Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he would unveil his new cabinet next month and bring back parliament by fall’s end to tackle climate change, Covid and economic recovery.
In his first news conference since winning a September 20 snap election, Trudeau said his minority Liberal government has been given a mandate “to move even stronger, even faster on the big things that Canadians really want.”
He listed, as examples, measures to fight climate change, further boost Canada’s Covid vaccination rates — already among the highest in the world — and bolster Canada’s economic recovery.
He also said to expect a decision “in the coming weeks” on whether to ban Huawei equipment from Canada’s 5G wireless networks, after the United States and other key allies did so.
“We continue to weigh and look at the different options,” he said of Huawei, noting that Canada’s telecoms companies have already “started to remove Huawei from their networks and are moving forward in ways that don’t involve them as a company.”
Canada had felt squeezed between China and the United States over its arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition warrant, with two of its own nationals detained in apparent retaliation on what Trudeau has said were trumped-up espionage charges.
All three were freed and repatriated on Friday after Meng reached a deal with US prosecutors.
The makeup of Trudeau’s new cabinet is still being sorted out, but he revealed that Chrystia Freeland would remain his number two as well as finance minister.
Meanwhile, Elections Canada announced the final election results, awarding 159 House of Commons seats to Trudeau’s Liberals — 11 shy of a majority — and 119 to the main opposition Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole.
Three smaller parties grabbed the remainder of the 338 seats.
Justin Trudeau’s snap election gamble has landed the Canadian leader back at square one: reelected without a majority, the liberal prime minister will once more need backing from opposition rivals to govern.
His Liberals were leading or elected in 158 out of 338 electoral districts, according to official projections Tuesday morning.
The Conservatives, with 119 seats, will return to Ottawa as official opposition, while Trudeau will need to try to secure support from smaller factions — the separatist Bloc Quebecois (with 34 seats) or the leftist New Democrats (25) — to pass his agenda.
Before going back to work, Trudeau gladhanded commuters at a subway station in his Montreal electoral district of Papineau. “It is I who thank you,” he told supporters, snapping selfies with a few.
“I am very happy with the way he managed the pandemic” and “am happy to know that it is he who will get us out of it,” said Giugetta Iovino.
Others reminded him of their high expectations. “I’m counting on you to act for the environment!” called out a young woman.
In a victory speech late Monday, Trudeau said he heard loud and clear: “You just want to get back to the things you love and not worry about this pandemic, or about an election.”
He acknowledged that Canadians voted for “your members of Parliament of all stripes (to) have your back in this crisis, and beyond.”
At the same time, the prime minister leaned on Canadians to embrace bold new measures, saying: “The moment we face demands real important change and you have given this parliament and this government clear direction.”
US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also applauded Trudeau on his win, underscoring their respective nations’ warm ties with Canada.
In a call, Biden and Trudeau also discussed “their shared commitment to strengthening the resilience and competitiveness” of their economies and coordinating their pandemic response, according to a statement.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also congratulated Trudeau, saying, “We share the same values and vision of essential multilateralism in the face of global challenges.”
– ‘Clearly a failure’ – Trudeau started his campaign high in the polls, hoping to parlay a smooth Covid-19 vaccine rollout into a mandate to steer Canada’s pandemic exit.
But in the end the Liberals’ seat count remained virtually unchanged, with only three more than in the last parliament.
“It was clearly a failure,” said Andre Lamoureux, a politics professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.
The difference from the last parliament “is absolutely minimal. It’s like taking the same photo from a slightly different angle,” he said, adding that Trudeau may now face challenges to his leadership of the party.
“He has failed to bring home a majority government after achieving one (in 2015). And two elections in a row (2019 and 2021), he’s lost the popular vote,” commented Elliot Tepper of Carleton University in Ottawa.
To prop up his minority government, Trudeau is most likely to tap the New Democrats, with whom the Liberals are ideologically aligned.
