Possible shutdown of Line 5 not a threat to Canada’s energy security: ambassador

Canada’s ambassador to the United States says that while the potential shutdown of Line 5 is a serious issue, it’s not a threat to Canada’s national energy security. 

“It is not a threat to Canada’s national economic or energy security,” Kristen Hillman told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics on Thursday.

“I think that it is an important dispute or disagreement that exists between Enbridge and the state of Michigan that needs to be taken very seriously. And we are taking it very seriously.”

Line 5, which runs through Michigan from the Wisconsin city of Superior to Sarnia, Ont., crosses the Great Lakes beneath the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, which link Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

The pipeline carries petroleum east from Western Canada. Once it hits Ontario, most of the crude oil is turned into fuels that meet almost 50 per cent of the province’s fuel demands. The remainder of the supply is sent on to Quebec refineries through Line 9, where it provides 40 to 50 per cent of that province’s fuel supply.  

WATCH | Hillman on the significance of Line 5:

Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman tells David Common on Power & Politics that operation of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline should continue despite the Michigan government’s push to have it shut down by May 12. 3:07

The threat to the pipeline’s viability kicked off in November when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revoked the 1953 easement — which has allowed the pipeline to operate without incident for more than 65 years — over fears of an oil spill.

Enbridge was granted approval to replace the underwater line with a tunnel, but Whitmer’s election in 2019 put a stop to those plans.

The notification that the easement was being withdrawn said the pipeline should be shut down by May 12, prompting concerns on both sides of the border that shortages of essential fuels would follow. 

“One of the governor’s top priorities is to protect and defend the Great Lakes, which are vital to Michigan’s economy. The Great Lakes … 350,000 jobs in Michigan. We cannot risk the devastating economic, environmental and public health impacts of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes,” said Whitmer’s spokesperson Chelsea Lewis-Parisio.

Enbridge took Michigan to U.S. federal court over the dispute and both parties were ordered to find a resolution through mediation last month.

Hillman says finding a compromise between Enbridge and the state of Michigan is the only way the impasse will be resolved. She said she remains optimistic that, despite the firm date in the notice, the oil will continue to flow, at least in the short term.  

“We understand from the advice that we have received that there’s a good chance that the pipeline … will continue operating during the course of the litigation and mediation,” she told guest host David Common.


Fuel for Pearson

All the jet fuel produced at Pearson International Airport in Toronto is made with crude supplied by the pipeline. Enbridge, which owns Line 5, says that Ontario’s fuel supply would be cut in half if the pipeline is shut down. But its closure would not only affect Quebec and Ontario.

Enbridge says shutting down the pipeline would also harm Michigan, which gets 55 per cent of its propane needs from the more than 540,000 barrels of light crude oil, light synthetic crude and natural gas liquids that travel through Line 5 before being refined into propane in the state.

Enbridge senior vice president Mike Fernandez said that he’s also confident the pipeline will continue to operate beyond May 12, but the passing of the deadline will likely prompt protests from anti-pipeline activists. 

“The reason I say that is because the matter right now is situated in a U.S. federal district court that has prompted both parties, that is the state and Enbridge, to work through a mediator,” Fernandez told Common. 

“If the state took actions, they would be acting outside the standard of good faith that’s normally required in such mediation.”

WATCH | Fernandez on the May 12 deadline:

Enbridge Senior Vice President Mike Fernandez tells David Common on Power & Politics that he doesn’t expect the Michigan government to act to shut down the Line 5 pipeline on May 12. 2:24

The Conservative Opposition has been harshly critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, saying its inaction on the energy file will result in the pipeline being shut down. 

The Tories blamed the killing of another pipeline, Keystone XL, by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, as evidence the Trudeau government did not fight hard enough to keep it alive.

The party were granted an emergency debate in the House of Commons to discuss the issue, which is taking place tonight. 

“Line 5 is not a new project, it is not a diversification, it is a line that has been a consistent and critical supply for Canada for decades,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in the House. “Now because of the inaction on behalf of the Liberal government this critical piece of energy infrastructure is at risk.”

Green MP Elizabeth May told O’Toole that the people of Michigan were keen to shut down Line 5 because of the Kalamazoo River oil spill in July 2010, when an Enbridge pipeline burst. 

