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Biden to announce $2-trillion infrastructure plan that would transform U.S. economy

U.S. President Joe Biden wants $ 2 trillion US to re-engineer America’s infrastructure and expects the nation’s corporations to pay for it.

The president travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to unveil what would be a hard-hatted transformation of the U.S. economy as grand in scale as the New Deal or Great Society programs that shaped the 20th century.

White House officials say the spending over eight years would generate millions of new jobs as the country shifts away from fossil fuels and combats the perils of climate change. It is also an effort to compete against the technology and public investments made by China, the world’s second-largest economy and fast gaining on the United States’ dominant position.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the plan is “about making an investment in America — not just modernizing our roads or railways or bridges but building an infrastructure of the future.”

Biden’s choice of Pittsburgh for unveiling the plan carries important economic and political resonance. He not only won Pittsburgh and its surrounding county to help secure the presidency, but he launched his campaign there in 2019.

The city famed for steel mills that powered America’s industrial rise has steadily pivoted toward technology and health care, drawing in college graduates from western Pennsylvania in a sign of how economies can change.

Mostly aimed at transportation

The Democratic president’s infrastructure projects would be financed by higher corporate taxes — a trade-off that could lead to fierce resistance from the business community and thwart any attempts to work with Republicans lawmakers.

Biden hopes to pass an infrastructure plan by summer, which could mean relying solely on the slim Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate.

Construction workers are pictured on the northeast cables of New York’s George Washington Bridge, which is undergoing a multi-year reconstruction. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The White House says the largest chunk of the proposal includes $ 621 billion for roads, bridges, public transit, electric vehicle charging stations and other transportation infrastructure. The spending would push the country away from internal combustion engines that the auto industry views as an increasingly antiquated technology.

Another $ 111 billion would go to replace lead water pipes and upgrade sewers. Broadband internet would blanket the country for $ 100 billion. Separately, $ 100 billion would upgrade the power grid to deliver clean electricity. Homes would be retrofitted, schools modernized, workers trained and hospitals renovated under the plan, which also seeks to strengthen U.S. manufacturing.

Could spur economy

The new construction could keep the economy running hot, coming on the heels of Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — economists already estimate it could push growth above six per cent this year.

Separately, Biden will propose in the coming weeks a series of soft infrastructure investments in child care, family tax credits and other domestic programs, another expenditure of roughly $ 2 trillion to be paid for by tax hikes on wealthy individuals and families, according to people familiar with the proposal.

Funding the first $ 2 trillion for construction and “hard” infrastructure projects would be a hike on corporate taxes that would raise the necessary sum over 15 years and then reduce the deficit going forward, according to a White House outline of the plan.

Biden would undo the signature policy achievement of the Trump administration by lifting the corporate tax rate to 28 per cent from the 21 per cent rate set in a 2017 overhaul.

To keep companies from shifting profits overseas to avoid taxation, a 21 per cent global minimum tax would be imposed. The tax code would also be updated so that companies could not merge with a foreign business and avoid taxes by moving their headquarters to a tax haven. And among other provisions, it would increase IRS audits of corporations.

Critics take aim

White House officials led by National Economic Council director Brian Deese offered a private briefing Tuesday for top lawmakers in both parties. But key GOP and business leaders are already panning the package.

“It seems like President Biden has an insatiable appetite to spend more money and raise people’s taxes,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the GOP whip, said in an interview.

Scalise predicted that, if approved, the new spending and taxes would “start having a negative impact on the economy, which we’re very concerned about.”

The business community favours updating U.S. infrastructure, but it dislikes higher tax rates. An official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who insisted on anonymity to discuss the private talks said the organization fears the proposed tax hikes could undermine the gains from new infrastructure.

The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs, would rather have infrastructure funded with user fees such as tolls.

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CBC | World News

Tentative agreement would allow Alberta to withhold doctor pay to balance physician budget

A tentative agreement between Alberta’s doctors and the provincial government would set the current physician services budget at the 2018-19 level and allow the government to withhold payments from doctors if overspending is expected.

The agreement also appears to signal that the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) has abandoned its attempt to secure binding arbitration, which has been used in other provinces to resolve disagreements. 

