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With 8 teams remaining, Scotties title feels like anyone’s game

When this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts began one week ago, many expected the usual curling characters to rise to the top. Jennifer Jones, Kerri Einarson and Rachel Homan were picked by many to advance to the championship pool and that’s exactly what happened.

But what many curling fans and prognosticators didn’t see developing was a young Quebec team and veteran Saskatchewan skip also rising to the top. 

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Quebec skip Laurie St-Georges has been fearless in the face of pressure in her first Scotties appearance. And her team seems to be soaking up every second on the ice, smiling, laughing and embracing the big stage. The team finished the preliminary round with a 6-2 record and is one of the eight teams remaining, battling it out for the final three spots.

Then there’s Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson, who at 57 is playing in her 10th Scotties and led her team to first place in Pool B with a 6-2 record. (In fact, Anderson got her first Scotties victory 27 years ago today. She’s won 56 games at the national championship throughout her career and is becoming one of the great stories at this year’s event.)

Team Fleury (5-3), skipped by Chelsea Carey, Quebec (6-2) and Manitoba (6-2) also advanced out of Pool B. 

In Pool A, Homan and Einarson lead the way with 7-1 records, but Homan finished first by defeating Einarson in their final preliminary game. Also advancing out of Pool A are Team Peterson and Alberta, each at 5-3. 

WATCH | That Curling Show breaks down moving day at Scotties:

From tiebreaker scenarios to championship round matchups, hosts Colleen Jones and Devin Heroux get you caught up. 47:55

The teams will carry over their records from the preliminary round to the championship round, making each game that much more important the rest of the way. The four teams from Pool A will play the four teams from Pool B. 

The top three teams after the championship pool advance to the playoffs, with the first-place team moving directly to Sunday’s final while the second- and third-place teams battle it out in the semifinal. 

Throughout the week of competition there were moments of drama, shots were made and shots were certainly missed. The curlers are in a situation like no other having not been able to properly practice heading into the national championship.

Under normal circumstances, teams would have played anywhere from 10 to 12 events by this point of the curling season. The rust was noticeable. But now with a week on the ice behind them, it appears the teams are getting a grasp on the ice conditions and seem more comfortable. 

Team Einarson, outside of the loss to Homan, has been one of the most consistent teams and looks a good bet to repeat their championship last year in Moose Jaw. Not since Homan won in 2013 and 2014 has a team repeated. 

Homan, eight months pregnant, is making another championship push at the Scotties, looking to erase her back-to-back losses in the championship game the past two years.

Jones is looking to make more history. Earlier in the tournament she surpassed Colleen Jones for most wins ever at the Scotties. If she wins Sunday’s championship, it will be her seventh, moving her past Colleen Jones for most titles as a skip. 

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CBC | Sports News

The Blue Jays are back and looking like a contender

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Spring* is here

*OK, not actually. Most of Canada is still in winter’s grip. But there are signs it’s loosening. One of those comes to us from Dunedin, Fla., where the Toronto Blue Jays are now holding full-squad spring training workouts. Seems like a good time for a quick catchup on the Jays as they prepare for opening day on April 1 at Yankee Stadium:

They won’t be back in Canada for a while.

The Jays announced last week that, due to ongoing health/travel restrictions, they’ll remain in Dunedin for at least their first two homestands of the regular season. That means they’ll be playing out of their spring-training stadium until May 14 at the earliest.

Team president Mark Shapiro said the Jays want to return to Toronto “as soon as it is safe to do so.” But there’s no timetable for the move and it’ll probably depend on the Canadian government easing its restrictions on cross-border travel. So there’s a good chance the Jays remain in Florida (or at least in the United States) past mid-May. Once the summer heat/humidity/thunderstorms bear down on central Florida, the Jays could head north to Buffalo, where they played their home games last season.

There are some new faces in camp.

The big one is centre-fielder George Springer, who was lured from Houston with the richest contract ($ 150 million US over six years) in Blue Jays history. Springer, 31, was one of the top free agents on the market. He won the World Series MVP award in 2017, averaged 31 home runs in the last four full seasons and homered at even higher rate in pandemic-shortened 2020.

Toronto also signed Marcus Semien to be its new second baseman. He played shortstop for Oakland, where he hit 39 home runs in 2019 and finished third in the American League MVP vote. Semien was awful at the plate last year, but the Jays gave him a one-year, $ 18-million deal that should motivate him to rebound.

Toronto took a similar approach to trying to upgrade its pitching behind ace Hyun-jin Ryu, rolling the dice on one-year deals with several players. Those include lefty starter Steven Matz, who’s coming off an atrocious season for the Mets, and potential closer Kirby Yates, who led the majors with 41 saves in 2019 for San Diego but had his 2020 ruined by an elbow injury.

But it’s the “old” faces who will make or break this team.

Quotation marks around “old” because we’re talking about the Jays’ young core. Shortstop Bo Bichette, who turns 23 next week, hopes to bounce back after a knee injury cost him a month last season and sapped him of his power once he returned. Twenty-five-year-old Swiss Army knife Cavan Biggio will probably spend more time at third base with Semien taking over at second. Corner outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernández are both coming off excellent seasons and are still on the right side of 30. Twenty-one-year-old catcher Alejandro Kirk showed promise last year, and 24-year-old pitcher Nate Pearson could be a godsend for the thin rotation if he taps into his potential.

But all eyes, again, will be on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The almost-22-year-old slugger has shown flashes, but he still hasn’t lived up the hype accompanying his arrival in the majors two years ago. Guerrero appears to be in much better shape this year (with the requisite Instagram workout pics to prove it) but the pressure is on him to start producing like the all-star everyone figured he’d be.

The Jays can build on last year.

Their surprise playoff appearance was more a product of the shortened season and expanded post-season field than the actual quality of the roster. But Toronto is a good, young team that made some solid additions and should challenge for a spot in the back-to-normal playoffs.

It’ll be tough to top the Yankees in the AL East, but here’s a warm thought to help you through the last few weeks of winter: Fangraphs’ respected projection system has Toronto finishing second in the division at 88-74 — ahead of the improving Red Sox and declining AL-champion Rays. According to the model, that would tie the Jays for the second-best record in the AL and would land them a wild-card playoff spot for the second year in a row.


Shortstop Bo Bichette looks to bounce back after a knee injury sidelined him for a month last season. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press)

Quickly…

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is heating up. It’s the final day of the opening round, and only eight teams will advance to the championship pool, which starts tomorrow. Defending champion Kerri Einarson’s Team Canada (7-0) will be there, and so will Ontario’s Rachel Homan (6-1). They’d already clinched spots heading into their Pool A showdown at 3:30 p.m. ET, which is a rematch of last year’s final. Pool B was more crowded at the top, with Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, six-time champ Jennifer Jones of Manitoba and Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges tied at 5-2 after the morning draw. The wild-card team skipped by Chelsea Carey was just behind at 5-3. Read more about today’s results here. Watch last night’s episode of That Curling Show, which featured a celebration of the 15th anniversary of Brad Gushue’s Olympic gold medal, here. And watch tonight’s show live at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Oklahoma City’s Canadians had a big night. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 42 points and Lu Dort hit the game-winning three at the buzzer in the Thunder’s 102-99 victory over San Antonio last night. Dort finished with 16 points and is now averaging 12.6 on the season — up nearly six points from his rookie year. Gilgeous-Alexander is seizing the opportunity to be OKC’s go-to guy after the Thunder traded away future hall-of-famer Chris Paul in the off-season. The third-year guard is averaging 33 points over his last three games and now ranks 20th in NBA scoring at 23.5 per game. He’s also averaging 6.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

