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‘How disconnected do you have to be?’ Trudeau rallies Liberal convention with stinging attacks on Conservatives

Apr 10, 2021 8:03:00 PM

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OTTAWA – As weekend parties go, the cops weren’t called, the neighbours dropped in, the guests didn’t revolt. And there’s was lots of red meat for a political base to chew on.

The mid-pandemic online Liberal Party policy convention lovefest that ended Saturday saw little of the internal griping and technical glitches of the NDP convention running in parallel online. And no embarrassing policy divide over climate change that the Conservative Party convention saw exposed between its leader and grassroots members last month.

Instead, the three-day virtual Liberal event attended by more than 4,000 delegates was all raw politics, all the time.

It featured cabinet ministers who painted Conservatives as willing to risk Canadians’ health out of stinginess. It offered the grassroots volunteers free campaigning advice from American Democrats fresh off a winning election. And it featured a high-profile endorsement from Mark Carney, the former central bank governor, former head of the Bank of England, and now climate action-and-finance guru, who pledged to support the Liberal Party, but didn’t commit to run.

It all appeared to put the Liberals in a higher state of election readiness than their rivals, even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists he’s not looking to call an election anytime soon.

In a keynote speech peppered with more partisan shots than he usually takes as prime minister, Trudeau closed the convention and rallied his troops by praising their “energy and positivity,” and said the government and party supporters cannot relax now.

Trudeau touted the Liberals’ record of “real change” for people in lifting 400,000 children out of poverty, boosting seniors’ income security and supporting diversity, but he pointed to gaps exposed in long-term care, children who are at risk of “going hungry” because of the pandemic, and ongoing discrimination, “inequity and injustice” revealed during the crisis of the last year.

“There’s still work to do,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau spoke from a studio livestreamed to an online audience as a few dozen delegates were projected on a big screen in front of him. He said they faced a “once-in-a-generation moment to build the kind of tomorrow we all want to see.”

The Liberal leader took square aim at Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and his party, saying he delivers different messages in different parts of the country, and is “unable to grasp” what needs to be done to meet the real needs of people.

Conservatives, said Trudeau, would have cut CERB amid the country’s worst economic crisis, viewed young people as lazy for having no summer job in a pandemic, “flirted with disinformation on public health and vaccines,” and deny climate change is real “even as people’s basements flood and wildfires tear though communities.”

“How disconnected do you have to be?” Trudeau asked in each instance.

Trudeau took shots at the Bloc Québécois, his main opponent for votes in Quebec, saying it only seeks to create divisions, while the Liberals “deliver” for Quebeckers.

He did not name the Liberals’ other opponents for progressive votes, the NDP and Greens, but urged supporters to reach out to those who had a “a blue, or orange, or green lawn sign” to enlist the disenchanted.

“This team is focused on solutions to the challenges we face, from health to jobs, from human rights to the environment,” Trudeau said.

But the Liberal convention showed most grassroots Liberals would like the federal government to move faster in many of those areas.

Delegates passed policy resolutions that are not binding on the government, but that called on it to implement a universal basic income, enforceable national standards for long-term care homes, a national pharmacare program – all policies the Trudeau government has cooled to — and a 10-year “national mobilization” plan to implement a “green new deal” to achieve the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

They voted for faster action on the recommendations from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, and for a 10-per-cent increase in old age security for those 70 and over, more money for affordable housing, a trans-Canada high-speed rail line, expanded access to high-speed Internet, and more legal protections for whistleblowers.

Only a handful of resolutions that made it through a year-long process of vetting and prioritization were ultimately rejected by the grassroots.

Among those Liberals voted down: wealth taxes, including a tax on inherited assets over $2 million and a reduction of the capital gains tax exemption by 40 per cent; forgiveness of student loans through volunteer work (which some feared would make unpaid work mandatory); and a resolution to address systemic barriers to diversity and inclusion which some argued didn’t go far enough. And the Liberals decided against a resolution which called for retraining and relocation support for displaced energy workers because it also called for an end to government support for nuclear energy. Delegates argued small modular nuclear reactors are part of the clean energy solution.

Trudeau made no promises, but said “we are integrating these ideas into our plan.”

As the convention neared its end, party president Suzanne Cowan said “we don’t know when” the next federal election will be but “we have the plan that is needed right now.”

The Liberals named their national campaign co-chairs, former industry minister Navdeep Bains and regional economic development minister Mélanie Joly, who issued a plea to women to sign up to run for the party. The Liberals have named 133 candidates to date.

“We won’t cede any ground,” said Cowan. “We are the progressive movement in Canada.”

However, with the New Democrat convention going on at the same time, there were duelling claims to that political turf.

B.C. Premier John Horgan in a speech to the federal NDP said, “Let’s say to those parties that like to campaign as New Democrats, ‘Get out of the way, we’re already here.’ ”

And NDP MP Charlie Angus issued a statement mocking the Liberals’ star endorsement from Carney.

“The Liberals are turning to a banker to save the party brand. Carney is just the latest in a long list of patrician white millionaires who supposedly know best. The NDP convention is focused on building a base among Canadians who are fed up and want to see change that will actually be delivered,” he said.