A letter signed by both Health Minister Tyler Shandro and AMA president Dr. Paul Boucher says a condition of the agreement would be the AMA discontinuing its $ 250 million lawsuit against the province that sought binding arbitration.

CBC News has obtained a leaked copy of the agreement, which members of the AMA are now reviewing for potential ratification.

The agreement, dated Feb. 26, outlines the proposed physician services budget for the next three years:

  • $ 4.571 billion for 2020-21 through 2021-22, the same amount as the actual physician services cost for 2018-19.
  • $ 4.621 billion for 2022-23.
  • $ 4.671 billion for 2023-24.

The tentative agreement comes after a bitter public fight between the two parties that began in February 2020 when Shandro unilaterally ended the AMA master agreement and imposed a new physician compensation framework.

That sparked a public outcry from the AMA and many of the province’s doctors.

The new agreement makes it clear Shandro has ultimate authority over the amounts paid to doctors.

“The AMA acknowledges that the physician services budget is established by the minister in the minister’s sole discretion,” it states.

“The AMA further acknowledges that nothing in this agreement fetters the minister’s authority or discretion with respect to the physician services budget.”

CBC News has reached out to Shandro for comment. An AMA spokesperson said doctors are declining comment during the ratification period.

The agreement appears “quite favourable” to the government, according to University of Calgary health law professor Lorian Hardcastle.

“I think that the government kept most things that they probably wanted to keep in this agreement, for example, the cap on the budget. And I think that the government kept the things that they wanted to keep out of this agreement, namely any guarantees around binding mediation or binding arbitration,” Hardcastle said.

She said the AMA’s negotiators likely decided to offer the agreement to their members now because they feel there is nothing more they can get from the government. 

Province could withhold payments 

The agreement says Alberta Health will monitor the expenditures under the physician services budget every month and, if the actual costs are expected to exceed those budgeted, “a determination will be made if strategies and measures to reduce the expenditures are to be implemented.”

This won’t occur for overspending in 2021-22 through 2023-24 attributed to physician growth exceeding population growth.

It states that the ministry will consult with the AMA as it develops those strategies to prevent overspending. But one of those possible methods will likely prove contentious with the province’s doctors.

“The strategies may include withholding amounts from physician payments,” it says.

If withholding payments is used as a strategy, any amounts left over at the end of the year that aren’t necessary to balance the budget “will be returned to physicians proportionate to their original contribution” to the amount withheld.

Hardcastle said she suspects most of the province’s doctors will be concerned about their pay being reduced to cover the cost of any budget overspending. And she said the public also may have concerns in the future. 

“Patients may be concerned that their doctors may see fewer patients if they are in a situation where certain visits are being capped or certain services aren’t being billed at the full rate,” she said. 

If the AMA does not agree with those budget-balancing strategies, or the government refuses an AMA request to adjust the physician services budget, it can take the matter to a mediator.

The agreement lists four lawyers who can act as mediators.

But any recommendations from the mediator would be non-binding.

If the mediation report is not accepted by both parties, Alberta Health “agrees to consider the mediation report before making its final decision on the issue mediated,” the agreement states.

The agreement would expire March 31, 2024.

Alberta Health, in the agreement, has committed to tabling legislation by Dec. 31, 2021 that would exempt the agreement from legislation that allows the government to terminate the master agreement with the AMA.

“I think that certainly this is going to be a tough sell to the members of the AMA,” Hardcastle said. “What we are seeing on social media already is that some doctors are quite opposed to this.”

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CBC | Health News

The ideals of Olympism would be welcome in 2021

Considered from almost any perspective, 2020 has been a dark and tumultuous year for international, high performance, sport.

The Olympics and Paralympics were shut down for the first time since the Second World War.  

The avowed purpose of the Games, which is to gather people from every walk of life and myriad geographical locations, ran counter to the need to keep the planet’s population safe and healthy.

The relevance of the spectacle itself is increasingly in question.

“It’s an uphill battle sometimes,” said Tricia Smith, a four-time Olympian and rowing medallist who is a lawyer as well as the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “But I do believe in the Games and I think they’re worth fighting for.”

It’s bound to be a struggle given all that’s changed.

Corruption and doping are issues which constantly plague the movement. Fewer cities are vying to host the Games because of the enormous costs associated with the undertaking. Sustainability is a problem given the lavish infrastructure required to accommodate tens of thousands of competitors and officials not to mention millions of international visitors.

