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In today's Morning Brief, we look at the implications of a shortage of nurses in Canada.

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Canada was already short of nurses before COVID-19. Now they say they're hanging on by a thread

When the Clinton Public Hospital emergency department had to close its doors on the August long weekend because it didn't have enough nurses to operate, Holly Braecker was embarrassed.

"I mean, we work so hard, and it felt like we kind of let the community down that day," said Braecker, a registered nurse who, four years into her career, is one of the newer staff members in the small rural hospital about 80 kilometres north of London, Ont., near the shores of Lake Huron.

With a small pool of six or seven registered nurses to pull from, the workload routinely spills over the four 12-hour shifts she and her colleagues are supposed to work each week. When White Coat, Black Art visited the hospital on Sept. 3, Braecker had worked every day that week.

And though these small communities have it the worst, the critical shortage of nurses is a problem across the country, including in major cities, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, which represents about 200,000 nurses.

WATCH | Months of abuse, exhaustion have burnt-out nurses leaving their jobs: 

Months of abuse, exhaustion have burnt-out nurses leaving their jobs

1 month ago

Nurses' unions, labour economists and others have been sounding the alarm for years that the number of qualified nurses was already falling short of demand in Canada, especially given an aging population. They say the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight and exacerbate the nursing shortage and that it's going to take strategic planning, incentives and a whole lot of effort to make work life more sustainable for nurses in order to build a bigger workforce.

This is happening "because we don't know how to plan," Silas said. "In health care, what we've been doing for the last 20, 30 years is a lot of Band-Aid approaches."

Even the construction industry has a federally funded forecasting agency that's the envy of nurses, Silas said.

"You know how many electricians you will need in five years.... We are in a critical shortage of nurses working in intensive care. You think there's a program out there to help educate more to work in that area? No." Read more on this story here.

Meet the billionaire and his crew mates set to blast off on SpaceX's 1st private flight

(SpaceX/The Associated Press)

From left, Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux sit in the Dragon capsule at Cape Canaveral, Fla., during a Sept. 12 dress rehearsal for the upcoming launch of SpaceX's first private space flight. They're set to blast off today at 8:02 p.m. ET from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It would mark the first time in 60 years of human space flight that a rocket goes up without a professional astronaut on board. Read more about the crew here.

In brief

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is not ruling out working with a minority government led by Erin O'Toole, marking a break with his commitment in the 2019 federal election not to work with a minority Conservative government. Asked if he would make the same commitment in this federal election, Singh refused, sidestepping questions about the likelihood of another minority government of one kind or another while insisting that voters should choose his party if they like his policies. "In this pandemic, people got more help because we were there, we were able to increase the supports to people. If people want more help, more New Democrats will make it happen," he said. Singh made the remarks during the third instalment of The National Presents: Face to Face with the Federal Party Leaders, in which four undecided voters get five minutes to ask one of four federal party leaders about an issue close to their hearts. Read more from the Face to Face session with Singh here.
Annamie Paul says she has contemplated several times taking the drastic decision of resigning as Green Party leader but hasn't because she didn't want to leave the party leaderless before and during a snap election. Paul made the candid admission during the fourth instalment of The National Presents: Face to Face with the Federal Party Leaders — set to air on CBC-TV Wednesday night. Things were so acrimonious within the party after its New Brunswick MP defected to the Liberals that Paul contemplated taking the dramatic step several times. "I was very painfully honest in saying that there had been times that I thought about stepping down," Paul told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton. Read more of Paul's comments here. Watch Face to Face at 8 p.m. ET on CBC News Network. You'll also find it on, The National and also at 11:30 p.m. local time on CBC-TV. 

WATCH | Annamie Paul speaks candidly about the struggle to remain on as party leader: 

Paul: 'There had been times that I had thought about stepping down'

1 month ago

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O'Toole has indicated his party's emissions target is not Canada's current target of a 40 to 45 per cent reduction compared to 2005 by 2030, but the 30 per cent target set under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. On Aug. 27, O'Toole said: "We will meet the Paris objectives that were actually set by the tail end of the Conservative government and signed on to by the Liberal government." Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said she thinks O'Toole's claim is misleading. "In fact, that's not Canada's Paris Agreement target anymore." The Liberals, NDP and Green Party all say they will meet or exceed the new 40 to 45 per cent target. O'Toole told undecided voters this week that he is not going to try to out-target his opponents just to get elected, but was proposing a plan that he felt his government could hit without damaging the economy. Read more on what not meeting the new emissions target could mean.

