For the past two years, Diane Rood and her husband, Theo, would drive down to Florida so they could evade the bitter Canadian winters that bothered her “really bad” arthritis. With the US-Canada land border restricted to essential and commercial travel, the couple found a way to ship their car and take their black lab, Abby, along on a short, 30-minute transport from Hamilton to Buffalo. Their son Jeremy, a helicopter pilot at Great Lakes Helicopter in Cambridge, was able to arrange a car shipment like they wanted, and the snowbirds had an “easy, easy, easy” flight, said Theo. “Customs cleared us, and the car was right outside when we went through the terminal.” The reception from snowbirds so far has been warm, said Jeremy. “Nine out of ten people that get on the helicopter with me say, ‘I want to thank you so much for coming up with this service and providing it.’ Some of the people he drops off lived in hotels or mention they lack winter homes in Canada, he added. “They have trailers in the summer, and they’re not winterized. They have no option to go anywhere but to their investment home in Florida, where they’ve been doing it for 20 plus years.” A majority of their clientele are fixed income retirees seniors, said Dwayne Henderson, general manager at Great Lakes. “Eighty-five per cent of who we’re flying are senior snowbirds.” The company is up to 90 flights so far, each carrying two snowbirds on average, with over a hundred more on the books between now and late-January. Travellers are pre-screened by customs and have their car trucked over and waiting for them when they land. People have driven down from as far as Nova Scotia, Quebec and Northern Ontario to take the trip. Helicopter rides cost $1200 and the vehicle crossing runs $700. The border-hopping system has been a welcome source of revenue for Great Lakes, at a time when the pandemic has triggered a 20 per cent downturn in its other sectors. Aside from charters, their services include flight school, aerial photography, sightseeing and crop spraying. Bill Leyburne saw a need for a helicopter flight training school in Southern Ontario and founded Great Lakes organically from Rotor services, an aircraft maintenance company he founded in 1988. “We ran that company for a number of years, and I thought it would be a great idea to start a flight training school at some point, I just needed to hook up with the right people,” he said. A number of years later, he met Great Lakes’ chief flight instructor, Nick Booth, just the man he needed, and acquired a license to start a helicopter flight training school in the Waterloo Region, then grew the company from there. Great Lakes operates ten helicopters and has ten company pilots. The snowbird chartering service is adding a third helicopter to meet demand. “It’s been great, I’ve managed to get introduced to a lot of good people and wonderful students, and it’s all been a great experience.”Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
WASHINGTON — Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee political legend who forged a productive path as a Senate institutionalist after tours as governor and Cabinet secretary, said goodbye to the chamber on Wednesday, advising his colleagues to seek broadly backed, durable solutions to the nation's problems rather than succumb to easy partisanship.The three-term Republican had his most noteworthy success on education and health policy over the 18-year tenure, becoming a beloved bipartisan figure in an increasingly polarized, dysfunctional Senate.“It's hard to get here, it's hard to stay here, and while we're here we might as well try to accomplish something good for the country," Alexander said.Alexander left the GOP's leadership track during the Obama years to focus on his committee work. As chairman of the HELP panel, Alexander shepherded a 2015 rewrite of elementary and high school education that swept through the Senate with near-universal support. His most powerful ally, typically, was a Democrat, Washington liberal Patty Murray, who linked arms to defend their efforts and deliver a bill supported by liberals and conservatives alike.“Lamar listened to me when I told him we should write a bill together, rather than amending the Republican bill he had begun working on,” Murray said. “With our HELP committee members, we were able to write and pass a new K-12 public education bill that fixed the most broken parts of No Child Left Behind.”Alexander, 80, served as education secretary under President George H.W. Bush after eight years as Tennessee governor.Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose relationship to Alexander dates to their time as ambitious twenty-somethings in Washington in the 1960s, grew emotional as he recounted his friend of five decades. They got to know each other as aides during an era in which the chamber was stacked with national figures and debated issues like civil rights and the Vietnam War.“Sen. Alexander knows about 50 different issues as well as most senators know three or four," McConnell said. “He is hands-down one of the most brilliant, most thoughtful, and most effective legislators any of us have ever seen."Alexander played central roles in recent public lands legislation, as well as bills to combat opioids, find new cures, and protect music copyrights.Alexander offered a defence of the chamber's traditions, especially the filibuster that forces consensus — or, increasingly, gridlock — upon the Senate. He noted that he worked for GOP Sen. Howard Baker, who served as majority leader during Ronald Reagan's first term. He holds Baker's seat, and is only the latest of a series of national figures from the Volunteer State to serve in the Senate, a roster that includes former Vice-President Al Gore and former GOP Majority Leader Bill Frist.Alexander will be replaced by Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty, a Republican backed by President Donald Trump.He reminded a crowded Senate that durable changes like civil rights legislation, Social Security and Medicare require bipartisanship and big tallies.