WATCH | The year athletes refused to shut up and play:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

Herculean task

All this for an event which may occur once in the host city’s history.

Intricate and expensive global security is something the Olympics and Paralympics are forced to deal with whereas professional sports leagues, by and large, find this much more manageable and far less costly. Add to this the need to philosophically accommodate and respect human beings from every race, religion, gender, orientation, ability and social standing with one, overriding, set of values known loosely as “Olympism.”

It is a Herculean task made even more difficult by the fact that athletes are more socially conscious than ever before, more inspired to make their views known and to use the Olympic and Paralympic platforms to voice their opinions on issues which are of vital importance to them. 

The International Olympic Committee and athletes around the world are agonizing over the prospect of the playing field becoming a place of protest and demonstration. Now the task is to come up with a solution that makes sense for all and allows for peaceful competition.

Then there’s the matter of spectators. The vast congregation is at the very foundation of the spectacle. For more than 125 years the great, global gathering has come to reflect the planet’s diversity as well as the traits all human beings share.

Unlike the NHL or the NBA, the Olympics and Paralympics would find it difficult to thrive in a bubble. The Games are much more than a made-for-TV sporting event. Their mission is supposed to be about building bridges between human beings.

“The power of sport to unite is undeniable,” said Mohammed Ahmed, Canada’s top distance runner who won a bronze medal at the 2019 world athletics championships in the 5,000-metre event. “There is something special about the world coming together to demonstrate how much we all hold in common. But the Olympic movement can stand to innovate through new, youthful, and diverse voices, rooting out corruption from the top down.”

Ahmed is Muslim and came to Canada with his parents, who are Somalian refugees, when he was 11. Even though he acknowledges the failings inherent in the Olympics, he very much believes in the spirit the Games represent.

“From a personal perspective I find the thought of fulfilling a childhood dream worthwhile,” he said. “It is a goal born of innocent ambition, without any thought of how or what it takes to get there.”

Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold agrees.  

She’s a two-time flyweight Pan American Games champion who was hospitalized by illness the night before her quarter-final bout at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  

Canada’s Mandy Bujold, right, battled illness as well as her opponent in her quarter-final at the Rio Olympics. (Getty Images)

A weakened Bujold, who was touted as a medal contender at her first Games, rose from her sick bed to answer the bell but lost the fight and was forced to wait, as it turns out, five more years for another shot at Olympic glory when she’ll be 34 years old.

In the interim she got married and gave birth to a baby girl named Kate. This week it was announced that her sport will be gender equal at the 2024 Olympics in Paris and for the first time there will be as many women as men competing at the Games.

“This is going to provide hope. It brings positivity,” Bujold said between training sessions in Kitchener, Ont. “When I first started boxing for women wasn’t even in the Olympics. It’s exciting to see future generations of women having greater opportunity than I’ve had. We’re using sport to create equality. As an athlete you have an opportunity to have a voice in other aspects of life.”

But apart from the impression she can make as a pugilist, Bujold’s aim is to have a positive influence on her child.

“My daughter is all about singing O Canada these days,” she said with a laugh. “This will be the end of my career. I think it’s important to be all-in even though the circumstances are different than I would have liked them to be. It will send a strong message to my little girl that you can go after your dreams.”

I think we cannot underestimate the power of sport to change the way people think.– Chantal Petitclerc

Wheelchair racer and Paralympic legend Chantal Petitclerc is a member of the Canadian Senate and remains a vocal advocate not only for athletes but for all people with a disability. She has steadfastly trumpeted the value of the Games.

“I think we cannot underestimate the power of sport to change the way people think,” Petitclerc said.

Alpine skier Josh Dueck, the newly appointed Team Canada chef de mission for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, acknowledged the inspirational component of what he’s involved with but pointed to the more instinctual attraction of the event.

“These are the beautiful derivatives of the Games and the Paralympic Movement as whole,” he said. “To bring awareness to the importance of inclusivity, equality, and accessibility.

“But it’s truly the spirit of our being that comes to the surface. We’re able to dissolve the barriers to express the essence of who we are. We are there to be the athletes we were born to be.”