If you have a question about the federal election, send us an email at We're answering as many as we can leading up to election day.

As Birch Meadows, a 76-unit apartment complex on the outskirts of Moncton, N.B., opens this fall, it will offer tenants a number of perks: underground heated parking, quartz countertops, storage lockers and an in-house gym. Earlier this year, when federal Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Ottawa was handing the project's developer a $16-million loan with highly favourable terms, he detailed another significant bonus. Half the units, he said, would be "deeply affordable" as part of the agreement, signed under the federal government's $25-billion rental construction financing initiative. It was a key consideration in a small city that's witnessed examples of huge rent increases, in a province considered the poorest in Canada. But it turns out that "deeply affordable" is relative. Federal data released under access-to-information laws shows the "average affordable rent" of the Birch Meadows project is $1,500 a month — far higher than Moncton's average rent last year of $880. Read more on the loans here

Opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates protesting outside hospitals across Canada have been seen wearing yellow stars and holding pictures of Anne Frank. Some Jewish Canadians say such comparisons are insulting. Andrea Freedman, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, rejects any such comparisons as not only wrong-headed, but potentially dangerous. "There can be absolutely no comparison between torture and persecution, to getting a vaccine or wearing a mask, and quite frankly making such comparisons just trivializes the horrors of the [Holocaust]," she said. For Freedman, that distortion is linked both to a general and growing ignorance about the Holocaust. "It's a lack of knowledge, it's a lack of education and it's a wilful ignorance of understanding the complexities of history," she said. Read more on this story here.

Norm Macdonald, the Canadian-born comedian who became an influential cast member of Saturday Night Live after he joined in 1993, has died. He was 61. His brother Neil said Macdonald died Tuesday in Los Angeles from leukemia, which he was diagnosed with "a long time ago." "He kept it quiet because he didn't want it to affect his comedy," said Neil, a former parliamentary and foreign correspondent for CBC News, by phone from Los Angeles. "He didn't want it to affect the way he was perceived … He wanted to carry on. He took great pains to conceal it from everybody but family. Cancer's a roller-coaster. We hoped that he would live longer than he did, but it took a turn for the worst last month, and he went into hospital and never came out." Read more on Macdonald's passing here.

WATCH  | Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald dead at 61: 

Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald dead at 61

1 month ago

Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: Watching Arturo Almanza perform a trumpet solo with his band in front of dozens of people, it's hard to imagine him spending his days doing anything else. But when he's not on stage, Almanza is an agriculture worker in Leamington, Ont. He often works 12-hour shifts tending to crops, and then practises music into the early morning hours. Almanza's group, Latin Power Band, is not only an escape from difficult manual labour, but it keeps him from missing his family — his parents, wife and three children — who are all back in Mexico. "[The music] takes me away from problems or missing my family," Almanza said through a translator. "It brings me a lot of joy and it also helped ... being in the farm, having some negative or difficult thoughts." Many of the other 13 band members joined for the same reason. The group, which formed in October 2020, started as a way to give the men something to look forward to outside of work. Read more about the band here

Front Burner: Election platform primer (Part 1 of 2)

Election day is less than a week away, and this short summer campaign has flown by. We've done some deep dives on a few issues we know are important to a lot of you, like housing affordability and climate change. But today and tomorrow, we want to give you a quick rundown of some other things in the platforms of the major national parties. It will give you a sense of what their big promises are and how they differ from one another, so that you can feel informed when you head to the ballot box. 

Today, CBC's Ryan Maloney kicks things off with the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Tomorrow, we'll look at what the other parties have to offer. 

Today in history: September 15

1959: Gen. Georges Vanier is sworn in as Canada's 19th Governor General.

1993: A compensation plan is announced for people who contracted HIV through tainted blood products before Canadian officials started screening blood for the virus.

2008: Global markets plummet after investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. files for bankruptcy protection, rival Merrill Lynch agreed to be taken over by Bank of America and the U.S. Federal Reserve throws a lifeline to the battered financial industry.

2012: The NHL locks out its players after failing to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. It was the league's fourth shutdown since 1992. A tentative 10-year deal is struck on Jan. 6, 2013, enabling the league to salvage a season with a 48-game schedule.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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