The P.E.I. Council of People With Disabilities is urging Islanders to avoid making assumptions about those not wearing masks in public places."They don't know that person's history, their experiences, and they do not know what health conditions they may be living with at this current time," said Marcia Carroll, the organization's executive director."Understand that your reality is not everybody's reality."On Nov. 20, masks became mandatory inside all public places on P.E.I. However, there are exceptions to the rule for children under the age of two and those who cannot wear one for medical reasons.> People who are going to comply will comply. And the people who can't comply should be treated with the same respect. — Marcia CarrollBut according to Carroll, those medical reasons aren't always apparent."If you saw somebody in a wheelchair or somebody using a white cane ... and they were not following a health directive, you might not confront them because their disability is visible," said Carroll."But for somebody who has an invisible disability, again, they still have a disability."'It's public shaming'Carroll said singling those people out over not being able to wear a mask not only leads to social isolation, it can also be extremely stressful."It's a way of shaming and it's public shaming. And quite frankly, it's a little bit of bullying," she said."People who are going to comply will comply. And the people who can't comply should be treated with the same respect."For now, Carroll said she recommends people keep their judgment to themselves and if you can wear a mask, wear it."Wearing masks does not just protect yourself, it protects other people. That also includes the people who can't wear masks," she said. And for those who have already experienced being called out for not wearing a mask, Carroll also has a message: "I'm sorry.""Your health is your own personal business." she said. "You have to make decisions that best suit you and best allow you to navigate your world in a free and dignified way."So just step back, mind your own business and go forward."More from CBC P.E.I.
Edward Blake Rudkowski was a member of Nunatsiavut, and before that the Labrador Inuit Association, for 34 years. He ran successfully to represent Labrador Inuit living outside the land claim as an ordinary member in 2017, was re-elected in 2018 and was named the Speaker of the Nunatsiavut Assembly, the legislative branch of the Inuit government. That was, until Nov. 20, when Blake Rudkowski was told he was no longer a member of Nunatsiavut, his status as a beneficiary was revoked and he could no longer hold the political office he had been elected to. Blake Rudkowski told SaltWire Network he was told he didn’t meet the eligibility requirements and was just over 17 per cent Inuit. According to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, there are a number of requirements that can lead to a person being a beneficiary, including that a person is one-quarter Inuit, is a descendant of someone who settled permanently in the land claim area prior to 1940 with no Inuit ancestry or is adopted by a beneficiary. “To be clear, they didn’t tell me I wasn’t Inuit,” he said. “They said I wasn’t Inuit enough.” He says he would like to know what formula they use to come up with that determination, and what factors were taken into account to determine it. He’d also like to know why that number matters more than what was determined when he was first accepted as a member of the Labrador Inuit Association 34 years ago. His status as a beneficiary of Nunatsiavut had been challenged two years ago and he’d been going through the process ever since. “Immediately after the election, literally the day after, there were two challenges to my membership eligibility,” he said. “I’d been dealing with this behind the scenes since then.” He said the two people who challenged his membership were political rivals — one a person he had beaten in an election and another a former politician — and the timing of it seemed curious to him. “It felt like membership was being used as a tool of political retribution,” he said. Having Nunatsiavut beneficiary status challenged is like coming in as a new applicant and is a daunting task that, successful or not, can take up a lot of time. In 2013 an amendment was made to the Nunatsiavut Beneficiaries Enrolment Act that allows any member to challenge the membership of another. Blake Rudkowski said this allows people to try to use membership as a tool to try to harm their enemies. “What this does is it allows someone who is a malcontent or has a beef with someone else a vehicle to exact some sort of retribution. At minimum, even if it's not successful, it can cause someone a significant amount of mental anguish.” What this has created, Blake Rudkowski said, is a climate where some people are afraid to speak up about issues they have with the government for fear they may have their rights as a beneficiary stripped away, or at the very least have it challenged. When he was in government, it appeared there were an increasing number of memberships being challenged, he said, to the point where people were asking whether a full review was underway. He said he also heard complaints that the process was inconsistent, which he believes to be the case. “You have a lot of cases where it’s one brother in, one sister out, one cousin in, one cousin out, so there’s an inconsistency across the board which speaks to the fact that maybe there’s a problem with the process. That’s been a long-standing critique of many beneficiaries, there’s an inconsistent application of the rules.” Blake Rudkowski said he doesn’t know what steps he’ll take next, and while it appears his career as a politician in Nunatsiavut has come to an end it won’t be the last time people see him the political arena. The Nunatsiavut Government put out a statement Monday about Blake Rudkowski’s removal, saying he was removed from the government once his eligibility as a beneficiary had been revoked. “First Minister Tyler Edmunds reminds beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement that the Nunatsiavut Government plays no role whatsoever in determining the membership of any individual,” the statement read. “The beneficiary enrolment process is independent from the Nunatsiavut Government.” SaltWire asked to speak to someone with the Nunatsiavut Government about the requirements and the process, but an interview was not available before deadline.Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
From the bench on her front porch, Jan Jang had a perfect view of the small cove just over the bank from her St. Chad’s home. The home, originally from the nearby Flat Islands, was floated to the area in the 1950s. From her perch, the British Columbia resident could trace the likely path the house took when it entered the cove. It would have likely entered the cove pulled by a singular boat and around Damnable Island in the centre before being hauled out of the water and eventually into its current place. Jang and her husband Ed purchased the property shortly after a vacation to the province some 12 years ago. "We saw the view and we knew immediately,” she said. Saltbox in design with white siding and black trim, the home sits in the middle of a gravel road. On a nearby hill, there is a flagpole, a cracked concrete foundation holding it in place. The back of the property has a small garden and wooden archway covered in overgrown vines. “That is the common house (of the time),” said 85-year-old former Flat Islands resident Everett Saunders. “I didn’t know what a bungalow looked like until I left.” The Flat Islands were amongst the earliest reported settlements in Bonavista Bay, with the first mention of residence recorded in 1806. The community was made up of four islands, Flat Island, Coward Island, North Island and Berry Head. Families with the surnames Hallett, Dyer, Morgan, Samson and Saunders, amongst others, built a life there, 21 miles from Bonavista in the middle of Bonavista Bay. There were two churches — a Church of England Church on Flat Island and the Methodist Church on North Island. Each island had a school, while there was a post office with a wireless telegram and a nurses station on Flat Island. The fishery ruled on Flat Islands as people made their living at the height of the Labrador fishery. There were often 25 to 30 schooners in the nearby waters. In the 1920s, the islands had some 900 full-time residents. Resettlement began in 1954 when the first home was floated to Glovertown. Others were disassembled, moved and then reconstructed at their destination. The collapse of the Labrador fishery forced families to move to the mainland for steady work. By 1957, most of the population was preparing to leave. Saunders left in 1958 and headed for St. John’s. In 1979, he moved to Eastport and he has been going back to the island ever since. His parents