So much confronts the Olympics and Paralympics at the present time. And the logistics in order to make them happen in the wake of the pandemic are mind-boggling. But the prospect exists that there will be four major Games within the space of a year.

If they do indeed happen, by whatever means, many believe they could be a part of the world’s ability to heal itself.

“We are united by our humanity and you can’t help but build trust when you are connected with other people through something like the Olympics,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter where you are from, what colour, what race, what religion, or what sex you happen to be. You have a chance to inspire the world.  

“That’s why we do it. The Olympics is the message. That’s what connects us. It’s the humanity.”

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CBC | Sports News

Justice Department finds no evidence of fraud that would change U.S. election result, Barr says

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Barr’s comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the Nov. 3 election was stolen and his refusal to concede his loss to president-elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. Barr was at the White House Tuesday afternoon for a previously scheduled meeting.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” he said.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as people in the U.S. feared going to the polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the presidential election was certified — despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.

That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around long-standing Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified.

Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.

Trump files lawsuit in Wisconsin

The Trump campaign’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence.

The legal team also responded to Barr’s comments, saying the Justice Department didn’t do enough to investigate voter fraud allegations.

They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed, including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence. Local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making similar unsupported claims.

U.S. President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin in a longshot attempt to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the battleground state. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

Most recently, Trump filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin on Tuesday seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two most Democratic counties, a longshot attempt to overturn Biden’s win in the battleground state that Trump lost by nearly 20,700 votes.

The president filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state’s 10 electoral college votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court, and order Evers to withdraw the certification.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Evers until 8:30 p.m. CT Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit, an unusually tight deadline that speaks to how quickly the court is likely to decide the case.

Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The electoral college is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14, and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.

WATCH | Trump says he’ll step down if electoral college votes for Biden:

U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time said he would leave the White House if Joe Biden is confirmed as president, even as he continued to insist, without evidence, ‘This election was a fraud.’ 4:31

Trump is not challenging any ballots cast in conservative counties he won. The Biden campaign issued a statement calling the lawsuit “completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground.”

“The hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites targeted by this lawsuit did nothing wrong,” Biden campaign spokesperson Nate Evans said. “They simply followed long-standing guidance from elections officials issued under the law.”

Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews, even though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he has still refused to admit he lost.

Special counsel appointed in Russia probe investigation

Barr has also given extra protection to the prosecutor he appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, giving him the authority of a special counsel to complete his work without being easily fired.

Barr told The Associated Press that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel in October under the same federal statute that governed special counsel Robert Mueller in the original Russia probe. He said Durham’s investigation has been narrowing to focus more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

The Russia investigations grew out of allegations of co-operation between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russians to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Barr also appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as special counsel and assigned him to keep investigating the origins of the U.S. government’s own probe into the role that Russia played in Trump’s 2016 election win. (U.S. Department of Justice/The Associated Press)

The current investigation, a criminal probe, had begun very broadly but has since “narrowed considerably” and now “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI,” Barr said. He said he expects Durham would detail whether any additional prosecutions will be brought and make public a report of the investigation’s findings.

Appointing Durham as a special counsel would mean that he could only be fired for very specific reasons under the law.

Under the regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons, such as misconduct, dereliction of duty, conflict of interest or other violations of Justice Department policies. An attorney general must document those reasons in writing.

The focus on the FBI, rather than the CIA and the intelligence community, suggests that Durham may have moved past some of the more incendiary claims that Trump supporters had hoped would yield allegations of misconduct, or even crimes — namely, the question of how intelligence agencies reached their conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

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CBC | World News

Clashes in Paris as thousands protest bill that would outlaw filming police officers


Tens of thousands of critics of a proposed security law that would restrict the filming of police officers protested across France on Saturday.

Violence erupted nearby as small groups of protesters clashed with riot police

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Oilers’ Connor McDavid does not believe hub city host would have ‘major advantage’

Two days after the NHL revealed its return-to-play plan, Edmonton Oilers star forward Connor McDavid and defenceman Darnell Nurse were already looking ahead to potentially playing in the 24-team Stanley Cup format.

On the prospects of Edmonton becoming one of two hub cities, McDavid said he’s not expecting any kind of edge.

