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Scott Moe says he feels disenfranchised by Ottawa but Saskatchewan ‘not backing down’

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By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Saskatoon

Scott Moe’s target was the federal government Thursday as he gathered with supporters for the first in-person Saskatoon Premier’s Dinner in three years.

The premier’s speech promoted the province’s booming resource sector, which has seen surging investment and increased market prices since the last dinner gathering.

Moe said growth has always been and will continue to be the Saskatchewan Party government’s “North Star.”

He told the crowd he has felt disenfranchised, disillusioned, disturbed and even dumbfounded at times with Ottawa’s decision-making.

“But we are not discouraged, and we are not backing down,” Moe said during the fundraiser dinner at Prairieland Park.

The premier pointed to a policy paper highlighting his government’s plan to flex its autonomy, as well as a bill introduced this fall to address federalism.

Moe has long pushed against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government’s environmental policies in the name of Saskatchewan’s resource sector. He cautioned that Canada could be moving too quickly into renewable energy without a proper backup plan.

“You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of reality,” he said to applause.

Moe pointed to Saskatchewan’s role in responding to global food and energy shortages caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The resulting worldwide demand has brought increased production in Saskatchewan’s potash, uranium and agriculture industries.

Moe said there’s also investment in rare earth elements and critical minerals.

The boon has had a positive effect on the provincial finances, Moe said, and his government expects to balance the budget ahead of schedule and retire $1 billion in debt.

Moe also acknowledged the next provincial election is under two years away. The Saskatchewan Party won its fourth majority government in 2020 and holds 48 of the province’s 61 seats.

He said his government is best positioned to defend and build on the province’s economic prosperity.

The Opposition New Democrats have criticized Moe for bragging about how well the provincial coffers are doing without responding to inflation or challenges in the health-care system.

Moe also took time in his speech to acknowledge the leadership of Chief Wally Burns of James Smith Cree Nation, who was in attendance.

He said the community and province faced an unimaginable tragedy in September after a mass stabbing left 11 dead and 18 others injured on the First Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon.

“Chief Wally Burns has had to dig deep and provided excellent leadership, not only for his community but all of us in the province.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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COVID-19

Quebec says only people at risk who haven’t had COVID-19 should get booster dose

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Only people who are considered at risk for severe COVID-19 — and who haven’t already been infected — need to get a booster dose, Quebec’s public health director said Thursday.

The vast majority of Quebecers have hybrid immunity — protection through vaccination and through a SARS-CoV-2 infection — making regular boosters unnecessary, at least for this winter and spring, Dr. Luc Boileau told reporters.

“People with hybrid immunity … have a very good protection against a severe form of the illness,” Boileau said. “And this immunity lasts for a long enough time that we can propose changes.”

Those who have been vaccinated but haven’t contracted the virus are also protected against severe COVID-19, he said, but their immunity “has a tendency to drop with time.”

Quebec’s vaccination committee decided to focus the province’s immunization policy on preventing hospitalizations and deaths, he said. People who are 60 and older or who have chronic illnesses, health workers, pregnant women and those who live in isolated regions are among the people who should get a booster every six months — but only if they have never caught the virus, Boileau said.

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chairperson of Quebec immunization committee, said the data shows that people already vaccinated for COVID-19 who have contracted the virus “maintain their protection.”

“Adding a dose doesn’t add a lot protection for severe (illness),” she said.

Health officials estimate that more than three-quarters of Quebecers under 60 have had COVID-19 over the past three years, while about half of those over 60 have caught the virus.

Boileau said only people who are immunocompromised should continue getting boosters even if they’ve been infected, “because their immunity could be affected by their condition.”

Before Thursday’s announcement, boosters were recommended for all people considered at risk of severe COVID-19. Boileau said COVID-19 vaccines will remain available to anyone who wants one. “We won’t refuse anyone,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

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Business

Senate passes Liberals’ controversial online streaming act with a dozen amendments

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By Mickey Djuric in Ottawa

Big tech companies that offer online streaming services could soon be required to contribute to Canadian content as a controversial Liberal bill gets one step closer to becoming law.

The Senate has passed the online streaming act known as Bill C-11 with a dozen amendments following a lengthy study by senators.

The bill would update Canada’s broadcasting rules to reflect online streaming giants such as YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, and require them to contribute to Canadian content and make it accessible to users in Canada — or face steep penalties.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says he hopes the House of Commons will pass the bill next week after it reviews the Senate’s changes.

Senators made amendments intended to protect user-generated content and highlight the promotion of Indigenous languages and Black content creators.

They also included a change that would prohibit CBC from producing sponsored content, and another that would require companies to verify users’ ages before they access sexually-explicit material.

Rodriguez said Thursday that the Liberal government would not accept all of the Senate’s recommendations, but he didn’t say which ones he disagrees with.

“We’ll see when the bill comes back. There are amendments that have zero impact on the bill. And others that do, and those, we will not accept them,” the minister said Thursday during a Canadian Media Producers Association panel.

The Senate also removed a clause in the bill that Sen. Paula Simons described as giving “extraordinary new powers to the government to make political decisions about things.”

Ian Scott, the former chair of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, had told a Senate committee that some provisions in the bill did move the balance point “slightly closer to lessening the independence” of the regulator — though he insisted that it would remain independent.

The CRTC, now under the leadership of Vicky Eatrides, will be tasked with enforcing the bill’s provisions.

The Senate passed the bill on the anniversary of its introduction in the House of Commons.

Between the House of Commons and Senate, there have been approximately 218 witnesses, 43 meetings, 119 briefs and 73 proposed amendments, said Rodriguez.

“It’s the longest bill,” he said.

The proposed law has come under intense scrutiny amid accusations from companies and critics who said it left too much room for government control over user-generated content and social-media algorithms.

Rodriguez said tech giants can get creative with ways they promote Canadian content, such as with billboards, advertising or, if they so choose, tweaks to their algorithms.

The bill has also caught the attention of the United States. Its embassy in Ottawa recently said that it is holding consultations with U.S. companies that it is concerned could face discrimination if the bill passes.

Last week, two U.S. senators called for a trade crackdown on Canada over Bill C-11, saying that the prospective law flouts trade agreements.

“I’m not worried, because we think it complies with trade obligations,” Rodriguez said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

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