News

1. Convoyers and fascism

A woman draped in a Canadian flag stands with a man carrying a sign reading “God Loves You I and I love you” at the “convoy” rally in downtown Halifax on Saturday, Feb. 12. Photo: Tim Bousquet

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

I’ve been thinking about that quote (attributed, wrongly, to Sinclair Lewis) a lot lately, and especially since attending the “convoy” rally at Grand Parade on Saturday.

There were lots and lots of Canadian flags at the rally. “O Canada” was sung at least three times. And there were signs. Signs about peace, and love, and acceptance. “Free Hugs,” read a sign carried by a child. Other signs included: “God Loves You I and I love you”; “Peace and love”; “I Miss Your Smile”; “We Love You and Will Continue to Fight For Your Freedom Too.”

It was all very Canadian.

Well, it had the veneer of Canadiana, anyway. How could one be against peace and love? Are you really going to oppose freedom?

I was at the rally as a reporter, trying to describe on Twitter what was going on. It’s hard work, live-tweeting, taking photos, trying to fully understand the scene. But I was dogged by a man who kept wanting to engage me, first telling me that my tweeting was “opinionated.” I think I accurately captured events, but even if it was opiniated, “what of it?” I told him: “This entire rally is about expressing opinions.” He conceded the point, but then kept wanting to talk about “unity.”

An appeal to “unity” was expressed by several of the speakers, but it was a one-way unity: the large majority of Canadians (90%+) who agree with the science of vaccines and the smaller but still large majority (70% in recent polling) who agree with some degree of vaccine mandates are supposed to set aside their beliefs and “unite” with those who seek to undermine both.

Likewise, the “freedom” spoken of at the rally was a freedom without responsibility, a freedom that says the individual can do whatever they please without even the limit of harming others. It’s the freedom to spread a contagious disease that has killed thousands of Canadians.

But those logical fallacies were not what bothered me the most. Rather, it was the outright fascism of the event.

And yes, “fascism” is the correct word; it is not hyperbole.

Consider: one of the main speakers at the rally was Leigh Baker, leader of the Nova Scotia United political party. Baker began his speech with a land acknowledgement — talk about your veneer of Canadiana — before diving into a sinkhole of medical misinformation so egregious that even YouTube (YouTube!) has banned a video of his speech, which he now says “proves we’re on to something.”

Along the way, Baker chastised Dr. Robert Strang, and said that “Public Health is a non-governmental organization under globalists’ direction.”

“Globalists” is a long-standing anti-semitic trope. And here was a crowd of hundreds of people, and not one person objected to it.

Baker knows exactly what he was doing. This is the head-fake that the trolls use on Twitter; “oh, ‘globalist’ doesn’t mean that, how can you say that? We mean something else…”

Much of the Canadiana veneer of the convoyers is likewise a conscious head-fake, an appeal to a shared fascist underpinnings of the movement, much of it reflecting the US fascist movement. Like, for example, the guy carrying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Or, the crowd dancing to the Village People’s gay anthem, “Y.M.C.A,” which has become a staple at Trump rallies. Writes Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone:

The Village People’s Seventies disco classic is extra spicy because Donald Trump spent the year using “Y.M.C.A.” at his campaign rallies as his theme song, along with another Village People classic, “Macho Man.” For any disco fan, it’s appalling to see this fascist-phobe clown in his red MAGA cap doing the Y.M.C.A. dance.

So “Y.M.C.A.” is more than a song. It’s a battle for the soul of America. What does it mean that the most politically divisive song of 2020 is a 1978 disco anthem about cruising for sex at your local gym?

It’s become one of our national anthems — yet fans got outraged at the idea of Trump trying to claim this one, which is why it became far more controversial than his other musical picks.  Y.M.C.A. yes, MAGA no.

Donald Trump had to find out the hard way, but he is not one of the Village People. He is not a strange but beautiful freak artifact of American culture that will be cherished by all corners of the populace for generations to come. He’s not a Cowboy, a Construction Worker, a Chief, a Cop, or God knows, a Leather Man. He is not timeless. He is not beloved. He is not disco. And as of January 21st, he will be no longer welcome in his current residence.