“It would probably not be a major advantage,” McDavid said to reporters during a media conference. “It’s going to feel weird in that building no matter where you play. No matter if you’ve played there a hundred times, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never played there.

“The building is going to feel weird with no fans being in there and what not, so I would say probably not. That’s just my opinion.”

WATCH | McDavid, Nurse discuss polarizing return-to-play format:

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA’s Return to Play Committee, and his teammate Darnell Nurse discuss the creation of the NHL’s 24-team playoff plan. 1:57

Nurse, meanwhile won’t be fazed by playing in front of empty seats.

On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and NHLPA agreed to a return-to-play format, which concludes the remainder of the regular season and begins a 24-team playoff plan.

The new plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two abbreviated round-robin tournaments to determine playoff seeding.

The other eight teams in each conference would play a best-of-five ‘play-in’ series — No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 — to determine the 16 clubs left standing for the playoffs.

WATCH | 2-minute recap of Bettman’s press conference:

Commissioner Bettman outlined the NHL’s 24-team playoff format, and the draft lottery. 2:11
The league hopes to have players at team facilities early next month under strict health and safety guidelines, hold training camps sometime after July 1 and begin playing games later that month or early August.

In the West, the best-of-five matchups would include Edmonton versus Chicago, Nashville versus Arizona, Vancouver versus Minnesota, and Calgary versus Winnipeg.

The East’s best-of-five play-ins would see Pittsburgh versus Montreal, Carolina versus the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders versus Florida, and Toronto versus Columbus.

WATCH | Nurse remains motivated by opportunity to win Stanley Cup:

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse says even though they will be competing in an empty arena, the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup should be enough to motivate players. 1:08

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NHL would need to follow quarantine rules before season could resume: Trudeau

The NHL could face another hurdle if the league decides to continue the 2019-20 season in the near future — getting non-Canadian resident players across the border to join their respective teams.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that players would — at a minimum — need to follow quarantine protocols if they were to arrive in Canada while the border remains closed due to the pandemic.

“I think it’s a question we’ll have to look into,” Trudeau said in a press briefing. “Certainly at a strict minimum, anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner, but we’re not there yet in our discussions with the NHL.”

“We recognize that it’s a possibility, but it depends on an enormous amount of things, and I don’t want to speculate on this until there’s more discussion.”

WATCH | The last pandemic that shut down the Stanley Cup: 

While the hockey world waits to see if Covid-19 will keep the Stanley Cup in its case, Rob Pizzo looks back at the 1919 final that was halted by the Spanish flu. 2:54

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Edmonton and Toronto were being looked at as possible “hockey pod” cities that could host the remainder of the NHL season during the summer months. Games would be played in air-conditioned arenas without fans.

A person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press that the most aggressive timetable would have players returning to their home rinks as early as May 15, followed by a training camp and possible exhibition games in June.

Under that timeline, the regular season would resume in July with the Stanley Cup final likely stretching into September.

The league and NHL Players’ Association have formed a joint committee to determine a path forward that could get games back on the ice sometime in July without fans in attendance.

WATCH |  Flames captain Mark Giordano hopeful for NHL’s return: 

Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano is eager to get back to playing hockey. 4:42

The committee said Wednesday in a statement that they “have not made any decisions or set a timeline for possible return to play scenarios,” but remained hopeful that players could return to their teams for “small group activities” by mid-to-late May.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said recently that no decisions have been made and noted that government and medical officials will ultimately make the call on when sports can return.

The season was paused on March 12, one day after the World Health Organization classified the COVID-19 spread a pandemic — and one day after the NBA suspended its season following a positive novel coronavirus test on a Utah Jazz player.

As of early April, eight NHL players had tested positive for COVID-19, including five players on the Ottawa Senators.

Each team had between 10 and 14 games remaining on its regular-season schedule at the time of the suspension.

Four Canadian teams — Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg — were all in playoff position as of March 12, with Vancouver on the bubble.

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Cancelled CFL season would be ‘devastating financially,’ Randy Ambrosie says

On Monday, the Canadian Football League announced training camps, set to open in the middle of May, were being postponed indefinitely in wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The regular season is currently set to open on June 11, but with training camps already pushed back the league is now considering a number of options on how to move forward. The CFL had already cancelled its national combine and two regional combines while postponing its April 16 global draft. The draft presently remains set for April 30.