“Those bills didn't just pass. They passed by big margins. The country accepted them and they're going to be there for a long time," Alexander said.Alexander ran unsuccessfully for president in 1996 on a slogan slamming Congress: “Cut their pay and send them home." But when he joined the Senate in 2003, he assumed a career track as an institutionalist, securing a valued spot on the Appropriations Committee and joining the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which he would later chair.Alexander told his colleagues, including more junior, impatient Democrats who boasted they would get rid of the filibuster if Democrats retake the chamber, that taking such a step would ruin the Senate.“Ending the filibuster would destroy the impetus for forcing the broad agreements I've been talking about and it would unleash the tyranny of the majority to steamroll the rights of the minority," Alexander said.Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Pincher Creek council met Nov. 23 to receive an update on the town’s economic development plan. In October 2019, council and administration contracted InnoVisions and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in economic development, to help address challenges surrounding the impending closure of the Shell Waterton Complex. The project has now shifted gears to helping local businesses and the regional economy navigate the tumultuous Covid-19 circumstances. While the development plan is still focused on utilizing the community’s assets to simultaneously support existing businesses and encourage new investment, retention is now the main focus, said InnoVisions president Natalie Gibson. “If you can’t keep the existing businesses you have,” said Ms. Gibson, the economic plan “would have not lent any value to the community.” As soon as the pandemic forced a provincial lockdown in March, the development planners put together a survey for local businesses to gather information on their immediate needs and concerns. The results were one of the first collected data sets on how Covid-19 was affecting small businesses in rural areas. Ms. Gibson said the feedback was instrumental in helping the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce organize the Business Recovery Support Plan and lovelocalPC campaign. “We’re hearing from some of the businesses that they are able to pivot, that they appreciate the coaching program,” she added. “They’re looking at the resiliency of can they hang on for x number of months, but more importantly can they diversify their business to lessen the ripple effect.” Results from a November survey are currently being gathered, with another potentially set to occur in February. A realignment of the Business Recovery Support Plan is planned for the start of the new year. Aspects of the town’s community economic strategy will also be finalized by March. A presentation will be made to council and the community at that time. Businesses interested in the program or in need of assistance are encouraged to reach out to the chamber at email@example.com or 403-627-5199. Passing on Santa Council voted not to attend the Bellecrest reverse Santa Parade planned for Nov. 26. With new provincial health restrictions announced Nov. 24, parade organizers ended up cancelling the event. Operations Q3 report The third-quarter operations report was the final topic of discussion. Highlights included the water main break repair at Veteran’s Street, and the Willow Street regrading and drainage project being completed. Inspections and repairs at the old RCMP building at 659 Main St. were also finalized so the site could be used by Alberta Health Services for conducting Covid-19 testing. Council did request a follow-up question be sent to operations regarding the ideal ratio between treated water sent out to residents versus water collected for treatment. 214,326 cubic metres of treated water was distributed from July to September while only 191,443 cubic metres was collected. Though the amount of water returning to be treated is typically lower, since not all water use is able to be captured by drains, past issues with water leakage made council curious what was considered a good ratio between water intake and distribution. Next meeting The next council meeting will be held virtually Monday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. The meeting can be accessed at https://www.gotomeet. me/TownofPincherCreekCouncil, and agenda packages are available online at https://bit.ly/ PcCouncil.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