“When we support one another, when we lift each other up, we all rise,” its leader Jagmeet Singh said.
The Bloc may also be counted on to back certain legislation, its leader Yves-Francois Blanchette said.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, used his concession speech to once again blast Trudeau for calling the snap election in the middle of the pandemic, saying the election “only made worse” divisions exposed by the public health crisis.
The rookie leader, elected as head of the Conservatives only last year, vowed to stay on and ready his party for another election fight likely to come, he said, within two years.
The Tories actually won more votes Monday than the Liberals, but Liberal support was more concentrated allowing it to pick up more seats.
O’Toole’s predecessor was forced out after a similar result in the 2019 election, and O’Toole is already facing pushback from his rank and file for tracking the party to the center.
Tepper suggested this election marked “the beginning of a realigning” of the political landscape.
The Greens held onto to two seats, but despite climate change being top of mind for voters, the party saw a steep drop in support from the last ballot, and leader Annamie Paul was shut out in her bid for a seat.
Former foreign minister Maxime Bernier’s libertarian People’s Party did not win any seats, but saw its popular support climb to five percent.
“The People’s Party,” said Tepper, “represents a populist movement that Canada has not seen, but is very familiar in the United States and across Europe.”
“It’s expanded its beachhead in Canada,” he said, and the Conservatives’ move to the centre “clears a lot of space on the right of the (political) spectrum in Canada for that party to grow.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seeking a third term in office in snap elections later this month, has repeatedly faced off against angry protesters on the campaign trail. And now, one has even thrown stones at him.
The incident happened on Monday as the Liberal Party leader was leaving an event at a microbrewery in London, a city southwest of Toronto in Ontario province. Someone in the crowd threw what appeared to be a handful of gravel at the prime minister, TV images showed.
Trudeau, members of his security detail and journalists were reportedly struck. No one was injured.
The incident drew condemnation from Trudeau’s main rival, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh.
Trudeau — who has slipped in the polls and is now in a statistical dead heat with O’Toole — has faced off on several recent occasions with what he described as “anti-vaxxer mobs” angry with his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Protesters enraged over proposed mandatory coronavirus vaccines and other crisis measures have shouted racial and misogynist slurs at his entourage.
Last week, he was forced to cancel an event over security concerns.
“Yes, there is a small fringe element in this country that is angry, that doesn’t believe in science, that is lashing out with racist, misogynistic attacks,” Trudeau said at a campaign stop.
“But Canadians, the vast majority of Canadians, are not represented by them, and I know will not allow those voices, those special interest groups, those protesters — I don’t even want to call them protesters, those anti-vaxxer mobs — to dictate how this country gets through this pandemic.”
Albania said it was ready on Sunday to temporarily host hundreds of Afghan refugees bound for the United States, including women leaders, government officials and others in danger from the Taliban.
“NATO member Albania is ready to shoulder its share of the burden,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said on his facebook page on Sunday.
“Washington has already asked Albania to consider the possibility of serving as a transit country for a number of Afghan political immigrants whose final destination would be the United States,” he said.
Rama said Tirana had already received requests for Albania to provide refuge for “hundreds of people from intellectual circles and women activists. Afghan women on the Taliban execution lists”.
“We will not say ‘no’, and not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania,” Rama said.
The US, Britain and other Western countries are in a race against time to evacuate their own citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans who worked for them and fear reprisals by the Taliban.
Canada has also expressed its readiness to welcome more than 20,000 refugees.
At the request of the United States, in 2006, Albania agreed to host five Chinese Uyghurs detained at Guantanamo, considered by Beijing to be terrorists.
In 2013, at the request of Washington and the UN, Albania hosted 200 members of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMPI). Their number has since increased and there are now about 3,000 in Ashraf and Manze, the largest group of PMOI exiles in the world.
Canadians wanting to eat at a restaurant, go to a bar or gym, or attend a festival in Quebec will have to present a vaccine passport starting September 1, officials announced Tuesday.