CBC Sports asked CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie a number of questions regarding the uncertainty that looms for the league and what a cancelled season would mean for its future.

CBC Sports: Commissioner, you’re calling it ‘pragmatic optimism’ regarding playing this season. What does that look like for the CFL right now?

Randy Ambrosie: I think it starts with the obvious desire to play as soon as we can to get these great athletes on the field. We are reminding ourselves daily that we can only do that when it’s safe for the players, coaches and football operations people and safe for our fans. That’s the reason we play the games. We play for the fans. We have a desire to play but we have a fight on our hands and I’m just glad that the players are home with their families looking after their loved ones.

CBC Sports: This is no doubt a very fast-moving and ever changing situation, what are you and the league doing right now to stay on top of all of the scenarios?

Ambrosie: Frankly like everyone else we’re all consuming a lot of information and listening to the government updates. They’ve done an incredible job. This is a hard time to be a leader and I’m watching them, and I’d have to say, I’m very proud of how they’re handling this.

All that math we did on combinations and permutations in high school, we’re getting a chance to exercise that. I didn’t do too badly and it’s a good thing because we’re going to need it. We’re doing a lot of scenario planning.

WATCH | CFL makes its latest postponement:

Saskatchewan Roughriders GM Jeremy O’Day says the team will adjust and a season of any length would be great. 1:07

CBC Sports: What sort of timelines or important dates have you set out?

Ambrosie: We’ve avoided that for the most part because what’s been obvious is what seemed like a hard date two weeks ago becomes very different two weeks forward. Things are changing so quickly. We’re not installing an artificial timetable. We’re looking at all the components of what would go into a training camp and what are the compressed scenarios looking like. Talking about various season scenarios. We just don’t know enough to make an informed decision just yet.

We want to keep all options available. We want to play as much football as we can. The best-case scenario is we all do our part, we all stay at home and wash our hands until they’re raw. Help one another. Cheer on the medical heroes and then at some point the government will say we got through this together and resume normal life. We’re sticking to the business of doing a lot of planning.

CBC Sports: How much is this affecting the business side of things right now and what would it mean to have to cancel the season?

Ambrosie: I can tell you without a doubt that a cancelled season would be devastating financially. Almost all your revenue streams go away at that point. But you have to account for that as a possibility. The pragmatic optimist in me and my faith in what’s been going on and how the medical community is handling the crisis, I believe we’ll get through this and play football this year. I’m not indulging in the doomsday scenarios yet.

CBC Sports: What are you hearing from players across the league right now including from the CFLPA?

Ambrosie: We’re talking at least twice a week and it’s been great. I give total marks to the CFLPA keeping the communication open. Players have a lot of questions like everyone else. They’re no different and wondering how this is going to unfold and are looking after their families. We’re just trying to be conscience of those questions being asked and having these conversations and the CFLPA. So we’re helping each other communicate. I wish there was a silver bullet to this to make it better. But because there isn’t, we’re using good, honest dialogue as our guide.

Randy Ambrosie said considering the constantly changing global landscape due to COVID-19, the league has avoided setting firm dates regarding off-season events. “We’re not installing an artificial timetable.” he said. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

CBC Sports: Whose advice are you listening to right now and how will you ultimately come to making a decision on the future of the league during this pandemic?

Ambrosie: We hope we can lean on the experts who will guide us. I can lean on the board of governors, a group of presidents who are determined to do the right thing. I’ll ever have to be alone in that process. I’m not thinking about myself as an island. When it comes to these big decisions, I’m going to get to lean on a lot of great people and I believe when you combine the CFL family with government and medical community we’ll make the right choice.

CBC Sports: Many have started to ask about big events like the game scheduled for Halifax and how the Grey Cup might be affected. Thoughts on that?

Ambrosie: We’ll take this one day at a time and hope all of these things can happen. At this moment we’re just sending our best wishes to the medical support staff and thanking them for everything they’re doing. We’re all part of Team Canada. We have nine teams in the CFL but today we’re one team and it’s called Team Canada. If we do our part, we can get past this crisis.

CBC Sports: What role can the CFL play in helping communities come together?