“This is about pipeline pollution … we need to find an alternative to get those goods to market and allow the government of Michigan to keep a campaign promise to protect the Great Lakes,” May said.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan dismissed the Conservative attacks, saying accusations that the Liberals failed to act and are willing to let the pipeline die are totally false. 

“You can’t solve this issue with false bravado, by beating your chest while simultaneously sticking your head in the sand like members so often do, by calling people who disagree with you ‘brain dead,'” O’Regan said referencing the insult levied against Michigan’s governor by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. 

“That bombastic approach does a great disservice to our oil and gas workers and it does nothing to advance their cause.”

You can watch full episodes of Power & Politics on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

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Canada’s housing price surge increasing vulnerabilities: BoC

FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside the Bank of Canada building in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

April 9, 2021

By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s red-hot housing market has bolstered the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the market imbalances are escalating and driving up already-high household debt, the Bank of Canada said on Friday.

Housing prices in Canada have surged over the last year, with the Bank of Canada becoming increasingly concerned in recent months that gains are being driven by excessive exuberance, investor activity and a fear-of-missing-out.

“Strength in the housing market is contributing to Canada’s economic recovery from the pandemic. But it may also be intensifying housing market imbalances and household indebtedness,” the Bank of Canada analytical note said.

“The evidence presented here generally suggests these vulnerabilities have increased in recent months.”

The report, released Friday morning, shows that since the onset of the pandemic, outstanding household debt has risen by close to 3.5%, reflecting a surge in mortgage debt.

New mortgages to highly-indebted households are also rising sharply, the report shows.

Home price growth, meanwhile, has accelerated and is nearing the last peak in April 2017. The Bank also said some measures show rising exuberance in Toronto’s housing market.

Canada’s financial regulator said on Thursday it plans to tighten its mortgage stress test amid concerns about surging home prices, and to gird against risks when interest rates rise from record-low levels.

The average selling price of a Canadian home jumped 25% in February, hitting a record C$678,091 ($540,096), according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Governor Tiff Macklem said late last month that the central bank was seeing signs of household indebtedness worsening as housing prices soared.

($1 = 1.2555 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Parts of Canada’s military culture permit ‘racism, discrimination, harassment,’ says acting chief

The acting head of Canada’s military made his first public comments today in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against senior commanders — an effort to restore the confidence of the nation and rank-and-file members shaken by the ongoing scandal that engulfed his predecessors.

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre — who until two weeks ago was commander of the army — presented himself to the audience at the annual Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s meeting as a reluctant but determined warrior, and called on his colleagues to acknowledge the institutional shortcomings that led to the current crisis.

Eyre issued a written statement to military members last week, but his public remarks today were his first since he was asked late the evening on Feb. 24 to take over command from Admiral Art McDonald, who has temporarily stepped aside while sexual misconduct allegations against him are investigated by military police.

“As you can imagine, it has been quite the blur,” Eyre said in a video conference address to the conference.

Eyre said he “had some reluctance when asked to take on” the job of acting chief of the defence staff, “seeing the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves…

For one, I can say we’re angry. We’re also tired of constantly being generalized as victims. ​​​– Lt. Col. Sarah Heer

“I love this institution. I love its people and this is all about giving back, about serving our people and serving our country.”

‘Shock, disappointment, betrayal’

Eyre said that, through subordinate commanders, he’s looked into the state of military morale and serving members’ reactions to the bombshell misconduct allegations against McDonald, the current chief of the defence staff, and his predecessor Gen. Jonathan Vance.

Admiral Art McDonald addresses the audience at the Royal Canadian Navy Change of Command ceremony in Halifax on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

He said he’s found “shock, disappointment, betrayal, a desire for due process, a desire for real change,” along with a “steely-eyed determination” to get on with the business of defending the country.

“These last few weeks have been distressing for everyone in the defence community, military and civilian, serving and retired and our family members alike,” Eyre said.

“Parts of our culture are exclusionary. They’re harmful. They contribute to an environment that in some corners is permissive of racism, discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct.

“These issues are systemic. We cannot accept our own people being harmed from within.

“Embracing our values, we must be the force that both Canada and Canadians and our own members expect and deserve.”