But don’t worry, old man — we hear there’s a place you can go, when you’re short on your dough. When all else fails, it’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.

However, Sheffield misses the salient point, which is that Trump uses the song at his ultra-Conservative rallies precisely because it is a gay anthem. Such appropriation is the MO of all fascist movements, which perversely upend social conventions to void them of all meaning, as an inside joke. Being wrapped in the flag, going on about “love,” and singing “Y.M.C.A” are of a piece, and the joke is on us.

Undoubtedly, just as with the antisemitic ‘globalist’ trope, those at the rally will feign innocence: we’re singing fun songs, loving each other, blah, blah blah.

But the fascism of the movement became explicit when a “decorated soldier” speaking via a recorded audio from Fredericton called on his fellow soldiers to “rise up” to “protect Canadians” from “unjust” public health orders. “You have to choose… this is your time to be a hero,” said the soldier, which was a clear call for a military coup.

Moreover, as Justin Ling points out, “The rhetoric has been deranged, conspiratorial, and dangerous for awhile now. We just haven’t been paying attention.” The “convoy” rallies and blockades across the country have explicit fascist connections, and have explicitly called for disbanding Parliament. The Halifax rally participants were quite aware of what their counterparts elsewhere in Canada are doing, and not only didn’t object, but celebrated it.

And let’s not glide right over the medical misinformation and conspiracy theories. As Voltaire said (summarized), “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

This by Voltaire is often paraphrased as “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Reducing our exposure to and belief in absurdities reduces injustice. pic.twitter.com/oMXsVsJ1Uo

— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) August 7, 2018

“This is why dictators and would-be autocrats push conspiracy theories and misinformation,” writes Gary Kasparov:

They wish to weaken the mind and to spin the moral compass. The truth is always their greatest enemy.

It’s not satisfactory to simply say that all those who do evil acts are evil. It has a beginning, nearly always with believing falsities and absurdities peddled by the power-hungry. The truth is the first casualty, and never the last.

When a leader lies constantly, the goal isn’t to make you believe something; it’s to make you believe anything.

Do not underestimate the “convoy.” It is fascism, and it is emboldened.

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2. Claudia Chender

Claudia Chender, MLA for Dartmouth South.

NDP MLA for Dartmouth South, Claudia Chender, has officially announced she is campaigning to be leader of the NDP.

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3. Mining

The vast majority of people (92% of the population) in Burkina Faso depend on small-scale farming for their livelihoods, not gold mining. Their complex “parkland” agroforestry farming system involves nurturing the landscape with valuable trees on cropland, such as this shea tree, which produces shea butter, known in the region as “green gold.” Photo: Joan Baxter

“Kevin Bullock is not the only Canadian gold miner who has set his sights on Atlantic Canada after years of gold exploration and mining in West Africa. He says others have done the same, including Anaconda’s mine manager in their Newfoundland mine,” reports Joan Baxter:

In the past decade, insecurity in impoverished gold-producing countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger has turned large parts of those nations into no-go areas, at least for expatriates who have the means to steer clear of them, and Canadian passports that offer them easy passage to safer pastures.

Kevin Bullock is not the only Canadian gold miner who has set his sights on Atlantic Canada after years of gold exploration and mining in West Africa. He says others have done the same, including Anaconda’s mine manager in their Newfoundland mine.

In the past decade, insecurity in impoverished gold-producing countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger has turned large parts of those nations into no-go areas, at least for expatriates who have the means to steer clear of them, and Canadian passports that offer them easy passage to safer pastures.

It so happens that Baxter lived and worked for two decades in West Africa, and even wrote a book about it, taking a critical look at neo-colonialism and the corruption inherent in western “charity.” So she’s perfectly placed to relate how mining has affected those countries, and how mining will likely affect Nova Scotia.