The Canadian women’s soccer team ended its comeback tournament on a sour note. Playing for the first time since the pandemic hit nearly a year ago, Canada scored only one goal and won only one of its three matches at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. After an encouraging 1-0 loss to the juggernaut United States, Canada beat Argentina 1-0 before getting blanked 2-0 by Brazil yesterday. Seven key Canadian players were absent from the mini-tournament, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions about the team’s chances of winning a third consecutive Olympic medal this summer. We might learn more when Canada plays its next match, an away friendly vs. No. 6-ranked England, on April 13. Read more about Canada’s performance at the SheBelieves Cup here.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League will tip off its third season in June. The start was pushed back from mid-May and the number of games cut from 20 to 14 for each team in hopes that fans will be allowed in arenas when the season opens. Last summer, the seven-team CEBL became one of the first North American leagues to return after the pandemic shutdown when it played a month-long tournament in St. Catharines, Ont., to crown a 2020 champion. This year, seven consecutive Saturday games will be broadcast on the CBC TV network, starting with the June 5 season opener between defending champion Edmonton and Fraser Valley. Games will also be streamed live on CBC Gem, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. Read more about the CEBL’s 2021 season here.

Coming up from CBC Sports

Alpine skiing: Watch a World Cup women’s downhill race in Italy live Friday at 5:45 a.m. ET here.

CBC Sports U: Anyone pursuing a career in sports media might want to check out this free, interactive virtual summit on March 3. CBC Sports is bringing together some well-known sports-media personalities to give students an inside look at their experiences and an opportunity to ask questions. Get more details and sign up here.

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CBC | Sports News

What a 3rd wave of COVID-19 could look like in Canada — and how we can avoid it

COVID-19 levels are declining from the devastating peaks of the second wave across much of Canada, but experts say the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants threatens to jeopardize our ability to prevent a third wave.

Canada has close to 850 confirmed cases of the variants first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, with at least six provinces now reporting community transmission — meaning there’s probably a lot more spreading beneath the surface than we know.

But as variant cases increase, overall COVID-19 numbers have dropped steadily in Canada, with just over 31,000 active cases across the country, about 2,900 new cases per week and 54 cases daily.

“Overall, we’re still doing well,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said during a news conference on Tuesday. “But things could change rapidly.”

So, is Canada destined for a third wave? Or will we be able to adequately respond to the threat of variants spreading across the country to avoid one altogether?

Parts of the country that have seen notable declines in cases have recently moved to reopen non-essential businesses and lift lockdowns in the face of fast-spreading variants, despite public health officials cautioning against doing so

WATCH | Federal modelling warns COVID-19 cases will rise with variants:

Variants are spreading and the virus is changing. But Ottawa’s new modelling reinforces a familiar message. Case rates may be down now, but ease up on restrictions too soon, and disaster could be close behind. 1:50

Is a 3rd wave in Canada inevitable?

Much like the first and second waves of the pandemic in Canada, the situation varies greatly across the country for a number of different reasons — ranging from geographic and demographic to political.

But even provinces and territories that have had fewer COVID-19 cases are still at high risk of devastating outbreaks, overwhelmed health-care systems and severe outcomes for vulnerable populations if variants spread rapidly.

Tam said Newfoundland and Labrador is a cautionary tale for the rest of Canada, where an outbreak of the variant first identified in the U.K., also known as B117, led to a spike in new cases in the community during a time when public health measures were “less stringent.”

“Provincial health authorities knew something was different when cases escalated over a matter of days, even before laboratory evidence confirmed the presence of the B117 variant,” she said.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and scientist with Toronto General Hospital, said variants have made it hard for anyone to predict the likelihood of a bad third wave of the pandemic in Canada with any degree of confidence.

“When you factor in variants of concern and you factor in not enough immunity in the population to protect ourselves, it’s clear that a third wave is certainly a possibility,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability.”


Storm clouds are pictured above a shipping vessel moored in English Bay in Vancouver on Jan. 25. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and scientist with Toronto General Hospital, says a third wave of the pandemic is possible but not inevitable. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Bogoch said the likelihood of a third wave depends on how Canadians respond to the loosening of restrictions and the increase in opportunities to mingle together and get into situations where the virus can more easily be transmitted.

“It also completely depends on how the provincial governments and the public health authorities choose to reopen their provinces and their ability to rapidly react to a rise in cases,” said Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

“It doesn’t mean you have to stay locked down until everyone is vaccinated. It just means that as places reopen, they have to be extremely careful, proceed very slowly and be able to rapidly pivot if there’s any indication that there are cases plateauing or rising.”

What is the likelihood of a 3rd wave in Canada? 

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says that based on what we know right now, a third wave is “mathematically inevitable” in Canada because of three key factors.

The first is we know what third waves typically look like from previous pandemics, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which saw a brutal third wave during the winter and spring of 1919 — around the same point of the pandemic we’re in now.

Deonandan said societal behaviour is another factor that could lead to a more severe third wave if variants drive outbreaks as restrictions left and Canadians don’t strictly adhere to public health guidelines.

And the third factor is variants, which Deonandan said could be the driving “mechanism” for a devastating third wave in Canada given the extent to which they’ve already spread in recent weeks.

But he said the likelihood of a bad third wave could change with two major caveats.

“The first is: It is avoidable with sufficient public health response and precautionary action, but our history shows us that most governments are unwilling to do the hard public health response, and most populations are unwilling to tolerate that level of action,” he said.

“The second caveat is of course vaccination.”


A nurse prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto on Dec. 22. Experts say we may not be able to vaccinate enough of the population fast enough in Canada to adequately slow the spread of variants in time before they take over. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The good news is that vaccines have not only been shown to be effective in the real world in reducing severe outcomes from COVID-19 but also in potentially curbing virus transmission.

But the catch is we may not be able to vaccinate enough of the population fast enough in Canada to adequately slow the spread of variants in time before they take over.

“It’s a race against time. We want to get the vaccines out there now, before variants get in,” said Dr. Anna Banerji, a physician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“I really believe that we can get on top of this if we get people vaccinated and then make modifications to the vaccines as we need to.”

WATCH | How vaccines can keep up with coronavirus variants:

New coronavirus variants won’t necessarily mean new vaccines or vaccine boosters are needed. And if adjustments are needed, they would take less time to develop than the original vaccines. 2:01

Banerji said even if Canada has a third wave, it likely won’t be as bad as previous waves because she feels Canadians have learned tough lessons in the pandemic — such as in December, when people gathered over the holidays and cases skyrocketed.

“People see that our individual actions have an impact on the outcome, and so I think while people may feel disempowered, they’re realizing that their behaviour really does count,” she said.

“Once we get the vaccines out, things will change and we’ll start opening things up. So I’m still optimistic for the future, even if there’s a lot of fear out there.” 

How bad could a 3rd wave be in Canada? 

Deonandan said that while Canada may not be able to completely “vaccinate our way out of a third wave,” it could look completely different than waves we’ve seen in the past.

“What might happen is that our third wave is very high in cases but not as high in deaths, because we have done a pretty good job in vaccinating our long-term care centres if nothing else, and that’s where a large proportion of our deaths come from,” he said.

