Transcript: Vaccines for kids are here | Nov 23, 2021

STEVE: Welcome, everyone,
to the OnPoli podcast.
I'm Steve Paikin.
Michael McGrath.
STEVE: This week on the pod,
younger children
are now eligible
for a Covid-19 vaccine shot.
Some healthcare workers in
Hamilton are fired
for refusing to be vaccinated,
there will be a public inquiry
into the hot mess
that is Ottawa's two billion
dollar Confederation
light rail transit line.
The auditor general has released
a report on how well
the government is following
its own environmental policies.
Spoiler alert-- not too well.
And the Ontario Liberals have an
idea on how to encourage you
to buy winter tires
for your car or truck.
It's Tuesday,
November 23rd, 2021,
so let's get to it.

Well, we already know that
almost 90%
of eligible Canadians are
which is among the highest
of any nation in the world,
but now there's the probability
that even more among us will
take the jab.
JMM, tell us about why
the government is encouraging
five to 11-year-olds to get
vaccinated now.
JOHN MICHAEL: It's the news that
I've been waiting for
since this all started, that my
own kid is finally eligible
to get a vaccine for Covid.
So is any other child
born on or before
December 31st, 2016.
Their parents can
register them for shots
on the provincial
vaccination portal
as of eight am this morning,
Tuesday morning.
Unlike the experience we all had
earlier this year
of waiting for our turn in the
queue as vaccine supplies
came in, you know, week by week,
Ontario is going to have enough
doses for every eligible child.
All one million or so, by the
end of this week.
And the government is really
hoping that parents do sign up
in large numbers, since about
one third of new Covid-19 cases
these days are coming from
school-age children,
and the vaccines will both help
protect kids
and hopefully control the spread
of the virus.
STEVE: Okay, you mention any
child born in 2016,
even if they aren't five years
old right now,
they will be eligible
for this vaccine.
Just 'cause I want to make
trouble here,
what happens to kids who are
born, let's say,
January 1st, 2017?
Are they eligible?
(John Michael laughing)
That's-- that's an interesting
Solicitor general Sylvia Jones
was asked about what--
what is the prospect
for 2017 babies,
uh, on Monday morning,
and she initially said that
kids who are born in,
for example, August of 2017
will be eligible as of
January first,
and then a few hours later,
the government had to retract
that statement, you know,
they walked it back
and said actually they will be
following the data on vaccines
as it evolves over the coming
weeks and months.
Um, not a great way to start the
government's week,
a bit of a communication snafu
I know it upset a lot of the
parents, you know,
I watched this all unfold on
social media.
So as it stands now, if your kid
is born on January first,
and they turn five on January
first of 2022,
I suspect they will be able to
get their Pfizer shot.
If they are born on February
first or March first,
we just don't know
at the moment.
And, um, you know,
I have my suspicions
but I don't want to disappoint
anymore parents
than I have to right now.
(Both laughing)
Including yourself.
Now your kid is under the wire
though, right? She's okay?
my daughter just turned six.
So she's in the clear,
and she doesn't know it yet,
but she's going to be
meeting a needle
as soon as I can arrange it.
(Both laughing)
Good for you. Okay.
Now presumably, and again, I
think an obvious question here,
there will be enough doses
coming in in order to satisfy
this new cohort, I presume?
So at least for the kids who are
immediately eligible,
we're going to be well-stocked
by the end of the week,
at least for first doses.
The government is spacing out
second doses
more than they had with--
more than the manufacturer
The government will be spacing
out first and second doses
by eight weeks, so that will
also have the benefit
of giving them time to get
more supply in
for those second doses.
But yeah, there's going to be
lots of supply,
lots of different ways to get
the needles in arms,
but just in case,
Vaccine Hunters Canada,
you remember them from earlier
this year,
the social media team of
they helped many people find
their doses earlier this year.
They are getting back in the
saddle for one more big push.
So between schools, hospitals,
family practitioners,
and now Vaccine Hunters Canada,
folks will have a number
of options
for getting their younger kids
vaccinated in the coming days.
