Politics

Health spending surge, calls to fund Kabul safe houses : In The News for Nov. 4

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 4 …

What we are watching in Canada …

The Canadian Institute for Health Information is warning of possible future financial challenges for provinces as they work to rebuild their health systems in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newly released projections show the spending surge during the health crisis is expected to reach a record 308 billion dollars in 2021 — more than 8,000 dollars per Canadian.

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Health spending is projected to have increased 12.8 per cent between 2019 and 2020. That’s more than triple the average annual growth rate seen over the last few years.

Historically, increases in health spending have been in step, or slightly greater, than increases in economic growth. When provinces hit hard times, they usually spend less on health care.

Now, as the fourth wave of the pandemic ebbs and health systems turn to the surgical and primary-care backlogs left in its wake, they’ll have to figure out how to handle the extra load while carrying mounting health-spending deficits.

The federal government has promised six-billion dollars to address health care backlogs, but provinces and territories have asked the feds to take on a larger share of health spending in perpetuity.

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Also this …

The Conservative opposition is calling on Liberal government to give urgent funding to Kabul safe houses that are providing refuge to 1,700 Afghan interpreters and their families.

On Friday, those safe houses are set to close because the money keeping them open will run out.

That could leave their occupants at the mercy of Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, who stormed back to power this summer.

Conservative MP James Bezan says the Trudeau government has been missing in action and must step in and fill the spending void.

The government has not directly funded the safe houses, which were seen as a temporary measure to move vulnerable Afghans out of the country following the return to power of the Taliban in mid-August.

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Veterans groups previously raised about $2 million in private donations and now say they will need an additional $5 million to keep the safe house open after Friday.

“Not only did Justin Trudeau fail to get Canadians, interpreters, support staff, and their families out of Afghanistan as the country fell to the Taliban, he is now refusing to fund their safe houses,” Bezan said in a written statement.

“These individuals supported our military heroes in Afghanistan and the least we can do is help make sure they are safe.”

What we are watching in the U.S. …

Schoolchildren take the spotlight this week as the U.S. enters a new phase in COVID-19 vaccination aimed at curbing deaths, hospitalizations and more than a year of disrupted education.

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Hugs with friends, indoor birthday parties and pillow fights were some of the pleasures kids who got their first shots Wednesday said they are looking forward to.

With authorities promising enough supply to protect the nation’s 28 million children ages five to 11, vaccinations began after the final OK late Tuesday. The lower-dose vaccine requires two shots three weeks apart. Children who get vaccinated before Thanksgiving will be fully covered by Christmas.

At a Decatur, Georgia, pediatrician’s office Wednesday, 10-year-old Mackenzie Olson took off her black leather jacket and rolled up her sleeve as her mother looked on.

“I see my friends but not the way I want to. I want to hug them, play games with them that we don’t normally get to,” and have a pillow fight with her best friend, Mackenzie said after getting her shot at the Children’s Medical Group site.

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The atmosphere surrounding the launch of shots for elementary-age students was festive in many locations. California vaccine sites welcomed children with kid-friendly motifs like inflatable animals and handed out colouring books and prizes. Vehicles lined up before dawn at an Atlanta site.

Many pediatricians’ offices were expecting strong interest in the shots at least initially, but health officials are worried about demand tapering off. Almost two-thirds of parents recently polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they would wait or not seek out vaccines for their kids.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

JERUSALEM — Israel’s parliament passed a national budget for the first time in three years early on Thursday, avoiding a November deadline that would have triggered fresh elections.

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The marathon overnight voting on budget bills in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was a major hurdle for the new government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose fractious coalition holds a narrow majority.

Failure to pass the budget by Nov. 14 would have brought down the government that was sworn into office in June and triggered a fifth election in barely three years, giving former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an opportunity to return to power.

Bennett celebrated on Twitter, writing that “after years of chaos — we formed a government, we overcame the Delta variant, and now, thank God, we passed a budget for Israel.”

The Knesset began its overnight session of voting on a series of budget bills, including hundreds of amendments, late on Wednesday. The assembly opened with Bennett and Netanyahu delivering speeches attacking one another.

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The ruling coalition headed by Bennett includes eight parties from across the political spectrum and has a razor-thin margin of 61 seats in the 120-member assembly.

Israel entered a prolonged political crisis after elections in April 2019, when a right-wing party that had been allied with Netanyahu refused to sit in a government with him while he faces criminal indictments. The next two years saw four successive deadlocked elections, and a parliament dissolved in 2020 because it failed to pass a budget.

The government formed in June includes parties ranging from ultranationalists to Islamists united by little more than a desire to avoid another Netanyahu-led government or more elections.

On this day in 1956 …

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Lester Pearson, then external affairs minister, proposed a special UN peacekeeping force to ease the British and French out of Egypt. The plan was approved by the UN General Assembly and Pearson was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. He served as prime minister from 1963-68.

In entertainment …

Katherena Vermette got the call informing her that she’d won the $60,000 fiction prize at the Writers’ Trust Awards while she was stocking up on supplies at Costco.

As her four-year-old daughter wriggled in the cart, Vermette said she decided to celebrate by adding items to her haul.

“We’re just splurging on the water and the pineapple and whatever else,” Vermette joked by phone from Winnipeg.

The Red River Metis poet and author was among the Indigenous wordsmiths to sweep the top two Writers’ Trust Awards at a virtual ceremony Wednesday, with Cree musician and writer Tomson Highway taking the $60,000 non-fiction prize.

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Vermette received the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for her intergenerational saga, “The Strangers,” published by Hamish Hamilton Canada. The book explores the ties that bind the women of the Stranger family even as the forces of inherited trauma, racism and colonialism threaten to drive them apart.

Highway, who is based in Gatineau, Que., received the $60,000 non-fiction award for “Permanent Astonishment: A Memoir,” from Doubleday Canada. The book recounts Highway’s coming of age — from early years travelling throughout the North with his family of nomadic Caribou hunters to his time in residential school.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada handed out a total of more than $330,000 in prizes Wednesday, including four career awards worth $25,000 apiece.

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Metis author Cherie Dimaline received the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, which is given to a mid-career writer in recognition of their past and future achievements in fiction.

Calgary-born Weyman Chan was recognized with the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize honouring a mid-career poet for mastery of the form.

The Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People went to Linda Bailey of Vancouver.

Ottawa-based writer Frances Itani took the Matt Cohen Award celebrating a lifetime of contributions to Canadian literature.

ICYMI …

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada plans to explain publicly how climate change could impact the path of the economy by more closely monitoring how severe weather events could affect the price of consumer goods.

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The central bank’s made the promise Wednesday as part of the UN climate summit in Scotland, just ahead of a report it intends to publish about the risks climate change poses to the financial system, including details on sectoral impacts, and a renewal of the Bank of Canada’s mandate.

The central bank is mandated to keep annual inflation rates hovering around two per cent, but its monetary policy framework gets renewed every five years.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a letter late last month that his party will oppose any “growth or other social mandate expansions” to the Bank of Canada’s mandate.

Speaking on a panel hosted by the Toronto Centre on Wednesday, Bank of Canada deputy governor Toni Gravelle said policies to mitigate the impact of climate change will slow economic growth as carbon-intensive sectors that have helped fuel gains shrink significantly.

He also said there could also be an impact on the financial system, noting the possibility of losses as prices drop for assets not considered as green as others.

It’s why Gravelle said there needs to be better climate-risk disclosures from corporations so financial institutions understand their own exposure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2021

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