A Windsor elementary school outbreak with 49 cases set the "precedent" for asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in the province, according to one expert.Biostatistician Ryan Imgrund, who is based in Newmarket, Ont., and works with a number of public health units across the province, told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning that the outbreak at Frank W. Begley Public Elementary School set the example of what should be done. "At the time that they found those cases, Windsor was not one of those super danger zones like Toronto, Peel and some other areas like that," Imgrund said. "So I don't think it was expected by anyone that a school that is in a lower-risk area would find up to 50 cases ... I think Begley set the precedent for the whole entire province what we should be doing." After three staff members tested positive for the disease, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit dismissed the entire school on Nov. 17 and advised everyone to get tested. COVID-19 testing was prioritized for the entire school population, with a temporary testing site set up in the school's gymnasium. Overall, 40 students and nine staff members have tested positive. In the same week that Begley was declared an outbreak, W. J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School also went into outbreak and dismissed all students after two positive cases. Testing was prioritized for all members of this group, with a temporary testing site set up in the school, and seven people were confirmed positive. Despite this, and the fact that Begley is the largest school outbreak in the province, Windsor was not included in the launch of an asymptomatic testing pilot project announced last week. Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday that the pilot is available for students and staff in the province's COVID-19 hotspots of Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa. "Right now, the next four weeks are targeting the highest-risk regions," he said at the time. "We're following the advice of public health. If they determine, they provide a recommendation it should be expanded or we should augment the list, of course we will continue to follow that direction and implement it swiftly."Lecce told reporters that 99.85 per cent of students in the Windsor-Essex region remain COVID-free, and he and his staff are in contact with school board and public health officials to keep transmission down.Though Begley remains closed, superintendent of education at the Greater Essex County District School Board Sharon Pyke told CBC News Wednesday that the board is working with the health unit and hopes to announce a reopening date this week. A letter sent out to parents in regards to the outbreak had asked them to have their child tested, even if they were asymptomatic. When asked whether she'd like to see asymptomatic testing in schools available in the region, Pyke said it might be best to spare our resources. "I think that if we can keep on top of doing our self-assessments, I think that we perhaps may be better served in terms of our resources in our area, we want to make sure that we're able to test the people that need to be tested," she said."So do I agree? Any kind of preventative measure is good for anyone so of course I want the best for students, I want the best for our staff. I just want to make sure that they're allocated in the right space and the right spot." An investigation by the local health unit is still ongoing to determine how COVID-19 transmission was so widespread in Begley.
NORTH DURHAM/KAWARTHA: Local communities continue to report a number of active COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, November 29th, the Durham Region Health Department reported the highest number of new cases of the virus in the region, at 130. As of press time, the Durham Region Health Department is reporting Uxbridge continues to have the highest number of active cases in North Durham, with five people listed in isolation. The Durham District School Board reports three cases have been confirmed at Uxbridge public school, with two classes listed in isolation. The Uxbridge community has had 131 confirmed cases to date, with 105 listed as resolved and 21 deaths. Scugog currently has one case listed in isolation, and 28 resolved cases. Brock Township also has one case in isolation, and 20 resolved cases. Meanwhile, the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health unit is reporting Kawartha Lakes currently has six unresolved cases of the virus, 174 resolved cases, and 32 deaths.Dan Cearns, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Standard Newspaper
Quebec hospitals usually see a rise in visits to the emergency room in early January, yet many across the province are already swamped.Doctors at some hospitals are urging Premier François Legault to cancel Christmas gatherings to avoid pushing the province's health-care system beyond its limits.Emergency rooms in several regions, including Montreal, Laval, Quebec City, the Laurentians and the Lanaudière, are operating well above capacity. About 30 percent of the province's ERs are operating at full capacity or far beyond that. Here are some examples, as of Wednesday morning: * Lakeshore General Hospital (Montreal): 142 per cent capacity. * Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital (Montreal): 141 percent capacity. * Cité de la Santé Hospital (Laval): 129 per cent capacity. * Pierre-Le Gardeur Hospital (Lanaudière): 158 per cent capacity. * Pierre-Boucher Hospital (Montérégie): 189 per cent capacity.The number of people in emergency rooms traditionally rises between December and January. Last year, Quebec was 113 per cent in December, and 123 per cent in January, according to data provided by Quebec's Health Ministry.In the view of Dr. François Marquis, the head of intensive care at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, many facilities are taking in more COVID-19 patients, and that is putting pressure on emergency rooms across the province."As a doctor that