moved to Eastport, while others made lives in places like Glovertown, St. Chad’s, Burnside and St. John’s. “There was a lot of living on the island,” said Saunders, who left when he finished school at the age of 17. “It was quite different.” It was Thanksgiving weekend when the Jangs happened across the place that would become their longtime summer home. They were frequent visitors to the province and spent their time renting places while travelling around the island. It got to the point when they were visiting so frequently they decided it would be in their best interest to buy a summer home. They had finished a stay in St. John’s and were headed towards Lark Harbour on the west coast when Jan had the impulse to go to the Eastport Peninsula, where they had visited before. There, they stumbled upon St. Chad’s and fell in love with a quaint home along the shore of a secluded cove. It had a faded ‘House For Sale’ sign on the lawn. “We looked at each other, we looked at the view and we looked at the house,” said Jan, recalling the moments before their decision to buy. After some renovations, they were ready to make it their five-week Newfoundland home every summer for a dozen years. The house was built by Stephen Hallett in the early 1900s, although Jan isn’t sure of the exact date. It was 1958 when it was floated from Flat Island across Bonavista Bay and into St. Chad’s. A picnic table dedicated to The Dickers sits on the site. Several years ago, Saunders took the Jangs out to see where the house had been. For a couple of years, Saunders showed off his boyhood home while running a tour boat business out of the Eastport. His family home is gone now, but he still routinely makes day trips to the area for berry picking or just to walk around. When he ties his boat to the old family wharf and takes his first steps on the island, the world he knew plays out in front of him. He knows the location of every rock and the beginning of every path. He remembers Mr. Decker, his apple tree and how he'd get angry when Saunders and his friends would swipe an apple or two. If someone asks to head out, Saunders is sure to take them for a run to the islands. Lately, people have requested passage to the islands as they seek to say goodbye to loved ones. Saunders figures there have been three or four occasions where he's accompanied people as they scatter the ashes of those who once called the Flat Islands home. Saunders understands their wishes. “It was a great place," he said. "I'm so contented when I'm out here." The Jangs knew that type of contentment in St. Chad’s, but they sold their home earlier this fall. It wasn’t something they wanted to do, but health issues had made it increasingly difficult to travel the long distance between British Columbia to Newfoundland. It was a bittersweet decision, but one they felt was necessary. They’ll miss their Newfoundland haven. “We loved the house,” said Jan Jang. “It was a dear little house.” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
Shelburne Deputy Mayor, Steve Anderson is a crusader for inclusivity of all people in his com-munity and fervently believes that one should be judged on their aims and accomplishments.He also serves as the County Councillor of Dufferin and is the first born Canadian in a fam-ily of six siblings, with Jamaican parents.Steve grew up in Jane Finch, in Toronto, attended the University of Windsor for his Hon-ours Baccalaureate in criminology, started Law School at the University of Detroit Mercy and finished his degree at the University of Ottawa. He was subsequently hired by the Toronto Transit Commission to work in their legal department as a litigator. Considering his present position as a vocal advocate for civil rights and the inclusion of all people and races in todays society, it begs the question why choose litigation law rather than civil rights of some similar field?Steve’s answer was simple. He did not start out imagining himself leading some great advocacy charge. Rather, he knew he wanted to make a dif-ference in the world and saw the law as a poten-tial pathway to achieving it. Steve said the TTC gave him the chance to build his own platform. Once he found himself working for such an iconic institution, people saw him as a possible resource.He was a lawyer when working for the TTC and someone who could go into schools to speak with youth. This resulted in many opened many doors for Steve. He was asked to speak to schools and many organizations about his experiences. This, in turn, reverberated with his bosses and their bosses and they supported it wholeheartedly. In part, because of its benefit to the youth of the community and in part, because it reflected positively on them. Steve and a friend of his, Ian, worked together in Steve’s old neighbourhood of Jane Finch, to help youth there. They assisted in achievement awards for academics, community service and other accomplishments. They have done this for over ten years and still continue today, but with COVID-19 precautions.From Steve’s work in Toronto he learned a lot about the potential to impact change through politics and a seed was planted. The seed sprouted when he had just moved to Shelburne with his family and the munici-pal elections were underway. He thought about entering the race, but realized that he knew noth-ing about the issues of his new community, so he waited. But while he waited, he began to follow the local political scene and learned about issues affecting ShelburneHe did not yet know the community, but he knew the issues. It was then that the Town asked for members to become a part of the Transit Task Force. It was a perfect fit for a TTC veteran. The task force was composed of CAO John Telfer, Ron Monroe and Steve. The plan was to run a transit system in town for two years and then have Go Transit take it over. Unfortunately, the plan never came to fruition, but it made Go Transit aware of the town and its desire for tran-sit.Several years later, Steve was part of bringing Grey County transit buses to Shelburne.It was shortly after the task force dissolved, that Councillor Tom Egan suddenly passed, creating a vacancy on Town Council. Steve decided that he should throw his hat in the ring and try to become a part of the commu-nity’s political machine. He faced an uphill battle. Tom Egan had been a much loved member of the community for many years and he left very big shoes to fill, no matter who took over, let alone a new resident, not well known in the community. After going through the selection process, Steve won the appointment and the rest is his-tory, but, not history without effort. Realizing how big of an achievement he had just accomplished, Steve decided that he had to hit the ground running if he was to have any chance of wining the hearts and minds of Shel-burne’s residents and continue in his political endeavours.His first goal was to honour Tom Egan and he did so by getting Council to create the Tom Egan Community Service Award.When Steve was going through the selection process and even before that, on the Transit Task Force, the question came up as to what he thought could be done to make the old and new resident communities more inclusive of each other.The slogan, “Shelburne Stronger Together” originated from this thought. This is what char-acterizes Steve’s community involvement, bring-ing the community together. He was the first councillor in Shelburne, to hold a “meet and greet “ at the Town Library, where constituents could come and meet him, hear his views and present their questions and opinions.Following his first 10 months, Steve let the community know who he was and what to expect. Then came the 2018 municipal elections. As he tells it, Steve never wanted to be Deputy Mayor. He had formed a close friendship with Geoff Dunlop, the Deputy Mayor preceding him and he wanted to see Geoff remain in that posi-tion. I would have been happy just to win a full term on council, he said. But life had other plans and Geoff decided to bow out of politics, leaving Steve feeling like he should run for the position after all. He revealed that his reason for doing so, almost reluctantly, is because if he did not, he felt the community “was going to go off in a direction that he did not think it should be going.”Steve knew he would have to be exceptional to win the seat, but he believed in his vision for the direction of the community and so he took up the challenge.Following his election to the position of Dep-uty Mayor, his political life has become almost as demanding as his career as an attorney.Partially, the reason for this is because of his dedication to welcoming and supporting all the different cultures and populace diversities of Shelburne, while working to help solve the many municipal government problems in the Town. When looking back on his campaign to become Deputy Mayor, one of the things Steve feels most strongly helped him was going