STEVE: Not only do I
remember them,
but I noticed that
Toronto Life
who, when they do their,
sort of,
"top 50 most influential people
in the capital city" every year,
it's almost always the premier
or the mayor,
or some, you know, billionaire
or something like that.
This year, and the edition,
I think, just came out
this weekend, Vaccine Hunters
Canada was number one.
So they have done good and
important work
over the last 19 months,
so they're getting
some deserved recognition.
Oh, and you might tell your
daughter, as well,
not that she knows who I am,
she will not be the only one
getting the needle
in the next little while,
because I'm going for
my booster shot
right after we finish
recording this.
Hey, good for you!
STEVE: I am, apparently,
as a double Astra Zeneca guy,
and my last shot having taken
place six months ago,
I'm now eligible
for a booster shot,
so I'm going to go get it
right after this.
You are indeed eligible.
At the moment, it's people who
have had two shots
of Astra Zeneca,
people who are over 70,
Indigenous people,
and healthcare workers.
Anybody who is six months out
from their second dose
is eligible.
I know that the government is
planning to expand
that eligibility further.
I think if you just go by
the six month mark,
I would be eligible
by early or mid-December,
but they haven't opened up my
age cohort yet.
STEVE: Yeah, you're not over 70.
Even I'm not over 70 yet,
even though I act it
most of the time.
But anyway,
that's another story.
Let's stay on this topic
and talk about
the post-secondary world
because there have been college
and university students who,
I think it's fair to say,
have taken up the vaccine
challenge extremely well.
About 99% of post-secondary
students are vaccinated,
which, of course, they have to
be if they want to attend
classes on campus,
but 99% is not 100%,
and there are some students
who just, for whatever reason,
won't do it, and this did become
an issue the other day
at Western University in London.
That's right.
A young male student insisted
on going to class
despite not having been
and despite not having a medical
Um, I can say I only made
perfect and sterling
life choices when I was a young
man in university
(Steve laughing)
STEVE: He said, with no tongue
in cheek at all, that's right.
JOHN MICHAEL: Um, I mostly
didn't make my mistakes
other people's problems, though.
Apparently this student
had done this several times
and finally, the university
called in security
and had him forcibly removed.
You know, this video clip went a
bit viral on social media.
This is obviously a last-ditch
for any post-secondary
but the student in question here
said he didn't need
to be vaccinated because
even if he got Covid,
it was highly unlikely
that it was going to kill him,
and so he preferred to
take his chances.
Of course, left unstated here
is the fact that
if he did get Covid, he isn't
just taking his chances.
He might pass it onto other
people who aren't 22.
You know, he could spread it to
or people in their 60s or older,
people who have much more
serious consequences
from getting Covid.
Who also can be bopping around
university campuses.
And we know that 98% of Covid
deaths have taken place
among those who are over 60
in Ontario,
so again,
not the greatest life choices
when we're that age.
Perhaps he had not considered
all that yet.
STEVE: Indeed. Let's follow up
with another Covid story,
this one out of Hamilton.
We've been telling you for
several weeks now
that the head of
Hamilton Health Sciences,
which is the corporation that
runs most of the hospitals
in Hamilton, they've insisted
that all healthcare workers
be vaccinated,
or else those workers,
the unvaccinated,
will be fired.
And about 98% of workers
are vaccinated,
but for those that refused,
well, fill us in, JMM.
Time's up for them, right?
Yeah, exactly.
Hamilton Health Sciences has
fired six staff members
and disciplined 52 others,
even though the deadline
of November 30th actually hasn't
technically arrived yet.
The reason the hospital system
did this is because
those who haven't been
vaccinated are supposed to
disclose their vaccination
status and be tested
twice a week, but they weren't
doing even that.
At Joseph Brant Hospital in
nearby Burlington,
they're taking a similar
13 staff were fired, and 38 have
been put on unpaid leave again
for what is, effectively,
STEVE: We should say, the head
of Hamilton Health Science
is a guy named Rob MacIsaac,
who is a former politician,
so the guy understands,
I guess, a little something
about leadership, making a
decision and sticking to it,
and he has, and he's getting a
lot of very positive attention
in the Hamilton press
for taking that position.