Ambrosie: Maybe sport will be more important than ever. There are a lot of negative forces in the world today. There are too often these voices of self-interest. There are people bent on building walls and I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll have to build stronger bridges. There has to be a healing process and sport can play a role in that by setting a good example. I’d love nothing more than to play a small part in that on behalf of our great league.

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Which presidential hopeful would be best for Canada? Ex-ambassadors share their picks

The Democratic race to pick a presidential nominee will hit overdrive with 14 states voting on Super Tuesday next week.

We asked Democratic Party insiders who know Canada well — each has served as ambassador to this country — for their views on the state of play.

All the ex-ambassadors remain involved in Democratic politics and are endorsing, raising money for, or organizing for one of the candidates.

We asked each of them the same questions: Whom do they support and why? How would their candidate affect relations with Canada?

We also asked them to weigh in on the hottest controversy in Democratic politics these days: Is it fair to try preventing Sen. Bernie Sanders from becoming the nominee if he enters the summer convention with more delegates than anyone but not a majority?

Sanders has said that would be wrong.

But the party’s convention rules specifically allow for a multi-ballot contest if one candidate can’t get a majority on the first ballot; Sanders advisers even participated in writing the rules.

We asked Barack Obama’s envoys to Canada, David Jacobson and Bruce Heyman, and Bill Clinton’s appointees, James Blanchard and Gordon Giffin, for their take.

Bruce Heyman. Obama envoy from 2014 to 2017

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman supports Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Who he supports and why:

He has donated, door-knocked and co-hosted fundraisers for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He got to know her when his confirmation as ambassador was being held up by a partisan feud in Congress. He said Klobuchar kept pushing his case with colleagues, and would call regularly to keep him in the loop. He described Klobuchar as a tireless worker who builds relationships and knows how to get things done in Washington.

What she would mean for Canada:

“I believe that she would be uniquely the best president for Canada-U.S. relations that is running today — including the occupant of the White House today,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump.

Heyman said Klobuchar has two attributes that make her particularly suited to the task. The first being that she’s a border-state senator who has repeatedly taken an interest in cross-border issues. She co-chaired a Canada-U.S. parliamentary group; brought a delegation of opposing senators for a visit to Canada, including future attorney general Jeff Sessions; and regularly made herself, and her staff, available for briefings on Canada issues whenever Heyman was in Washington.

“Not everyone made time to brief visiting ambassadors,” he said.

The second attribute, he said, is Klobuchar works well across the aisle. “You don’t get things done alone on Canada. It’s about creating alliances and relationships.”

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

All bets are off in a multi-ballot convention — and he says that’s fair. The rules are the rules.

“Remember: this is a convention of the party and the party needs to select the nominee that they think will best represent the party and be most competitive to win versus Donald Trump.”

He said what’s not fair is arbitrarily making up new rules on the fly — which, according to Heyman, is the kind of behaviour you see from the Trump White House.

David Jacobson, Obama envoy from 2009 to 2013

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson backs Pete Buttigieg as the best Democrat to take on President Donald Trump in this year’s election. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Who he supports and why:

He first met Pete Buttigieg when the mayor of South Bend, Ind., ran for the party chairmanship in 2017. Buttigieg lost, but Jacobson said he was impressed and remained in touch. He said he’s now supporting Buttigieg for three reasons: he’s a smart guy who would govern well; is a unifier in a country rife with divisions; and, in his opinion, is someone who would beat Trump.

“I think he will be a great president — and that’s always the most important issue,” Jacobson said. “[But] as time has gone on it has become clearer and clearer to me that the guy can actually win in November. Which is not something I believe about some of the other candidates in the race.”

What he would mean for Canada:

“I don’t think any of the candidates have spent a whole lot of time focused on the Canada-U.S. relationship in particular — or, for that matter, on foreign policy in general. It’s not something American voters tend to vote on, except in times of crisis.”

Having said that, Jacobson believes Canada-U.S. issues are best resolved when there’s a competent, highly functioning government in Washington and he said Buttigieg can deliver that. But, he added: “All the candidates are dramatically better for the relationship with Canada, and the relationship with our allies, than the current president.”

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

It depends. Jacobson takes a nuanced view and it hinges on just how close the early delegate numbers are.