Click here to read “Anaconda Mining joins the gold rush on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, Part 3: From West Africa’s gold fields to Canada’s ocean playground.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

Relatedly, “Provincial court judge Alana Murphy has sentenced Atlantic Mining NS, which does business in Nova Scotia as Atlantic Gold, to pay a total of $250,000 in fines and contributions for failing to comply with federal and provincial environmental regulations at and around its Touquoy open pit gold mine in Moose River, about an hour’s drive east of the Halifax Stanfield International Airport,” Baxter reported Friday:

The company will pay a fine of $5,000 to the province and the same to the federal government. In addition it will pay $120,000 for the federal charges, to be used for “the conservation of fish and fish habitat, or the restoration of fish habitat in Nova Scotia.”

For the provincial charges, it will pay $120,000, to be divided equally between the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) in Eskasoni, and the Mi’kmaq Conservation Group.

The sentencing comes a week after Atlantic Mining NS pled guilty to the federal and provincial charges, as Jennifer Henderson reported for the Halifax Examiner.

The Examiner broke the story about the provincial charges in December 2020, after we learned that Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change had laid 32 environmental charges against Atlantic Gold in September 2020, for violations occurred over an 18-month period between February 2018 and the end of June 2019.

Click here to read “Atlantic Gold sentenced to $250,000 fines and penalties after pleading guilty to federal and provincial environmental charges.”

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4. Milena Khazanvicius

Milena Khazanavicius gives the middle finger to a construction sign on Almon Street. Photo: Contributed

Milena Khazanavicius has been fighting with the HRM for safety on city sidewalks for so long she can’t remember the first time it was an issue,” reports Suzanne Rent as the beginning of her three-part series about Khazanavicius,” a Halifax woman who is blind and advocates to make the city and province more accessible to people who are blind and partially sighted. In this article, we look at Khazanavicius’s struggle to make sidewalks around construction sites safer for herself and other pedestrians.”

Click here to read “One woman’s fight to make Halifax accessible.”

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5. Renewable power

The Ellershouse wind farm. Photo: Bullfrog Power

“The province has issued a Request for Proposals for new large wind and solar projects capable of supplying 10% of the province’s electricity  from renewable sources,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The procurement will be handled by the American firm CustomerFirst Renewables, which was initially hired by the previous Liberal government, as reported by the Examiner in April 2021.  

Nova Scotia now generates about 30% of its electricity from renewable sources. Another 20% in the form of hydro from Muskrat Falls is anticipated by the end of 2022. This large-scale wind and solar procurement is aimed at adding another 10% to reach 60%. Last autumn the Houston government passed legislation setting an 80% renewables target by 2030.

Click here to read “Province seeks proposals for new wind, solar projects.”

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6. Parking fines

A parking pay station in Dartmouth in September 2020. Photo: Twitter/@hfxgov

“Parking fines may be going up in Halifax for the second time in under two years,” reports Zane Woodford:

In September 2020, Halifax regional council voted in favour of a bylaw amendments to increase fines for metered parking violations from $25 to $35 (and from $20 to $30 if paid early).

Now it’s considering raising those fines from $35 to $45, or $40 if paid early.

Click here to read “Halifax councillors to consider hiking parking fines again.”

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7. Hit and run

The RCMP yesterday issued a press release about an apparent hit in run along Highway 4 leading towards Sydney:

February 13, 2022, Howie Centre, Nova Scotia…Northeast RCMP Traffic Services is investigating after a fatal motor vehicle collision on Kings Rd. in Howie Centre.

At approximately 7:15 a.m. yesterday, police, EHS and fire responded to a motor vehicle collision on Kings Rd. in Howie Centre. Police learned that a deceased person had been located on the side of the road, and the fatal injuries the person had suffered were consistent with having been struck by a vehicle. There was no vehicle located in the immediate area that may have been involved in a collision.

The deceased was identified as a 41-year-old man from Glace Bay.