There are healthcare facilities
in this province
which have not taken this step,
presumably because replacing
those healthcare workers
would be harder, but we should
remind everybody, this is,
John Michael, the hospital's
decision to make, right?
That is correct,
the government did not
make this decision for them.
The government has opted not
to make it mandatory
for healthcare workers
to get the vaccine,
which, effectively, you know,
tosses the political problem,
the management problem,
back to hospital CEOs.
You know, it's different in
long-term care,
where all workers have until
December 13th
to be fully vaccinated,
and prove their fully vaccinated
status to their employer,
or else they will be fired.
But you know, that is a deadline
that has already been extended.
Workers were not rushing
to get vaccinated.
So you know, we could still
see a showdown
between the government and
the relatively small percentage
of long-term care workers
who are still refusing
to get vaccinated.
And looking at the calendar,
you're potentially looking at
another showdown
with long-term care at the
centre of a political scandal,
whatever you want to call it,
right before Christmas.
STEVE: Mm-hm. Tick-tock,
tick-tock, as they say.
Well, let's check in with one
more group of workers,
and that is, apparently, there
are some employees of the TTC,
the Toronto Transit Commission,
this is the organization that
runs the subways,
the streetcars, the buses,
Wheel Trans.
They are refusing to take the
needle, some of them,
and the union representing TTC
workers took the case to court
and asked the judge to put the
TTC's plan on hold,
but the judge sided with the
Commission instead.
What's that all about?
So this basically means that
the TTC management
now has the authority to suspend
or fire workers
who won't get vaccinated,
but this isn't the end of the
line for this dispute.
Apparently the transit workers'
union, they are entitled
under Ontario labour law to
grieve this decision,
so they have applied to bring
this to arbitration.
They were asking the judge to
pause everything
until an arbitrator could rule.
The judge declined to.
This will go before an
arbitrator who will decide
the final issue, whether this is
a reasonable thing
for management to do, and the
union will get its chance there
to stand up for its members,
its workers
who don't want to be vaccinated.
STEVE: So let's go up to,
as they say, 30,000 feet now,
and take a look at the many
different kinds of workers
that we've been
talking about here.
A small percentage of whom,
and we remind everybody,
it's a small percentage
of people
who don't want to get
Why do you suppose the province
of Ontario doesn't simply say,
"If you're paid
from the public purse,
"if you have significant
interactions with the public,
"you must be vaccinated
or else you are fired."
Why are they not taking
that step?
It's an interesting question,
because the government is taking
a different approach
depending on who you are.
Long-term care workers
must get vaccinated, right?
This is the sector where we've
seen the highest death count
relative to its population.
These are people who deal with
the frail elderly
in congregate care, so, you
know, the government has said,
"Yes, you have to
get vaccinated there."
I will say it took the
government awhile
to get to that position,
but they did get there.
Hospital workers, though,
people who also frequently deal
with people who have, you know,
weakened immune systems
or other conditions that might
make them particularly
vulnerable to Covid,
and yet,
the government is not requiring
them to be vaccinated.
Transit workers, yes, but only
because the Transit Commission
says so--
not a provincial mandate.
And we could look at
school boards,
where school boards have adopted
their own policies, and this,
I think, helps illustrate some
of the problems, right?
We just learned this week, the
Toronto District School Board,
nearly 300 staff had been given
temporary exemptions
from the board's vaccine policy
because they need to fill roles
that aren't easy to replace.
Things like special needs
educations positions.
And you know,
I think this shows you,
or it helps illustrate what the
government is concerned about.
You know, being stuck with
a really critical staff shortage
that the government, sort of,
induces on itself
with these vaccine policies.
I think there is a reasonable
argument about whether
the government's fears about
losing critical workers
are maybe being exaggerated,
because Premier Ford was quite
public about the fact
that he didn't really want to
impose vaccine requirements.
He took a long time to get to
requiring vaccine certificates,
that kind of thing.
Doesn't really love these
coercive measures,
but whatever I think
about the actual severity
of the problem,
this is the government's stated
reason for it.
They're worried about causing
these workforce shortages
in a province that frankly
already has a lot
of labour shortages.
300,000 unspoken for jobs
in the province of Ontario right
now, quite astonishing.