“But hospitalizations might be a different matter.”

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said once those at highest risk are vaccinated, including seniors living in the community and in long-term care, hospitalizations will likely decrease.

“But people are going to worry if we open up, we’re just going to get tons of cases,” he said. “Yes — but they’re not going to be severe.”

Chakrabarti said if Canada sees a smaller third wave, or “wavelet,” the health-care system might be able to “absorb” the impact of COVID-19 better than previous waves and avoid becoming completely overwhelmed.


A nurse tends to a patient suspected of having COVID-19 in the ICU of a Toronto hospital in May. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says if Canada sees a smaller third wave, or ‘wavelet,’ the health-care system might be able to ‘absorb’ the impact of COVID-19 better than previous waves. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

South Africa recently saw a notable decline in COVID-19 cases despite the variant first identified there driving a spike in transmission, which could bode well for other countries hoping to control that variant from spreading.

But experts caution that a decline in cases could be short lived, as evidenced by countries hit hard by B117, such as Portugal, Spain, Ireland and the U.K., that later saw an even greater spike in cases driven by the variant.

If Canada is hit by a third wave, Bogoch said it’s likely that community-dwelling seniors and racialized communities will be disproportionately harmed.

“We know how to prevent this from happening. We have the tools that work, we know how to do this, we can prevent a third wave,” he said.

“There’s no reason to have a third wave. There’s no reason to have another lockdown. This is not related to the virus, and we have enough information about how this virus is transmitted. This is truly based on policy.”

Deonandan said while he agrees that a third wave could be prevented, he’s all but convinced Canada is destined to face one because of a lack of political will from parts of the country that are already pushing to reopen.

“It’s highly likely. I think we could do heroic things to avoid it, but we won’t,” he said.

“But what is uncertain is what the hospitalization and death toll of a third wave will be — it might not be as severe.”

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CBC | Health News

Curlers ready for a Scotties like no other — all in the face of the unknown

In the backdrop of empty seats, cardboard cutouts of fans sprinkled across some of them, and restricted movement unlike anything ever seen at a women’s national championship, the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is set to begin Friday night in Calgary — in the midst of pandemic.

And while the journey to get to this point has been anything but smooth, 18 of the top women’s teams from across the country have finally made it to the curling bubble and are sitting in hotel rooms ready to take the pebbled ice for the national championship.

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

This is anything but an ordinary Scotties, with curlers having taken extraordinary measures to find ice time, stay in shape and prepare for the event. Some were even sliding on backyard rinks and ponds and whatever they could find to remind them what it feels like. 

Staying mentally sharp for the next nine days of competition is going to be as much a part of the story as the curling playing out across the four sheets. 

Curling Canada is adamant the bubble setting will be “strictly enforced,” and curlers will not be seeing much light of day as they travel from hotel, to vehicle, to arena and back.


Most teams idle and handpicked

For months, the majority of curlers have been sitting around, locked away like the rest of Canada, without being able to practise properly — and in an overwhelming amount of cases, most teams didn’t even play in a provincial or territorial tournament at all. The majority of teams were handpicked to represent their area of the country. 

They’re going from idle time to a national championship overnight and the player’s health and safety, as well as being in championship form, will certainly be something to watch as the event drags on. 

Getting off to a solid start at the Scotties has always been paramount to success, but perhaps this year those first few games will be that much more important because nobody really knows what to expect after so much time away. 

And as if the situation wasn’t dramatic enough, Curling Canada has changed the playoff format this year, taking away the Page Playoff system, which saw four teams advance to the weekend. Now just the top-three teams from the preliminary and championship advance to the playoffs, with the best record going straight to the final game and the second- and third-place teams battling to also reach the final. 


From left to right: Team Canada skip Einarson, third, Val Sweeting, second, Shannon Birchard and lead, Briane Meilleur, pictured posing with the Scotties trophy in 2020, are looking to repeat as national champions. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Margin of error never slimmer

The margin of error at a Scotties has never been slimmer, all in the face of a dizzying amount of unknowns.

This year’s event marks 40 years of the women’s national championship being named the Scotties and it’s a stacked field. Defending champion Kerri Einarson’s team from Manitoba will take the ice as Team Canada having won the title against Rachel Homan in Moose Jaw, Sask., last year. 

Skips who have won the past 13 editions of the Scotties will all be in the bubble in Calgary. There is undoubtedly a richness of history and legacy to this event, and the throwback retro uniforms the teams will wear is a tip of the cap to all the great moments from the past. 

There is no shortage of storylines.

Will Jennifer Jones be able to capture a historic seventh Scotties title, allowing her to surpass Colleen Jones for most championships ever as a skip?

Can Homan regain her winning form, having lost the past two Scotties finals in extra ends? 

Then there’s Chelsea Carey, who didn’t think she’d be playing this year after her team disbanded during the off-season — only to get the call from Team Tracy Fleury to take the place of Fleury herself, who is staying home with her daughter due to health concerns. 

There are five Manitoba teams with the addition of two extra wild-card spots, including MacKenzie Zacharias’ world junior champion team. How will some of the younger teams handle the bright lights of the big bonspiel?

What about upsets? There could be plenty. And one of those dark horse teams could very well be Suzanne Birt’s Prince Edward Island foursome who are always in the mix — and have been on the ice for much of the winter. 

There are familiar faces. There are new faces. And there’s not a lot of time to figure things out. A couple of early losses will spell disaster for teams — and so it’ll be fascinating to see if the veterans can lean on their experience or if it’ll be the younger teams that don’t really have a lot to go on who rise to the top early. 


A seventh Scotties victory in 2021 would give all-time great Jones the most women’s national titles ever. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

Tournament format

The teams in Calgary are separated into two pools of nine, and have been seeded based on their final standing in the 2019-20 Canadian Team Ranking System.

They will play a full round robin within their respective pools, and then the top four teams in each pool will move on to the championship pool starting Friday, Feb. 26. They will then play four more games against the teams from the other pool with their preliminary pool records carried forward.

From there, the top three teams will make the playoffs — the first-place team after the championship round will go straight to the gold-medal game, while the second and third-place teams will meet in the semifinal.


Team Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey is a two-time Scotties champion, including in 2016 and 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Winning teams earns Olympic trials berth

The winning team earns a spot at the Olympic trials in November and also will play as Team Canada at the Scotties next year in Thunder Bay. 

It also takes home $ 100,000.

Normally the winning team would also represent Canada at the women’s world championship — but the World Curling Federation had to cancel the event that was slated for mid-March in Switzerland. At this point there’s no word on whether the event will be in a different location this winter or spring or if they plan to move it to next fall. 

It will be a crucial event when it does take place with Canada needing a top-six finish to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics. 

There is a lot at stake, but with Scotties curling is officially back.

