Centre.

Also on Tombe’s list was Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, where Liberal candidate Leah Taylor Roy defeated Conservative incumbent Leona Alleslev, who first won the Toronto-area riding as a Liberal in 2015.

He also flagged Nickel Belt, where Liberal Marc Serre cruised to re-election, and Kitchener-Conestoga, where Conservative Carlene Hawley was a few dozen votes short of Liberal Tim Louis, with some 3,600 votes for PPC candidate Kevin Dupuis.

Tombe estimated that even a small shift of votes to the Conservatives could have meant extra seats for the Tories, although he cautioned against assuming that Conservative candidates would have won if Bernier’s party didn’t exist.

While Bernier likely picked up votes from supporters disenchanted with his former Conservative colleagues, votes also came from other sources and parties, experts say.

Conrad Winn, an expert on public opinion polling from Ottawa’s Carleton University, said some support may come from disenchanted Conservatives, but it could just as easily be more random. He recounted a story of someone who by chance met Bernier at an event and left impressed with the PPC leader.

“Like all parties, it gets support for different kinds of motives,” Winn said.

Winn cautioned it is just as difficult to draw a straight line between the Liberals and NDP because of the multiple reasons people support a party, such as age, geography and family history just to cite a few.

Tombe found on election night that the combined total of Liberal and NDP votes could have pushed either into the lead in almost double the 25 ridings that came up in his comparison between Conservative and PPC votes.

Kathy Brock, a professor of policy studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said Liberals may have lost votes to Bernier from past supporters unhappy with vaccine mandates. She pointed to research by Abacus Data that found a 42-year-old Ontario woman who typically votes Liberal was most likely to be vaccine hesitant.

Complicating matters further is some Tories appear to have voted Liberal because they privately wanted to ensure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wears any fallout from the handling of the pandemic, Brock said.

Bernier lost his bid on election night to recapture the Quebec seat of Beauce he comfortably held for the Tories before his split from the party following his failed leadership run in 2017. Winning a seat is a key deliverable for his backers if Bernier wants to keep them from migrating away, Brock said.

“I’m struggling to see what he can deliver to them, other than an outlet for anger, but they can do that at a protest rather than belonging to a party,” she said.

“People have now seen him in two elections. No seat, no deliverable. Maybe they try some other strategy now, but this is going to be a struggle for Maxime Bernier to try to hold this for two years.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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CFL leaves door open for Argos' quarterback Bethel-Thompson playing in East final

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TORONTO — The CFL has left the door open to McLeod Bethel-Thompson playing in the East Division final Sunday.

The Toronto Argonauts starting quarterback was held out of practice and sent home Friday after attending the Toronto Raptors 97-93 home win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.

That violated the CFL’s COVID-19 protocol, which would’ve normally meant Bethel-Thompson having to quarantine for four days and provide two negative tests before being able to resume team activities.

But Toronto hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the conference final Sunday afternoon at BMO Field.

The CFL announced Friday afternoon Bethel-Thompson will be allowed to play Sunday if he produces negative COVID testing following a 48-hour quarantine at his residence.

Argos Dexter McCoil, Charleston Hughes, Llevi Noel and Jeff Richards also attended the basketball game and will be subject to the same requirements as Bethel-Thompson.

Toronto (9-5) finished atop the East Division standings to secure home-field advantage for the conference final.

Bethel-Thompson was 7-2 as Toronto’s starter this season.

Both the Argos and Raptors are owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment.

If Bethel-Thompson can’t play, Antonio Pipkin will start for Toronto on Sunday.

The six-foot-three, 225-pound Pipkin started Toronto’s season-ending 13-7 home loss to Edmonton on Nov. 16, completing 10-of-22 passes for 111 yards and an interception while rushing for 78 yards and a TD on nine carries.

Video of Bethel-Thompson holding his infant daughter at the NBA game was carried on the Argos’ Twitter account Thursday night but was no longer available Friday.

But it was present long enough for Hamilton receiver Brandon Banks to notice.

“Wow when I tried to go to raptors game the @cfl told me I couldn’t go!” Banks tweeted. “I ain’t snitching but shit fishy ! #Protocol #tier1.”

Bethel-Thompson also appeared on TSN’s broadcast of the Raptors-Bucks game.

TSN is the CFL’s broadcast partner.

“So lemme get this straight,” TSN’s Kayla Grey, who interviewed Bethel-Thompson during the broadcast, tweeted Friday. ” … a starting quarterback goes on a national broadcast to promote an East Final that he is now forced to miss because the league is forcing him to quarantine for going to a game to promote said East Final?

“Baby what a mess.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Canada buying up to 1.5 million courses of oral antiviral drugs to fight COVID-19

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OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi says Canada has signed agreements to buy up 1.5 million courses of oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19.

The government has signed up for an initial one million courses of antiviral treatment, once Health Canada endorses their safety and efficacy. 

Pfizer submitted a request for Health Canada approval earlier this week. 

Canada has also purchased 500,000 courses of Merck’s oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19, with the option to purchase another 500,000 once Health Canada approves the drug. 

The drugs are designed to block the enzyme essential for viral replication.

Merck’s clinical trial showed a 50 per cent reduced risk of hospitalization or death compared to placebo patients with mild or moderate COVID-19. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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