looks strictly at the physical health aspect, and that's very restricted [as a perspective], the answer is simple: nothing at Christmas, we see no one," said Marquis."The reason I make that distinction, there's also mental health and we need to see people."Quebec reported Tuesday more than 700 people in hospital due to COVID-19, an issue Legault alluded to when acknowledging he may need to scrap the province's holiday gathering plan.Dr. Vincent Bouchard-Dechêne, an internal medicine specialist at Notre-Dâme Hospital, doesn't see how hospitals can deal with an increase in COVID-19 patients after the holidays, while still providing service to people with other ailments."To limit gatherings during Christmas time, would be the best gift we could give ourselves," said Bouchard-Dechêne.For now, the province plans to allow up to two gatherings between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27, with a maximum of ten people in attendance and with no limit on the number of households those people would come from.Legault is expected to make a final decision by Dec. 11.Is nine days enough?The characteristics of COVID-19, including the time it takes for its symptoms to appear, make it difficult for trends to change much between now and Dec. 11, according to Dr. Matthew Oughton, a physician with the Jewish General Hospital's infectious diseases division. "That's really at the fine cutting edge of where anything that you would do today, you'd really see changes reflected in the numbers by Dec. 11," said Oughton. "I'm certainly not optimistic that we're going to be able to change course in such a short time."Oughton said it was a mistake for the premier to release the plan for gatherings first, and then tell Quebecers they would only be allowed if the number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations went down."[He should've] said, 'look, this is what's at stake, it's Christmas gatherings. In order for us to situate ourselves well, we need to get our numbers down," said Oughton."Rather than giving up the reward upfront, and then sort of threaten to take it away.A growing number out outbreaks in private seniors homes (RPAs) could also make the health-care system even more fragile during the holiday period. On Tuesday, Health Minister Christian Dubé highlighted the situation in Quebec City, where a number of nurses have had to be deployed to 16 RPAs in an effort to contain the virus within those homes.Dubé admitted that taking staff away from hospitals is not ideal, but said the province has no choice but to offer help."What we need to is stop contacts in RPAs, to be certain that we don't have to transfer personnel that we currently don't have, to be very, very clear," Dubé said.
As IndigiNews’s education reporter covering news across Vancouver Island, I’m following all of the latest developments. Every month, I’ll bring you a roundup of what you need to know about what’s relevant to Indigenous students, teachers, parents and families. COVID-19 exposures this month were reported at the following schools across the Island according to Island Health: That’s it for now! If you have news or information that you want to share, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.Catherine Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Waterloo Region council will vote Dec. 2 on whether to get rid of the five child-care centres it operates. Parents and advocates say the move would harm quality of care and leave hundreds of children in the lurch. Tania Gonzalez said her son Marcus has been well cared for since going to Christopher Children's Centre in Cambridge in mid-2019, when he was an infant. Caretakers at the centre recognized when Marcus was behind on his speech and made her aware of it. Marcus started talking around March, said Gonzalez, just before the province declared a state of emergency and closed all child-care centres. When Marcus returned to Christopher in July, they “lost all the progress,” Gonzalez said. “Not for lack of trying at home, but again, we ... don't specialize in children's development,” she said, adding, since returning to Christopher, Marcus is using easily up to 50 words. “It's not just a daycare. It's not just a babysitter. It's a whole system looking out for my kids.” Tania Resendes said her kids Leo, three, and Matteo, one, really love seeing their teachers at Christopher. Matteo, who has hearing loss, could only speak around three words when he started out and saw a “significant difference” within a month of being at the centre, using over 12 words. Resendes said parents should have “options,” and believes it would be hard to find care of the same calibre in a private daycare system, especially for children with special needs. She said she has tried calling around to child-care centres, but it has been hard to find available spots during the pandemic, when child-care centres are operating at a around 70 per cent capacity. “The prospect of closing or off-loading child-care centres during a pandemic is absolutely shameful,” Carolyn Ferns, policy co-ordinator at the Ontario Coalition of Better Child Care (OCBCC) stated in a media release. “The regionally-operated child-care centres play an important role in the child-care system in the Region of Waterloo. “High-quality, public child-care centres are a benchmark for decent wages, pensions, and benefits for educators who are predominantly women.” With the closures, the region would lose around $2.2 million in fees from parents and would free up $4.3 million in provincial financing earmarked for child care, a consultation