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Postelection review to probe where Conservatives bled votes to People’s Party, NDP

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OTTAWA — The former MP leading the review into the Conservatives’ election performance says it will examine how Tories lost votes to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.

James Cumming, an Alberta representative who lost his seat to the Liberals’ Randy Boissonnault, says he will begin reaching out to candidates and campaign teams this week.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole tapped Cumming to review the party’s campaign after it was defeated by the Liberals and won two fewer seats than it did in the 2019 federal vote.

Cumming says he will probe the party’s campaign strategy, its ground game and the data it used, as well as O’Toole’s tour over the 36-day race.

One of the questions hanging over the Conservatives is the role Bernier’s right-wing populist party played in their loss.

“Anywhere that we’ve had bleed of vote, I think that that’s important that we study and understand what the factors were, so the PPC would represent some of that,” Cumming said in an interview.

“In Alberta we saw significant bleed of vote to the NDP, so that’s an entirely different situation … in all cases we have to look at where we performed and where we didn’t perform and do that analysis on a riding-by-riding basis, region-by-region basis to better understand what the dynamics are within that vote.”

Conservatives saw losses in both Calgary and Edmonton as Liberal and NDP candidates there attacked Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs, who was re-elected last month, has expressed concern over her share of the vote dropping since the last election. Earlier this month, she wondered aloud how policies from O’Toole played with conservative-minded voters. That included his promise to keep spending billions of dollars and the confusion created mid-campaign when he decided instead of lifting a Liberal ban on some 1,500 firearms models, to subject it to a review.

Bernier ran his second federal election as PPC leader by deriding the Conservative leader as being a phoney. This time around, however, he shifted his focus away from immigration reform and largely railed against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 public health restrictions.

O’Toole’s candidates, meanwhile, posted their own videos and circulated messages stressing that while Conservatives encourage vaccinations, they believe people should have the freedom to make their own health decisions and would only support bringing in a proof-of-vaccination system for international travel.

Although the PPC failed once again to win any seats in the House of Commons, it mounted enough of a threat that O’Toole spent his final days on the campaign trail issuing increasingly direct warnings to supporters not to split the vote by casting a ballot for Bernier, cautioning that doing so would lead to another Liberal government.

Following the Sept. 20 election, University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe shared an analysis showing 25 seats where together, the Conservative and PPC vote was greater than the winner’s share.

Cumming said his analysis will look at the how other parties performed, particularly in ridings where Conservatives were locked in a tight race.

“The analysis has to include who had the support in certain areas and where did the support come from.”

He hopes to be finished most of the review work this fall, which will include a one-on-one session with O’Toole.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, 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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