The Google Street View of this stretch of road shows that there’s a sidewalk along one side of Kings Road, but not on the side where the Tim Hortons and Needs are; in fact, the Google car happened to catch a man walking along the shoulder of the road carrying a Tim’s coffee.

Google Street View of Kings Road in Howie Centre.

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8. Bet On Me

“The final episode (FINAL EPISODE) of Annette Verschuren’s Bet On Me podcast is called “Betting on Cape Breton Island with Annette Verschuren” and it features a conversation between Verschuren and what I will now forever think of as her “mini-mes” — a group of women, all of whom are part of her Cape Breton Voices group, all of whom seem to have read her freaking book,” writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator, ending with this bit:

And Verschuren, as she has been throughout this podcast series, is completely incoherent on the role of government.

On the one hand, she has that kneejerk neo-liberal contempt for it. She thinks we all used to depend on it “to solve all our problems.” She says with the steel plant and the coal mines under government ownership “no one could make a move and everyone was waiting for the government to decide for us.”

But on the other hand, she says people are no longer looking to government to solve all their problems because government, both federal and provincial, is doing so much to nurture business.

Are there two governments? A bad one that can’t be trusted to run a popsicle stand and a good one that gives money to the private sector? (The Verschuren Centre, which she lauds as a hive of entrepreneurial activity, survives entirely on public money. And NStor, her energy storage company, is no stranger to it either.)

Has it even occurred to Verschuren that one thing that has made a significant contribution to the local economy in the past decade is the arrival of Citizenship & Immigration, a federal government department that has given full-time, well-paid work to some and part-time, well-paid work to others?

I guess what I am trying to say is that this question of economic development is complex and Verschuren’s thinking is not and I hope these women read some other books.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do a victory lap around my house and then cut the speaker cables to my computer so I never have to listen to such a pile of mahookey ever again.

Click here to read Campbell’s take on Bet On Me.

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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9. Space and SPACs

They made a pretty picture of a rocket in space, so everyone in Nova Scotia thought it must be real.

Maritime Launch Services Ltd., a Canadian startup that owns a spaceport for commercial rocket launches, is in talks to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Ceres Acquisition Corp., according to people with knowledge of the matter,” reports Gillian Tan for Bloomberg:

Ceres is in discussions to raise a so-called private investment in public equity, or PIPE, to support a transaction that would give the combined company a valuation of about $530 million, said some of the people, asking not to be identified discussing private information. Terms could change and, as with any deal that isn’t finalized, talks could collapse.

Los Angeles-based Ceres, a special purpose acquisition company led by Chairman and CEO Joe Crouthers and President Jordan Cohen, raised $120 million in a February 2020 initial public offering. The SPAC last year struck a deal with cannabis producer Parallel which it ultimately terminated. [emphasis added]

What’s going on here is a bullshit financial “innovation” is knocking up against a bullshit space industry “innovation.”

“A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is a company that has no commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an initial public offering (IPO) for the purpose of acquiring or merging with an existing company,” explains Investopia:

Also known as “blank check companies,” SPACs have been around for decades, but their popularity has soared in recent years. In 2020, 247 SPACs were created with $80 billion invested, and in just the first quarter of 2021, a record $96 billion1 was raised from 295 newly formed SPACs. By comparison, only two SPACs came to market in 2010.

SPACs are generally formed by investors or sponsors with expertise in a particular industry or business sector, to pursue deals in that area. In creating a SPAC, the founders sometimes have at least one acquisition target in mind, but they don’t identify that target to avoid extensive disclosures during the IPO process. (This is why they are called “blank check companies.” IPO investors typically have no idea about the company in which they will ultimately be investing). SPACs seek underwriters and institutional investors before offering shares to the public.

The funds SPACs raise in an IPO are placed in an interest-bearing trust account. These funds cannot be disbursed except to complete an acquisition or to return the money to investors if the SPAC is liquidated. A SPAC generally has two years to complete a deal or face liquidation. [emphasis added]

Famously, a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition Corp. bought Trump’s Truth Social, and now the whole thing is coming crashing down.