All right, let's turn our focus
to the nation's capital,
where the Confederation Line LRT
has not only been
a transportation fiasco,
but it's not also become
a significant political story
as well.
JMM, why has the Ontario called
a public inquiry
into what's happening there?
So to give you some background
for those of you listening who
live outside of Ottawa.
The LRT that is in place now
is a $2.1 billion or so
light rail line,
it's the biggest infrastructure
project in Ottawa's history,
but it has had all sorts of
mechanical problems.
There have been two derailments
over the past few months.
Nobody injured, thankfully,
but they had to shut the whole
train down for several weeks.
It caused all sorts of transit
chaos in the nation's capital,
and one of Ontario's
biggest cities.
It has become
a huge political story
because the derailments recently
were only, sort of,
the most recent
and most severe problems.
The train has also had trouble
running in cold weather,
and as somebody who was born
in Ottawa,
I will tell you
that Ottawa gets cold.
(Laughing) Pretty reliably.
You don't say.
JOHN MICHAEL: Yeah, yeah,
they've got a whole canal
that they like to skate on.
It's a big deal.
And so it's causing huge
political problems
for the mayor of Ottawa,
Jim Watson,
who has been quite popular.
He was also an MPP
before he was mayor,
he was also a city councillor
before that.
So he's served at multiple
levels of government.
But this was also his project.
This is a project he was elected
to really push through.
He has been re-elected
to get this project going,
and so it is kind of his baby.
And now he is wearing the mess,
for better or worse.
That said, last week,
Transportation Minister
Caroline Mulroney
announced a public inquiry to
get to the bottom
of why there have been so many
problems with this LRT.
STEVE: We haven't had a
Bill Davis reference yet, John--
John Michael, do you think we
should do that right here?
JOHN MICHAEL: Could I stop you
if I wanted to?
STEVE: Well, here is
the Bill Davis reference.
The former premier of Ontario
and the current mayor of Ottawa
share the same birthday,
so there you go.
July 30th.
I knew everybody was hanging on
the edge of their seats
to know that information
so I'm putting it in right here,
before we get any further into
this conversation.
(John Michael laughing)
I appreciate that one.
I like that one.
STEVE: Well, now, okay,
back on the path now,
and I presume part of the
problem for the nation's capital
is that they are actually
supposed to build
a second phase of this
LRT project
which is twice as expensive
as the first phase
and it hardly makes sense to
embark on a $4 billion project
if you can't figure out how
to keep phase one
in good operating order,
I presume.
So we're going to watch
in the weeks ahead
for the government to establish
the inquiry,
name a commissioner, figure out
which questions need answering,
and then they are going to set
the terms of reference
for the inquiry that will really
give us a sense
of what the government--
what questions
the government
is looking to answer.
And you know, ensure that
this is all resolved
before billions more dollars
are spent on phase two.
And of course, this isn't just
an Ottawa story
because Ottawa isn't the only
place that is building
an LRT right now-- we've got two
light rail projects
underway in Toronto,
another in Mississauga,
and your hometown of Hamilton
is finally getting closer
to building an LRT
after a few years of drama.
So it's definitely worth
whatever lessons we can.
STEVE: And I have to say,
unlike in other cities
where they're building LRTs
right now,
there is a real split in
Hamilton as to whether or not
it makes sense to do it,
and I note there was a letter
in the
Hamilton Spectator,
I think just yesterday
or the other day saying,
"If you think it's a smart idea
to build an LRT in Hamilton,
"just look at what's going on
in Ottawa.
"They're having terrible
"we shouldn't do it here."
Anyway, you're quite right,
this isn't just an Ottawa story.
It has tentacles
well beyond that.
All right, let's stay with
for another item here.
The Liberal leader in Ontario,
Stephen Del Duca
has announced that if he is
successful in winning
the next election next June,
next year,
he will offer Ontarians a tax
credit to help them
buy winter tires for their cars,
trucks, minivans, whatever.
What's the thinking here?
I mean...
It's confusing to me, 'cause I
don't think voters in June
are going to be thinking about
snow tires,
but maybe Stephen Del Duca knows
something I don't.