The province will be the first in Canada to require such passes, which are increasingly being used across the world to limit entry to public places to those who have been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or tested negative.
They are also hugely controversial in some jurisdictions leading to mass protests against mandatory inoculations.
“Our objective with the passport is not to go backwards to a lockdown and, at the same time, to avoid overloading our hospitals,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube told a news conference.
Health officials have warned that Covid-19 infections are once again on the rise after plunging in June and July, despite more than 60 percent of the Canadian population being fully vaccinated.
The Quebec government is to clarify in the coming weeks which public places will be obliged to require the vaccine passports, which will be in paper or electronic format.
New York was the first American city to announce last week the introduction of vaccine passes for access to public places.
Quebec, the second most populous province in Canada after Ontario, recorded 234 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.
Some 84 percent of Quebecers have received a first dose of vaccine and 70 percent are fully vaccinated.
Dube warned that a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections led by the more contagious Delta variant in the fall was “inevitable.”
To date, the Delta variant is responsible for a third of Covid-19 cases in Quebec but the minister expects it to increase to 50 percent “in the coming weeks.”
American visitors trickled across the Canada-US border on Monday, cheering the reopening of the world’s longest land boundary 17 months after all non-essential travel was halted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Ottawa lifted quarantine requirements for US citizens and permanent residents arriving with proof of vaccination.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Vicki Poulin said of the border reopening. “We’re just so happy to be here.”
The Canadian-born resident of Queensbury, New York, her American husband and their dog Sully used to make the trip to see her extended family in Montreal every month, but have not visited since the border was shuttered in March 2020.
“I was so happy that they opened (the border) because I have a lot of friends in Canada,” echoed Richard Antaki, who drove nonstop from New York City to be among the first in line at the Lacolle, Quebec border crossing.
He said he was so eager to reconnect with friends in Montreal that he hasn’t seen in more than a year and a half that he “didn’t touch the brakes” of his car the entire ride up.
Most travellers interviewed by AFP said their crossings went smoothly, with lineups much shorter than expected.
The changes come, however, as Covid-19 cases are starting to surge once again across North America, led by the Delta variant after a steep drop in infections in early summer.
Ottawa and Washington had faced increasing pressure from travel and tourism groups to ease travel and border restrictions.
A strike by Canadian border agents last week risked throwing border reopening plans into turmoil, but quick negotiations led to a new collective agreement and in the end there were no major disruptions.
US citizens and permanent residents who have had their full course of doses of a vaccine approved by Canadian authorities at least 14 days before arrival will be allowed to cross.
Travellers must also be asymptomatic on arrival.
Washington, however, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, was “continuing to review” its border restrictions for Canadians wishing to head south for a vacation.
Half of the US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 81 percent of Canadians have received a single dose and 68 percent are fully immunized.
Louis Vuitton, Porsche and Bulgari on Tuesday joined a legion of brands in dropping Chinese-Canadian pop idol Kris Wu, as sexual assault allegations swirling around the star drew condemnation across Chinese social media.
The scandal has parallels with China’s #MeToo movement sparked by Chinese feminists in 2018, where women were empowered to voice their experiences of sexual harassment — sometimes involving powerful public figures.
Nineteen-year-old student Du Meizhu accused Wu, 30, of date-raping her when she was 17 in a Sunday interview with Chinese news portal NetEase.
Du said the K-pop star had attempted to buy her silence with 500,000 RMB ($77,100) and told the outlet she planned to go ahead “with legal proceedings”.
Wu, who also holds Canadian citizenship and grew up between Vancouver and Guangzhou, has denied the allegations on social media.
“I only met Miss Du once at a friend’s gathering, I didn’t ply her with alcohol… I have never ‘coerced women into sex’ or engaged in ‘date rape’,” the megastar also known as Wu Yifan, wrote on Monday, adding he does not sleep with underage girls.
