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Bob Mackin

A Port Moody real estate agent is involved with a proposal for the British Columbia government to import coronavirus test kits from a company in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic originated.

(Wuhan Easy Diagnosis Biomedicine Co. Ltd.)

According to a March 31 entry in the Registry of Lobbyists, Bruce Young of Earnscliffe Strategy Group wants to share information with government regarding Wuhan EasyDiagnosis Biomedicine Co. Ltd. test kits for COVID-19 that have been deployed in other jurisdictions.

Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown and Minister Adrian Dix’s assistant Lucinda Yeung are listed as target contacts.

Client Wuhan EasyDiagnosis Biomedicine Co. Ltd., is described as a “leading in vitro diagnostic manufacturer, specializing in development, production and sales of point of care testing rapid diagnostic reagents and related equipment.”

The company’s contact address is the Port Moody office of real estate agent Bill Laidler’s Laidler Wang Investment Corp., a company incorporated last November in Washington State.

Laidler declined comment when contacted April 4.

The company is located in Wuhan’s National Biological Industry Base, also known as Biolake, and listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange. It was one of 17 manufacturers of test kits approved by the Chinese government, according to a March 24 World Health Organization list.

Wuhan, China, the blue dot on the world map. (Wuhan Easy Diagnosis Biomedicine Co. Ltd.)

Wuhan EasyDiagnosis applied March 26 for Health Canada approval under the interim express order for coronavirus diagnostic products. On April 5, the Health Canada list of authorized products showed eight companies: 1Drop Inc. (imported from South Korea by Luminarie Canada Inc.); Abbott Molecular Inc.; Roche; Diagnostic Hybrids; Luminex Molecular Diagnostics Inc.; and Cepheid.

B.C. is not mass-testing for coronavirus. Instead, it focuses on testing healthcare workers, those who present at hospitals with severe symptoms and to identify outbreaks. That is contrary to the advice of the World Health Organization, which urges countries to test every suspected case and identify contacts, who should also be tested if they are sick or showing symptoms.

Bill Laidler

“Many countries have not been systematically testing all suspect cases, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re behind in this epidemic,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said at a press conference in Geneva.

In a YouTube video on March 28, Royal Columbian Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Sean Wormsbecker accused B.C. officials of “low-balling” the numbers because there is no widespread testing for suspected cases of coronavirus.

“One of the frustrations that we’re seeing as frontline providers, that’s the fact that based on our current resources we are very much under-testing the population,” Wormsbecker said.

Between March 1 and April 4, a total 47,569 tests were conducted at B.C. Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory, Vancouver General Hospital, B.C. Children’s & Women’s Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital, Victoria General Hospital Microbiology Laboratory, Kelowna General Hospital Microbiology Laboratory and LifeLabs.

Hard-hit seniors home lobbies for aid

The site of the worst coronavirus outbreak in B.C. hired lobbyist Michael Bailey of Western Policy Consultants on March 27.

Lynn Valley Care Centre (Mackin)

Lynn Valley Care Centre (aka North Shore Private Hospital) registered Bailey on April 2 to brief Ministry of Health officials “on the need for government assistance for long-term care homes through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lynn Valley Care Centre administrator and environmental safety coordinator Noori Shahkar did not respond for comment. At least 15 residents of the North Vancouver care home have died of coronavirus.

Ex-NDP MP reps Sysco

Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen registered on behalf of Sysco, the multinational food and food equipment distributor and wholesaler.

Cullen retired from parliament as the member for Skeena-Bulkley Valley last fall. He joined Strategy Corp. in January as a strategic advisor.

Nathan Cullen (right) with John Horgan and Melanie Mark in 2017 (BC NDP)

“Sysco is one of their clients, I’m simply putting them together to have a conversation,” Cullen told theBreaker.news. “I wasn’t privy to any of the conversations.” 

The company wanted to meet with Premier John Horgan aide Don Bain and Dave Peterson, assistant deputy minister of Emergency B.C., to offer assistance with “supply chain and coordination of the distribution of food and other goods in the fight against COVID 19.”

Cullen recently acted as a go-between for the B.C. government in the dispute with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs over the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Canada, B.C. and the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs reached a tentative agreement March 1 on rights and title. The B.C. government is refusing to release a copy of the deal under the freedom of information law.

