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FIRST READING: It looks like we're all going to catch Omicron

National Post logo National Post 2021-12-24 Tristin Hopper
Shoppers are seen milling about the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall on Dec. 22. Whatever they do, all of these people are probably going to be exposed to Omicron in the coming weeks. © Provided by National Post Shoppers are seen milling about the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall on Dec. 22. Whatever they do, all of these people are probably going to be exposed to Omicron in the coming weeks.
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First Reading is a daily newsletter keeping you posted on the travails of Canadian politicos, all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper. To get an early version sent direct to your inbox every Monday to Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (and 9 a.m. on Sundays), sign up here.

NOTE TO READERS: This will regrettably be the last First Reading for the next two weeks. This is not due to any lack of enthusiasm on our part, but because Canada risks becoming so devoid of political news over the holidays that we’d be forced to spend whole newsletters analyzing tenuous Canadian connections to the French presidential election. See you again on Jan. 4, and in the interim you can always email us directly for some off-the-cuff political gossip.

TOP STORY

Omicron is proving to be really, really good at infecting people

  • A recent Maru Public Opinion determined that the variant is spreading so fast that one in 10 Canadians already have someone in their social circle who have been infected by it.
  • New data from Italy released on Thursday showed that Omicron went from 19 per cent of COVID-19 cases to 28 per cent in just two weeks.

Melanie Joly, Canada’s recently appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, tested positive on Monday . The Calgary Flames have also been particularly hard-hit by an Omicron surge chewing its way through the NHL. The first wave of COVID-19 similarly saw the disease chalking up some high-profile infections (recall that Sophie Gregoire Trudeau was one of the first confirmed Canadian cases). But Omicron is doing this in spite of a Canadian population that is almost universally double vaccinated.

All the available data is that Omicron is far less dangerous than previous strains of COVID-19. But the devil’s bargain with Omicron is that even an exceptionally mild virus can overwhelm emergency rooms if it infects everybody all at once (and this is particularly true in a country where health-care capacity is at the breaking point at the best of times). As University of Toronto infectious diseases expert Isaac Bogoch told the National Post “a small per cent of a massive number of people infected still ends being a lot of people that require health care.”

 Happy Holidays from all of us here at First Reading. Please enjoy this 2014 Christmas card from former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. © Handout Happy Holidays from all of us here at First Reading. Please enjoy this 2014 Christmas card from former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.  

IN OTHER NEWS

Alberta’s United Conservative Party has invited criticism for asking residents to avoid Christmas parties … before immediately holding a massive Christmas party just steps from the provincial legislature . The Dec. 21 “Members Christmas Reception” promised “good food and good fellowship,” according to an invitation obtained by CTV , and it occurred just three hours after a press conference in which Health Minister Jason Copping urged Albertans to cancel any social gatherings,” even if socially distanced.

Liberal MP Yves Robillard also found himself pitched into the ignominious ranks of COVID hypocrites after he maintained his holiday plans to leave the country in spite of caucus orders to avoid “non-essential travel.” Conservative MPs won’t have this problem over the winter break for the simple reason that, unlike the Liberals and the NDP, Tory Leader Erin O’Toole did not issue any orders against foreign travel.

The last week has seen Quebec abruptly return to all the hardline restriction of the early pandemic, including blanket closures and curfews. On Wednesday, Health Minister Christian Dubé proposed a new restriction that would spell a North American first: Mandatory vaccinations . In recent weeks Canada has imposed restrictions denying air travel and government employment to the unvaccinated, but this would up the ante still further. Said Dubé, “We will not hesitate to do so.”

An anti-vaxxer appears to be wandering the streets of St. Catharines, Ont., and vandalizing the homes of local politicians . St. Catharines city councillor Kerrie Porter has become the latest victim, with someone spray painting “scary Karrie (sic) is a Karen” on one of her exterior walls. St. Catharines was also where a Liberal candidate had his car spray painted with “f u liberal” during the last federal election.

 This 2015 Christmas card by Australian MP Andrew Leigh became famous for capturing some epic pouting from Leigh’s three-year-old son Zachary. As Leigh explained, Zachary was a “little put out” by having to stand still for photos. © Andrew Leigh This 2015 Christmas card by Australian MP Andrew Leigh became famous for capturing some epic pouting from Leigh’s three-year-old son Zachary. As Leigh explained, Zachary was a “little put out” by having to stand still for photos.  

CULTURE WARS

The Royal B.C. Museum, often ranked as one of the best and most visited museums in Canada, is set to have almost all of its most iconic galleries gutted next month in the name of “decolonization.” The demolitions were ordered with little notice and no chance for public feedback. Despite museum management claiming that they’re merely acting on the recommendation of First Nations leaders, a quick look through museum documents reveals that Indigenous people demanded no such thing .

Conservative MP Mark Strahl had an ad rejected by Facebook for featuring the controversial message, “From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.” Strahl received a notification informing him that the ad was rejected because it didn’t comply with Facebook’s “advertising policies” without providing specifics. The social media giant later reinstated the ad citing a glitch in its algorithm, although Strahl suspects he got pegged simply for mentioning the word “Christmas.” “What other perfectly legitimate subjects and commentary have they declared to be ‘discriminatory’ and banned from their platforms?” Strahl wrote in a follow-up post (on Twitter).

 This 1970s-era Christmas card from then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau features the awkward handwriting of his oldest son Justin. That son turns 50 on Christmas Day. © Reddit This 1970s-era Christmas card from then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau features the awkward handwriting of his oldest son Justin. That son turns 50 on Christmas Day.  

LET’S POLL

The pandemic appears to have sent interprovincial migration to new heights . A survey commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies found that Canadians were generally ditching Ontario and Manitoba in favour of new homes in B.C. and the Maritimes. The chief reason was cost of housing, although at least 10 per cent of internal migrants fled to the coasts in search of looser pandemic restrictions.

An annual survey of global optimism conducted by Ipsos seems to show that humanity is generally looking forward to 2022 . A poll of 22,000 people around the world (including Canadians) found that 77 per cent believed that “2022 will be a better year for me than it was in 2021.”

Get all of these insights and more into your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET by signing up for the First Reading newsletter here. 

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