Nunavut lockdown ending and U.K. to use COVID-19 vaccine: In The News for Dec. 2

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kick-start your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 2 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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The Manitoba government has signed a pay agreement that will allow nurses to be shifted to priority areas in the fight against COVID-19.

It says the agreement with the Manitoba Nurses Union will allow nurses to be redeployed in personal care homes, intensive care units and designated COVID-19 units.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says it will allow for changes to work assignments, locations, schedules and shifts to support the changing needs of hospital patients and care home residents.

He says nurses affected by these changes, including those already working in facilities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, will get extra pay.

The agreement also establishes a COVID-19 northern allowance for staff redeployed to the north, as well as an allowance for current northern nurses who work in one community but pick up additional shifts elsewhere in the region.

Union president Darlene Jackson says the deal will help keep nurses on the job and give them some security and recognition. ---

Also this ...

Nunavut's two-week lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to end today as the territory continues to see a drop in new cases.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said earlier this week that schools, businesses and workplaces could reopen.

Restrictions are to lift in all communities except Arviat, which has 76 active cases and will remain shut down for at least two more weeks.

Patterson says that's because his team hasn't determined if community transmission there is ongoing.

Nunavut had 93 active infections and 89 recovered cases on Tuesday for a total of 182.

The territory had not had any cases at all until early November.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

Disputing U.S. President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block president-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.

Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but "to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election."

The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Pfizer and BioNTech say they've won permission Wednesday for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, the world’s first coronavirus shot that’s backed by rigorous science -- and a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.

The move makes Britain one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

Other countries aren’t far behind: The U.S. and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc.

Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the U.K. -- and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision expected as early as next week.

But doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first several months of next year.

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On this day in 2006 ...

Liberal delegates chose Quebec MP Stephane Dion as their new federal leader at a Montreal convention.

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Holiday news ...

The Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association says people planning to buy a live Christmas tree this season should start shopping now and expect to pay more.

Farmers anticipate 2020 will be a record sales year. Association head Larry Downey says it's simple supply and demand: a shortage of trees coupled with a greater appetite from people hoping to liven up their living spaces amid widespread stay-at-home orders.

"Personally, we don’t see COVID affecting us," says Downey, whose family farm in Hatley, Que. sells up to 30,000 Christmas trees each year.

Most wholesale farmers Downey has spoken this year with have already reached sales records, he adds, with much of the demand coming from vendors in the United States. Retailers typically place their orders for trees as early as June, Downey says.

The Christmas tree market is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, which put many U.S. growers out of business and led others to reduce planting. Since saplings take eight to 10 years to reach the size of a typical Christmas tree, the effects of the lower supply have only recently emerged.

In entertainment ...

Experts believe the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies such as Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year,

Ottawa says in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years.

Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications.

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same.

KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef says it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals.

"Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef says.

"And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices."

Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price.

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ICYMI ...

The Oscar-nominated Canadian star of the film "Juno" has come out as transgender.

The Halifax-raised Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, has made the announcement in a powerful post on social media.

The star of the Toronto-shot Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy" says his preferred pronouns are he/they.

Page's letter thanks those who have supported him along the journey, and addresses the trauma trans people face from discrimination, hateful acts, and a lack of rights.

He says it feels remarkable "to finally love" who he is enough to pursue his "authentic self."

And he's been "endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community."

"Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place. I will offer whatever support I can and continue to strive for a more loving and equal society," Page says..

"I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I'm scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the 'jokes' and of violence."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020

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