But that’s par for the course. “Year-to-date, most post-merger U.S. SPACs are not performing well,” reported Bloomberg last July. “Two-thirds of the 36 currently publicly traded de-SPACed U.S. companies that were taken over by U.S. SPACs that went public on or after Jan. 1, 2019… are reporting a loss in value. And for the most part, we aren’t just talking about small dips: The average depreciation in value of the 24 negatively performing post-merger entities is 26%, with the two worst performers reporting a loss in value of over 60%.”

By November, Bloomberg was reporting that “There’s a certain amount of risk in turning private ventures into publicly traded companies. But critics say the problem is that SPAC targets often aren’t ready. And without the detailed regulatory disclosures and due diligence required in normal IPOs, it’s too hard to weed out the duds.”

“So the bottom line is it’s a great time to be a seller,” explained Scott Galloway:

And when you think about this, … the interesting thing about SPACs is that from the moment they SPAC, they have 24 months to do a deal or they have to give their money back. And the sponsors have to come up with about 10 million bucks, or 2 to 4 percent of the gross proceeds. And then they lose it all. So, you’re about to see … I think the number is something like 70 to 100 billion dollars …

But what will be interesting, though, is in three to six months, when some of these SPACs start lapping their one-year anniversary, which means they now have a gun to their head. You are going to see panic at the disco…. I mean, it’s going to be very interesting to see how desperate these companies are. It’s going to be interesting.

As we see above, Ceres Acquisition Corp is a SPAC created in February 2020, which means it needs to acquire a company by February 2022, which is right now.

In October, Ceres’s deal with the Parallel cannabis company fell apart because, reported Reuters, “several investors had lost confidence in Parallel’s ability to deliver on lofty financial projections it provided in February [2021], when the merger was announced.”

Are those same Ceres investors now going to find confidence in the Maritime Launch Services deal? It seems unlikely, as the MLS deal has the feel of desperation — after all, we’re talking about a company that plans to use a rocket produced in a factory in a country now surrounded by tens of thousands of Russian troops.

“Space companies that went public in the last year only to see their valuation drop precipitously may soon become targets of acquisitions,” reported Jeff Foust for Space News over the weekend:

“There are still 700 SPACs out there that are looking to find assets and homes. The incentives for the sponsors are to do a deal at all costs, so you will see, even though the public market for SPACs right now is very difficult, additional space SPACs this year,” Ingle said. “Many of them could be quite marginal.”

One such deal may be in the works now. Bloomberg reported Feb. 11 that Maritime Launch Services, a Canadian company that plans to offer launches using Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rockets from a spaceport to be built in Nova Scotia, is in negotiations to merge with Ceres Acquisition Corp., a SPAC.

Maritime Launch must be excited about the prospect of the first substantial investment into the company, even if it has no actual confirmed customers. We’ll see what the skittish Ceres investors think about this.

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Government

City

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Committee of the Whole and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting; Committee of the Whole agenda here; Halifax Regional Council agenda here

Province

Monday

No meetings

Tuesday

Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm) — video conference: Services Provided by the Foundation, with Peter Stoffer and Sandra Goodwin from Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

CH&E Seminar Series (Monday, 12:30pm) — “A collaborative implementation science research project gathering data on older adults living in Nova Scotian communities”, an online seminar with Grace Warner

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

Remember Africville Film Screening and Discussion (Tuesday, 5pm) — online event


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:00 MSC Jersey, container ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Le Havre, France
10:30: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
11:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland, Maine
16:45: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Reykjavik, Iceland

Cape Breton
04:00: Sea Voyager, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for New York
05:00: Loire, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Point Tupper
16:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
16:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, moves from anchorage to Aulds Cove quarry


