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Brian Gallant moves up departure from helm of Liberal Party

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Former premier Brian Gallant says he’ll step down as leader of the Liberal Party earlier than planned.

Gallant said Friday that he will resign at the party’s next caucus meeting, which is scheduled for mid-February, rather than wait until a leadership convention can choose his successor.

“It has become clear that while I still occupy the role of leader, many will be hopeful — and some will be fearful — that I might run again in the next election,” Gallant told a news conference in Moncton.

“Let me be clear I am not running again in the next election as leader of the Liberal Party or to be the MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe.”

Gallant wasn’t pressured, MLA says

Discussions are underway on whether the next caucus meeting should be held sooner than mid-February, said caucus chair Jean-Claude D’Amours.

Gallant made the decision to quit on his own and not under pressure, D’Amours said.

“I really respect his decision to decide to not be the leader of the Liberal Party,” he said.  

An interim leader will be chosen at the next caucus meeting as well, but D’Amours hopes party members can elect a new leader as soon as possible. A steering committee of the party will choose a date for the leadership convention, which is to be held in Saint John, he said.

Resignation already announced

Gallant, who tried to form a minority government after the Sept. 24 election, had already announced his intention to resign when his government was defeated in the legislature and the Progressive Conservatives took over.

At the time, Gallant said he would stay on as leader until the party found his successor, which it hasn’t done. On Friday, he suggested that by leaving earlier, he would be nudging the party into getting a new leader more quickly. 

“My hope is that by doing this the Liberal Party will recognize that it indeed needs to choose a new leader and in a time frame that makes sense for the party,” Gallant said.

He also suggested there is some urgency because Premier Blaine Higgs, who has the support of three People’s Alliance members, is governing “like he has a majority.”

“He has given the People’s Alliance all the cards and therefore control of the government’s agenda.”

Former premier says he’ll step down at next caucus meeting 1:10

As a result, Gallant said, the PC government might fall over its first budget, which is to be presented after the legislature reconvenes on March 19.

Gallant said he will stay on as MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe for now but wouldn’t say if he would stay until the next election.

He said he will stay neutral on who should be the next Liberal leader.

He became Liberal leader in 2012 and won a majority government two years later, defeating David Alward’s Progressive Conservatives.

Gallant said he has no interest in running at any other level of government. 

At the news conference Friday, Gallant thanked New Brunswickers for the opportunity to serve the province. He said he and his wife will continue to contribute to the betterment of the province, but in other ways.

He has “no plans at the moment.”

Later Friday, Higgs wished Gallant “the very best” in his future endeavours.

He said he didn’t know what to make of Gallant’s allegation he was running the province as if he had a majority. 

Gallant said he will resign at the party’s next caucus meeting scheduled for mid-February. (Shane Magee/CBC)

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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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