It has been almost eight years since the problem of sexual misconduct in the ranks exploded in the media, with multiple published allegations of misogyny, brutal sexual assaults and even rape being treated with indifference by the chain of command.

The military has launched an ongoing institutional crackdown but several studies, including studies by Statistics Canada, have shown little in the way of progress.

Rear Admiral Rebecca Patterson, the commander of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group, took part in a panel discussion at the conference today to deliver a sweeping defence of Operation Honour, the military’s campaign to stamp out sexual misconduct.

‘People are coming forward’

When it was first implemented, Operation Honour was conceived and characterized as a military operation — which turned out to be the wrong approach, said Patterson.

“It can’t be treated as a simple mission,” she said, adding that changing the culture within a conservative organization like the military is difficult.

Patterson described sexual misconduct as a “wicked and complex problem” within the military’s culture that must be addressed.

She also said the military has made progress, pointing to ongoing reporting of misconduct by both victims and bystanders.

“I’m not a rainbow-and-unicorns type person,” she said. “I think it’s very interesting that people are coming forward.”

But Patterson said she’s troubled by alleged victims’ reluctance to report incidents to their superiors and their chains of command.

Lt. Col. Sarah Heer, who leads the Canadian military training mission in Ukraine, told a panel discussion at the conference she believes there has been too much focus on Operation Honour’s failings and not enough attention paid to its successes.

‘Tactical patience’

She compared Operation Honour with the effort to professionalize the Ukrainian military, which has been going on for over five years and has had to overcome obstacles.

“I suggest we need to have to have tactical patience,” she said. “We need to adapt and we need to continually refine our efforts to enable real and enduring effects.”

Heer said she has seen signs of changing attitudes among her own troops.

She also delivered an unvarnished, ground-level reaction to the events of the last month.

“For one, I can say we’re angry. We’re angry that allegations of inappropriate behaviour continue,” said Heer. “We’re also tired of constantly being generalized as victims, those of us that are women, and sexual predators for my male colleagues.”

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Canada’s chief science adviser ‘stressed’ by slow roll out of rapid tests in provinces

Canada’s top science adviser says she is “surprised and preoccupied with stress” after CBC News revealed that millions of COVID-19 rapid tests delivered to the provinces are gathering dust.

Dr. Mona Nemer told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos that she doesn’t understand why the provinces haven’t been more active in distributing their share of the tests.

“We’re in a very difficult situation with the pandemic and I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to use all the tools in your toolbox,” she said.

CBC News Network’s Power & Politics reached out to every province asking for the number of tests it has received from the federal government and how many of those tests have been deployed to date.

The numbers vary from province to province. Prince Edward Island has deployed the largest percentage of tests it was sent by the federal government — 25 per cent of its 37,000 tests.

WATCH | ‘I just don’t understand why wouldn’t want to use all the tools in your toolbox,’ says Mona Nemer:

Chief Science Adviser of Canada Mona Nemer on why provinces should be using the rapid tests the federal government has sent them. 6:39

The number of deployed tests only account for what has been delivered to local health units — it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been used.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after delivering over 19 million rapid tests to the provinces his government is looking at sending them instead directly to places like pharmacies.

“Will that cause provinces to get upset or will it spark people actually using these things?” he said.

Manitoba has better tests, premier says

If there were concerns with the logistics of the tests then the federal government could work with the provinces to sort those out, Nemer said. She also insisted that the tests are reliable.

Manitoba is one slowest provinces in rolling out the rapid tests provided by the federal government, with just below 1.5 per cent sent out.

Premier Brian Pallister told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos that he believes the tests weren’t top quality. 

WATCH | Pallister defends Manitoba’s lack of rapid testing use: 

Premier Brian Pallister says his government has signed a deal with a Calgary based vaccine manufacturer. He also defended Manitoba’s lack of rapid testing use after Power & Politics discovered only a fraction of rapid tests delivered to provinces across the country are being used. 2:11

“They’ve got some value. So did the Ford Pinto, but it didn’t mean everybody bought it,” he said.

Pallister went on to say that his government has purchased better rapid tests than what was provided by the federal government.