review found. Closure would also, it found, require the region to immediately shell out up to $6.4 million in severance pay as the region is projected to be $25 million in the red. CUPE Local 1883, which represents workers in each of the five child-care centres, said the move would leave parents, caretakers and the children in the cold. “Hundreds of working families in the region are already at their breaking point during this brutal pandemic,” says Noelle Fletcher, president of the local. “Losing public child-care spaces due to closures or off-loading them to the community will result in a destabilization of care. “Many parents and caregivers may have to quit their jobs and rely on unlicensed, private care with exorbitant fees or be placed on lengthy wait lists in community-based centres.” Staff recommend eliminating Cambridge Children’s Centre, Kitchener’s Edith MacIntosh Children’s Centre, Kinsmen Children’s Centre and Christopher Children’s Centre, both in Cambridge, by mid-2021. Elmira Children’s Centre is recommended to be closed at a future date. As a result, around 250 children would lose support and 62 full-time staff would be permanently laid off. In 2015, council voted against the closure of all five centres amid public pressure. This time, Resendes said, parents were given too little time to prepare. “From the moment that we found out to when it's going to vote, we've been given three weeks to try and advocate, do our research ... and figure out exactly what's going on.” The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 and will be livestreamed. Call 519-575-4400 to leave feedback.Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
A Saskatoon man accused of robbing numerous businesses, residences and vehicles across central Saskatchewan was re-arrested. Cody Kemick, 37, failed to appear in court in October and was arrested and remanded in custody. At a bail hearing on Nov. 27 he was granted bail but he remains in custody because he hasn’t paid the bail for his release yet. Kemick and Chantal Dubois, 40, were arrested after police raided his Saskatoon home May 2. Police say that between Feb. 4 and April 26, 2020, they received numerous reports of break, enter and thefts across central Saskatchewan. Several police agencies worked together and Kemick was identified as the suspect. At Kemick’s home, police found computer equipment allegedly stolen from Western Wireless in Unity on April 18, 2020. They also located what they believe to be stolen tools, computers, electronic devices, ammunition, cheques, salon products, lottery tickets and clothes from businesses, residences and vehicles in Saskatoon, Unity, Lucky Lake, Dinsmore, Rosetown, Kerrobert, Aberdeen, Humboldt, Milden, and Conquest. Kemick was charged with three counts of break and enter, 10 counts of possession of stolen property, theft and mischief. Dubois was charged with break and enter, and seven counts of possession of stolen property. Dubois had also previously failed to appear in court and a warrant to hold was issued until Nov. 25. On that day a lawyer appeared on her behalf and the warrant was vacated. Dubois is now scheduled to appear in Saskatoon Provincial Court on Dec. 16 to elect how she wants to be tried. Kemick is scheduled to appear next in Saskatoon Provincial Court Dec. 17, also to elect how he wants to be tried. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
These four ferrets are treated to a new toy - an RC Audi A8! Awesome!
EARLTON – Skaters will have to lace up elsewhere in Earlton this year. Armstrong Township council agreed to not have ice installed this winter at the Earlton Recreation Centre. Options were discussed and the decision was agreed upon at council’s regular meeting November 25. Mayor Jean Marc Boileau asked council what they wanted to do in terms of having the ice installed or not. He commented that the town could create an outdoor ice rink outside of the Recreation Centre, but users still would need to come inside the building to put on their skates or use the washrooms. “We have washrooms here but then you also have the gym-goers on the other side,” he said. Issues also were raised that if the ice was installed, the town would have to monitor the number of users in the change rooms and building to remain in line with COVID-19 protocols. Councillor Kevin Léveillé noted that Earlton’s winter festival isn’t happening this winter and Boileau said that École catholique Assomption had told him that its students wouldn’t be skating at the arena this school year. Councillor Michèle Rivard commented that the Englehart and Area Community Arena Complex has its ice installed and that if Earlton didn’t put its ice in that “it sucks that we wouldn’t have ours open, but at least the kids could still do public skating and they would have to go there.” Councillor Matt Golcic said that he didn’t feel Earlton’s arena numbers were all that high anyway and wondered what they were last season. Boileau responded that the arena had about 342 users last winter and part of those numbers were children who would come over with the school, but also that it didn’t happen very often. “Last year was a bad year,” he noted. “I don’t know why.” Council then asked acting public works foreman Caleb Fotheringham what his thoughts were on having ice installed or not so that they could come to a consensus on a decision. Fotheringham said that with no school users or other events happening this winter that he would recommend that the town doesn’t have ice this year at the arena. “If you want to have ice, I’m sure we can make it work, but I would recommend (that we have) no ice.” Council agreed and approved a motion for an ice-free arena this season.Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