door to door with Councillor Walter Benotto. Walter is the longest serving member of council and is very well known in the town, yet together they complimented each other in going door to door. In the newer subdivisions, frequently Steve was recognized and introduced Walter, while in the established parts of town, it was the other way around, but together, they made a solid impres-sion of cooperation and a shared commitment to a Shelburne both embracing the new and holding onto the establishment.When asked if he would consider running for Mayor, Steve was adamant, he will not. He thinks Wade Mills is a good Mayor and a good working partner. They share a similar vision of the Town and Steve is happy being the Deputy Mayor. Serving as Mayor is demanding rand requires a considerable amount of time, which Steve feels, for him, would be better spent continuing his current efforts. One of those efforts was epitomized for Steve in the Black Lives Matter March that was held in Shelburne. He was overwhelmed by the turnout and by the diversity of people who participated. “Black, white, you name it,” said Steve. It was then that the realization came that if he and the Mayor and the Town ever needed a man-date, it was there. The people overwhelmingly were in support of the fundamental right for all people to be included in society as equals. It was a clear indi-cation that it was time to take action and that action became the Anti Racism and Discrimina-tion Taskforce, established by Shelburne Town Council.The task force was established to confront social issues and seek to correct them. One point that was brought up by Steve in the context of having difficult conversations about racism, was that having these conversations does not mean pointing fingers at people. Pointing fin-gers defeats the purpose of discussion. What is needed is collaboration and a willing-ness to listen and work towards rectifying issues, said Steve.Council has set aside $20,000 in its 2021 Bud-get to follow the task force recommendations and advocated for money in future budgets to con-tinue the work and to support new initiatives that may come from this.With the next election only two years away, Steve has put thought into what he wants to do and what he has been able to accomplish. He told the Citizen he isn’t interested in pro-vincial or federal politics, nor the Mayor position but is content being Deputy Mayor and staying in municipal politics, where he can get things accomplished. Steve likes to be able to point to the promises he made and kept, he is proud of his personal brand and what he stands for. He has not done all that he wants to do in Shelburne, he may never, but he wants to try. Steve believes that a man is judged by his accomplishments, not just by his promises and in municipal politics he can live by his own stan-dard and not the will of the party. He can listen to the people and he can try to get them what they want and so for the foreseeable future he is happy being on Town Council.Peter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
A Newfoundland and Labrador company is using a new online campaign to call for a provincial anti-bullying task force and updated bullying statistics across the country.Samantha Gerbeau founded Newfoundcare in 2004, and wanted to create an anti-bullying campaign as an educational tool for people in the province. When she began researching bullying statistics, she says she was surprised by what she saw."I found Bullying Canada … and unfortunately the last set of research that's there is from 2012," she said earlier this month."There's a fair amount for school-age children and bullying, but when it comes to adults and bullying there's not a lot. There's one line for workplace bullying … and there's one line for cyber bullying."In an effort to help push for updated bullying statistics, Gerbeau created the BullyBeKind campaign. The campaign took place over the course of November, offering people a platform to share stories, publicly or privately."A lot of people, what they have been doing is getting in touch with me privately, and I create the stories to share online for the public to view and see to hopefully gain some research out of those aspects," she said.Gerbeau believes one reason for a lack of updated bullying statistics could be because few incidents are reported, both in schools and the workplace.In a statement to CBC News, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said all bullying complaints are investigated by school staff, but are not documented unless found to be valid.The district also uses online tools to track bullying instances and note behavioural trends or issues with individual students.Better first contact points neededBeyond social media, the campaign will end with a workshop outlining what a provincial anti-bullying task force would look like. Gerbeau said a task force could help establish better first points of contact for those facing bullying and help grow support networks by getting local support groups on board."They are the first point of contact for a lot of people who are dealing with bullying, yet they're not under one umbrella," she said."I think with their expert advice as well as experience, they are the best people to be speaking with in regards to how do we prevent bullying, and how do we overcome the bullying aspect that happens to victims and provide them with the necessary support.… Those sort of things have to be explored."> The sooner that one can get the help that they need, the better the outcome for that person. \- John DinnSeveral community organizations, including the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Canadian Mental Health Association, will be taking part in the workshop on Monday.John Dinn, workplace mental health coordinator of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, believes in the idea of a task force, as bullying can have an effect on people's mental health."Some cases, bullying over an extended period of time can lead to people experiencing PTSD, anxiety, depression, burnout," Dinn said."In some cases, unfortunately, it can cause people to have thoughts of suicide depending on the situation they're in."According to statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association, 45 per cent of Canadians targeted by bullying suffer from mental health problems, while 40 per cent say they have experienced bullying in the workplace at least once."Targets can endure bullying for almost two years before they finally come to the point of filing the complaint," Dinn said."The sooner that one can get the help that they need, the better the outcome for that person," he added. "It's basically letting the victim know that they're not alone out there, that help is available in their situation."Ahead of the workshop, Gerbeau said she hopes to potentially present the idea to the provincial government."An umbrella is the main goal for the anti-bullying task force, in that it would house all the aspects of bullying for Newfoundland and Labrador." she said. "Then, for instance, to explore the idea of a 1-800 number perhaps for the public to call in order to receive support or intervention. Also, education. If they feel like they are a bully, if they feel like perhaps maybe I am bullying, they can privately correspond with this anti-bullying task force."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Peel Regional Police are forecasting a $16.7 million increase in spending for 2021, the bulk of which will service a spike in salaries and benefits, and the addition of 27 officers. The budget, presented at a police board meeting Friday, calls for $462.5 million in total spending in 2021, a 3.8 per cent increase or a $316 per capita bump in the annual tax levy. The spending increase comes at a time when police services across Canada and south of the border have seen outcry over police violence and systemic anti-Black racism lead to calls to defund police in favour of non-police alternatives and community programs. Peel police will spend $5.2 million on hiring the 27 new officers, while other salary and benefits costs will eat up another $11.4 million of the increase. After it was endorsed by the board Friday, the budget will now go to Peel Regional Council for final review and approval in early 2021. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who is on the seven-member Peel Police Services Board, lauded police Chief Nishan Duraiappah for seeking to reallocate millions of dollars toward areas of public concern. “Thank you for putting emphasis on areas that are a concern to the community, whether it’s street racing, mental health, whether it’s human trafficking,” Brown said. The service says it saw more than $2 million in unforeseen costs this year as a result of the pandemic. It will draw on reserve funds to cover any COVID-related shortfalls. Looking ahead, Peel police is also calling for $597 million in capital upgrades –– to be funded from capital reserve funds –– it says will be needed over the next decade. It includes an anticipated $307 million for land and new facilities, $153 million for information and technology advancements, and $76 million for vehicles. At the board meeting Friday, Duraiappah also discussed a summary of the year’s crime trends: Gun crime and homicides trending down Peel is seeing a decline in gang and gun activity so far this year, and is also tracking a decrease in homicides, Duraiappah told the police board Friday. Nevertheless, he dubbed the service’s Project Siphon, which ended with more than 800 charges against 88 people earlier this month, the “largest in the service’s history.” The arrests led to what police say is the dismantling of a prominent Peel-area gang, the seizure of dozens of guns and arrests over three homicides and one attempted murder. So far this year, Peel police have seized 363 firearms, Duraiappah said, noting that “91 per cent of the handguns seized that are traceable came from the United States,” up from the 74 per cent in 2019. “We do have a plan to bolster our gang response,” Duraiappah said. “We know a dedicated gang team is one we need for the new year.” But intimate partner violence is still common So far this year, police have responded to 90 shootings and 14 homicides, five of which were linked to intimate partner violence. That continues a trend that also saw more than a third of the region’s 34 homicides last year linked to intimate partner-related disputes. “It’s still the top three calls that we have each day,” the chief said. “We need to turn the dial on this,” he said, adding that it’s a priority to lower the number of repeat offenders. This year, the service is averaging about 50 calls a day for intimate partner disputes and in response, Duraiappah said the service has created a dedicated intimate partner and family unit with 48 officers who will soon start working out of a hub dedicated to those calls. Rethinking mental health crisis calls Peel’s three dedicated Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams responded to 1,700 calls between their introduction in January and October, with only 22 per cent of those calls ending in someone being apprehended, a report to the board said. But police field about 16 daily calls for mental health distress, and the bulk of those calls still land in police hands, Duraiappah said. “We know it’s understaffed,” he said, adding that the rapid response teams can’t respond to that volume of demand — “they do about a third of them, so two-thirds are still being done by uniformed officers.” “Our goal is to have eight on the rapid response team,” he added. Under existing provincial law, only police have the power to apprehend a person experiencing a mental health crisis and take them for treatment. A near-record year for traffic deaths So far this year, Peel has seen a significant increase in vehicle-related deaths, at 38, up from 23 all of last year. Since 2010, only two full years have recorded more motor vehicle-related fatalities: 41 in 2018 and 40 in 2016. “We’re sadly at one of the highest levels of fatal motor vehicle collisions this region has ever seen,” the chief said. The chief also mentioned a troubling bump in stunt driving charges. Police laid 719 charges for stunt driving, to date, up from 332 over the same time frame in 2019.Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
BANGKOK — Five leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement reported to police Monday to acknowledge charges that they defamed the king, the most serious of many offences of which they stand accused.The five are part of the student-led movement that for several months has been campaigning for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government to step down, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the monarchy be reformed to make it more accountable.The demand about the monarchy is the most radical and controversial, because by tradition the institution has been considered untouchable, the bedrock element of Thai nationalism. It is considered taboo to publicly criticize the monarch, and insulting or defaming key royals is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under a lese majeste law known as Article 112.The protest movement has nevertheless emphasized reform of the monarchy as a key demand, and made it the theme of several of its protest rallies, which have attracted thousands of people. They believe the king holds too much power in what is supposed to be a democratic constitutional monarchy."When people criticize the monarchy and they listen, people will consider them open-minded. But if they use 112 to shut our mouths, not only Thai people but also the world will know they are afraid of the truth,” Parit Chiwarak said to reporters ahead of reporting to police. “This won’t stop our movement. On the contrary, it will make more people join us.”Article 112 is controversial, because anyone — not just royals or authorities — can lodge a complaint, so it in the past had been used as a weapon in political vendettas. But it had not been employed for the past three years, after King Maha Vajiralongkorn informed the government that he did not wish to see it used. The king has not publicly commented on the law since then.But after a protest last week included crude chants and graffiti that could be considered derogatory of the king, Prayuth declared that the protesters had gone too far and could now expect to be prosecuted for their actions, including with charges under Article 112. While protest leaders have faced dozens of charges over the past few months, they have generally been freed on bail, and none have yet come to trial.Despite Prayuth’s threat, protest leaders have continued to include strong criticisms of the monarchy at rallies.The other four who reported Monday to Bangkok’s Chana Songkhram police station were Arnon Nampha, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and Patiphan Luecha. Patiphan, a traditional folk singer also known as Patiwat Saraiyaem, served 2 1/2 years in prison after being arrested under Article 112 in 2014.Most of the protest leaders face multiple charges already, ranging from blocking traffic to sedition, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.Anon, a lawyer, said he was indifferent about being charged under Article 112, because it is an “unjust law.”“If we speak the truth and they stop us with 112, it reflects how abnormal this law and this country are,” he said.Also reporting to police Monday were Benjamaporn Nivas and Lopnaphat Wangsit, leaders of the mockingly self-named Bad Students group of secondary school students, which seeks major reforms in education and supports the broader aims of the pro-democracy movement as well.They are accused of violating a state of emergency decree that was briefly in effect in October by taking part in a rally in central Bangkok.___Associated Press journalists Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Grant Peck contributed to this report.Tassanee Vejpongsa, The Associated Press
At least two people were injured Sunday night during three separate shootings in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood.Montreal police say it's still unclear whether the three incidents, which happened in the course of an hour, are related.Around 9:30 p.m., a 58-year-old man was shot at a home near the corner of 63e Avenue and Perras Boulevard. Police say the man had just gotten out of his car, which was parked in his driveway, when another car pulled up and someone started shooting.The victim was conscious on his way to the hospital. The suspects fled the scene.About 10 minutes later, someone walking through a residential parking lot opened fire on a man sitting in a parked car on Jean-Rainaud Avenue.The victim fled the scene in the car. Police have no information about the victim's status.And then at 10:20 p.m., another man was shot while standing on a second-floor balcony at a home on Armand-Bombardier Boulevard, near Jean-Vincent Avenue. Police say they believe the shooter was standing in the building's courtyard at the time.The victim was taken to hospital and is expected to survive. Police spokesperson Const. Raphaël Bergeron said in all three cases, there is no information about the suspects. A fourth shooting occurred earlier in the evening in Montréal-Nord. Around 5:30 p.m., police received a call about shots fired near the corner of Lapierre Avenue and Pascal Street.When they arrived, they found bullet casings but no suspects or victims.An hour later, a man showed up at an unspecified hospital with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, but it is unclear whether he was involved in the incident in Montréal-Nord.Police issued a statement Monday evening, saying they would increase their presence and visibility in the area over the next 24 hours.