Wu’s studio also published a lengthy response to Du’s claims, denying any wrongdoing and alleging that she only met him once at a party, tried to extort his staff for millions of yuan and falsified her accusations.
“The studio has already launched the legal accountability process,” they wrote Monday evening.
Du’s claims sparked a wave of online condemnation of the megastar, as well as an outpouring of support for Du and female victims of sexual assault more generally.
The fallout has been significant, given its links with one of China’s most bankable stars.
Since Monday a growing number of brands including Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Porsche and Tencent Video have announced on social media that they were dropping or suspending their collaborations with Wu.
“Bulgari attaches great importance to the incident relating to Kris Wu and decided to terminate all related collaborations with Wu from today,” the luxury brand wrote on China’s Twitter-like Weibo Tuesday.
Louis Vuitton also said it was suspending cooperation with Wu.
Angry online users have been calling for other brands including L’Oreal Men and Lancome to sever ties with Wu.
Lancome said in a Weibo statement Tuesday that its partnership with Wu expired in June.
Since Du’s comments, more alleged victims have spoken out online, accusing Wu’s staff of predatory behaviour such as inviting them to boozy karaoke parties with the star.
The hashtags “girls help girls”, “girls helping girls” and “girls help girls time” — where women expressed solidarity with Du — were deactivated by Weibo and removed from the trending list Monday, although they could still be searched online.
The China Association of Performance Arts said Monday that Wu’s punishment “must be based on facts instead of relying on online exposes” but called for “severe punishment” if he is found to have broken the law.
State media has weighed in, as the Global Times called for necessary legal intervention in a Monday Weibo post.
The Weibo trending hashtag “the law is the lowest standard of morals” racked up 830 million views, as users complained about the high legal threshold required for victims to prove sexual assault in court.
Fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to cross the border into Canada for non-essential travel from August 9 without any quarantine requirements, the government in Ottawa said Monday.
Canada will then reopen its borders to all vaccinated foreign travelers from September 7.
The US-Canadian land border, the world’s longest, and the air border have been closed to non-essential travel since mid-March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pressure had been rising on the government from the ailing tourism sector to ease travel restrictions, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his administration did not want to jeopardize progress on the home front in curtailing the spread of Covid-19.
Earlier this month, Canada waived quarantine requirements for its own citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“On August 9, a number of important changes at the border will come into effect, to allow fully vaccinated United States citizens and permanent residents who are currently residing in the United States to enter Canada for non-essential purposes,” Canadian Health Minister Patty Hadju said.
Vaccinated Americans and permanent US residents — and eventually, other foreign travelers — will be required to have had their full course of doses of a vaccine approved by Canadian authorities at least 14 days before arrival, and they will be subject to “testing as required,” her ministry said.
Those travelers should also be asymptomatic on arrival.
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), which had been lobbying for a reopening of the border for months, called the announcement “very welcome news.”
“The tourism economy is ready to welcome visitors back,” the group’s president and CEO Beth Potter said in a statement.
The head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Perrin Beatty, called the announcement a “positive step” but cautioned that “the costly and cumbersome procedures that remain for fully vaccinated travellers will discourage short visits, including many business trips.”
For some provinces, such as Quebec, US tourists make up a significant percentage of the total number of visitors. United Airlines said Monday it would add more flights from the US to Toronto and Vancouver from September.
Since February, only the airports in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have received international flights. From August 9, airports in Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, Quebec City and Winnipeg will be authorized to receive such flights.
At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that for the time being, the US government was “continuing to review” its travel restrictions and would follow the guidance of its own medical experts.
Thus far, the border closure had been renewed monthly by mutual agreement between Ottawa and Washington.
According to Canadian government data released Monday, 75 percent of those living in Canada have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. Half are fully vaccinated.
Scores of deaths in Canada’s Vancouver area are likely linked to a grueling heat wave, authorities said Tuesday, as the country recorded its highest ever temperature amid scorching conditions that extended to the US Pacific Northwest.