“We’re using more reliable equipment that’s useful in more venues, more effectively, with better turnaround time,” he said.

Some provinces committed to ramp up

Meanwhile, other provinces say they plan to increase their use of rapid tests.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he has asked the provincial health authority to deploy the rapid tests to a number of priority areas including long-term care homes, corrections facilities and schools.

“It should have been dispersed sooner, and we do need to do better,” Moe said.

Saskatchewan has yet to provide the number of tests they have received and deployed to CBC News. Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the province has received 400,000 tests and has used roughly 10,000.

WATCH | Dr. David Naylor and Dr. Irfan Dhalla on how little rapid testing is being done by the provinces:

Dr. David Naylor, Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, and Dr. Irfan Dhalla, Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, weigh in on new data that reveals just how little rapid testing is being utilized by the provinces right now. 8:06

In Ontario, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said his government plans to make use of the rapid tests now that schools have begun to reopen.

“We are using all capacity available to us to make sure kids are safe,” he said.

In Alberta, only 0.89 per cent of rapid tests have been deployed. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province has been moving quickly to deploy more rapid tests since the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel released a report last month.

“I anticipate that the proportion we will be using will be increasing in the weeks ahead,” Hinshaw said.

The number of rapid tests each province has deployed as a percentage of their stockpiles. (Power & Politics/Darren Major, Emily Haws, Earvin Solitario)

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Canada’s economy looks like it shrank by 5% last year, says Statistics Canada

Canada’s economy expanded by 0.7 per cent in November, Statistics Canada said Friday

The data agency said the country’s gross domestic product grew seven months in a row after steep drops in March and April. But despite that streak, the numbers mean the economy was still three per cent smaller in November than it was in February, before COVID-19 really took root in Canada.

The agency also says its preliminary estimate for December shows growth of 0.3 per cent, even as much of the country headed into heavy restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

For the full year of 2020, Statistic Canada’s preliminary estimate shows the economy contracted by 5.1 per cent.

By way of comparison, preliminary U.S. data suggests their economy shrank by 3.5 per cent for the year.

Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter said the November numbers came in as a pleasant surprise, as the data agency had telegraphed earlier that the economy looked like it had only grown by 0.4 per cent. The final numbers were almost twice that. 

Economists were also expecting a shrinkage in December, as lockdowns took hold, but Statscan is now suggesting a small gain for that month, too.

‘The road ahead is challenging’

“We still believe that with schools closed in some regions, and some additional restrictions, that GDP will likely pull back in January — and next week’s jobs report for that month will provide plenty of guidance on that front,” Porter said.

“However, today’s result for November and early read on December do indeed suggest that the economy overall is managing much, much better with this second stage of lockdowns.”

TD Bank economist Sri Thanabalasingam agreed that Friday’s numbers were good news, and called them a “solid report,” but cautioned against being overly optimistic about the direction of the economy headed into 2021.

“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Thanabalasingam said. “The road ahead is challenging, and growth appears to be slowing. Even at the 0.3 per cent estimated pace of growth in December, it would take until November this year for the economy to get back to its pre-pandemic level.”

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Kenney wants ‘reprisals’ for blocking Keystone — but what are Canada’s options?

When U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking the presidential permit enabling construction of the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday afternoon, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney suggested the future of this project could still be up for negotiation, if only the federal government would get tough.

And if U.S. Democrats want to move on and not continue what Kenney called “a constructive and respectful dialogue” about the energy and environmental issues the project raises?

“Then it is clear that the government of Canada must impose meaningful trade and economic sanctions in response to defend our country’s vital economic interests,” he told reporters. “Not doing so would create a dangerous precedent.”

In an interview Thursday with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Kenney said he was worried about the precedent that could be set for other pipeline projects if the Americans start retroactively repealing permits.

“The Biden administration refuses to give this country sufficient respect to hear us out on this pipeline. In that policy context then, yes, there absolutely must be reprisals,” he said. “We need to stand up for ourselves.”

WATCH: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says Ottawa ‘folded’ on Keystone

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the federal government ‘folded’ in response to U.S President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the Keystone XL pipeline. 2:14

But what does Kenney mean by “reprisals”? What’s legally possible? And what’s wise, at this point in Canada’s relationship with a new administration?