The Liberals promised that more change is coming. In a just over a week, the Trudeau government will introduce its first budget of its second mandate.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has said the Liberals plan $100 billion in stimulus spending over three years.

At the convention Freeland emphasized the “political opportunity presented by the pandemic” to build a bold national child care program to ensure women’s greater labour force participation.

‘It’s just one injustice after the other.’ Seven arrested in Mississauga rally against Ejaz Choudry ruling

Apr 10, 2021 9:19:13 PM

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Seven people were arrested on Saturday during a rally in Mississauga to protest the police killing of 62-year-old Ejaz Choudry, who died in June 2020.

The organizers, the Malton People’s Movement (MPM), called for a protest in front of the building where Choudry had lived — and was fatally shot. The demonstration, which started around 1 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Morning Star Drive and Goreway Drive before migrating north along Goreway, shut down several intersections in Mississauga.

The rally followed a decision last week by Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit to clear the Peel Police officers who were involved in the fatal shooting.

Chantelle Krupka, a spokesperson for MPM, told the Star that around 50 to 60 protesters peacefully gathered around 1 p.m. Saturday before marching north along Goreway toward nearby Metrolinx railway tracks.

“That’s when things got sticky,” Krupka said. “It seems there was already a barricade of Peel Regional Police there.”

Peel Police spokesperson Const. Akhil Mooken said that the protesters “attempted to push through police safety lines.”

At that point, he said, it was “no longer considered a peaceful gathering.”

Krupka saw it a little differently.

“The only people who were violent were the police,” she said. “Somebody got tased and beaten with a baton and taken in.”

Const. Mooken confirmed that seven people were arrested but could not comment on their charges or why they were arrested.

“Everything you were told about police being the potential aggressors is false,” he said. “If you look at any of the live videos that (MPM) posted, any of the media videos that are out there, you can see clearly that it was the demonstrators that attempted to push their way through the police safety line.”

Choudry was killed in his home after police were called by his family for a wellness check. Choudry had a history of paranoia and schizophrenia.

According to the SIU report, Choudry was shot after moving towards police with a “large kitchen knife.” The officers had climbed up to his balcony with a ladder. They first tried to stop the man with a Taser, then rubber bullets, before the fatal shots were fired.

“There is no basis to proceed with criminal charges in this case notwithstanding Mr. Choudry’s tragic death,” said SIU director Joseph Martino in his report, stating he was “not reasonably satisfied” the shooting “amounted to legally unjustified force or was the culmination of a criminally negligent course of conduct.”

The SIU is a civilian watchdog that investigates serious injury, death or alleged sexual assault involving police.

Krupka, who is pregnant, said she fled the scene after the initial police crackdown.

“People are retreating, people are nervous,” she said. “We’re just trying to regroup and find out where our comrades are.”

“It’s just one injustice after the other,” Krupka said. “As long as there’s no accountability these types of things are going to be happening. It’s very much life and death for us.”

Kevin Jiang is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Reach him via email: kjiang@thestar.ca

‘Pretty scary scenarios’ as COVID-hit ICUs to begin measures including forced transfers, training doctors to be critical-care nurses

Apr 10, 2021 7:00:00 AM

3ornge pretty scary scenarios as covid hit icus to begin measures including forced transfers training doctors to be critical care nurses 10 04 2021 gta news thestar dam content www.thestar.com  https:

Ontario’s hospitals are confronting a crisis point in the pandemic as the ongoing crush of COVID-19 patients threatens to outpace their ability to cope.

With a record 552 COVID-19 patients in ICUs — a number predicted to escalate to 600 within the next week — the province directed hospitals to postpone non-urgent procedures, including cancer and heart surgeries, for the first time since last March.

Late Friday, the province issued two emergency orders that will see health workers, including nurses and care co-ordinators, be redeployed as needed, and allow overwhelmed hospitals to transfer patients to other sites without first gaining consent.

Since April 1, 130 COVID-19 patients have been transferred out of overloaded hospitals, some transported as far away as London and Kingston, while the Hospital for Sick Children, which this week opened a critical care unit for younger adults with COVID-19, has already admitted four patients.

And starting this weekend, at least one Toronto-area hospital will begin training physician volunteers so they can help critical care nurses in the ICU, as a way to immediately add more staff to keep up with a flood of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

“We are at the most threatening point in the pandemic,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, executive vice-president of medical at Ontario Health. “The potential for bad things to happen is more than hypothetical and the response has to match the gravity of the situation.”

As the third wave rushes ahead, with no signs of slowing, the province logged more than 4,000 new cases on Friday — the highest daily count in the pandemic.

The ever-soaring case counts signal to medical leaders that hundreds of hospitalizations will soon follow, placing a devastating and uneven burden on many GTA hospitals that never fully recovered from the second wave.

“We’re seeing the daily growth of new cases start to hit that kind of vertical part of the curve,” said Simpson. “When we start to project what the next two, four and six weeks look like, it starts to get us to some pretty scary scenarios where the numbers in ICUs and hospitals get to the point where it’s going to overwhelm some parts of the system.”