A prominent Canadian forecaster says the country's residents could experience everything from winter wonderlands to spring-like spells in the months ahead. The Weather Network says cooler Pacific Ocean temperatures off the coast of South America, also known as "La Niña," will create a strong jet stream separating warm southern air masses from their colder northern counterparts. Chief Meteorologist Chris Scott says this means most Canadians can brace for a wildly variable winter with major departures from seasonal norms. In British Columbia and the Prairies, for instance, Scott says forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels and temperatures below seasonal norms. He says major swings in both temperatures and precipitation levels are on tap for Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, with stretches of both extreme cold and unusually mild air forecast alongside a mix of storms and dry spells.Scott says Newfoundland and Labrador and northern Canada are slated to buck the trend, with the eastern-most province set to experience a more typical winter while colder than average conditions are expected across all three territories. But Scott said the long-term patterns may not be evident at first, since the December forecast is calling for conditions that defy the overall forecasts. In broad strokes, he predicted an overall milder month for western Canada with more wintry conditions likely in Ontario and points east. "It's going to be quite a winter," Scott said in a telephone interview. "A lot of extremes within the given regions. And if you're talking to your friends or family back east or out west, you're probably going to have a very different experience from week to week as the weather changes across the country."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus.Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia, and was flown to Germany for treatment two days later. His allies accused the Kremlin of poisoning its fiercest opponent. Tests carried out by labs in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons established that Navalny was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.The organization's director-general, Fernando Arias, told Monday's meeting that according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, “the poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is a use of a chemical weapon.”A group of 56 nations issued a statement as the start of the annual meeting of the OPCW's member states urging Moscow to disclose “in a swift and transparent manner the circumstances of this chemical weapons attack.”Russia, which denies involvement in Navalny's poisoning, reacted bullishly in its written statement to the conference.“Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some ‘independent international investigation’ under the auspices of the OPCW,” Moscow's statement said.In October, Moscow asked for OPCW experts to visit Russia to provide “technical assistance” in its investigations. Arias said talks are underway to define “all the legal, technical, operational and logistical parameters in order for this visit to take place.”The European Union has imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over the poisoning. Moscow responded earlier this month by announcing that it had adopted sanctions against a number of German and French officials.The OPCW's annual meeting has been broken into two parts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two days of talks this week will focus on approving the proposed 71.74 million euro ($86 million) annual budget for 2021. The second half of the meeting will take place next year.Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Recently, Caroline Arsenault watched parcels being stolen in her own neighbourhood — and didn't even realize. "I happened to see a couple of people walking by the window where I sit for my work and then rapidly walk back toward the street and I didn't think anything of it really," said Arsenault. She later found her husband attempting to contact the police after observing the same people also pace up and down their driveway. He got suspicious. He was right. "He found Amazon packages in our green bin," she said.The thieves had taken two packages. One was emptied of its contents while the other was left torn open with the stuff still inside.Arsenault's North End Halifax neighbourhood had just been hit by a porch pirate. It's not just happening in Halifax."The porch pirate has been a little busier this year unfortunately and now a third of Canadians stated in 2020 that they have been victims of a package theft," FedEx spokesperson James Anderson told CBC News.FedEx has published a survey of 1,500 Canadians this holiday season and found that one in three online shoppers say they have experienced package theft in 2020, up from one in four in 2019. It also found that three in 10 are worried about their online purchases being stolen when delivered. Jon Hamilton, spokesperson for Canada Post, said they haven't seen a noticeable increase in complaints about packages being stolen, but cautioned that doesn't mean it's not a threat. He also noted that many people are now working at home and are able to get their parcel as soon as it is delivered.In other parts of the country, such as Toronto, where lockdown restrictions are more prevalent, more people are able to stay at home to receive their deliveries. In Nova Scotia many businesses and schools remain open in the province so some people are frequently not home and cannot receive their packages.Arsenault posted about the porch bandit on social media and was surprised by the reaction."I had quite a few neighbours chime in and say that they too had found open and empty boxes in their driveway or thrown somewhere it didn't really belong." After Arsenault's neighbour reported the incident to the police, Arsenault herself received a follow up call. "The police confirmed this is something that they see quite a bit of. It's something that we should all be mindful of if we're expecting to receive packages when we might not be available to answer the door or pick them up quickly," she said.Halifax Regional Police have not yet responded to a request for an interview. FedEx, along with Canada Post, DHL courier service, UPS, Amazon Canada and Purolator all offer tracking information online, which FedEx's James Anderson said is one of the primary ways to keep your package safe."We give package recipients digital tools to use at your disposal," said Anderson. "If you got a tracking number you can get a notification sent to you when you expect those packages to arrive so you can stay on top of it."Bob Mann, acting chair of the neighbourhood watch in Wilmot, Annapolis County, N.S., said there are more low-tech ways to protect your deliveries. He said you can try asking a neighbour to pick it up or leave the radio on. Mann said one of his favourite home safety tools is photosensitive lights."If you don't have one yourself, take note," said Mann, who has been with his neighbourhood watch since its creation in 1995. "They light up probably half of my driveway ... at dusk the bulbs will come on and they'll go off in the morning." Cpl. Lisa Croteau of the RCMP said package theft doesn't appear to be a big issue at this time, but that could change, so she does have some advice. "Have a different method to pick it up. Instead of dropping it off on your front porch, if you could go to a different location to pick up the package that would be a little safer."Arsenault said she wanted to make people aware of the incident but she also understands the situation."We know there are probably more packages being delivered at this time of year. Holidays are coming up and times are hard for people so we know this is something that happens," said Arsenault.MORE TOP STORIES
The European Union hopes Joseph Biden's incoming administration will clarify the U.S. position on digital taxation within two months of taking office, a French Finance Ministry source said on Monday. The EU is considering going ahead with a bloc-wide tax on digital services offered by companies such as Google and Amazon if a global deal to rewrite rules for cross-border taxation is not reached by mid 2021. Efforts at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to update the rules for the era of digital commerce stalled this year.