Let’s start with the most obvious legal path: seeking damages under Chapter 11 of the original North American Free Trade Agreement.

New NAFTA protects ‘legacy investments’ 

After the Obama administration blocked Keystone’s permit, its owner — then called TransCanada — used NAFTA’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process to seek $15 billion in damages.

The company later dropped its case when U.S. President Donald Trump reversed the decision. 

Critics of Chapter 11 proceedings say governments should not be constrained in their ability to regulate in the public interest by the threat of lawsuits from corporate investors.

The new NAFTA tried to address this, with stronger measures on the environment and weaker investor protections.

Canada and the U.S. agreed, however, that their ISDS process would continue for three more years, offering “legacy investors” like TC Energy some continued protection.

Because of its $1.5 billion equity stake, the province of Alberta could join the company’s action and try to recoup its own losses. Kenney told Power & Politics he believes Alberta’s case is strong.

But it isn’t a slam dunk. Both TC Energy and the Alberta government could have anticipated that Trump would lose the election and their permit could be revoked. Democratic pledges to block the pipeline should have factored into their investment risk calculations.

On the other hand, Biden wasn’t deterred by the risk of re-igniting a legal case by re-revoking the permit.

“It does set an unfortunate precedent and possibly even has a cooling effect on this type of investment, so I do think Canada should fight hard for this,” trade lawyer John Boscariol told CBC News.

A settlement that compensates for costs and future lost profits could be pricey for the American taxpayer, but it would not reverse Biden’s decision.

Biden acted on ‘climate imperatives’

Chapter 31 of the revised NAFTA also has a state-to-state dispute settlement process — for the times when one country feels another isn’t keeping its commitments.

The U.S. recently initiated a Chapter 31 consultation on Canadian dairy import regulations. Could this executive order on Keystone trigger a Chapter 31 complaint by Canada?

When President Barack Obama made his move, TransCanada argued that Congress, not the president, has the proper constitutional authority to regulate pipeline projects.

Since Democrats will control both the Senate and the House for the next several years, it’s not clear there’s any point in reviving that argument now.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, meeting with Joe Biden in Ottawa in 2016. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Has the U.S. violated anything in the new NAFTA? That’s also unclear, especially since one of the goals of its do-over was to give governments more power to regulate or legislate in areas like the environment.

Biden’s executive order said the pipeline “disserves the national interest” because the U.S. and the world are facing a climate crisis, and domestic efforts to reduce harmful emissions “must go hand in hand with U.S. diplomatic engagement” as it exercises “vigorous climate leadership.”

“Leaving the Keystone XL permit in place would not be consistent with my administration’s economic and climate imperatives,” it said.

Reacting to the executive order, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t mention any perceived violations of U.S. trade commitments and made no threats.

“While we welcome the president’s commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the president’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL,” the prime minister said in his statement Wednesday evening.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng’s office said Thursday that stands as the federal government’s official response.

So what about ‘sanctions’?

Punishing countries that threatened American industries was a feature of Trump’s trade policy.

His administration’s use of “national security” as justification for tariffs on sensitive global commodities like steel and aluminum was denounced as an abuse of measures intended only for emergency situations, such as wars. 

Protecting domestic companies from harm may be important politically, but it’s not “urgent” in a way global trading rules allow.

Retaliation is sanctioned as a remedy following the successful arbitration of a dispute. Even then, it’s meant to be proportionate to the damage done.

When the Trump administration was lashing out with tariffs, Canada joined other countries in demanding a return to “rules-based trade.” 

Canada has tried to play a leadership role on reforms to make the World Trade Organization more effective in resolving disputes.

So it’s difficult to imagine the Trudeau government striking back at Biden’s order with sanctions, however strongly Alberta’s premier insists on retaliation.

While Kenney may resent the fact that steel and auto workers were supported with retaliatory tariffs, while oil and gas workers apparently won’t see the same, the United States’ behaviour in the two cases isn’t really comparable. The steel tariffs were condemned as illegal under global trading rules. Biden’s executive order is not.

Any improvised tariffs Canada could consider now would amount to more taxes on Canadian consumers, at a time when the government wants the economy to grow, not recede further. Lashing out in some other tit-for-tat regulatory fashion to harm the U.S. would most certainly be called out and punished.