Simpson said the medical community is working “system-wide and all-hands-on-deck” to avoid a triage situation that would force physicians with limited resources and staff to choose which patient would receive life-saving intervention. Given current trends, the triage tool — if needed — would first be used in struggling GTA hospitals, he said.

“Imagine coming into work one morning and you’ve got 25 patients with COVID in your emergency department who need to be intubated and you’ve got absolutely no room, then this triage tool starts to be considered,” he said.

“Making a decision that this person lives, and this person doesn’t get a chance … that is a devastating point I hope we just don’t get to. If we’re ever going to do something really dramatic and big to prevent that, it’s got to be now.

“We have to create as much capacity as we possibly can in the moment.”

Between mid-November and April 5, about 1,400 patients, including general medicine patients, have been transferred, according to a spokesperson from Ontario Health. So far in April, 130 COVID-19 patients have been moved, including 51 by Ornge critical care land ambulances and four by the service’s helicopters, a spokesperson for the air ambulance agency said.

Mass patient transfers out of hard-hit hospitals helps share the burden across the system. Friday’s provincial emergency order to allow physicians to transfer patients to other sites without requiring patient or family consent is meant to help an overstrained hospital quickly move patients to where there is capacity, Simpson said.

Dr. Niall Ferguson, head of critical care medicine at the University Health Network and Sinai Health System, said the regional command centre is co-ordinating patient transfers within the GTA and — more recently and with greater frequency — outside the region to ensure capacity in case of a local patient surge.

“We’re trying to decompress the region a little bit … so that we’re more prepared if a crunch comes at an individual site,” said Ferguson, critical care lead for Ontario Health’s Toronto Region.

Though moving patients far from home puts a strain on families, the goal is to be fair and equitable at a system level and to maximize health outcomes, he said.

“Right now, in some instances, transfers are the way people are going to get the best care … they are moving to a place where a health-care team is not overwhelmed.”

Peel’s William Osler Health System has 132 COVID-19 patients across its two sites — the most so far in the pandemic — and its emergency departments at Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital are at or above pre-pandemic patient volumes.

On Thursday, Osler transferred 10 acute care patients and five critical care patients, and in recent days its emergency departments have been crowded with patients, said Dr. Andrew Healey, Osler’s chief of emergency services.

“Those patients are now mixed with COVID-19 patients who have very high-acuity disease and who are deteriorating very rapidly,” Healey said. “Last evening, we had four intubated and ventilated patients occupying all four of our resuscitation bases at one time. We’re relying upon minute-to-minute updates from our partners — Ornge and other hospitals — in order to transfer those patients out.”

On April 6, Osler put out an urgent call for “approximately 100 physicians across the departments of medicine, surgery, anesthesia, pediatrics, emergency medicine and family medicine to help staff ICUs and COVID wards as physician extenders,” according to a memo obtained by the Star.

So far, more than 80 Osler physicians have volunteered, with doctors from other hospitals also offering help, Healey said. Training begins this weekend, and physicians will next week be working alongside ICU nurses and respiratory therapists to add more bedside care for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

It’s the first time in the pandemic Osler has needed physicians to augment nursing staff in its ICUs and COVID wards, Healey said.

“Our health-care system is pressured today, more than ever before. And we are going to be pressured tomorrow, more than today. And the prospect that this will grow is frightening.

“We have never faced a challenge like this. Can we do it? We can. But we will need every lever within the health-care system … and every health-care professional to be ready to help.”

Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington is moving to team-based care in its ICU and acute care wards in anticipation of a further surge in patients. This means physician and nursing staff who don’t normally work in the ICU will be paired with an experienced ICU doctor or nurse to work as a team, said the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Ian Preyra.

“We might have one of our anesthesiologists who, instead of working in the operating room, will come and work with one of our intensive care physicians so that together, they can take care of more patients,” he said.

Already at critical care capacity, the hospital is planning for additional ICU space by taking over its endoscopy unit and post-operative unit to accommodate more patients should there be a surge, Preyra said, noting the plans have been in place since March 2020.

“This is the first time we have had to deploy it on a large scale in the pandemic.”

The province’s two temporary emergency orders — effective as of Friday evening — are valid for 14 days unless revoked or extended. Along with other measures, these orders “are expected to increase ICU capacity in the province by up to 1,000 patient beds,” according to a news release by the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Barry Rubin, medical director of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and co-lead of University Health Network’s clinical activity recovery team, said UHN is implementing its plan to further ramp down surgeries to accommodate the growing need for critical care beds.

The plan, designed in consultation with an ethicist, considers more than just the number of available beds, but also staffing levels and the impact on patients, including the severity of their need and how long they’ve been waiting.

Rubin said UHN’s hospitals will continue to provide access to patients in the most serious situations.

“If somebody has a life-, limb- or vision-threatening problem, we’re going to be there and we will be able to take care of those patients,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are some patients that have diseases where we are going to have to pause.”

Megan Ogilvie is a Toronto-based health reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @megan_ogilvie

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