Footnotes

Weather today, looks like.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I’ve been following the death rates from COVID in the U.S. vs. Canada for a while and find the discrepancy shocking. According to data found online, in 2021 the population of the U.S. was 8.73 times that of Canada. According to data found in today’s Globe & Mail, the most recent death count in Canada is 35,231 vs. 915,434 for the U.S.
    If, on a per capita basis, the U.S. had the same death rate as Canada, it’s total deaths would be 35,231 X 8.73 = 307,567. The difference of 607,876 (915,434 – 307,567) represents the excess of deaths experienced in the U.S. relative to Canada, to date, due to a much higher death rate. Alternatively, if Canada had the same death rate as the U.S., it would have 69,630 more deaths than it currently does. I’ve been doing this calculation for a while now and the death rate between the U.S. and Canada is growing.
    I’m having trouble rationalizing why the difference between the countries is so great. I think that part of it can be attributed to a higher vaccination rate in Canada, although we lagged the US. for quite a while, and the greater acceptance of public health measures (masking and social distancing) in Canada but I doubt that could explain the whole difference. My instinct is that it can be largely explained by the difference in our health care systems. Our public health care system accepts patients for treatment, regardless of income. The U.S. system doesn’t.
    So I guess that my point would be that the protestors on our side of the border should consider moving to the U.S. for the freedom they seek.

  2. TWO THOUGHTS

    We are the MANY they are the FEW.

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing.”

  3. Individuals demonstrating in the Grand Parade, a public space, is legitimate no matter their message. I attended rallies by youth for climate action. They were inspiring and made one believe that direct action is invaluable.

    If demonstrators were to drive trucks into the Grand Parade to block the operation of City Hall or the free movement of citizens then it is intimidation.

    Anyone who has cycled next to or tried crossing a marked crosswalk against a giant SUV or pick up truck will attest to that.

  4. On the same vein of ‘speaking in Canadian nice’ a flag flying truck in Bridgewater yesterday had painted on the window “We dislike you Justin”
    Which I thought to be a rather civil message… until it was followed up with “#Communist”…which immediately lost all credibility…but is a nice simile to your points in the article.

    As this thread points out Fascism is going to make an appeal to have things go “back to the way things were” and “back to normal”… the mythical past common to fascist movements

    https://twitter.com/TheAgentNDN/status/1491133909945692161?s=20&t=E8BP7U1M16bQfQLqztWpwQ

  5. Thank you Tim for the combination of first hand reporting and making much deeper sense of what is going than I have read anywhere else. Not that I have read everything out there. Will be sharing this and encouraging people to subscribe. “When a leader lies constantly, the goal isn’t to make you believe something; it’s to make you believe anything” is an astounding warning.

  6. Excellent article. Tim would make an excellent war correspondent. Indeed, we seem to be in the midst of a great war, firstly for hearts and minds and secondly against a real health threat.
    Our punishing curse for political apathy, perhaps, is that “we live in interesting times”!

  7. Tim, one of your best and better than anything else I have been privileged to read.

    They are the sheep and their shepherds are ravening wolves brandishing false staffs of ‘freedom’.

  8. “the large majority of Canadians (90%+) who agree with the science of vaccines”

    There are a non-trivial number of people who got the vaccines because they would otherwise lose their jobs, and then possibly become homeless.

      1. My point was that there are lots of reasons why people got the vaccine, not just because “they agree with the science”. I got it because it appears to work, I know people who got it because they would lose their job otherwise and couldn’t pay rent any other way.

    1. I support science, but I only got my two jabs in hopes of reaching 75% so that we could go mask free in the summer past. In my mind, vaccines prevent one from getting sick; these shots offer protection so remind me of flu shots. Flu shots, for almost all professions, are optional. As you point out, many didn’t have the option of choice.

      Science, though, usually has a carefully chosen control group and the results need to be replicated many times before the results are released. In terms of past medications, we have usually had some longer-term data as well. These mRNA shots, I suppose, have a control group in those who won’t take them – but how representative are they? So far, we do not have longer-term data and it will be years before we have true long-term data. At best we have short-term data that shows they provide protection that wanes over time, again like a flu shot.