“If Bernie walks in [to the convention] with 49.5 per cent, he’s going to be the nominee. If he’s four votes short, he’s going to be the nominee. [But] if Bernie is at 40 per cent and someone else is at 38 or 39 per cent, that’s a very different story.”

More generally, he said, the party has rules — “and those rules were adopted at the urging of Bernie Sanders [after the 2016 election].”

He said he’d vote for Sanders in a matchup against Trump, but has serious doubts about him as a candidate.

“He seems like a nice guy. I have nothing against him. I disagree with some of his policy positions. But most fundamentally I am very concerned about his ability to win in November. I think he is divisive. I don’t think he would grow the tent. And I think you have to do more than turn out what he has — which is a very committed base but is overall quite small in the overall scheme of the electorate.”

Gordon Giffin, Clinton envoy from 1997 to 2001

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, left, listens as moderator Gordon Giffin, Clinton’s former ambassador to Canada, asks a question during an event to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary in Montreal on Oct. 4, 2017. Giffin’s choice for the Democratic Party’s next presidential contender is Klobuchar. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Who he supports and why:

Like Heyman, Giffin is also supporting Klobuchar. As he put it, “She has the intelligence, experience and judgment to lead the country.”

He said she also has a fun personality, “which matters.”

“She would unite Democrats, moderate Republicans and Independents in a way that decisively ends the Trump era.”

What she would mean for Canada:

“The [bilateral] relationship would return to its constructive, collaborative status of the Clinton era when we had another president who valued Canada,” Giffin said.

He said his experience has taught him that having a president who values Canada “infects the entire administration with that perspective.” A friendly relationship at the top also empowers the U.S. ambassador to Canada to resolve issues without interference from Washington, he said.

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

Yes, if he’s short of a majority.

“Someone who goes to a convention with less than a majority of the delegates has no more right to expect to win than any other person who has  — or does not have — delegates.”

He said that on a second ballot, delegates are free to support anyone whose name is in nomination. (Also, on a second ballot, party officials known as superdelegates — members of Congress, governors and senior figures like ex-presidents — can start voting.)

“I have no qualms about nominating someone other than Sanders even if he has a lead going into the convention. Otherwise the rules would simply require a plurality to win.”

James Blanchard, Clinton envoy from 1993 to 1996

James Blanchard was U.S. ambassador to Canada during Bill Clinton’s administration. He supports former vice-president Joe Biden’s campaign for the Democratic nomination. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

Who he supports and why:

The former Michigan governor is helping Joe Biden in his home state — which is a critical election battleground.

“First of all, I think he would do a good job as president. Second of all, I think he would carry the key state of Michigan,” Blanchard said. “The reason? People like him and they trust him with power.”

Blanchard said Michiganders will give Biden credit for the Obama administration’s work on the auto bailout during the financial crisis. “I think Joe Biden is much more electable — for a lot of reasons.”

What he would mean for Canada:

He said any incoming Democratic president will be keen for foreign information on universal health coverage, as the candidates have all promised to expand coverage. He said Biden would want to co-operate on greenhouse gas emissions, where the Trump administration has withdrawn from cross-border emissions plans as well as the Paris Accord.

Blanchard said Biden would also prize multilateral co-operation, and stop threatening tariffs like the ones Trump temporarily placed on Canadian metals, which Blanchard called “a joke.”

“We’d be back to normal. The normal structure of the postwar era that gave us decades of peace and prosperity,” he said.

However, Blanchard did say he’s not sure what would happen with oil — Biden has said he would “oppose” Canada’s pipelines and “dirty crude.”

Fair to fight Sanders at the convention?:

Yes. While he’d vote for Sanders against Trump, he dismissed the idea of crowning him the nominee without a delegate majority.

“That’s nonsense. We’ve never, ever, in the history of the Democratic Party, ever decided the nominee on the basis of a plurality — 35, 40 per cent. That’s ridiculous. We have to have a majority,” Blanchard said. “Why would we make new rules for a guy who has not even wanted to call himself a Democrat.”

He described Sanders as the latest version of protest candidates like Norman Thomas, Henry Wallace and George McGovern, who have always existed in the party but have been unsuccessful in elections. He said he fears a blowout if Sanders is the nominee.

“The practical wing of our party is the one that can win and govern.”

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