Trade wars are not — as Trump once famously suggested — easy to win. Particularly with a much-larger neighbour you need to work with on other files.

“We are going to focus on all of the areas of cooperation,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau told Power & Politics Wednesday. “When you develop a relationship with somebody, you take into consideration everything, and there are going to be areas where we have a difference of opinion.”

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Canada’s Couche-Tard drops $20 bln Carrefour takeover plan after French govt opposition-sources

Article content continued

The plan included a pledge to keep the new entity’s global strategic operations in France and having French nationals on its board, he said.

Couche-Tard, advised by Rothschild, was also going to pump about 3 billion euros of investments into the French retailer which was working on the deal with Lazard.

The proposal was widely backed by Carrefour which employs 105,000 workers in France, its largest market, making it the country’s biggest private-sector employer.

France’s rejection of the deal less than 24 hours after talks were confirmed sparked grumbling in some business circles over how French President Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, is turning away foreign investment.

Some politicians and bankers said the pushback could tarnish Macron’s pro-business image, while others highlighted that the COVID-19 crisis had forced more than one country to redefine its strategic national interests.


Amid a trans-Atlantic flurry of lobbying, Couche-Tard’s Bouchard – who started his convenience store operations in 1980 – flew to Paris to explain the merits of the deal to Le Maire, the source said.

But the finance minister reiterated his opposition without listening to the terms of the transaction and said any such deal should not be revisited before France’s presidential elections in 2022, the sources said.

Couche-Tard initially explored the possibility of pursuing its offer despite the government’s stance on the deal, but later decided to raise the white flag and avoid a political storm, one of the sources said.

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Coronavirus: Quebec doctor’s death by suicide sends shockwaves through Canada’s medical community

The death of a Granby, Que., emergency physician has sent shockwaves throughout the Canadian medical community.

Dr. Karine Dion, 35, who was also the mother of a young son, died by suicide earlier in January. Her family said it was the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to her death.

“Her family and her husband have gone public with this death to let the public know the immense distress that health workers are experiencing on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and a health justice activist.

Read more:
25% of Canadians say their mental health is worse than in 1st coronavirus wave: poll

“Throughout this pandemic, our health workers on the front lines, my colleagues, have experienced significant mental stress, losses, trauma, grief, and a burden that is really hard to put in words.”

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The burnout rate of doctors practicing emergency medicine is estimated at around 86 per cent, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP), the national organization representing emergency physicians across the country.

The same survey found “frontline staff will be adversely affected by COVID-19 both during and after the pandemic.”

Read more:
‘A pandemic of its own’: How COVID-19 is impacting mental health

Around 14 per cent of those surveyed had contemplated suicide during their staff career in emergency medicine, and of those physicians almost six per cent had actively considered suicide in the past year.

“We know whenever there’s stress with the added pressure, and the stress becomes prolonged, we feel there is a sense of powerlessness, helplessness. It does increase or can increase the risk for psychological risk conditions, physical risk conditions, and also burnout as well,” explained Dr. Katy Kamkar, a Toronto-based clinical psychologist.

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Dosani said the pandemic has increased the pressure felt by frontline health-care workers exponentially.

“Working in health care on the front lines at baseline is a very stressful proposition and experience for people that stress, that mental anguish, it has doubled, it has tripled, it is exponentially grown,” he said.

Read more:
Canadians reporting higher levels of anxiety, depression amid the pandemic

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“There is so much that health workers are seeing and experiencing and this is leading to a sense of loss and grief that many of us have not experienced before.”

Dosani also said it means “grief circles” are more frequent for himself and his team.

“Our grief circles have doubled in number, we’re having more than ever before because more people are sick and more people are dying than ever before,” he said.

“For many people, what we hear is this is the first time that people have actually had space to just talk. For all the talk about improving people’s health and health care, we spend very little time actually supporting our own around mental health and their resilience and well-being.”

Read more:
Many Canadians dealing with mental health issues due to coronavirus: survey

Dosani said the gatherings have been an answer to this, but he is concerned they are “just scratching the surface.”