The teams

Pool A 

  • No. 1. Team Canada, Kerri Einarson (Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard, Briane Meilleur, Krysten Karwacki, Heather Nedohin; Gimli).
  • No. 4. Ontario, Rachel Homan (Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes, Joanne Courtney, Danielle Inglis, Randy Ferbey; Ottawa).
  • No. 5. Alberta, Laura Walker (Kate Cameron, Taylor McDonald, Rachel Brown, Dana Ferguson, Shannon Pynn; Edmonton).
  • No. 8. Wild Card No. 2, Mackenzie Zacharias (Karlee Burgess, Emily Zacharias, Lauren Lenentine, Rachel Erickson, Sheldon Zacharias; Altona, Man.).
  • No. 9. Wild Card No. 3, Beth Peterson (Jenna Loder, Katherine Doerksen, Brittany Tran, Cathy Overton-Clapham; Winnipeg).
  • No. 12. Northwest Territories, Kerry Galusha (Jo-Ann Rizzo, Margot Flemming, Shona Barbour, Jim Waite; Yellowknife).
  • No. 13. Nova Scotia, Jill Brothers (Erin Carmody, Jennifer Brine, Emma Logan, Kim Kelly, Daryell Nowlan; Halifax).
  • No. 16. Northern Ontario, Krysta Burns (Megan Smith, Sara Guy, Amanda Gates, Kira Brunton, Rodney Guy; Sudbury).
  • No. 17. Yukon, Laura Eby (Lorna Spenner, Tamar Vandenberghe, Laura Williamson, Darlene Gammel, Scott Williamson; Whitehorse).

Pool B

  • No. 2. Wild Card No. 1, Tracy Fleury (NOTE: Fleury will not be participating; Chelsea Carey to skip; Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish, Clancy Grandy, Sherry Middaugh; East St. Paul, Man.).
  • No. 3. Manitoba, Jennifer Jones (Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Lisa Weagle, Raunora Westcott, Viktor Kjell; Winnipeg).
  • No. 6. British Columbia, Corryn Brown (Erin Pincott, Dezaray Hawes, Samantha Fisher, Stephanie Jackson-Baier, Allison MacInnes; Kamloops).
  • No. 7. Prince Edward Island, Suzanne Birt (Marie Christianson, Meaghan Hughes, Michelle McQuaid, Kathy O’Rourke, Mitch O’Shea; Montague).
  • No. 10. Saskatchewan, Sherry Anderson (Nancy Martin, Chaelynn Kitz, Breanne Knapp, Amber Holland, Shane Kitz; Saskatoon).
  • No. 11. Quebec, Laurie St-Georges (Hailey Armstrong, Emily Riley, Cynthia St-Georges, Florence Boivin, Michel St-Georges; Laval).
  • No. 14. New Brunswick, Melissa Adams (Jaclyn Tingley, Nicole Bishop, Kendra Lister, Monique Massé; Fredericton).
  • No. 15. Nunavut, Lori Eddy (Sadie Pinksen, Alison Griffin, Kaitlin MacDonald, Donalda Mattie; Iqaluit).
  • No. 18. Newfoundland/Labrador, Sarah Hill (Beth Hamilton, Lauren Barron, Adrienne Mercer, Brooke Godsland; St. John’s).

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CBC | Sports News

The only way to control tech giants like Facebook may be for governments to gang up

It used to be that the most influential media companies in Canada had to keep at least one eye on the Canadian public interest whether they wanted to or not.

Broadcasters are regulated through the Broadcasting Act, and while newspapers face less oversight, a restriction on foreign ownership means there is always the potential that a determined Canadian government could do something, like change tax rules, that could nudge them into line.

But now, as internet mega companies including Facebook and Google have taken over much of the ad revenue and eyeballs that mainstream media used to enjoy, there have been only nascent efforts to make them answer to the public interest. 

This week, as Australia considered laws to make them pay for news, the new communications giants have demonstrated they can thumb their noses at mere national governments.

But with a growing sense around the world, including Canada, that Facebook, Google and the like have grown too big and powerful, there are those who say an international effort is necessary to take on the titans of tech.

Facebook’s warning shot to Australia

So far, Australia’s tactic doesn’t seem to be working as planned — although Canada is now vowing to follow their lead and make Facebook pay for news content.

Following a proposal by Australia to force the technology giants to pay for Australian news stories, stories that the tech companies distribute and use to earn their own profits, Facebook has fired a warning shot across the bow of the country’s Parliament.

“They’ve created chaos, and it’s quite deliberate,” Daniel Angus, a professor in digital communication at Queensland University of Technology told Bloomberg news.

Facebook not only offered a flat no, but effectively ejected Australian news stories from its site both down under and worldwide, preventing users from viewing them.

The company even removed access to things like government health notices and weather information, something they later said was a mistake.

Google, however, has entered negotiations with News Corp in a way that signalled a possible accommodation with the new rules. News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, a conservative, has been one of the titans’ biggest critics, in 2019 joining an unlikely pact with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a progressive Democrat, to weaken Google’s power.

Thursday, Canada’s Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said Canada may adopt the Australian model, or follow the lead of other countries trying to get tech giants to pay for content.


After his start in Australia, Rupert Murdoch has become a global media mogul and a strong critic of the power of the internet giants that profit from the news his companies produce. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Calls for regulation

Besides the complaint that the companies like Facebook and Google are earning their profits at the expense of the struggling news industry that is so crucial to the democratic system, there have been many other reasons for demanding greater regulation.

In the U.S., the calls grew louder after Russian interference in the 2016 election of Donald Trump, along with data mining and privacy scandals. 

Many object to the uncontrolled misinformation campaigns tech giants seem unable to manage, increasingly harmful conspiracy theories — including the false narratives about the 2020 U.S. election.

Others complain they are simply too big, able to avoid taxes and acting as monopolies in areas such as search and personal communication.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at a company conference in 2015. Facebook has increasingly come under scrutiny from regulators who consider it too powerful, but efforts to regulate haven’t done much. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

So far, attempts by large international organizations to convince the tech giants to play nice have been weak or ineffective.

There are international bodies, including the United Nations Global Compact, to set standards and to encourage “business as a force for good” but participation is voluntary and Christina Koulias Senior Manager, Global Governance said in an email that Facebook is not a participant.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has a policy on Corporate Social Responsibility. But an ambitious plan by the OECD to coordinate global tax policy that I wrote about back in 2014 has yet to bear fruit for a series of reasons, most recently, say those in the know, due to a brush-off from the Trump administration.

In fact, according to Canada’s own Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), based in Waterloo, Ont., the faceoff between Facebook and Australia illustrates a gap that needs to be filled. And they have a proposal for how to do it.

Tech giants make the rules and the profits

In the case of Facebook, the company claims the Australian rules don’t fit its business model, since it would be forced to pay up when third parties post newspaper articles.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook regional managing director William Easton told the Associated Press.

But CIGI’s managing director of digital economy, Bob Fay, said the problem is that corporations know they can set rules to maximize profits without thinking about the interests of other players, including governments.

“We have these very large, very powerful, global companies that set their own rules, based on what’s best for their own business model,” said Fay.

“We’ve seen very recent examples of where these companies, based on their business models have created substantive harm.”

As well as the new Australian conflict that interfered with people’s health and well-being, Fay specifically cites the use of social media to incite violent and anti-government action in the U.S. — culminating in the invasion of Congress.


There is currently no global forum to regulate cross-border digital giants but Canada’s CIGI wants to create one, says Bob Fay, managing director of digital economy. (Submitted by Bob Fay)

The digital giants are influential in individual countries like Canada and Australia, but in many places they have virtually no physical presence. That makes them hard to influence back.

And while international treaties on standardization or international trade agreements exist, the phenomenon of internet tech giants that cross national boundaries is so new and changing so rapidly, that national governments simply were not prepared.

“There really is no global forum [where] countries come together on these types of issues,” said Fay.

That’s why CIGI has proposed something it calls the Digital Stability Board an international body, with decision making powers, to constantly monitor and regulate global digital platforms in real time as they transform.