At least 134 people have died suddenly since Friday in the Vancouver area, according to figures released by the city police department and the Royal Canadian Mounted police.
The Vancouver Police Department alone said it had responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since Friday, with the vast majority “related to the heat.”
Canada set a new all-time high temperature record for a third day in a row Tuesday, reaching 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.5 degrees Celsius) in Lytton, British Columbia, about 155 miles (250 kilometers) east of Vancouver, the country’s weather service, Environment Canada, reported.
“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” police sergeant Steve Addison said.
Other local municipalities have said they too have responded to many sudden death calls, but have yet to release tolls.
Some Vancouver locals said they had never experienced such temperatures before.
“It’s never this bad. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said a Vancouver resident who only gave her name as Rosa.
“I hope it never becomes like this ever again. This is too much.”
Others lamented that some residents were more vulnerable to the heat than others.
“I feel for those people whether they’re the elderly demographic or people who live on the downtown eastside of Vancouver who don’t have a cool spot to live or sleep,” said river swimmer Graham Griedger.
Climate change is causing record-setting temperatures to become more frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest recorded, and the five hottest years have all occurred within the last five years.
The scorching heat stretching from the US state of Oregon to Canada’s Arctic territories has been blamed on a high-pressure ridge trapping warm air in the region.
Temperatures in the US Pacific Northwest cities of Portland and Seattle reached levels not seen since record-keeping began in the 1940s: 115 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland and 108 in Seattle Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
Vancouver on the Pacific coast has for several days recorded temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 20 degrees above seasonal norms).
The chief coroner for the province of British Columbia, which includes Vancouver, said that it had “experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory.”
The service said in a statement it recorded 233 deaths between Friday and Monday, compared to 130 on average.
– ‘Hottest week ever’ –
“We are in the midst of the hottest week British Columbians have ever experienced, and there are consequences to that, disastrous consequences for families and for communities,” British Columbia Premier John Horgan told a news conference.
He urged “checking up on those people we know might be at risk, making sure we have cold compresses in the fridge or we’re staying in the coolest part of our homes, and making sure that we’re taking steps to get through this heat wave.”
Environment Canada has issued alerts for British Columbia, Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, saying the “prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave will persist through this week.”
The heat wave has forced schools and Covid-19 vaccination centers to close in the Vancouver area, while officials set up temporary water fountains and misting stations on street corners.
Stores quickly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, so several people without cooling at home told AFP they hunkered down in their air conditioned cars or underground parking garages at night.
Cities across the western United States and Canada opened emergency cooling centers and outreach workers handed out bottles of water and hats.
The extreme heat, combined with intense drought, also created the perfect conditions for several fires to break out over the weekend, and one blaze on the California-Oregon border had already burned about 1,500 acres (600 hectares) by Monday morning.
“Dubai would be cooler than what we’re seeing now,” David Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment Canada, told AFP on Monday.
All new cars and light-duty trucks in Canada will be required to be zero-emissions by 2035, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced Tuesday, moving up the timeline for eliminating vehicle pollution.
“Today, I’m announcing that we are accelerating our zero emission vehicles goal. By 2035, all new cars and light duty trucks sold in Canada will be zero emission vehicles — 100 percent of them,” Alghabra told a news conference.
“This is five years sooner than our previous goal,” he said.
The regulatory move, he said, will help Canada to meet its overall net-zero carbon emissions target for the economy by mid-century.
Alghabra noted that his country is one of the few in the world with domestic access to all of the key resources for producing electric vehicle (EV) batteries, and praised General Motors, Ford and other automakers for opening EV assembly plants in Canada.
But despite government incentives to defray the relatively higher prices of EVs, purchases have been slow to take off.
According to government data, battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids accounted for less than four percent of the 25 million passenger cars and trucks registered in Canada last year — up from about two percent in 2019.