You know, this was presumably
an issue that Del Duca
knew something about, given that
he was Transportation Minister
when the Liberals
were last in power.
There are innumerable studies
that show
that when people switch from
summer tires to winter tires
once the weather gets bad,
that saves lives.
It makes roads safer
for everyone.
You have fewer accidents,
fewer injuries,
and of course, fewer fatalities
when you switch to the deeper
treads for wintertime.
STEVE: We should point out,
Quebec mandates this.
You have to have winter tires
on your vehicle
during the wintertime in Quebec
or you face a fine.
Del Duca has, however, said
he will not take that approach
in the province of Ontario
if he's successful next June.
How come?
This is all about the right mix
of carrots and sticks.
Del Duca said he would prefer to
encourage people
to get winter tires, so he is
offering a tax credit
for those that do.
You never know how much uptake
there will be on these things,
but if it's a decent amount,
Del Duca figures
it will cost the treasury
$80 million,
which in a provincial budget of
$190 billion or so,
it's a pretty modest
sum of money, compared to,
you know, the health of drivers
and their passengers,
and auto repair costs.
You know, these things all have
real costs on the economy, too.
STEVE: Now Del Duca made the
announcement last week on Zoom,
and I did watch the
and you could see
during the course of it
that he was not just making
an announcement
specifically about tires,
but he was road-testing some
campaign ideas, as well.
For example, when he was asked
"Why not make it mandatory,"
as we just discussed,
he talked about keeping life
affordable in Ontario,
thus the encouragement
to buy winter tires but not
a law forcing people to do it.
JMM, affordability.
Get ready to hear a lot more
from all the parties
on that issue
in the months to come.
JOHN MICHAEL: And you've already
heard Premier Ford
talk about how he still wants to
keep his party's promise
to lower gasoline taxes.
I think that, you know, between
Ford and Del Duca,
you're hearing, in particular,
about the affordability
of driving right now, and
I suspect we are going to hear
more about not just driving, but
affordability in other topics.
You know, certainly a lot
of people talking
about inflation right now,
we'll see whether that remains
an electoral issue with any kind
of power six months from now.
STEVE: Indeed.
Let's do one more item here,
and that is the Auditor
General's office
released this year's audits
of the province's
environmental policies.
Our listeners might remember
that this used to be the job
of the Environmental
but the Ford government
shut down
the Environmental
Commissioner's office,
one of the first things they did
when they came into power
in 2018.
They folded that work
into the Auditor's office,
allegedly as a cost-saving
Well, okay, here we are,
Auditor General, Bonnie Lisick,
and the assistant Auditor
and Environmental Commissioner,
Tyler Schulz,
have issued their annual reports
on the government's
environmental policies.
What kind of mark did the
government get this time?
(John Michael laughing)
Not a huge... not an A plus.
Let's put it that way.
This year's report finds the
government is not taking
the risks to endangered species
terribly seriously,
with permits that harm animals
or their habitats
being issued very frequently.
It also finds that the province
is very likely
to miss its 2030 targets for
waste diversion.
This is, like, trying to keep
things out of landfills
with recycling or composting.
It is very likely to miss
its 2030 targets,
and it could see the province's
existing landfill capacity
filled up within 14 years.
Lisick and Schulz also report
that the government
isn't taking its
responsibilities under
the Environmental Bill of Rights
This is the law that requires
the government to post
potential policy changes for
public consultation,
and be very transparent about
its environmental policies.
Um, this is obviously not great
news for any government,
and I think any government in
Ontario always braces
when the Auditor General has
a press conference,
but the report was also
pretty clear
that several of these problems
are much older
than just the Ford government.
This goes back many, many years.
STEVE: And just to be clear,
this is not the last
we will hear from the Auditor
General's office this year.
There's the traditional annual
report from her office,
which is a very large document,
usually, you know,
three to four hundred pages,
and it just details
all sorts of things
from ministries and programs
where there is either,
you know, waste or abuse
or misspending.
And that is still to come
later this year.
It reliably causes a headache
for whoever is in government,
and it, on the other hand,
gives reporters
and opposition politicians
something to feast on for a day.