The name and model come from the Financial Stability Board, which has a mandate from the G20 to “promote the reform of international financial regulation and supervision,” Fay writes.

The CIGI proposal is not an instant solution for the current problem in Australia. Constituting the body and getting everyone to participate will take time.

But now that Trump, who disliked international co-operation, has been replaced by President Joe Biden, and now that the world has seen how willing Facebook has been to use its power, Fay hopes governments will be spurred into action.

“There are enormous benefits that come from these platforms, but the harms have become increasingly obvious, and they touch every aspect of our lives,” said Fay. “Governments need to take action.”

Follow Don Pittis on Twitter @don_pittis


CBC / Radio-Canada has business partnerships with Facebook for content distribution, and with Google for services that encompass mobile distribution, data storage and communication tools.i

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This is what COVID-19 looks like through the eyes of nurses on the front lines

Turning a desperately ill COVID-19 patient onto their stomach may seem simple enough to the uninitiated. It’s not.

In this case, at Quebec City’s Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus, it requires a total of seven people crowded around an intensive care bed. 

We often hear about how demanding it is for hospital staff and long-term care workers to handle the added workload foisted upon them by the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s just one illustration.

After draping a sheet over the patient, the edges are rolled into the sheet underneath. A pair of pillows are now snug to his chest, and the rolling begins. First, the patient is slid to the edge of the bed. On three, he’s turned to his side. Another three-count, and he is softly delivered onto his stomach.

The room empties. Everyone has work to do.

The Quebec capital has seen a massive spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, and a trio of nurses say they’re worried by members of the public trivializing the illness.

To help convince people to take the coronavirus more seriously during the upcoming holidays, they opened their doors to Radio-Canada.

Their names are Cathy Deschênes, Jennifer Boissonnault and Lindsay Vongsawath-Chouinard. Their aim: to show what life in the hot zone looks like.

Each of them agreed to wear a small camera so the public could see how a typical day unfolds. They filmed their colleagues and their patients, and illustrated how the pandemic has made the job harder and more complex.

(scroll up to view the video)


From left to right, Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus intensive care nurses Lindsay Vongsawath-Chouinard, Jennifer Boissonnault and Cathy Deschênes. (Radio-Canada)

Their point is not to elicit sympathy. As Deschênes says: “It’s difficult, but we love our jobs.”

Instead, they want to show the devastating path some COVID-19 patients are called upon to travel: patients who require more and more staff at their bedside, and need ever larger amounts of treatment time.

And each one of those treatments involves special planning and safety equipment. The ICU rooms have sliding doors, which makes it easier to maintain hot, warm and cold zones. And maintain them, they must.

Each shift has a nurse in charge of making sure the hygiene procedures are being followed and that personal protective equipment, like N95 masks and shields, is worn correctly.

“No one in our department has contaminated themselves (with the virus), we’ve had no outbreaks in intensive care and we’re very proud of that,” Boissonnault says, at one point.

The average age of the COVID-19 patient in the unit is between 60 and 75.

“Some might think that’s old. We don’t think so,” Boissonnault says.

The province has 390 intensive care beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients (20 for pediatric cases), and Enfant-Jésus, in the Maizerets area northeast of downtown Quebec City, accounts for 22 of them.

The unit is not short of business.

Of the 610 COVID-19 patients the hospital has treated so far this year, 90 were in intensive care. And 144 people who entered the hospital with the disease never made it home.

To work in an intensive care unit is to accept that not every patient can be saved, but COVID-19 is rough even for a group of people who must become inured to tragedy.

Public health restrictions mean it’s often not possible for patients’ relatives to be by their bedside, so when things take a turn for the worst, the only hand to hold usually belongs to a nurse, orderly, doctor or other staff member.


Staff prepare a room in the intensive care ward at Enfant-Jésus hospital in Quebec City. The unit opened its doors to Radio-Canada for a rare look at the daily battle against COVID-19. (Radio-Canada)

At one point, a family is forced to make the devastating decision to halt treatment on their intubated loved one. Two nurses each hold a hand as he is prepared for ‘comfort care’ — palliative measures.

“We’re with you sir,” says Boissonault, holding his left hand. “We’re taking care of you.”

The typical hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient lasts 17 days, but in the ICU sometimes it can stretch to 40 or beyond. Attachments form. When someone dies, there are often tears. There have been weeks when that happens four or five times in just one section of the unit. 

People infected with this virus can sometimes take a sudden, catastrophic turn.

“To give comfort to a patient whose family can’t be there with them in their final moments, to be the ones who take their hands in ours during their final moments … it’s troubling,” says Vongsawath-Chouinard, her voice cracking.

So when there is good news, it is celebrated.

Recently, a patient from the Saguenay called Daniel Bouchard made enough progress to be released from the unit to a regular COVID-19 ward in the hospital.


Daniel Bouchard, 65, is wheeled out of Enfant-Jésus hospital’s intensive care unit in Quebec City as staff applaud. He spent 8 days in the unit with COVID-19. (Radio-Canada)

It was his 65th birthday. He had been there eight days, some of them touch-and-go.

The nurses and medical staff got him a card and a small cake. He thanks them in a raspy voice and is overcome with emotion, weeping in his wheelchair as a nurse rubs his shoulders.

“Your tears say a lot,” Boissonnault says.

Safety measures oblige, the gathered staff had to sing Happy Birthday from the next room.

“Thanks so much, you’ve been an all-star team,” Bouchard says. 

Minutes later, it is time to leave. Outside the room, scrub-wearing staff line the hall.

They applaud as he is wheeled out of view.

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No one has lost quite like Donald Trump in nearly 150 years

Donald Trump is now a history-making loser.

His doomed crusade to overturn the U.S. election result crossed a milestone following electoral college meetings Monday that formally selected Joe Biden as the next president.

Not in a century and a half, since the post-Civil War era, has a defeated presidential candidate continued to challenge the results past those electoral college meetings.

That’s where Trump now finds himself. He has persisted in peddling the idea he can still win even after losing Monday in the formal electoral votes.

He not only denied the electoral college reality in a flurry of defiant tweets: Trump’s campaign also convinced groups of Republicans to organize their own parallel meetings in various swing states and declare him the winner.

It’s part of a no-hope effort to persuade the U.S. Congress to call the election result erroneous and to vote to overturn it.  

“This is off the charts,” said Alexander Keyssar, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and author of a book on the history of the electoral college.

“It’s very unusual.” 


Pennsylvania Attorney General John Shapiro votes at the the Forum theater in the state capital of Harrisburg. (Commonwealth Media Services/handout/Reuters)

Keyssar said there have often been arguments about elections, and recounts, and even court fights like the one in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

There was also a protest from a few Democrats who delayed, by a couple of hours, congressional certification of Bush’s win in Ohio in 2004.

But what’s novel, he said, is the losing candidate insisting on fighting after 538 voters of the electoral college formalize the results across the country.

That threshold was breached Monday.

Trump allies suggested they intended to keep the struggle going until a final showdown: when members of Congress meet on Jan. 6 at 1 p.m.ET to complete the final step in the selection of the president.

Several election experts dismissed Trump’s alternate slate gambit as futile. 