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.Moderna is just behind Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in seeking to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. Across the Atlantic, British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.Of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo and 11 who got the real vaccine. The only people who got severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots, said Dr. Tal Zaks, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company's chief medical officer.When he learned the results, “I allowed myself to cry for the first time,” Zaks told The Associated Press. “We have already, just in the trial, have already saved lives. Just imagine the impact then multiplied to the people who can get this vaccine.”Moderna said the shots’ effectiveness and a good safety record so far — with only temporary, flu-like side effects — mean they meet requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use before the final-stage testing is complete. The European Medicines Agency, Europe’s version of FDA, has signalled it also is open to faster, emergency clearance.WHAT COMES NEXTThe FDA has pledged that before it decides to roll out any COVID-19 vaccines, its scientific advisers will publicly debate whether there’s enough evidence behind each candidate.First up on Dec. 10, Pfizer and BioNTech will present data suggesting their vaccine candidate is 95% effective. Moderna said its turn at this “science court” is expected exactly a week later, on Dec. 17.RATIONING INITIAL DOSESIf the FDA allows emergency use, Moderna expects to have 20 million doses ready for the U.S. by year’s end. Recipients will need two doses, so that’s enough for 10 million people.Pfizer expects to have 50 million doses globally in December. Half of them — or enough for 12.5 million people — are earmarked for the U.S.This week, a different panel of U.S. experts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will meet to decide how initial supplies will be given out. They're expected to reserve scarce first doses for health care workers and, if the shots work well enough in the frail elderly, for residents of long-term care facilities. As more vaccine gradually becomes available in coming months, other essential workers and people at highest risk from the coronavirus would get in line. But enough for the general population isn't expected until at least spring.Outside the U.S., Zaks said significant supplies from Moderna would be available later, “in the first quarter” of next year.“Obviously we are doing everything in our power to increase the capacity and accelerate the timelines,” he said.Both Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines are made with the same technology, using a piece of genetic code for the “spike” protein that studs the virus. That messenger RNA, or mRNA, instructs the body to make some harmless spike protein, training immune cells to recognize it if the real virus eventually comes along.ASTRAZENECA CONFUSIONAstraZeneca last week announced confusing early results of its vaccine candidate from research in Britain and BrazilThat vaccine appears 62% effective when tested as originally intended, with recipients given two full doses. But because of a manufacturing error, a small number of volunteers got a lower first dose — and AstraZeneca said in that group, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective.Experts say it’s unclear why the lower-dose approach would work better and that it may just be a statistical quirk.A larger U.S. study of the AstraZeneca candidate still is underway that should eventually give the FDA a better picture of how well it works. The FDA has said any COVID-19 vaccine would have to be at least 50% effective.Meanwhile Britain’s government will have to decide whether its U.K. data is sufficient for an early rollout there.STILL IN THE PIPELINEJohnson & Johnson also is in final-stage testing in the U.S. and several other countries to see if its vaccine candidate could work with just one dose.Both the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines work by using harmless cold viruses to carry the spike protein gene into the body and prime the immune system.The different technologies have ramifications for how easily different vaccines could be distributed globally. The AstraZeneca shots won't require freezer storage like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.Candidates made with still other technologies are in late-stage testing, too. Another U.S. company, Novavax Inc., announced Monday that it has finished enrolling 15,000 people in a late-stage study in Britain and plans to begin recruiting even more volunteers for final testing in the U.S. and Mexico “in the coming weeks.”Vaccines made by three Chinese companies and a Russian candidate also are being tested in thousands of people in countries around the world.____The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — If you were to choose a word that rose above most in 2020, which word would it be?Ding, ding, ding: Merriam-Webster on Monday announced “pandemic” as its 2020 word of the year.“That probably isn't a big shock,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press.“Often the big news story has a technical word that's associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It's probably the word by which we'll refer to this period in the future,” he said.The word took on urgent specificity in March, when the coronavirus crisis was designated a pandemic, but it started to trend up on Merriam-Webster.com as early January and again in February when the first U.S. deaths and outbreaks on cruise ships occurred.On March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, lookups on the site for pandemic spiked hugely. Site interest for the word has remained significantly high through the year, Sokolowski said.By huge, Sokolowski means searches for pandemic on March 11 were 115,806% higher than lookups experienced on the same date last year.Pandemic, with roots in Latin and Greek, is a combination of “pan,” for all, and “demos,” for people or population. The latter is the same root of “democracy,” Sokolowski noted. The word pandemic dates to the mid-1600s, used broadly for “universal” and more specifically to disease in a medical text in the 1660s, he said.That was after the plagues of the Middle Ages, Sokolowski said.He attributes the lookup traffic for pandemic not entirely to searchers who didn't know what it meant but also to those on the hunt for more detail, or for inspiration or comfort.“We see that the word love is looked up around Valentine's Day and the word cornucopia is looked up at Thanksgiving,” Sokolowski said. “We see a word like surreal spiking when a moment of national tragedy or shock occurs. It's the idea of dictionaries being the beginning of putting your thoughts in order.”Merriam-Webster acted quickly in March to add and update entries on its site for words related to the pandemic. While “coronavirus” had been in the dictionary for decades, “COVID-19” was coined in February. Thirty-four days later, Merriam-Webster had it up online, along with a couple dozen other entries that were revised to reflect the health emergency.“That's the shortest period of time we've ever seen a word go from coinage to entry,” Sokolowski said. “The word had this urgency.”Coronavirus was among runners up for word of the year as it jumped into the mainstream. Quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, irregardless, icon, schadenfreude and malarkey were also runners up based on lookup spikes around specific events.Particularly interesting to word nerds like Sokolowski, a lexicographer, is quarantine. With Italian roots, it was used during the Black Death of the 1300s for the period of time a new ship coming into port would have to wait outside a city to prevent disease. The “quar” in quarantine derives from 40, for the 40 days required.Spikes for mamba occurred after the January death of Kobe Bryant, whose nickname was the Black Mamba. A mass of lookups occurred for kraken in July after Seattle's new National Hockey League franchise chose the mythical sea monster as its name, urged along by fans.Country group Lady Antebellum's name change to Lady A drove dictionary interest in June, while malarkey got a boost from President-elect Joe Biden, who's fond of using the word. Icon was front and centre in headlines after the deaths of U.S. Rep. John Lewis and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.The Merriam-Webster site has about 40 million unique monthly users and about 100 million monthly page views.Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — On Dec. 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin to the World Health Organization. By Jan. 31, WHO declared an outbreak of a novel coronavirus a global health emergency. Come March 11, the world was facing down the COVID-19 pandemic.Parents sat children down to explain what a pandemic is. Related terms usually restricted to medicine and science stormed into everyday conversation. Over time, we were pandemic baking and pandemic dating and rescuing pandemic puppies from shelters.All of which led Dictionary.com on Monday to declare “pandemic” its 2020 word of the year.Searches on the site for the word spiked more than 13,500% on March 11, senior research editor John Kelly told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of the announcement.“That's massive, but even more telling is how high it has sustained significant search volumes throughout the entire year. Month over month, it was over 1,000% higher than usual. For about half the year, it was in the top 10% of all our lookups.”Another dictionary, Merriam-Webster, also selected pandemic as its word of the year earlier Monday.Kelly said pandemic beat out routine lookups usually intended to sort more mundane matters, such as the differences between “to, two and too.”“That's significant,” Kelly emphasized. “It seems maybe a little bit obvious, and that's fair to say, but think about life before the pandemic. Things like pandemic fashion would have made no sense. The pandemic as an event created a new language for a new normal.”Lexicographers often factor out routine lookups when evaluating word trends.The pandemic, Kelly said, made us all worthy of watercooler chatter with Dr. Anthony Fauci as our knowledge grew about aerosols, contact tracing, social distancing and herd immunity, along with the intricacies of therapeutic drugs, tests and vaccines that can help save lives.