In 2014, Cullen supported Horgan’s successful bid for the B.C. NDP leadership.

Kim for Tims

Global Public Affairs’ Kim Haakstad, who was an aide to former Premier Christy Clark, registered March 26 for Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Tim Hortons and Burger King.

Haakstad listed the Jobs, Economic Development and Competitive Ministry as the target, to “inform and clarify issues related to the franchise industry and the impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry, as well as discuss measures the government is taking to mitigate this impact.”

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Bob Mackin A Port Moody real estate agent

Canadians are beginning to adapt to social distancing life in the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. The usual venues of work, play, shop, study and worship are mostly closed and the economy on pause.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, pollster Mario Canseco of Research Co. discusses the findings of his research. Canadians, he said, are praying more (especially if they are in higher income brackets), finding distractions like streaming movies and board games, and consuming more news. But there are fewer advertisers willing or able to pay, because most businesses are closed.

Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco (Mackin)

“I’ve never seen this many Canadians following the news unless there’s an election happening,” Canseco told host Bob Mackin. “During elections you have a lot of expenditures from government and those parties wanting to stay in government and the opposition.”

The only gender gap he found was the world of sports: 41% of men miss watching live hockey, basketball and baseball. Only 24% of women long for sports. Sports played a big role in helping heal Canadians after 9/11 and the 2008 Great Recession. “We don’t even have that now. It’s more complicated.”

Listen to the full interview on this edition. 

Plus coronavirus headlines from the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim, and analysis of the changing messages of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. health minister Adrian Dix and federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Pollster finds how Canadians are adapting to the reality of social distancing
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Canadians are beginning to adapt to social

Bob Mackin

On April 2, at the Legislature, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix announced six more British Columbians died of the novel coronavirus.

The province’s death toll reached 31.

Public employees appearing in Pandemic: a shark’s story (B.C. Ministry of Health)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes at the Ministry of Health headquarters, shark shenanigans during business hours on the day after April Fool’s Day.

theBreaker.news exclusively obtained a copy of a five-slide presentation titled “Pandemic: a shark’s story,” which was produced in the Ministry of Health and circulated by employees on April 2.

It tells the story of a shark that came to Victoria to help humans deal with the pandemic.

A bureaucrat dressed-up in a shark suit was photographed walking across Blanshard Street in downtown Victoria, in a hallway with a senior bureaucrat and beside the 2018-erected Crossing Cultures and Healing totem pole outside the ministry headquarters at the Richard Blanshard Building.

The penultimate slide of Pandemic: a shark’s story (B.C. Ministry of Health)

In the penultimate slide, the shark character has an epiphany beside the shark-less totem pole: “Shark realizes that sharks are not appreciated by humans,” reads the thought balloon.

So the shark character changes plans and “decides to eat last human in Victoria.”

The last slide shows the shark-suited bureaucrat chasing a female employee on a downtown sidewalk.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the province, a state of emergency continues.

Offices, stores, restaurants and schools are shut indefinitely. Layoffs are multiplying.

Five million citizens are warned to stay home. Dix did not respond to a text message seeking his comment. Ministry communications staff did not call theBreaker.news to ask a question during the teleconference on April 3. Prior to taking limited questions, Dix lauded staff “who everyday are working their guts out.” He did not refer to Pandemic: a shark’s story.

“The people who work here in the Ministry of Health in Victoria, on Blanshard Street and across B.C., have been doing unbelievable amounts of overtime everyday working hard,” Dix said. “Sometimes from home, sometimes in office, but are doing exemplary and extraordinary work,  I’m very proud of them. I think they’re an exceptional group of people, they provide enormous support to Dr. Henry and to our deputy minister Steve Brown, and I’m very, very proud of the work that they do.”

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Bob Mackin On April 2, at the Legislature,

First it was toilet paper disappearing from store shelves across the province.

Now it is the Nanaimo Bar, British Columbia’s delectable, chocolate-topped dessert bar.

The Nanaimo Bar, a B.C. masterpiece. (City of Nanaimo)

Or, more precisely, the butter that forms an integral part of the venerable recipe.

Many quick serve bakeries and cafes are closed because of the coronavirus public health emergency. British Columbians are rediscovering home cooking while obeying orders to stay home, which has led to a butter shortage at supermarkets. For those reasons, the beloved Nanaimo Bar has suddenly become harder to find and harder to make.

How much butter is needed?

Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe that won her the best in Nanaimo in a 1986 civic contest calls for 1/2 cup of butter on the bottom layer, 1/2 a cup on the second layer and 2 tablespoons of butter on the third layer.

Mike Farnworth

Under the Emergency Program Act, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has the power to ration butter and classify Nanaimo Bar bakers an essential service.

An announcement on the NDP government’s Nanaimo Bar plan, which theBreaker.news has been told will be called #ButterBC, is scheduled at The Bastion in Nanaimo for just before noon today, with associate deputy minister of public safety, Prima A. Prilis.

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First it was toilet paper disappearing from

Bob Mackin

When British Columbia hospitals treating coronavirus patients began running low on personal protective equipment, the People’s Republic of China consulate in Vancouver turned to mask diplomacy.

theBreaker.news previously reported that Consul General Tong Xiaoling and her deputies and staff packaged masks and gloves in Ziploc bags for distribution to Chinese students at area universities.

Dr. John Yee (left) and Consul-Gen. Tong Xiaoling (PRC Consulate Vancouver)

On March 26, the consulate published a statement and photographs on its Chinese website about the donation of  N95 masks to two hospitals. A translation of the statement says the diplomats “urgently donated some” to Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. The statement does not appear on the consulate’s English website, nor did it mention the quantity of the donation.

Tong was photographed outside the golden door of the government of China’s Shaughnessy mansion handing over two large boxes to Dr. John Yee, director of thoracic surgery with Vancouver Coastal Health. Another photograph shows a consular official presenting two smaller boxes to an unnamed physician outside St. Paul’s.

By email, Yee told theBreaker.news that the consulate donated 500 N95 masks. 

The self-congratulatory statement on the consulate website cast China as the hero in the battle against coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan last November and was declared a pandemic on March 11 by the World Health Organization.

“With a highly responsible attitude towards the health and safety of the people, the Chinese government, with the resolute support and joint efforts of the people across the country, quickly adopted scientific and effective prevention and control measures, effectively cut off the virus transmission channels, and effectively curbed the spread of the epidemic,” a translation of the statement reads.

(PRC Consulate Vancouver)

“Facts have proven that China’s measures taken in a timely and effective manner have earned valuable time for curbing the development of the epidemic and achieving the current results of the epidemic, and also for the world to respond to the epidemic. Of course, China’s fight against the epidemic also received support from many countries, including Canada, and the Chinese people are grateful.”

However, evidence shows that China’s response lagged while millions of people began travelling inside and outside the country, in anticipation of Lunar New Year.

The government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on Jan. 23. Initially, Wuhan officials spent more time censoring the virus than containing it. 

Doctors blew the whistle on a WeChat group in December after seven people from a seafood market were hospitalized with SARS-like symptoms. Chinese police detained Dr. Li Wenliang and accused him of rumour-mongering. In a tragic twist, Li was diagnosed with the virus in January and died Feb. 7 in hospital.

China finally allowed a World Health Organization delegation into the country on Feb. 10 to investigate. 

On March 25, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry admitted stocks of masks, gloves, goggles and gowns were “on a tenuous level.”

Wuhan whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang

“The burn rate, as we call it, is much higher than we would have expected and we are putting in place measures now to try and control that and be more efficient and effective in how we’re using PPE,” Henry said.

In February, the Liberal federal government donated 16 tonnes of PPE to China, including 200,000 nitrile gloves, 50,118 face shields, 36,425 coveralls, 3,000 aprons, 1,820 goggles and 1,101 masks. There were other bulk shipments of PPE from Canada to China in January and February arranged by groups in Vancouver and Toronto that are affiliated with the Communist Party’s United Front foreign influence program.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa announced a March 27 donation by the Bank of China of 30,000 medical masks, 50,000 pairs of gloves and other items. Federal officials said the donation would be subject to Health Canada inspection. Netherlands recalled 600,000 masks imported from China.

On March 31, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said $2 billion would be spent on urgently manufacturing and buying PPE, ventilators and coronavirus testing kits, at home and abroad.

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Bob Mackin When British Columbia hospitals treating

The Canadian Olympic Committee played a key role in ending the dithering by the International Olympic Committee and the organizers of Tokyo 2020.

Team Canada’s March 22 statement that the coronavirus pandemic meant it would boycott the Olympics if they went ahead as scheduled forced the IOC two days later to cancel its planned month of study. For the first time, the Games are postponed for a year.

Jules Boykoff (Brian Lee)

“Thank goodness Canada and other countries stood up, and athletes, too, around the world, because that was the catalyst for actually postponing the Olympics,” Portland University political science professor and author Jules Boykoff tells theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin.

With a global recession inevitable, a 2020 Games suddenly became economically infeasible. 

Boykoff is critical of IOC president Thomas Bach, who tried to save face, claiming the decision was solely to protect the health of athletes.  

“That doesn’t ring true on any level because it’s those economic relationships that the IOC holds with the broadcasters, like NBC, but also with those corporate sponsors,” Boykoff said. That’s where more than 90% of the IOC revenue comes from.”

Listen to the full interview with Boykoff.

Plus: Richmond city council was told eight people tested positive for coronavirus in their jurisdiction. What about patient and hospitalization stats for City of Vancouver? Are B.C. health officials ignoring the latest recommendations from the World Health Organization?

Hear what Dr. Patricia Daly, the chief medical officer of Vancouver Coastal Health, said when Bob Mackin asked those questions.

Plus coronavirus headlines from the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim, and highlights of a surreal afternoon at the B.C. Legislature on March 23, when a dozen MLAs came together to pass a $5 billion aid package.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Dithering IOC's Tokyo postponement was less about athletes and more about the money, says author
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The Canadian Olympic Committee played a key

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s automobile sales lobby drove a victory lap after the industry scored essential service designation from the provincial government on March 26.

The New Car Dealers Association of B.C.’s daily email newsletter to members credited the organization’s lobbying for the government’s decision to let showrooms and garages remain open at a time when British Columbia is under a state of emergency and citizens are urged to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association (Mackin)

“Today’s announcement by the B.C. government on essential services was an important clarification for B.C.’s New Car Dealers — for those dealers who choose to stay open to serve their customers, whether that be for repair and maintenance, sales, lease returns, etc., they are able to do so. Those who make the decision to close, you are not required to stay open.” read the email, obtained by theBreaker.news.

“The strong relationships with government that the Association has developed over the years, combined with its continued advocacy on behalf of members, are in large part responsible for the important development today, and would not have occurred without it.”

How strong are those relationships with the government?

Since 2010, NCDA, which represents almost 400 dealers, has administered the government’s Clean Energy Vehicle rebate program, now known as Go Electric B.C. February’s budget earmarked $32 million to the program.

NCDA had a long history of political donations before the NDP’s post-2017 election ban on corporate donations: $1.408 million to the BC Liberals and $138,290 to the NDP. In 2018, executive director Blair Qualey gave $1,200 to the NDP.

NCDA’s lobbying firm is Bluestone Government Relations, headed by longtime BC Liberal Mark Jiles. After the NDP came to power in summer 2017, Jiles hired Rob Nagai, the NDP’s former corporate fundraiser.

Ex-NDP corporate fundraiser Rob Nagai with John Horgan. (Twitter)

We know that there are many people who are providing critical services who require their vehicles to get to and from work and many people in rural areas need to drive considerable distances, just to access groceries, medications or other requirements,” Qualey said by email. “Some of those people require maintenance, servicing or manufacturer warranty work and need to access our members to do that.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who issued the essential services list on March 26, did not respond for comment.

NCDA produces the Vancouver Auto Show, but the 100th edition from March 26-29 was among the myriad events postponed indefinitely by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Qualey said that many dealers have implemented “buy from home” programs during the state of emergency. B.C.’s biggest GM dealership, Dueck on Marine, has stepped-up cleaning of so-called “high touch areas” in vehicles and around the building, promoted social distancing and is allowing staff to work from home.

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Bob Mackin British Columbia’s automobile sales lobby drove

Bob Mackin

At the March 19 emergency meeting, Richmond medical officer Dr. Meena Dewar told city councillors that there were eight cases of coronavirus in their jurisdiction.

If there were eight in Richmond, how many could there be in Vancouver?

What about Surrey?

Dr. Patricia Daly (VCH)

How many people have been hospitalized with coronavirus in the province’s two biggest cities?

The answers to those questions are provincial government secrets.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix and their subordinates only provide statistics based on the regional health board catchment area, unless there is an outbreak at a specific location, such as Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. Eleven of the 46 residents infected have died and two-dozen workers have become ill. 

During a March 26 news conference at Vancouver city hall, Dewar’s boss, Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officer Dr. Patricia Daly, explained the communications plan.

“We are no longer providing details about the number of positive cases, as we changed our testing strategy those numbers are less meaningful,” Daly said, in response to a question from theBreaker.news. “We did identify to some communities early on that they had identified cases, but now with our changing testing, because we are not testing most people with COVID19 — including returning travellers who get sick, people with mild disease in the community — those numbers have become meaningless.”

March 12 was the last time the Ministry of Health provided an anonymized, case-by-case list with patient demographics and condition, including whether the patient contracted the virus by travel in a certain country or in the community. Ontario’s Ministry of Health continues to provide such information on a daily basis.

“I wish people would stop thinking about whether or not there is a positive case in their community and understand the message that we need to assume that COVID19 is circulating in all communities at this time,” Daly said.

theBreaker.news questions to Daly followed March 25 interviews with Surrey’s fire chief Larry Thomas, the president of the Surrey Firefighters Association, Mark McRae, and Coun. Jack Hundial. None of the trio had been briefed on Surrey-specific cases. They said they were provided the same Fraser Health regional numbers that Dix and Henry release daily.

Sean Holman, a journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the public has a right to know, especially in a crisis.

(City of Vancouver)

“If people can get a better sense about how much infection there is in their local geographic area, they can act accordingly and we really do want people to, in this time of crisis, be acting in accordance to the risk around them,” Holman said in an interview on theBreaker.news Podcast. “We want people to be self-isolating, we want people to be socially distancing, we want people to be thinking about the larger community, as opposed to thinking about their own individual safety. By disclosing that type of information, we can allow for those kinds of measures.”

Vancouver and Surrey are rather large communities. The eighth and 12th biggest municipalities in Canada, according to the 2016 Census, with a combined 1.2 million citizens.

They are also part of two larger health regions. Fraser Health counts 1.8 million people in its jurisdiction, which stretches from Burnaby to Hope, and as far south as the Canada/U.S. border.

Vancouver Coastal’s catchment area extends from Bella Bella to Richmond, including Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. The area is home to 1.2 million people.

Together, the two health authorities boast 3.05 million of B.C.’s 5.1 million people.

Meanwhile, on March 25, the World Health Organization director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries that have introduced so-called lockdown measures, such as Canada, to follow six key actions.

One of the WHO-recommended measures is to “implement a system to find every suspected case at the community level.”

“These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the virus doesn’t resurge,” Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros’s words came the week after Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said “every suspect case should be tested, their contacts identified.

“If those contacts are sick or showing symptoms, they should be tested. That requires a scale-up, because many countries have not been systematically testing all suspect cases, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re behind in this epidemic,” Ryan said.

B.C. is taking a different path than what is prescribed by the WHO.

“You don’t need to identify every case to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” Daly said.

“Now that we know the virus is circulating in communities there is no need to test everybody who might have mild disease, in fact doing so may put others at risk,” she said. “Right now we have every returning traveler self-isolating at home for that two-week period, if they get symptoms and they go out to a test site, they may expose other people who are not infected to the virus.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry (left) and Adrian Dix on March 26 (BC Gov)

Instead, B.C. has recommended anyone with symptoms to stay home and don’t go out, even to seek testing. Daly said those who present at hospitals with severe symptoms will be tested and testing will be conducted to identify outbreaks, as well as for healthcare workers.

“That is what we call a smart testing strategy, you are not required to identify every case to control the spread of this,” Daly said, pointing to China as an example.

UPDATE: In a March 28 YouTube video, a Royal Columbian Hospital emergency room physician accused B.C. officials of “low-balling” the numbers because there is no widespread testing for suspected cases of coronavirus.

“One of the frustrations that we’re seeing as frontline providers, that’s the fact that based on our current resources we are very much under-testing the population,” said Dr. Sean Wormsbecker.

“We’re unfortunately not performing to the kind of standards that were met at other countries that have been able to effectively flatten the curve so to speak,” he said. “We can’t use those countries like Singapore or Korea as a benchmark for what we can expect to come. If anything, I think we have to unfortunately look more to countries that haven’t done as well, because we simply aren’t at that standard of quarantine, we’re not at that standard of social isolation, we are definitely not at that standard of testing.”

Dr. Sean Wormsbecker (YouTube)

On March 26, Dix and Henry said 725 people had tested positive for coronavirus in B.C., including 359 in Vancouver Coastal, 241 in Fraser Health and 62 in Interior Health. Nine long term care homes are sites of outbreaks, with Haro Park in Vancouver’s West End suffering 58 infections. There are 66 people hospitalized, of which 26 are in intensive care. Meanwhile, 186 people have recovered.

The province also said that 26,681 individuals had been tested as of March 23 and the labs have capacity to test 3,500 per day.

However, a source not authorized to speak to reporters told theBreaker.news that the latest internal report shows a backlog of more than 2,000 samples.

Last week, Henry said the backlog was “in the hundreds” and on the way to being cleared. It was actually as high as 6,600 on March 19.

The pandemic has ground Canada’s economy to a halt. British Columbia is under a provincial state of emergency and the NDP minority government passed a $5 billion aid package earlier this week.

The federal government has agreed to a $107 billion aid package, in order to soften the blow of a sudden recession caused by draconian disease-control measures inspired by China, where the virus originated in Wuhan city last November.

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Bob Mackin At the March 19 emergency meeting,

Bob Mackin

As the novel coronavirus spreads in Canada, with 3,400 confirmed cases and 35 deaths as of March 25, British Columbia’s provincial health officer changed her tune about the stock of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders.

Dr. Bonnie Henry in the empty press gallery theatre on March 25 (BC Gov)

On March 23, Dr. Bonnie Henry said she was not aware of any shortages in B.C., but her department was working with federal partners and monitoring inventory, as shipments were coming in.

Two days later, a 180-degree shift. Henry said that B.C. is now going through “way more” masks, gloves, goggles and gowns than expected. “We are on a tenuous level right now.”

“In the past week we have seen a dramatic increase in use as we’ve had more people with COVID19 in hospital and we understand the absolute need to keep people safe,” Henry said. “But the burn rate, as we call it, is much higher than we would have expected and we are putting in place measures now to try and control that and be more efficient and effective in how we’re using PPE.”

Henry said B.C. was reusing certain types of equipment, with proper cleaning, and even looking at alternative supplies “from around the world.”

Chinese consul general Tong Xiaoling, centre (Weixin.qq.com)

Henry’s sudden search may be the legacy of the Trudeau Liberals’ gift of 16 tonnes of gear to China in early February.

The federal government announced Feb. 9 that it began to send PPE to China on Feb. 4. The news release quoted Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne and International Development Minister Karina Gould, sending their condolences and offering to “provide further assistance, as needed.”

Spokeswoman Krystyna Dodds of Global Affairs Canada told theBreaker.news that the equipment was sourced through Canadian Red Cross and the government’s own supply and sent to the Red Cross Society of China. The shipment from Canada included: 200,000 nitrile gloves, 50,118 face shields, 36,425 coveralls, 3,000 aprons, 1,820 goggles and 1,101 masks.

Canada will continue to work to ensure that we have the equipment we need to fight this virus — and that our partners do too,” Dodds said by email. She did not disclose the cost to taxpayers.

At his daily news conference on March 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau downplayed the donation. He saidthe federal stockpiles have been sufficient to meet the needs of the provinces to this point” and millions more pieces will be arriving in the coming days. 

Chinese consulate staff not social distancing in Vancouver on March 23 (Weixin.qq.com)

The Trudeau Liberals were not alone in shifting bulk quantities of supplies from Canada to China. Business and cultural groups loyal to the Communist Party of China were heavily fundraising and buying goods.

On Jan. 31, the Richmond-based Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations said it snapped up 5,000 sets of protective materials such as clothing, disinfectant and masks for shipment to Wuhan.

On Feb. 22, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Canada and Guangdong Overseas Chinese Federation bought 60 cases of 120,000 disposable medical masks in the Philippines that were delivered to Wuhan via Guangzhou. 

Public Works and Government Services Canada’s procurement website is now urgently seeking suppliers of disposable N95 and surgical masks, surgical and medical gowns, nitrile and vinyl gloves, and bottles of hand sanitizer.

Meanwhile, on March 23, Xi Jinping’s envoy in Vancouver led consular staff in packaging masks and gloves in Ziploc bags for distribution to Chinese students at area universities.

In one photograph, Consul General Tong Xiaoling sports a pink mask. In another she appears in a group photo that does not follow the Henry-advised social distancing. Xi Jinping’s Vancouver diplomats are not standing two metres apart to avoid spreading the highly contagious virus that came from Wuhan.

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Bob Mackin As the novel coronavirus spreads in

Bob Mackin

Last December’s hiring freeze coupled with this month’s public health emergency have led to short-staffing of fire halls in North Surrey, said the union’s president.

Mark McRae, Surrey Firefighters Association president (Vimeo)

Mark McRae, president of IAFF Local 1271, said the region that includes Guildford, Whalley and the north parts of Newton and Fleetwood would be down to 18 firefighters tonight from 26. If a two-alarm fire breaks out, 21 firefighters would be needed, meaning reinforcements would have to be called in from elsewhere in Surrey, he said.

“In this state of emergency, the last thing we need is to reduce the level of service and the front line responders that we have,” McRae told theBreaker.news. “Especially when we are already operating in a very lean and efficient capacity compared to the others in the region. We don’t have fat to trim in Surrey.”

McRae said that since March 17, Surrey has been short one or two trucks per shift. Tonight, four of the two-person rescue units will not be in service.

Last December, a majority of the city council under Mayor Doug McCallum voted to freeze fire hiring and leave the department at 364 personnel. The staffing level in North Surrey is comparable with the late 1980s. 

“We know what Surrey has done in the last 30 years, the city has grown incredibly, we’ve gone vertical in the north end, traffic congestion is significantly greater, there is far more industry, there is far more residential,” McRae said. 

McCallum, who leads the Safe Surrey Coalition council majority, did not respond to phone messages from theBreaker.news. Last December’s civic budget froze staffing of both the RCMP and fire department, so that city hall could divert funds into creating a new municipal police force. 

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum (Surrey)

Surrey Fire Service Chief Larry Thomas said 69 firefighters were on-duty throughout the city, but did not have a regional breakdown. He said the fire department is continuing to meet its demands and performance goals, but firefighters numbering in the “mid-20s” are off work in connection to the pandemic.

“We’re having some fluctuations with high, short-term sick call-ins from staff that have had potential exposures to COVID, they call us and have to self isolate. No area is going unprotected,” Thomas said. 

“I understand that the union gets pressure if they see a truck go out of service on a temporary basis. It’s just temporary, we do have a comprehensive staffing plan in place, that’s not just for the short term, but for the long term, no one knows how long this crisis is going to last.”

Surrey Coun. Jack Hundial, who voted against the hiring freeze, said other municipalities have a ratio of one firefighter to 1,000 citizens, but Surrey is more like one to 1,500.

“So we’re already starting from a deficit position,” Hundial said.

McRae, Thomas and Hundial said they are not provided Surrey-specific data on coronavirus cases. They only receive the regional statistics for Fraser Health, which covers Burnaby to Chilliwack. In contrast, at a March 19 open meeting, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Dr. Meena Dewar told Richmond city council that the city had eight confirmed cases.

Surrey City Coun. Jack Hundial (Twitter)

McRae said more patients in Surrey are showing symptoms or are confirmed with the virus. As for the department’s personal protective equipment inventory, Thomas said “for the short-term, we’re fine.”

Surrey has not held a public city council meeting during the public health emergency. Vancouver has held two. Hundial and fellow Surrey Connect Coun. Brenda Locke’s public plea for such a meeting resulted only in a March 24 in camera session. The next scheduled public meeting is April 6.

“We need that openness, transparency, but we don’t want to jeopardize any programs or emergency measures underway now either,” Hundial said. “The public needs to know what the next steps are going to be from the City of Surrey.”

As of March 25, B.C. announced 659 cases of coronavirus, including 218 in the Fraser Health region, and 14 deaths. 

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Bob Mackin Last December’s hiring freeze coupled with