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Scheer says detention of Canadians in China is retaliation for Huawei arrest

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said today he believes the detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig is China retaliating against Canada for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

“That is my belief,” Scheer told host Vassy Kapelos in a year-end interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

“Of course, the government has access to more classified information and more sensitive information. But based on what I can observe, statements coming out of the government itself, messages from the regime and also from … the newspaper that is so closely linked to the Communist party … I believe its more prudent to operate under that assumption.”

The Canadian government has not drawn a direct link between Meng’s arrest and China’s detention of Canadian citizens.

“Chinese officials in their contact with Canada have not drawn a connection between these different issues,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in a press conference last week.

“From Canada’s perspective, these kinds of issues ought never to be confused with one another. In the detention of Ms. Meng, Canada was … acting scrupulously in line with our treaty commitments and in line with the rule of law.”

China’s Foreign Ministry has said Kovrig and Spavor are being detained on suspicion of “endangering national security,” but has not provided further details.

Scheer went on to accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of engaging in a “policy of appeasement” in his government’s past dealings with China.

“We’ve seen in the past, Justin Trudeau professing his admiration for the basic dictatorship of China. We’ve seen this government refuse to have national security reviews for the takeover of Canadian companies that have sensitive technology. To date, silent on whether or not Huawei will be able to participate in the 5G spectrum auction,” said Scheer.

“This government needs to be very prudent and be very cautious.”

Calling for a Huawei 5G ban

Meng’s arrest has also led to renewed scrutiny of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and the second-largest maker of smartphones, after Samsung.

Several countries, including the U.S., have warned of national security concerns stemming from Huawei’s murky connections to the Chinese government.

Earlier this month, the Conservatives called on the government to follow the U.S., Australia and New Zealand in banning the company from participating in Canada’s emerging 5G network infrastructure.

Scheer repeated that call Friday.

“We know that the government in China has been involved in cyber attacks before,” he said. “I look at our partners around the world, our traditional allies, our NATO partners who are making the same assessment. We share so much with them and rely on their technology, their expertise and interoperability in many aspects of our own armed forces.”

Canada is conducting a comprehensive review of the 5G technology movement, which is expected to bring faster connections and greater data capacity.

An Australian newspaper reported last week that Canada was expected to announce a ban on Huawei within weeks, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the report “speculation.”

Former U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke told Power & Politics last week that the U.S. intelligence community fears the Chinese government could employ Huawei equipment for espionage or to disrupt the normal flow of telecommunications.

With files from Catharine Tunney.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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