WATCH | Trump supporters gather in Washington D.C. to protest election results:

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump rallied in Washington, D.C., to decry presidential election results, two days before the electoral college meets to certify Joe BIden’s win. 3:00

The congressional numbers simply aren’t there for him: For Trump to get the required simple majority in both houses of Congress to nullify certain states’ votes, he would need a string of unprecedented and, frankly, unfathomable developments.

For starters, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would have to agree to it. It’s highly unlikely he would even get the tiny Republican Senate majority to go along, given that several Senate Republicans have already recognized or even congratulated Biden on his win. Both chambers would need to nullify the results in at least three states, strip Biden of at least 37 electoral votes to keep him under the 270 majority, and then to force what’s called a contingent election in which each state delegation in Congress gets a vote.

“Not gonna happen. It’s just not gonna happen,” Keyssar said.

There’s no sign Trump has the required support even within his own party — as a growing number of Republican lawmakers declared Monday, either bluntly or tentatively, that it’s over and Biden has won.


Electors arrived at the Michigan legislature with police protection on Monday. Other states adopted similar security measures. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

In state capitals, a number of top state-level Republicans have also made clear they won’t help Trump fight the result through their own legislatures. 

Republican leaders in Michigan issued statements calling Biden the election winner Monday — it drew a torrent of angry comments online from Republican voters.

The author of a two-year old paper that previewed how mail-in ballots could prompt legal feuds and chaos said this is it for Trump.

Edward Foley said that after dozens of court losses, and after Monday’s 306-232 loss in the electoral college, Trump can try whatever he wants with Congress.

“It’s still not going to affect the result,” said Foley, director of Ohio State University’s election-law program and author of different books on the electoral college and disputed elections.

But he said the prolonged feud can still damage the country.

Electoral college votes under cloud of security

At least four people were stabbed and one was shot last weekend during election-related street confrontations between opponents and supporters of the president in Washington, D.C., and Washington State.

Security concerns prompted authorities to take unusual precautions to protect members of the electoral college.


Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, applauds as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to members of New York state’s Electoral College before voting for President and Vice-President as electors gather to cast their votes for the U.S. presidential election at the State Capitol in Albany, New York on Monday. (Hans Pennink/Reuters)

In Arizona, the meeting took place in an undisclosed location.

In Michigan, Chris Cracchiolo accepted a police escort to the event in the state legislature; police had urged lawmakers to avoid the building because of credible threats of violence.

“I wouldn’t have believed it,” Cracchiolo said in an interview, referring to the tension surrounding the vote. 

“So many things over the last four years have shocked me. … So many things [where] I just shake my head and say, ‘I’ve never seen this before.'”

Cracchiolo, a sales representative for three decades for AT&T, is now a volunteer with the state Democratic Party. At a meeting this past summer, he was selected by members in his area to be one of Michigan’s 16 electors.

He said he felt a bit nervous during the three-hour drive Monday from his home in northern Michigan to Lansing, the state capital.

Ultimately, though, he saw very few pro-Trump protesters on the way into the legislature; after the meeting, he waved off the offer of a police escort and walked back, unsupervised, to the parking lot.

He said he’s hopeful American politics will get back to a calmer place after the pandemic. He said the incoming president, Biden, is well-suited to that nation-soothing task.


White House aide Stephen Miller, seen here in October, said Monday that the plan is to present Congress in January with two slates of electoral college results. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

Yet events elsewhere on the Michigan legislature grounds suggested dreams of national unity may have to wait a while. 

A group of Michigan Republicans arrived for a planned meeting to choose a competing slate of Trump electors and were told to leave by a police officer.  

At the Trump campaign’s request, such unofficial electoral college meetings were held by Republicans in different states, in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and elsewhere.

Trump aide Stephen Miller described the latest plan in an interview with Fox News.

“We’re going to send those [competing lists] up to Congress,” Miller said.

Security and secret sites

Meanwhile, the campaign will keep fighting in court, arguing that states failed to follow election laws, and hope that some court victories persuade Congress to appoint Trump in its Jan. 6 votes.

The Trump campaign has lost dozens of court cases so far.

In Pennsylvania, Marian Moskowitz arrived for her meeting at an undisclosed location.

As a member of the electoral college she knew the plan was to meet at the Forum auditorium in the state capital of Harrisburg.


U.S. president-elect Joe Biden speaks after the Electoral College formally elected him as president on Monday at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

But the site was kept secret from the public for security precautions. Moskowitz, an early Biden supporter, got a call from the party last month inviting her to be an elector. 

“It was just so overwhelming. So humbling and exciting. All these emotions go through you,” she said, expressing pride in being able to cast a vote for the first female vice-president, and first Black vice-president, Kamala Harris.

‘Just the craziest year’

She pulled up to a parking garage and a shuttle transported her to the meeting location where 20 Pennsylvanians voted for Biden.

“It’s just just the craziest year. Don’t you feel like you’re living in a novel somewhere?” Moskowitz said, referring to the unusually high security precautions. 

“I am concerned. I think we can see now with this president how vulnerable our democracy truly is. That one person can change the way we function.”

Biden, for his part, saluted the resiliency of the U.S. electoral system. 

In a speech Monday night, he said there’s now evidence that nothing — not even a pandemic, or an abuse of power — can extinguish American democracy.

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What an Australian-style push against Chinese interference might look like

Some Australians see the country’s new powers to stop foreign interference as an overdue shift from complacency to vigilance, while others have warned of the dangers of a McCarthyite moral panic.

But all can agree that Australia’s approach to foreign meddling in its politics, universities and public debate has changed a great deal in recent years.

Last week, the Canadian House of Commons voted 179-146 for this country to adopt a plan similar to Australia’s to counter meddling by the People’s Republic of China.

Experts in Canada and Australia suggest that such a change would set Canada on a much more aggressive path in countering China’s inroads into this country’s institutions.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong’s motion requires the government to “develop a robust plan, as Australia has done, to combat China’s growing foreign operations here in Canada and its increasing intimidation of Canadians living in Canada, and table it within 30 days of the adoption of this motion.”

Chong’s motion received the support of most opposition members of the House, along with Liberals Wayne Easter, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, John McKay and Jennifer O’Connell.

Chong chose Australia as a model for Canada because of a package of laws passed in 2018 in the wake of a series of revelations that brought the issue of foreign interference and espionage to the fore.


Candidate Michael Chong addresses a Conservative Party leadership debate Monday, February 13, 2017 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson (Canadian Press)

Influence peddling 

Sam Dastyari was an up-and-coming Labor Party senator when the year 2018 began. By the end of it he had admitted to soliciting thousands of dollars from businesses affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party. Thousands of Australians signed petitions demanding he face charges of treason.

Australian media reports on Dastyari suggested he was a good investment for China. He not only supported Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea — in opposition to the official position of his Labor Party — he also worked to prevent a meeting between his party leader and a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist.

Dominique Dalla-Pozza teaches at the Centre for Military and Security Law at the Australian National University in Canberra (which itself allegedly has been a target of a massive Chinese intelligence operation). She said that for the past few years, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (the ASIO — Australia’s equivalent of Canada’s CSIS) has been sounding the alarm about unprecedented levels of foreign intrusion.

“ASIO said there were more foreign spies and their proxies operating in Australia than at the height of the Cold War,” Dalla-Pozza said.

In Canada, CSIS has been trying for years to draw Canadians’ attention to foreign interference in everything from universities to municipal governments. Then-director Dick Fadden went public with such a warning in 2010. But Canada has seen no real legislative or organizational response.

