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FIRST READING: The Miracle of the Coquihalla


Also, you can’t ride an elephant in Canada anymore

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First Reading is a daily newsletter keeping you posted on the travails of Canadian politicos, all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper. To get an early version sent direct to your inbox every Monday to Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (and 9 a.m. on Sundays), sign up here.

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TOP STORY

Before we delve into our usual summary of the foibles of the political class, can we just note that a small band of B.C. heavy equipment operators have pulled off one of the greatest feats of rebuilding in Canadian history ? It was only a month ago that extreme rains wiped out more than 20 distinct sections of the Coquihalla Highway, leading to estimates that the critical roadway wouldn’t be open again until mid-2022. On Wednesday, British Columbians were hit with the surprise announcement that the Coquihalla will be welcoming its first trucks by Monday . B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming called the turnaround “one of the most remarkable engineering feats in memory in B.C.”

Meanwhile, one of the heroes of the Coquihalla story appears to be the operators of everybody’s favourite pipeline . According to Postmedia’s Vaughn Palmer, Trans Mountain already had fleets of heavy equipment posted to the areas where the damage was worst, and were able to commandeer them into rebuilding efforts within hours.

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IN OTHER NEWS

Canadian governments have largely avoided imposing another suite of heavy-handed lockdowns to curb the spread of Omicron , the new COVID variant that is highly transmissible but fortunately appears to be rather mild. Ottawa, for instance, has largely limited its response to advising against “non-essential” travel. Canadians appear to be of two minds on this approach …

  • There’s the view of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, who are pushing for tighter capacity limits and expanded mask mandates lest a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations overwhelm the health-care system.
  • And there’s the view of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who told the National Post that most Canadians have already “tuned out” public health warnings and aren’t going to listen to them anyway. “When we’ve seen the public step up with a behaviour that reduces transmission, it’s been through people making that decision voluntarily,” he said.

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WestJet is not taking kindly to the federal government suddenly telling everybody to cancel their Christmas travel plans . The Calgary-based airline (which just finished complying with federal orders by laying off its unvaccinated staff ) is set to be one of the hardest hit by the advisory, which they said in a statement is “not based on science and data” and “contradicts WHO’s guidance that states blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of COVID-19 and adversely affect lives and livelihoods.”

Canada celebrated the introduction of its new line of offshore patrol ships by sending one of them to circumnavigate North America. Here, sailor Jonathan Dunphy kisses his wife Jolene after arriving back home in Halifax on Thursday aboard HMCS Harry DeWolf, which traversed the Northwest Passage and the Panama Canal all in one go.
Canada celebrated the introduction of its new line of offshore patrol ships by sending one of them to circumnavigate North America. Here, sailor Jonathan Dunphy kisses his wife Jolene after arriving back home in Halifax on Thursday aboard HMCS Harry DeWolf, which traversed the Northwest Passage and the Panama Canal all in one go. Photo by REUTERS/Ted Pritchard

For reasons nobody can quite understand, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has organized his cabinet into two distinct committees with the exact same name and mandate . The Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion and Climate is charged with such vague missions as  inclusive social development” and “improving the quality of life of Canadians.” And there are two of them: An “A” team EIC committee and a “B” team EIC committee, neither with overlapping members. “Will there need to be a third committee that makes sure the other two don’t come up with two different drafts of the same legislation?” reads an analysis by Colby Cosh.

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You can’t ride elephants in Canada anymore . While it’s not technically illegal, the group Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) just updated its rules to ban elephant-riding at CAZA-accredited attractions. In 2019, Ontario’s African Lion Safari saw a trainer seriously injured at their since-discontinued elephant riding attraction.

Say goodbye to this, Canada.
Say goodbye to this, Canada. Photo by ARMANDO RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY

An exclusive Ontario ski club has done pretty well for itself thanks to a windfall of government COVID money . After receiving more than $500,000 in Canada emergency wage subsidy benefits, the Mansfield Ski Club posted a budget surplus that was almost 15 times higher than usual, according to CBC . Becoming a member at Mansfield Ski Club costs $15,000 to start, with dues ranging from $4,000 to $7,000 for the year.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

A 10-year-old Afghan girl was killed by Taliban gunfire last week just as her family prepared plans to flee to Canada. Nazifa’s father had previously worked for Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Kandahar, making him eligible for resettlement in Canada – and also forcing him to go into hiding following the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan in August. While countries such as the United States and Britain were able to coordinate the rapid August evacuation of thousands of families such as Nazifa’s, Canada largely abandoned its former allies to find their own way out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. “I can confirm this family did have approval to come to Canada, and they didn’t make it out in time,” a source with the Canadian veterans group Aman Lara told Global News .

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Canadian Jack Letts probably didn’t expect he’d be getting much sympathy, but he’s sorry he tried to join ISIS and would very much like it if we’d help spring him from Kurdish jail . The plea, made to a Global Affairs diplomat a few years ago, was just published by the National Post’s Tom Blackwell. Global Affairs appears to have done nothing with the information, and Letts is still in Kurdish custody in Northern Syria.

Jack Letts pictured in less-imprisoned times.
Jack Letts pictured in less-imprisoned times. Photo by File

CULTURE WARS

Calgary is officially suing Quebec . On Wednesday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city would be putting $100,000 towards a legal challenge of Quebec’s Bill 21, which forbids public employment in Quebec to anyone who wears religious garb. It was Brampton, Ont., Mayor Patrick Brown (the guy who used to run the Ontario Progressive Conservatives before getting kicked out in a sexual misconduct scandal and being replaced by Doug Ford) who spearheaded the effort to have his fellow Canadian cities fund legal action against Quebec. As Brown has said, the cost of the challenge should not be “shouldered solely by religious and racialized minorities in Canada.”

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Rex Murphy has thoughts on the Eternal Struggle between Alberta and Quebec, and speculates that the former probably wouldn’t receive a bunch of shrugged shoulders in Ottawa if it implemented a new policy that resulted in a bunch of hijab-wearing Muslims getting fired .

This is what the Sun looks like close-up if you were wondering. The photos were taken this week by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which just became the first human-made object to “touch the Sun” by entering its upper atmosphere. Naturally, the spacecraft carries a very effective heat shield.
This is what the Sun looks like close-up if you were wondering. The photos were taken this week by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which just became the first human-made object to “touch the Sun” by entering its upper atmosphere. Naturally, the spacecraft carries a very effective heat shield. Photo by NASA

Get all of these insights and more into your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET by signing up for the First Reading newsletter here. 

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