“These were all part of a new shared vocabulary we needed to stay safe and informed. It's incredible,” said Kelly, who works with a team of lexicographers to come up with words of the year based primarily on site traffic.Asymptomatic, furlough, non-essential, hydroxychloroquine and a host of other pandemic-related words saw massive increases in lookups as well.Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, chief executive officer of Dictionary.com, said one key ingredient in the hunt for the site's word of the year is sustained interest over time. Pandemic met that standard.“This has affected families, our work, the economy,” she said. “It really became the logical choice. It's become the context through which we've had dialogue all through 2020. It's the through line for discourse.”The word pandemic has roots in Latin and the Greek pandemos, meaning “common, public.” Breaking it down further, “pan” means “all” and “demos” means “people.” As evidenced in a medical text by a Dutch-born physician, Gideon Harvey, pandemic entered English in the 1660s in the medical sense, Kelly said. He noted that “demos” is also the basis for the word democracy.A pandemic is defined by Dictionary.com as a disease “prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.” Its broader sense, as evidenced in its roots, can be used thusly: “A pandemic fear of atomic war.”Dictionary.com also noted other worthy search trends beyond the pandemic. After the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, words around racial justice experienced spikes, including fascism, anti-fascism, defund and white fragility.“There was no way for us to leave that out of the conversation this year,” Kelly said.Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
France to double police on coastline patrols as part of the new deal with Britain to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel.View on euronews
Nine out of 11 of the major S&P 500 sectors fell, with the energy index tumbling 5.4% and leading losses, tracking a drop in crude prices. The S&P 500 technology index rose 0.7%, thanks in part to a 2.1% rise in Apple Inc shares. A rotation into energy, industrials and financials, all expected by many investors to outperform as the economy recovers from its downturn, drove gains of almost 11% for the S&P 500 in November and helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average make its biggest monthly gain since 1987.
This column is an opinion from Max Fawcett, a freelance writer and the former editor of Alberta Oil magazine.Political courage seems to be in short supply these days, whether it's Republicans in the United States refusing to acknowledge the reality of Donald Trump's election defeat or provincial leaders here in Canada avoiding the more stringent measures that are needed to flatten the latest COVID-19 curve.But when it comes to political cowardice, few acts can top the decision by Calgary's city council to punt on a proposed reduction to residential speed limits — one that would almost certainly save lives and money.Rather than doing the obvious (something that Edmonton's city council voted 9-3 in favour of), council will revisit the issue in February, when they'll decide whether to put it to the public in a plebiscite in the fall. Holding a plebiscite on something like reducing speed limits in residential neighbourhoods is a bit like asking voters to cast a ballot on whether puppies are adorable or babies smell good.According to a report from the City of Calgary, reducing the speed limit in residential neighbourhoods from 50 km/h to 40 km/h would prevent approximately 300 collisions a year, as well as avoid $8 million in societal costs that range from property damage and hospital bills to loss of work due to injury.And none of these figures can account for the cost of losing a loved one — say, a young child — in an accident that didn't have to happen.You might think, given these realities, that a plebiscite would be a waste of everyone's time. Politicians are elected to make decisions and they don't come much easier than this one.But what if seeking the consent of Calgarians isn't really the point of the plebiscite?Weaponizing direct democracyAfter all, as University of Alberta political science professor Jared Wesley argued in a recent Alberta Views dialogue with Ted Morton, direct democracy is often weaponized for entirely undemocratic purposes."At best," he wrote, "referendums allow elected officials to shirk their responsibility to negotiate and define the common good. At worst, they allow politicians to manipulate the public to achieve much narrower partisan, regional or ideological ends."But even if Calgary city council finds its courage in February and actually votes on the proposed reduction to residential speed limits, next fall's municipal election could still have an assortment of plebiscites on provincial matters, such as an Alberta police force and the province's place in the federal equalization program.Some local officials are already sounding the alarm about the impact that those plebiscites could have on municipal elections across the province."It would just drown us out," said Barry Morishita, the mayor of Brooks and the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, in a June 2020 CBC story. "There is no other way to put it."That doesn't seem like an accident. After all, for a government that seems to view everything through the lens of combat, and which has found its most effective opposition coming from municipal leaders, particularly the ones in major cities like Edmonton and Calgary, this seems like a logical fight to pick.While directly attacking those leaders could potentially backfire, encouraging people to turn out and vote against federal government programs — even ones they don't completely understand — seems far more likely to succeed.And being able to pursue this political agenda under the guise of supporting direct democracy does have a certain Machiavellian brilliance to it. Then again, Machiavelli would warn about the risk of being hoisted by your own petard.While holding provincial plebiscites in a municipal election may serve the UCP's near-term political interests, that format may not be nearly as constructive when it comes to the looming conversation about potential new revenue measures.Finance Minister Travis Toews has repeatedly indicated that, once his government is done cutting costs and slashing the salaries of doctors, nurses, and other public servants, it will turn its attention to the revenue side of the equation — and potentially a provincial sales tax."I think it will be important to review the province's revenue structure to determine if it's the appropriate, the most efficient structure that we can have," he said during a recent appearance at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce event.But as Jason Kenney said in a letter to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation earlier this year, any move to implement a sales tax will have to be approved by the voters in a plebiscite."As long as I am premier," he wrote, "Albertans will have the final say through a fair referendum vote on whether a hypothetical sales tax should be introduced."And given how enthusiastically conservatives have salted that particular political field in the past, it's hard to imagine anything ever growing there — even if the province suddenly needs that harvest to survive. The problem with plebiscitesIndeed, even in a comparatively pro-tax place like Metro Vancouver, a 2015 plebiscite that asked voters whether they'd be willing to pay an additional 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund new transit infrastructure failed miserably.Despite having the backing of a large group of local mayors and the tepid support of both provincial parties, the "No" side won convincingly, carrying 61.7 per cent of the vote to the "Yes" side's 38.4 per cent. Therein lies the problem with plebiscites, and the politicians that turn to them most enthusiastically.Yes, they allow elected officials to avoid having to make certain decisions on the public's behalf, especially ones that might not be immediately popular. But they also box those same politicians into a much smaller political space, one where they've set an expectation that anything even vaguely controversial will get put directly to voters. For some elected officials, constraining the range of a given government's policy space and ambition might be a good thing. But for a public that is contending with everything from climate change to the economic fallout from COVID-19, to say nothing of a failing state to our south, those sorts of constraints could do far more harm than good in the future. Right now, we need leaders who are willing to actually lead — and take the political risks that come with that.When Calgarians go to the polls next fall, they should remember that. And if there are pointless plebiscites about things like residential speed limits on the ballot, maybe they'll serve as a useful (and unintentional) reminder to that effect.This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.
