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COVID-19

Opposition requests Auditor General look into 900 million dollar outsourcing to WE Charity

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Last week Prime Minister Trudeau announced WE Charity was going to be hired to pay post-secondary students between $1,000 and $5,000 for volunteer work. The outsourcing of a contract of nearly a billion dollars to deliver a government program is setting off alarm bells with the Conservative Opposition.  Pierre Poilievre has responded by writing the following letter to Canada’s Auditor General.


Dear Auditor General,
WE may have a problem.

Ms. Karen Hogan
Auditor General of Canada
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

June 28, 2020

Dear Auditor General Hogan,

On Thursday, June 25th, the Liberal government announced they will be outsourcing the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), a $900 million-dollar program, to the internationally mandated WE Charity. The CSSG will pay post-secondary students and recent graduates between $1,000 and $5,000 dollars for volunteer work. Outsourcing a $900 million-dollar program designed to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work to a third party raises justifiable concerns and a number of questions. In addition, the connections between WE Charity and the Prime Minister are well documented.

In a display of cross-partisan collaboration, the House of Commons mandated your office to conduct an audit of the government’s COVID-19 spending. Your office included the COVID-19 spending audit in its top three prioritized audits to be completed. On June 9th, the Standing Committee on Finance passed a unanimous motion (10 YEAS to 0 NAYS) calling on your office to audit all programs associated with COVID-19, and for the government to provide your office with sufficient funding to do so. During your appearance at Finance Committee on Monday, June 22nd, you stated:

“We viewed the committee’s motion as reinforcing the importance of our work and its value to parliament. We pride ourselves in supporting Parliament to the best of our abilities. Given our current resourcing and funding levels, we need to be selective when deciding on the audits that we conduct; we will not be able to audit each, and every federal program associated with Canada’s COVID-19 response.”

Auditor General, we are writing to ask your office and team of auditors to include the $900 million-dollar CSSG program and the government’s outsourcing of it to WE Charity in your final report to Parliament on the government’s pandemic spending. By outsourcing this program to a third party, the proper channels for Opposition scrutiny, the very bedrock of our parliamentary democracy, have been circumvented. Indeed, it is your office that will provide the most legitimate and transparent examination of this program.

The Trudeau government has brought forward unprecedented levels of spending and administration of programs due to COVID-19, but this does not mean that accountability, transparency and value for money should be ignored. Simply put, they can never be ignored.

Auditor General, we look forward to your response to our request to include the government’s $900 million-dollar Canada Student Service Grant, and the administration of this program to the internationally run WE Charity, in your final report to Parliament on the government’s COVID-19 spending.

Sincerely,

Hon. Pierre Poilievre, M.P.
Shadow Minister for Finance

Dan Albas, M.P.
Shadow Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Raquel Dancho, M.P.
Shadow Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth

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COVID-19

CDC confirms Extremely Low COVID-19 Death Rate (Global View)

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CDC Confirms Extremely Low COVID-19 Death Rate

This is a repost.  Very significant information.

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COVID-19

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

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OTTAWA — For the last four months, Canada’s public health experts have been racing to stop the spread of COVID-19 by trying to figure out how everyone is getting it, and whom they may have given it to.

But even the best efforts have left doctors stymied about the source of more than one-third of this country’s known COVID-19 infections. Not knowing where cases come from makes outbreaks that much harder to stamp out.

Now medical researchers and supercomputers are turning genetics labs into virus detective agencies, looking first to find the novel coronavirus itself within blood samples from thousands of infected patients, and then comparing all of those isolated viruses to each other looking for places they differ.

Every close match will draw a line from patient to patient, ultimately painting a picture of how the virus spread.

“This is the big effort over the next four weeks,” said Andrew McArthur, director of the biomedical discovery and commercialization program at McMaster University.

“What’s going to come out of there pretty soon is a glimpse of what just happened, how did it move around the province, how did it move between provinces or how big was Pearson (airport) in the early days of the airport being open.”

Knowing how the virus spread will show where there were weaknesses in public health measures early on, said McArthur. Being able to keep divining genetic codes from samples will mean when there are flare-ups of cases, they can be quickly compared to each other to see if they’re all related or are coming from multiple sources.

It means, for example, a long-term care centre should be able to quickly know if its 10 new cases are because one case spread widely or arose from multiple carriers coming into the facility.

“That’s a very different infection-control problem,” said McArthur.

It also means that maybe, just maybe, the second COVID-19 wave most think is coming won’t be as bad, or as hard to control, as the first, because the sources can be isolated very quickly.

“A second wave is likely,” McArthur said. “But we’ve never spent this kind of money and effort before, either, so maybe we’ll beat it.”

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003.

This genetic mapping is constantly on the look-out for mutations. Thus far, SARS-CoV-2, the official name for the virus that causes COVID-19, has not mutated as quickly as many others do. Influenza, for instance, changes so much over a year the vaccine has to be retooled every summer to keep up.

But there are enough subtle changes still happening among the 28,000 individual markers that make up a genome for SARS-CoV-2 that cases can be traced backward and linked to the ones that came before. McArthur said it takes a lot of data storage, a lot of high-capacity computer analysis, and a lot of money, to run the comparisons among them all.

The federal government put $40 million on the table in April for genetic research on COVID-19. Half is to keep tabs on the virus as it spreads, look for any changes it undergoes, and map its pathway across the country. The other half is to look at the genetic structures of the patients who get infected, trying to answer the puzzling question of why some people die and others have symptoms so mild they never even know they are sick.

Genome Canada is administering the project, with six regional genomics agencies overseeing the work locally and labs like McArthur’s doing the testing and analysis. The funding is intended to create genetic maps from 150,000 patients. Canada thus far has had about 108,000 positive cases, and the expectation is that almost every one of them will be gene-mapped.

The results will be loaded into a global site comparing all known infections of COVID-19, but also be analyzed for national and regional reports.

In New York, genetic sequencing was used to figure out that COVID-19 in Manhattan wasn’t coming from China and Iran as imagined, but from Europe. In Canada, it is suspected that much of the virus came into this country from travellers returning from the United States in early March. But the work is only now beginning to confirm that belief.

McArthur estimates the first data will be available for Ontario in about four weeks, but warns it will take many more months to complete all of the tests. His lab sequenced 600 samples on Wednesday alone.

Overall, McArthur expects the genetics project to last for two years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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july, 2020

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