He explained a “grief circle” is designed for the health-care team who cared for a patient who has died or after a traumatic event to pause, perhaps light a candle, and reflect.

During the pandemic, the team can meet virtually.

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Dosani said if the mental health of frontline workers is not prioritized now, “we won’t beat COVID-19.”

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‘We’re at a breaking point’: Addressing mental health during COVID-19

“Our health workers will experience more mental distress, more grief, more loss, more trauma and this will put them in a situation where they won’t be able to better serve our communities. And we don’t want to come through this broken, more broken than we already are,” he said.

Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), said the issue of grief and mental health support is not unique to emergency physicians.

“Every time I think about my colleagues in the front lines … it scares me, it frightens me,” she said.

“Hang in there, doctors, nurses, EMS, any person in essential services, teachers included, hang in there.

Read more:
‘We need fuel’: Front-line workers prepare for stress of second wave of COVID-19

“Remember, one out of five people has a mental health illness (and) nurses, doctors, PSWs are no different.”

A friend of Dion started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her son, Jacob. More than $29,000 was raised as of early Tuesday.

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Donations can also be made to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Learn more about how to help someone in crisis here.

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Burning Questions: Will Canada’s most oil-dependent provinces bounce back next year?

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The economic shocks to Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador are particularly tough as they came at a time when both provinces were expected to shake off the previous oil-price shock of 2014 and return to substantial growth in 2020, said Robert Hogue, senior economist with RBC.

Hogue doesn’t expect Alberta to recover to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity until 2023 — and even those 2019 levels are a steep drop from a peak in 2014.

“There’s so much frustration and in some cases, people are getting into fairly desperate situations. That frustration is not a surprise given how deep and how long this downturn has been,” Hogue said.

A volunteer packs hampers at the Edmonton Food Bank in April. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia News files

Saskatchewan, which sits atop a massive light oil formation and is the second largest oil-producing province in the country, also posted a sharp contraction of 4.7 per cent of GDP but is expected to make a full recovery, posting 4.7 per cent real GDP growth, in 2021 thanks in part to its rebounding mining and agriculture sectors, RBC Economics forecasts.

While the worst of the economic downturn is behind Saskatchewan, there are still downside risks in both Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, which are reflected in the negative trends associated with both provinces’ credit ratings, said Travis Shaw, senior vice-president, public finance at ratings firm DBRS Morningstar.

“We’ll hear the provinces and some economists talk about ‘when is GDP going to return to pre-COVID levels’ but even at that point, when the broader economy returns to pre-COVID levels, provincial finances aren’t going to look like what they looked like in pre-COVID times,” Shaw said.

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Foreign raiders are targeting Canada’s tech, but Ottawa thinks it has an answer

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The announcement received little attention at the time, as it was crowded out by bigger spending commitments, nor was it obvious that the money had a specific purpose. But in fact, the commitment was a recognition by the government that the post-COVID merger-and-acquisition scene will be wild, and that Canada could come out a net loser if unprepared.

Bains called the $250 million a “down payment,” suggesting more money is coming. The initial pledge was intended to give him additional flexibility to invest in “IP-rich” companies that might otherwise be claimed by international investors. The additional contribution is too small to allow Bains to become a player in negotiations involving bigger companies such as Verafin, but it might be enough to protect startups that have developed promising innovations, but are still too small to resist takeover.

“We’re focusing a lot of developing IP,” Bains said. “We want to see economic benefits here. That’s why we put money forward in the fall economic statement.”

Bains’s plans will irritate many in Canada’s policy establishment, which tends to disapprove of politicians inserting themselves into conversations between willing buyers and sellers. Balsillie has long accused the Ottawa establishment of putting intellectual purity ahead of recognizing how the world actually works.

The former group, which includes veteran bureaucrats and think-tankers that dictated the federal government’s approach to investment for three decades, appears to be losing the argument. Canada and other countries are getting increasingly comfortable with the idea that the state has a key role to play in the development of the digital economy.

“We were turning the corner,” Bains said, reflecting on how the technology industry has become a driver of investment and economic growth ahead of the pandemic. “We were able to do that because we had a strong industrial policy and innovation and skills plan.”

• Email: kcarmichael@postmedia.com | Twitter: carmichaelkevin

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