In Australia, by contrast, those warnings led the Turnbull government to introduce a new Espionage and Foreign Interference Act. 

China not named

Australia’s laws don’t single out China, the country’s largest trading partner. When he introduced the bill in Parliament, then-PM Malcolm Turnbull was careful to cite other precedents, such as Russian meddling in the U.S. and French elections of 2016 and 2017. 

But there’s no doubt in Australia about which foreign government is seen as the most active meddler. Over the last couple of months, Australia has raided the apartments of four Chinese journalists and revoked the visas of two Chinese academics.

Dalla-Pozza said the law defines foreign interference as “conduct that is engaged in in concert with a foreign principal or a person that is acting on behalf of a foreign principle” where “the person engaging in the conduct is reckless as to whether it will influence government processes, or in other ways influence a democratic political right or duty.

“Conduct has to be covert or involve deception, or involve a person making a threat to cause serious harm, or involve a person making a threat with menaces.”

The new law produced its first arrest of a suspect two weeks ago: Di Sanh Duong, a prominent member of pro-Beijing Chinese-Australian organizations.


A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard outside the Australian embassy in Beijing on September 8, 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Discover, track, disrupt

The Turnbull government also brought in laws banning foreigners from donating to Australian politicians, placed new requirements on telecommunications companies to block foreign interference, and created a registry of critical infrastructure assets to provide more transparency on who really owns what in the country.

And “there are other mechanisms being developed in Australia that don’t depend on the law,” such as a new national coordinator, a public information campaign and a hotline, said Dalla-Pozza.

“The act prescribes in a more focused way what is foreign interference, what is espionage, what is treason,” said Patrick Walsh, who teaches at the Australian Graduate School for Policing and Security.

Walsh said one of the most significant aspects of the law is that it allows Australia to fight back outside the courts.

“The key is operational disruption of foreign interference, not just to collect information, but to disrupt it,” he said.

“In 2019 the PM established the Counter Foreign Interference Task Force, which is an interdepartmental task force to discover, track and disrupt foreign interference. And there was $ 8.7 million given to this task force.”

The resources Australia devotes to this effort are not only centralized under a national coordinator, but are also far greater in terms of trained investigators than those available to the Government of Canada.

Thirty days 

Thirty days seems like a short time to design a full overhaul of Canada’s approach to foreign interference, but Chong said Canada has a duty to protect people within its borders from harassment and intimidation by agents of foreign powers. 

“It’s long past time for the government to deal with this. Australia has already dealt with this. Our other allies have already dealt with this,” he said. “I note that on October 28, the FBI charged eight individuals, three of whom were Chinese citizens, for interfering and threatening American citizens through operations that are taking place on American soil.”

The motion doesn’t spell out any consequences for the government if it allows the 30 days to lapse. But Chong said that would be a harmful precedent given the strong cross-party support the motion received in Parliament.

“I expect it to be carried out if the government follows democratic norms and respects the will of Parliament,” he told CBC News. “At a time when democracy is under pressure around the world, it’s more important than ever that governments respect democratic norms.”

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Job Ads for AI Could Soon Look Like This. Are You Ready?

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

Wanted: Human Assistant to the Artificial Intelligence

We are seeking junior and mid-level human applicants to serve as data science assistants to our departmental artificial intelligence (AI) in charge of data analytics. Responsibilities include reviewing, interpreting, and providing feedback about analytics results to the AI, and writing summary reports of AI results for human communication. Requires ability to interact with vendors and information technology staff to provide hardware support for the AI. Experience collaborating with computer-based staff a plus. Must have good human-computer interaction skills. Formal training in the ethical treatment of computers and assessment of the fairness and bias of computer-generated results preferred.

The above is a job advertisement from the future – but not that far into it. It points to where we are going, and where we could be in maybe even as few as five years if we devote the resources and resolution to do the necessary research. But our recent past has shown us that we can develop the type of machines that would soon open up a whole new field of lucrative and fulfilling work.

See, over the last decade, a new computer science discipline called automated machine learning, or AutoML, has rapidly developed. AutoML grew organically in response to the many challenges of applying machine learning to the analysis of big data for the purpose of making predictions about health outcomes, economic trends, device failures, and any number of things in a wide field that are best served when rapid and comprehensive data can be analyzed.

For run-of-the-mill machine learning to work, an abundance of choices is required, ranging from the optimal method for the data being analyzed, and the parameters that should be chosen therein. For perspective, there are dozens of popular machine learning methods, each with thousands or millions of possible settings. Wading through these options can be daunting for new users and experts alike.

The promise of AutoML, then, is that the computer can find the optimal approach automatically, significantly lowering the barrier of entry.

So how do we get to AutoML and to the job advertisement above? There are several hurdles.

The first is persistence. An artificial intelligence (AI) for AutoML must be able to analyze data continuously and without interruption. This means the AutoML AI needs to live in a robust, redundant, and reliable computing environment. This can likely be accomplished using currently available cloud computing platforms. The key advance is modifying the software to be persistent.

The second hurdle is memory and learning. An AutoML AI must have a memory of all machine learning analyses it has run and learn from that experience. PennAI, which my colleagues and I developed, is an example of an open-source AutoML tool that has both, but there aren’t many others. An importance would be to give AutoML the ability to learn from failure. Its current tools all learn from successes, but humans learn more from failure than success. Building this ability into AutoML AI could be quite challenging but necessary.

The third hurdle is explainability. A strength of human-based data science is our ability to ask each other why. Why did you choose that algorithm? Why did you favor one result over another? Current AutoML tools do not yet allow the user to ask.

The final hurdle is human-computer interaction (HCI). What is the optimal way for a human to interact with AI doing data analytics? What is the best way for a human to give an AI feedback or provide it with knowledge? While we have made great progress in the general space of HCI, our knowledge of how to interact with AIs remains in its infancy.

It is entirely conceivable that an AI for AutoML could be built within the next few years that is persistent and can learn from experience, explain the decisions it makes as well as the results it generates, interact seamlessly with humans, and efficiently incorporate and use expert knowledge as it tries to solve a data science problem. These are all active areas of investigation and progress will depend mostly on a dedicated effort to bring these pieces together.

All that said, automated and persistent AI systems will find their place in the near future, once we make a concerted effort to thoroughly research it. We should start preparing our human-based workforce for this reality. We will need vocational programs to train humans how to interact with a persistent AI agent, in much the same way that we have programs to train others who work with and interpret specialized equipment, such as emergency room technicians. There will also need to be an educational culture shift on top of that training, as we will need to integrate AI interaction into courses covering communication, ethics, psychology, and sociology.

This technology is very much within reach. When we do reach it, we’ll have a new, expansive field for human workers. Soon, it will be time to write a job description, but only once we figure out some crucial problems.

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What you need to know for a World Series like no other

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

A World Series like no other starts tonight

As we’ve all learned during the pandemic, sometimes it’s just about getting through the day. So baseball deserves some congrats for simply making it this far. Be honest: when the Marlins and Cardinals experienced those big outbreaks that led to a bunch of postponements back in early August, did you think there would be a World Series this year?

But here we are, with Game 1 between the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays and National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers set for tonight just after 8 p.m. ET. In case you gave up on baseball (fair enough) or just need a refresher, here’s who and what to watch for in this unique World Series:

It’s happening at a neutral site

Perhaps scared straight by those early-season outbreaks, Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed to hold the final three rounds of the post-season in neutral-location, restricted “bubbles.” The World Series is being played at the Texas Rangers’ brand-new stadium in Arlington. It seats around 40,000 but MLB is allowing only about 11,000 fans in for each game, which will make for the smallest World Series crowds in more than a century.

