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 Dec. 15 ...
What we are watching in Canada ...
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has consulted the premiers on additional border and travel measures that could help slow the community spreading of COVID-19.
In a call late Tuesday the first ministers discussed the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern, which is rapidly spreading around the world.
In a readout of the call, the PMO says the leaders noted the potential for a rapid and strong resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Canada that could put a strain on health-care systems.
The readout says Trudeau and the premiers agreed that the key to moving beyond the pandemic is to ensure that as many Canadians as possible, including children, get vaccinated and have access to booster shots.
There were no details on whether the government plans to change any travel restrictions, including the ones on 10 African countries that were put in place when the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus was first discovered.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Tuesday the federal government is following the variant closely.
Government House leader Mark Holland announced that the Liberals will "greatly reduce" the number of their MPs in the chamber and intend to hold entirely virtual caucus meetings for the time being.
A New Democrat spokesperson said that party's weekly caucus meeting Wednesday will be virtual, however, officials with both the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives say their caucuses will meet in person.
Also this ...
Statistics Canada will release its latest reading for inflation this morning when it publishes its consumer price index for November.
The report comes after the annual inflation rate for October rose to 4.7 per cent, the largest year-over-year gain for the consumer price index since February 2003.
Inflation has soared in recent months as prices for gasoline, food and other items contributed to a higher cost of living for Canadians.
October marked seven straight months that headline inflation came in above the Bank of Canada's two-per-cent target.
The Bank of Canada and federal government renewed their inflation targeting agreement this week.
They agreed to keep the inflation target in the one-to-three-per-cent range, but decided the central bank will also more formally keep close tabs on the labour market when making its interest rate decisions.
What we are watching in the U.S. ...
WASHINGTON _ The House voted Tuesday to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he ceased to co-operate with the Jan. 6 Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection _ making it the first time the chamber has voted to hold a former member in contempt since the 1830s.
The near-party-line 222-208 vote is the second time the special committee has sought to punish a witness for defying a subpoena. The vote is the latest show of force by the Jan. 6 panel, which is leaving no angle unexplored _ and no subpoena unanswered _ as it investigates the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years.
Lawmakers on the panel are determined to get answers quickly, and in doing so reassert the congressional authority that eroded while former president Donald Trump was in office.
"History will be written about these times, about the work this committee has undertaken,'' said Rep. Bennie Thompson, R-Miss., the chairman. "And history will not look upon any of you as a martyr. History will not look upon you as a victim.''
The two GOP votes _ Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who serve on the committee _ in favour of the resolution came after nine Republicans voted to hold former Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt in October. While Bannon's case was more clearcut -- he never engaged with the committee at all -- Meadows had turned over documents and negotiated for two months with the panel about an interview. Meadows also has closer relationships within the Republican caucus, having just left Congress last year.
Meadows was also Trump's top aide in the White House, giving him more plausible grounds to claim executive privilege. Bannon had not worked in the White House since 2017.
The Justice Department will also be weighing those factors as prosecutors decide whether to move forward with the case. If convicted, Bannon and Meadows could each face up to one year behind bars on each charge.
Republicans on Tuesday called the action against Meadows a distraction from the House's work, with one member calling it "evil'' and "un-American.''
What we are watching in the rest of the world ...
BRUSSELS _ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that Omicron is expected to be the dominant coronavirus variant in the 27-nation bloc by mid-January.
The head of the EU's executive branch said the bloc is well prepared to fight Omicron with 66.6 per cent of the European population now fully vaccinated against the virus.
Von der Leyen said she is confident the EU has the "strength'' and "means'' to overcome the disease although expressing her sadness that once again "Christmas will be overshadowed by the pandemic.''
She added that the EU is now facing a double challenge, with a massive increase of cases in recent weeks due to the Delta variant combined with the rise of Omicron, as some member countries are already confronted with a record number of infections.
Von der Leyen insisted that the increase in infections remains due ``almost exclusively'' to the Delta variant.
"And what I'm concerned about is that we now seeing the new variant Omicron on the horizon, which is apparently even more infectious.''
Thanks to the high rate of vaccination in the bloc and the availability of vaccine doses, Von der Leyen said that Europe is now in a better position to fight the virus. She said that more than 300 million people in the EU have been fully vaccinated and that 62 million people got a booster jab.
"Initial data from Omicron shows us that this triple jab is the best protection against the new variant,'' she said.
On this day in 1964 ...
The House of Commons voted 163-78 to adopt the red and white maple leaf design as Canada's flag.
In entertainment ...
NEW YORK _ During a tribute to her career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), Penelope Cruz recalled the Betamax videotape store that opened in her neighbourhood, in a suburb of Madrid, when she was a child and that made her discover cinema.
It was there where she rented all the films of Spanish movie director Pedro Almodovar, she said.
"I watched, and I laughed, I cried, and I learned,'' she said at a star-studded benefit Tuesday evening at the museum. "I would not be here tonight, being honoured by MoMa, if I had not had the privilege of working with brilliant directors who have inspired me, taught me, helped me grow as an artist and as a person. I want to thank them all tonight, and specially my Pedro.''
The recognition comes a decade after the museum paid the same tribute to Almodovar, who has worked with Cruz in seven films. The latest movie by the director, ``Parallel Mothers,'' starring Cruz, opens in the United States on December 24. On Monday, it received two Golden Globe nominations.
An exciting moment of the night was when Almodovar sent a video message to Cruz, congratulating her on the recognition.
He recalled in the video a dialogue with the actress that they had when they promoted ``All About My Mother'' (1999).
"You told me that when I get old you will take care of me. I'm not that old yet, but I hope you keep your word,'' he said, provoking laughter in the audience. ``When I am an old man, I hope you come and become, in this case, my mother. It would be a reflection of all the mothers that you have been for me throughout these seven films.''
Cruz joins a group of previous MoMA honorees that includes Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Quentin Tarantino, George Clooney and others.
HALIFAX - A plan in Nova Scotia to build North America's first coastal refuge for captive whales has come under fire from Marineland Canada.
The marine park in Niagara Falls, Ont., has released a study that alleges the proposed site for the Whale Sanctuary Project is too polluted and too expensive for the non-profit group behind the plan.
The executive director of the project, however, dismissed the allegations today, saying Marineland's information is incomplete and out of date.
Charles Vinick says his group is conducting its own scientific studies, which include analysis of the sediment in the bay near Port Hilford, N.S., where the refuge will be built next year.
On Monday, Marineland confirmed it had received a request from the Whale Sanctuary Project for the park's lone killer whale, Kiska, and up to eight beluga whales to live at the refuge.
Marineland's preliminary analysis of the project says gold mines that operated in the area until 1939 left behind two nearby tailings dumps that have contaminated the site with arsenic and mercury.
Marineland was recently charged with allegedly using dolphins and whales for entertainment purposes, which is a crime under federal anti-captivity legislation adopted in 2019. Marineland of Canada Inc. has denied the allegations, saying its dolphins and whales are part of an educational presentation designed by experts.
Vinick said the report on the refuge project in Nova Scotia was released Monday to provide a distraction for Marineland.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2021
The Canadian Press