Quebec ski hills are gearing up for what could be a challenging season, especially for those located in COVID-19 red zones where restrictions are tighter.A handful of hills opened this weekend with new measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.Skiers will have to wear face coverings inside at all times, as well as on the chair lifts and while waiting in line.There are more than 40 hills located in red zones. At those locations, there will be no eating or drinking inside the lodges.People can go inside to warm up or use the washroom, then it's right back outside.Despite the new rules, the association representing the ski hills says people are happy to be out on the mountains."The mood is relief and joy because we're back on the boards and we're able to go down the hill," said Yves Juneau, president of Quebec's association of ski areas."So, you know, putting the ski boots outside your car, not being able to go inside for the après, these are little sacrifices that people are willing to make, because at the end of the day, what really matters is to be able to go out on the slopes. And that's how people felt. They were happy."He said hills are adapting as best they can to the new circumstances."You will have food counters that are outdoors, for instance, so people can actually have something to eat outside. You will have fireplaces so that, you know, if you can't go inside, at least you'll be able to stay warm around the fireplace. Some ski areas have added temporary buildings or camps, things like that," he said.He added that skiers will need to reserve their lift ticket in advance at most ski areas, in order to manage the amount of people congregating at any given time.Juneau said businesses lost millions when they were forced to close abruptly at the start of the pandemic last spring.This season, many are hoping to make up for that lost revenue and provide a place for people to exercise safely outside."We live in a time when people need hope, and going outside and doing your favourite outdoor sport, that provided hope this weekend," he said.
The provincial government has barely made a dent in adopting a sweeping series of recommendations coming out of the Muskrat Falls inquiry, and one of the consequences could be another blunder with the new adult mental health and addictions facility in St. John's, says an outspoken critic.Meanwhile, the minister leading the effort to implement the instructions of Justice Richard LeBlanc says his recommendations will be adopted "across the board."But with the province still in the grips of a global pandemic, converting those recommendations into government policy will take longer than expected, said Andrew Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology."I would be more worried about whether we do it, or not, rather than how fast we can do it, because the goal is to do these recommendations," Parsons said.Of the 17 recommendations, only three have been implemented, though none of the seven "key" recommendations have been adopted.Being built in a flood plainA critic of the over-budget, long-delayed project, and whose many warnings have become reality, is not happy about the progress, and the government's use of the pandemic as an excuse."Not every public official or minister is engaged in the pandemic. It doesn't appear to have effected their announcement of all kinds of new programs spending money we don't have. Must be an election coming," said Ron Penney, one of the earliest and most outspoken opponents of the Nalcor-led Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.In fact, Penney, who chairs the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Committee, said the province could be stumbling into another problem with the new mental health and addictions facility in St. John's, which will replace the Waterford Hospital.The $330 million hospital is being constructed through a public-private partnership and will be located adjacent to the Health Sciences Centre, on a flood plain.The No. 1 recommendation from Justice LeBlanc is that the province hire an independent external expert to review any public project with a budget of $50 million or more.If that were the case with the new mental health facility, it would never had been approved for the current location, said Penney, a former St. John's city manager."If anybody independent had looked at that decision, no doubt they would have changed because it's in a flood plain, and the province does that mapping for the flood plain, and it's just totally an unsuitable location for the Waterford Hospital," he said.In the past, government officials have said two new berms will protect the site from flooding.And in a statement, an official with the Department of Transportation and Works said "contracts were awarded to independent financial and procurement, fairness, and technical advisors prior to the start of the project."Meanwhile, the final report from the public inquiry investigating the Muskrat Falls project was released in early March, more than two years after the commission of inquiry was established by former premier Dwight Ball.The report included some scorching criticism of former Nalcor leaders like Ed Martin, whom LeBlanc said took "unprincipled steps" to get the project approved. And LeBlanc also criticized senior politicians and bureaucrats for failing to keep a close watch on what one insider called a runaway train.The report, entitled "Muskrat Falls: A Misguided Project," also included 17 recommendations by Justice LeBlanc to ensure the series of missteps that allowed what Dwight Ball once described as the "biggest economic mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador's history" would not be repeated.LeBlanc's recommendations are aimed at, among other things, ensuring major public projects undergo unfettered scrutiny by independent external experts, that the Department of Finance oversee the financing negotiations and cost control of any large project, and that the public utilities board carry out a review whenever there's a possibility electricity ratepayers may be affected.LeBlanc also called for changes to ensure public servants can "speak truth to politicians" in order to provide "complete and objective advice," and advised that legislative changes be made to ensure public bodies like Nalcor cannot withhold information from senior politicians and bureaucrats on the grounds of legal privilege or commercial sensitivity.LeBlanc advised that some of his recommendations should be adopted in as little as six months.But just days after the report was released, it was quickly overshadowed by the growing presence of a worldwide pandemic, and unprecedented societal upheaval in Newfoundland and Labrador as much of the province was shut down in order to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus.During a recent fall session, the legislature was consumed by the financial and public health crises griping the province, with the priority on adopting a budget. And for months, a majority of public servants were working from home."So no, I don't think we're as far ahead as we'd like to be. But at the same time it's not sitting on a shelf," said Parsons, adding that an implementation committee that he chairs has been meeting regularly.Parsons expects many of the recommendations that involve legislative changes will be adopted during next spring's sitting of the House of Assembly.And he said some recommendations involving access to information laws will be examined by retired chief justice David Orsborn, who is leading a statutory review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which is expected to be completed next year."There's urgency here, but at the same time, I'm a true believer in doing the proper analysis to make sure it's right, because sometimes these quick decisions are what got us into trouble in the first place." The three recommendations that have been adopted include: * a joint Nalcor-Newfoundland Power Inc. effort to review the reliability of the power grid in the Muskrat Falls era; * A review of whether recommendations made by the Joint Review Panel were being followed. This relates largely to methylmercury concerns in Labrador; * And minutes of cabinet meetings are now much more detailed than they were years ago whenever politicians discussed Muskrat Falls.Penney said that's not good enough."I'm disappointed, but I guess not surprised," said Penney.So what does LeBlanc think about what's happened since the release of his report?He's not saying, and directed questions to lawyer Barry Learmonth, who served as commission co-counsel during the inquiry.Learmonth said it was part of Justice LeBlanc's mandate to deliver recommendations, and whether and when they are adopted is up to the government."They're not binding," said Learmonth.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador