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Interest rate announcement, COVID rates across Canada: In The News for Jan. 26

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 26 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 26 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Economic eyes will be on the Bank of Canada this morning as the central bank is scheduled to make an announcement about its trendsetting interest rate.

Some economists are expecting the central bank to raise its key policy rate from its rock-bottom level of 0.25 per cent, marking the first of multiple hikes over the course of 2022.

Economists' expectations are tied to annual inflation rates that in December hit a 30-year high, and survey data from the Bank of Canada showing consumers believe price gains will stay higher for longer.

A rise in the bank's key policy rate would affect costs for loans like variable-rate mortgages and other borrowing linked to the benchmark rate.

If the central bank decides not to raise rates, governor Tiff Macklem may signal a potential increase in rates in March to give the bank time to see the economic fallout from the latest surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen says beyond the near-term risks from Omicron, the central bank is running out of reasons to keep interest rates at emergency low levels, adding that rates will rise soon.

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Also this ...

As the Omicron-fuelled fifth wave of the pandemic appears to be peaking in some provinces, prompting plans to ease some COVID-19 restrictions, others are still dealing with surging cases pushing hospitals to the brink.

With a record 1,377 COVID patients in hospital, emergency wards in Alberta face long wait times and multiple red alerts, which means no ambulances are available at a given time. 

The provincial health authority confirmed Tuesday that a patient died while waiting for care in an emergency ward.

The Baffin Island community of Igloolik, which has a population of about 1,600, is under a strict lockdown, with all offices and schools closed and travel restricted as COVID-19 spreads rapidly among households.

Youth sports tournaments in B.C. will be allowed to resume on Feb. 1, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is extending the use of the proof-of-vaccine card until June 30, calling it an important tool to allow restaurants, fitness centres, and events to continue to operate.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the province will slowly begin to loosen some COVID-19 restrictions, beginning Monday with restaurants able to resume in-person dining at half capacity and no more than four people, or two different households, at a table.

Students in Newfoundland and Labrador returned to in-person classes Tuesday after learning from home since Jan. 4, although the province's teachers association says its members feel it's not yet safe to open schools.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

SAN JOSE, Calif. _ A California city voted Tuesday night to require gun owners to carry liability insurance in what's believed to be the first measure of its kind in the United States.

The San Jose City Council overwhelmingly approved the measure despite opposition from gun owners who said it would violate their Second Amendment rights and promised to sue.

The Silicon Valley city of about one million followed a trend of other Democratic-led cities that have sought to rein in violence through stricter rules. But while similar laws have been proposed, San Jose is the first city to pass one, according to Brady United, a national non-profit that advocates against gun violence.

Council members, including several who had lost friends to gun violence, said it was a step toward dealing with gun violence that Councilman Sergio Jimenez called ``a scourge on our society.''

Having liability insurance would encourage people in the 55,000 households in San Jose who legally own at least one registered gun to have gun safes, install trigger locks and take gun safety classes, Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

The liability insurance would cover losses or damages resulting from any accidental use of the firearm, including death, injury, or property damage, according to the ordinance. If a gun is stolen or lost, the owner of the firearm would be considered liable until the theft or loss is reported to authorities.

However, gun owners who don't have insurance won't lose their guns or face any criminal charges, the mayor said.

The council also voted to require gun owners to pay an estimated $25 fee, which would be collected by a yet-to-be-named non-profit and doled out to community groups to be used for firearm safety education and training, suicide prevention, domestic violence, and mental health services.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

LONDON _ British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is bracing for the conclusions of an investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaching parties, a document that could help him end weeks of scandal and discontent, or bring his time in office to an abrupt close.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray could turn in her report to the government as soon as Wednesday. Johnson's office has promised to publish its findings, and the prime minister will address Parliament about it soon after.

Gray's office wouldn't comment on timing, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the Conservative government hadn't yet received the report Wednesday morning. She said she couldn't guarantee the government would publish the full report, saying there could be "security issues that mean parts of it are problematic to publish. But we will absolutely publish the findings of the report.''

Allegations that the prime minister and his staff flouted restrictions imposed on the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus have caused public anger, led some Conservative lawmakers to call for Johnson's resignation and triggered intense infighting inside the governing party.

Johnson has urged his critics to wait for Gray's conclusions, but his "wait and see'' defense weakened Tuesday when police said they had opened a criminal investigation into some of the gatherings.

London's Metropolitan Police force said at "a number of events'' at Johnson's Downing Street office and other government buildings met the force's criteria for investigating the "most serious and flagrant'' breaches of coronavirus rules. 

Gray is investigating claims that government staff held late-night soirees, boozy parties and "wine time Fridays'' while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021. 

The "partygate'' allegations have infuriated many in Britain, who were barred from meeting with friends and family for months in 2020 and 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people were fined by police for breaking the rules.

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On this day in 1980 ...

Prime minister Joe Clark said Canada would boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow if Soviet troops were not out of Afghanistan by Feb. 20. Canada skipped the Games.

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In entertainment ...

LOS ANGELES — Howie Mandel has a bone to pick with his longtime friend Jay Leno, saying on a podcast that Leno should have defended himself over “Tonight Show” rivalries of decades past. 

On Apple’s “Howie Mandel Does Stuff” podcast on Tuesday, the Toronto-raised actor-comedian says Leno failed to “change the narrative” when he competed with David Letterman and then Conan O'Brien to host “Tonight.” 

Leno's answer: The public has no interest in hearing celebrities gripe. Instead, Leno says, he just did the work. 

“That worked for me by not whining, by not complaining," Leno said. "You get a whole silent majority of people to go, ’Hey, I like the fact you just put your nose to the grindstone and did the work.’”

Leno hosted “The Tonight Show” for a total of 22 years. These days, he performs standup and hosts the game show “You Bet Your Life” with Kevin Eubanks.

Leno, whose familiar, mainstream comedy on “Tonight” was compared unfavourably by some to Letterman's iconoclastic humour, allowed himself some low-key gloating.

“My attitude was Letterman will get the cool kids and the critics, and I'll take the popular vote,” he told Mandel. “That's pretty much how it worked out.”

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ICYMI ...

OTTAWA _ Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is calling on Twitter to remove a tweet from an Ontario politician who labelled federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra a ``terrorist.''

Mendicino said Tuesday the tweet from Independent MPP Randy Hillier is ``Islamophobic'' and amounts to ``hate speech'' that should have no place on Twitter.

Mendicino was responding to a Hillier tweet earlier in the day supporting truckers opposed to mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 in order to cross the Canada-U. S. border.

Hillier referred to Alghabra, who is Muslim, as a terrorist who has condemned Canadians to starvation in the name of public safety.

In a separate statement, Hillier called on the RCMP to open a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he accused of engaging in an ``act of domestic terrorism'' by depriving Canadians of food and other basic necessities in the middle of winter.

A convoy of truckers and other vaccine opponents is on its way from British Columbia to Ottawa for a weekend rally against vaccine mandates, which Hillier said he intends to attend.

A spokesman for Twitter said Hillier's tweet is ``not something we're commenting on.''

For his part, Alghabra said in an interview that he's ``saddened'' by Hillier's tweet, noting it's not the first time he has faced such ``slurs'' from other politicians.

"It is very sad to see an elected Canadian politician use, resort to such rhetoric that is full of anger, hate,'' he said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2022

The Canadian Press