STEVE: That reminds me
of an old story.
Do we have time
for a little story here?
Yeah, yeah.
STEVE: I remember when I was
a cub reporter.
So that means
even younger than you.
I think I was in my early 20s.
And I had to cover the Auditor's
report being unveiled
at Queen's Park, and I--
I went to cover this report,
and I, you know,
I put a couple of examples
of malfeasance
and badly-run programs
and all that,
and then I tagged my report
by saying,
"But on balance, the Auditor
thinks that the province's books
"are being well-attended to,
and government
"is basically being run
pretty well."
And I got back to the station
and after I recorded that,
I think the-- the senior
reporter came up to me and said,
"You know what?
Don't ever do that again.
"This is the one day a year
we all get to pile on
"the government,
and you're not allowed to say
"that they are doing
a pretty good job.
"It's all got to be bad news."
(John Michael laughing)
So I guess I learned my lesson
on that day.
JOHN MICHAEL: You don't give
good news on the bad news day!
STEVE: There you go.
There you go.
Took me a little while
to figure it out,
but I think I got it
straight now.
Well, we always conclude
this podcast
with our favourite quotes
of the week,
and we will have those for you
after we ask you to give us
a rating on Apple Podcasts.
We do love your feedback, good,
bad, or indifferent.
You can also shoot us
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STEVE: Here now,
my quote of the week.
And you know that the Alberta
government just signed
a childcare agreement
with the feds,
that despite the fact that
Premier Jason Kenney
and Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau aren't exactly
what you'd call "bosom buddies."
So it, again,
raised the question of,
"Why no agreement in
Ontario yet?"
Province Doug Ford addressed
that a few days ago
in Etobicoke.
PREMIER FORD: I'm just not
going to make a deal
for the sake of making a deal.
We're seeing these deals signed,
as you mentioned,
that they're more per capita
with less strings attached.
And my good friend, Francois,
he got a great deal,
no strings attached,
or minimum strings attached,
so we'll sit down, we've been
negotiating for a couple months.
I want a deal, but I also expect
the local mayors,
be it Mayor Tory or other mayors
to stand united with us.
I expect the federal MPs,
the Liberals federal MPS
to stand with us.
They represent half
their caucus.
So we'll strike a deal,
but I'm not making a bad deal
just for the sake of
making a deal.
STEVE: That's Premier Ford
pointing out his good friend
Premier Francois Legault
got a good deal for Quebec,
and he'll be holding out
for a good one for Ontario.
Only Ontario and New Brunswick,
well, they are the only
jurisdictions in Canada
at the moment without
childcare agreements.
JOHN MICHAEL: And here's my
quote of the week.
And as I said, you know,
I'm a parent of a child who is
now eligible to get vaccinated,
so this might actually just be
my quote of the year.
Here is Federal Minister
of Procurement, Filomena Tassi
speaking on Friday.
TASSI: This morning we heard the
good news that Health Canada
has authorized Pfizer Biontech's
Covid-19 vaccine
for children between the ages
of five and 11.
As we announced last month,
Canada and Pfizer
agreed to an accelerated
delivery schedule
for the Covid-19 vaccine
for children
once it received regulatory
With the authorization announced
today, I can now confirm
that Canada will begin receiving
doses Sunday,
with all the 2.9 million
doses received
by the end of next week.
Not only is she the MP
for Hamilton West-
but Canada's first pediatric
Pfizer doses
landed at the John C. Munro
International Airport
in Hamilton on Sunday evening.
I know you'd be cross with me
if I didn't mention
the Hamilton connection, Steve.
STEVE: That is absolutely
We must, I believe it is an
edict of the Ontario cabinet,
we must have either a Hamilton
or a Bill Davis reference
in everything we do,
and thankfully,
in this podcast, JMM,
we had both.
So thank you for continuing
the tradition.
JOHN MICHAEL: Gotta keep
the team going.
That is this week's episode of
Produced by Katie O'Connor,
edited by Matthew O'Mara,
production support from Nikki
Ashworth and Jonathan Halliwell.
JMM, as my dad likes to say,
stay positive, test negative.
Stay safe, Steve.

Watch: Vaccines for kids are here