The two best teams are here

Conventional wisdom heading into this pandemic-altered season was that it would be a free-for-all. Baseball was a pretty random sport even before the regular season got shortened from 162 games to 60, the playoff field inflated from 10 teams to 16 and the first round declared an upset-friendly best of three. Throw in the uncertainty of coronavirus infections that could strike any team at any time and you’ve got all the elements for pure chaos.

We got a taste of that when the Marlins — picked by many to finish last in the NL even before 18 of their players were sidelined by positive tests — not only made the post-season but actually swept the Cubs in the opening round. The cream rose to the top, though. The Dodgers and Rays are the top seeds in their respective leagues and had the two best records in baseball.

It’s a David-and-Goliath matchup

The Dodgers are one of the richest and most storied franchises in sports. Their opening-day payroll this year (and remember, salaries were prorated down to about 37 per cent) was $ 107 million US. Only the Yankees spent more than the Dodgers, who parlayed their deep pockets into the 21st World Series appearance in franchise history (dating back to their time in Brooklyn).

This is only the second trip for Tampa Bay, a 1998 expansion team with an indifferent fan base that plays in one of the worst stadiums in sports and spent only $ 28.3 million on players’ salaries this year. That’s the third-lowest in baseball and just $ 2 million shy of what L.A. paid for only two players (Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts) this season.

It’s easy to see why the Dodgers are good

They have stars up and down the roster. Kershaw gives them a three-time Cy Young winner at the top of the rotation and they’re particularly loaded on offence. Shortstop Corey Seager just posted an absurd 1.230 OPS and hit five homers in the NLCS to win series MVP honours. Third baseman Justin Turner and catcher Will Smith both got on base 40 per cent of the time this season. Outfielders AJ Pollock and Mookie Betts both hit 16 homers in only 55 games.

Betts is one of the very best players in baseball. He won the 2018 American League MVP before the Red Sox cheaped out and traded him to L.A. last winter. He didn’t quite play to an MVP level this year but he’s still one of the top hitters and baserunners in the game and also makes catches in right-field like this one to rob a home run in Game 7 of the NLCS:


It’s much harder to see why the Rays are good

If you’re a casual baseball fan, there’s a good chance you can look up and down Tampa’s lineup and not see a single name you recognize. Due to their financial limitations, the Rays can’t really afford star players.

But no franchise in baseball — maybe none in all of sports — is better at grinding for the tiny edges that, when you add them up, can result in a championship-calibre team on a last-place budget. The simplest way to explain it: Tampa’s decision-makers look for players who other teams see as too flawed for their taste. But rather than dwell on their limitations, the Rays zero in on their one or two elite skills (almost everybody at this level has one) and give these players roles that maximize strengths while hiding their weaknesses. It’s similar to how Bill Belichick, the smartest football coach ever, builds his teams.

For example: a reliever who can throw 99-mph flames but hits the wall after only a few batters? No problem, just use him for only a few batters. A starter who struggles the third time through the order when opponents figure him out? Fine, just yank him before that. An infielder who crushes right-handed pitching but can’t hit lefties? OK, aggressively platoon him with a guy who’s the opposite. And everyone on the team benefits from the Rays’ cutting-edge analysis of opposing batters’ tendencies, which manager Kevin Cash uses to position his fielders in spots where the ball is most likely to be hit — not where decades of baseball convention dictate they should stand for every hitter.

So, remember our David and Goliath analogy? This would be like if David had the smartest people in the Valley of Elah design him the world’s most efficient slingshot and show him exactly where to aim the stones.

But, make no mistake, the Rays have very good players

Whether you know their names or not, Tampa has an endless supply of flamethrowers in its bullpen that it never hesitates to tap into should the starter falter. Or sometimes even before the starter takes the mound. The Rays invented the concept of the “opener” — a reliever who works the first inning before giving way to a multi-inning guy.

As for actual names you can look for, Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young in 2018 and Charlie Morton has pitched lights-out this post-season. At the plate, the guy to watch is definitely Randy Arozarena. The 25-year-old Cuban defector missed the first month of the season after contracting the coronavirus, but he’s the best hitter in baseball at this moment. Arozarena is hitting a ridiculous .382 with seven homers and a 1.288 OPS in 14 playoff games this year and was just named MVP of the ALCS.

The Dodgers have demons

Despite all their resources, all their regular-season success (they won their eighth division title in a row this year) and some close calls in the playoffs (this is their third trip to the World Series in four years), L.A. hasn’t won a championship since Kirk Gibson’s legendary walkoff homer sparked their victory over Oakland in 1988.

No player better embodies the Dodgers’ playoff shortcomings than Kershaw, who’s 175-76 with a 2.43 ERA in the regular season but 11-12 and 4.31 in the post, including several high-profile meltdowns. We’ll find out right away if Kershaw can flip the script: he’s L.A.’s Game 1 starter tonight. Read more about the Dodgers and Rays and this unique World Series here.


Atop the L.A. Dodgers’ pitching rotation is three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Quickly…

It’s a story almost too heartbreaking to tell. Today should be a day of pure celebration for Scott Jenkins. It’s his birthday and also the first birthday of his daughter Sydney, the youngest of his three kids. But it also marks exactly one year since the worst day of his life. On Oct. 20, 2019, Scott’s wife, Aly Jenkins, a competitive curler who aspired to one day represent Saskatchewan in the Tournament of Hearts, died of a rare complication while giving birth to Sydney. A year later, Scott is still trying to cope with the loss of the love of his life while juggling the exhausting demands of being a single dad to three young children. He’s also fighting for the maternity-leave considerations that Aly was entitled to, in hopes that the rules will be changed for fathers struck by an unimaginable tragedy like his in the future. Read more about Scott and Aly’s story in this piece by CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux.

The world juniors start on Christmas Day this year, not Boxing Day. Assuming the annual under-20 men’s hockey championship goes ahead, it’ll be the first time it’s started a day early since 2005. Three games are scheduled for Dec. 25, though defending champion Canada opens on the 26th vs. Germany. As previously announced, all games will take place at the Edmonton Oilers’ arena, likely without fans in attendance. The gold-medal final is Jan. 5. With the NHL season on hold until Jan. 1 at the earliest, Canada’s roster could include No. 1 overall draft pick Alexis Lafrenière, who was the MVP of last year’s tournament, and No. 3 choice Quinton Byfield. Read more about the world juniors schedule, including Canada’s opponents, here.

Also…

A correction from yesterday’s newsletter: In the section about the retirement of Doc Emrick, I wrote that Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr now have sons in the Hall of Fame. I meant to write Hull and Gordie Howe. Thanks to the (many) readers who pointed out the error.

And finally…

On this day in 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays hosted the first World Series game played outside the United States. In front of close to 52,000 fans at SkyDome, the Jays beat Atlanta 3-2 to take a two-games-to-one lead in the series. Candy Maldonado drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and one out by smacking Jeff Reardon’s 0-2 pitch over Atlanta’s drawn-in outfielders. Toronto, of course, went on to win the series in six games to capture the franchise’s first championship, then went back-to-back the next year. The entire 1992 Game 3 is on YouTube if you feel like reliving the glory days.

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