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Why some politicians are taking a pass on leadership
By TVO Current Affairs - Published on Feb 04, 2020
Frank Plummer was the scientific director of the National Microbiology Laboratory, in Winnipeg, during the 2003 SARS crisis. (John Woods/CP)

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Good morning, Ontario.

Here's what we're following


Provincial proposal for judicial appointments criticized

Some members of the legal community are speaking out about proposed changes to the way judges are chosen in Ontario, the Toronto Star reports. Currently, the attorney general must choose from a shortlist prepared by the independent advisory committee, although the province’s top legal adviser can refuse the list and request a new one. Under changes outlined in what the provincial government calls a “consultation paper,” the committee could be required to submit to the attorney general a complete list of applicants, both those deemed qualified and unqualified. “This all looks like patronage and an attempt by the attorney general to get appointments that he wants,” says William Trudell, chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. A spokesperson for Attorney General Doug Downey emphasized the proposed changes are not final and the intention is for Ontario to “fix its outdated and slow judicial and justices of the peace appointments process.”


School board slashes French-immersion program

Peel District School Board says it will cut 600 French-immersion spots in the fall for lack of qualified teachers, the Globe and Mail reports. The reduction represents about 20 per cent of the Grade 1 entry spots into the program. Nicole Thibault, executive director for the non-profit Canadian Parents for French, acknowledges a shortage of French-immersion teachers is a challenge across the country. But she added other boards have “innovative recruitment and retention initiatives” and questioned whether Peel has tried hard enough to address the situation.


Hamilton’s main steelmaker receives shutdown order

The province has ordered ArcelorMittal Dofasco to shut down 16 coke ovens after the company failed to complete mandatory pollution upgrades on time, the Hamilton Spectator reports. Hamilton’s biggest steelmaker was ordered to overhaul its aging coke plants in 2014, but work on the ovens, which turn coal into coke, an iron-making ingredient, is still not done. "ArcelorMittal Dofasco cannot bring these ovens back into service until the required repairs are completed," said Gary Wheeler, a Ministry of Environment spokesperson, by email. A spokesperson for the steelmaker said in an email that the company “respects” the shutdown order and will upgrade the ovens “as quickly as the work allows us to.”


Health officials begin regular coronavirus updates

Ontario’s top public health authorities held their first regular briefing on the coronavirus outbreak Thursday, CBC News reports. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer, said that so far, the province has tested 67 people for the illness. Of those tests, two were positive, 38 were negative, and 27 are pending. Senior health officials have promised to hold briefings on the virus at Queen’s Park every Monday and Thursday.



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The Agenda: Politicians taking a pass

Perhaps what’s most notable about the federal Conservative leadership race is the number of potential candidates who aren’t running. Former interim leader Rona Ambrose, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, and current Ontario MP Pierre Poilievre all had considerable backing to mount competitive bids — yet all declined. Does this say something more profound about the state of Canadian politics? To discuss the issue, The Agenda welcomes former NDP strategist Robin Sears, former provincial PC organizer Ginny Roth, the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt, and Richard Mahoney, a two-time federal Liberal candidate.


Edna’s Bloodline

An Inuk politician and a Swedish author set off on a mission in the western Arctic to trace the adventures of a shared ancestor, Petter Norberg. The explorer and fur trader, who left Sweden in the late-1800s, was the great-grandfather of Edna Elias, the former commissioner of Nunavut. 


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Lessons from SARS, Part 2: The scientist

In the second instalment in his three-part series, Matt Gurney speaks to Frank Plummer, who ran the National Microbiology Laboratory during the 2003 SARS outbreak, about his experiences — and about the lessons we can apply to the current coronavirus outbreak. “Once the specimens arrived,” he says, “we had to isolate the virus. We had specimens coming in from Toronto, and also, at this time, from Vancouver. We had to isolate it, grow cultures of it. We had to plate it out onto material for bacterial growth. Within the first 24 hours of receiving our specimens, we’d done every test available to us to rule out known things. With genetic testing, we could quickly rule out flu or other threats, and then we knew that we were in unknown territory.”



Tonight on TVO


7 p.m. — Fishing Leopards

This documentary shares an intimate story of a leopard mother and her two cubs as they survive in the wilds of Botswana. Living alongside less-than-friendly lions, wild dogs, and hyenas, the competition for food is fierce, and if they are to make it, the leopards must learn to fish. Cameraman Brad Bestelink's 18-month journey follows the lives of these elusive felines.


8 p.m. — The Agenda: Coronavirus update

The novel coronavirus is a major outbreak in China, with the death toll exceeding 150, and at least two cases confirmed in Ontario. Tonight, The Agenda looks at how it’s spreading, Ontario’s preparedness, and what the province has learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003. The program also addresses the progress on a vaccine and how Ontario is managing information to avoid needlessly alarming the public. Guests include Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto’s medical officer of health, and Dr. Michael Gardam, Humber River Hospital’s chief of staff and infectious disease specialist.




From the archive


February 7, 1989 — Authors at Harbourfront: Witi Ihimaera


At the Harbourfront Reading Series in Toronto, Witi Ihimaera, a New Zealand journalist, short-story writer, editor, and opera librettist, reads from The Matriarch, a novel that won the 1986 Wattie Book of the Year award. In it, he tells the story of four generations of a Maori family. “I am Maori, and then there is the rest,” he says, by way of introduction. “Because of that, I have always felt a minority. The Maori people in New Zealand are 300,000. The world is millions and millions of people, but we feel that we have as much right to establish our sense of culture and that it is a distinguished and as important as that of Greek culture, of French culture, of English, and German culture, as well.”

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