Following the province’s daily COVID Measures update on Dec 1, 2020, Big Lakes County has been upgraded to Enhanced Status. As the Towns of Swan Hills and High Prairie are within Big Lakes County; both communities have also been upgraded to Enhanced Status. This means, effective immediately and until at least December 15th, the following protocols must be followed along with all previous COVID social distancing measures. The following measures went into effect across Alberta on Nov 24, 2020: • No indoor social gatherings in any setting • Outdoor gatherings have a maximum attendance of 10 • Weddings and funeral services have a maximum attendance of 10, with no receptions permitted • No festivals or events • Working from home should be considered, where possible • Grades 7-12 will be doing at-home learning between November 30, 2020 to January 11, 2021 • ECS-Grade 6 at-home learning after break until January 11, 2021 The following measures for Enhanced Status regions now also apply to Swan Hills: • Places of worship must operate at one-third capacity with mandatory masking in place • Restricted access to some businesses and facilities Swan Hills currently has one active case of COVID-19. Detailed information about the restrictions to some businesses and facilities can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx.Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
A Saint John housing group has jumped into the city's red hot market for apartment buildings to preserve some lower- cost units for renters.But Rehabitat Inc. warns more has to be done by government to protect tenants and keep neighbourhoods affordable for all groups."Diversity is absolutely essential to a healthy community," said Kit Hickey, executive director of Rehabitat."There is room for all of us."Rehabitat, a private non-profit organization, owns and manages affordable housing units in Saint John.Two weeks ago the organization responded to an apartment building buying spree underway in the city by both local and national investors by stepping into the market itself and snapping up a 12-unit building in the Saint John neighbourhood of Millidgeville.Group pays 54% above property's assessed valueThe group had to pay $780,000 for the building on Lauder Court to compete with prices private buyers have been paying, 54 per cent above the property's assessed value.But Hickey said it had to be done."We thought that it was important that we do our absolute best to acquire the building," said Hickey "We've become increasingly concerned about the lack of affordable housing for the modest income population. We, as others have seen in the recent headlines, [see] properties being purchased, renovated and the rents increasing exponentially." Properties have been in high demand all over New Brunswick this year and that has been driving up prices, especially since late spring. According to provincial government tax records $1.28 billion worth of real-estate sold in the province in June, July and August this year.That's $250 million more than the same three months last year and 36 per cent above what the province had been projecting.Investors buying across CanadaIncluded in that shopping frenzy were more than 100 apartment buildings purchased by investors from across the country. Often prices that buyers paid were substantially above "market value," as set by provincial government property assessors.That has not been a problem for some tenants who have experienced a seamless change in ownership so far.But others haven't been so lucky.Earlier this fall, Moncton's William Morissette was given notice of a 61 per cent rent hike at his apartment.He received a letter on Oct. 1 letting him know his rent would be going up by $460 a month starting Jan. 1.Others, like tenants at 332 Sherbrooke St. in Saint John, were given notice to vacate by new owners by the end of January so renovations on their apartments could be carried out and ultimately rents increased.Province wants to prevent 'ripple' in economy The province has expressed concern about landlords forcing renters to move out during the current surge in COVID-19 cases in southern New Brunswick but has been reluctant to ban the practice and disturb the flow of investment."We want to make sure we don't cause any ripple within the economy or within the whole housing market," Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch said last week about why the province would not temporarily ban the eviction of tenants during the pandemic.All three opposition parties have been pushing against that position.But Hickey believes much more effort is needed on the larger problem of maintaining affordable housing in neighbourhoods, where real-estate prices and rents have been escalating "Many families are facing economic evictions," said Hickey. She said new housing units coming on the market are priced well-above the affordability range for modest income individuals or families."The options are very limited for modest income households."
Ontario reported another 1,723 cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths linked to the illness Wednesday.Five public health units recorded 100 or more new cases: * Peel Region: 500 * Toronto: 410 * York Region: 196 * Durham Region: 124 * Waterloo Region: 103Other areas that saw double-digit increases were: * Hamilton: 74 * Windsor-Essex: 60 * Ottawa: 46 * Halton Region: 45 * Simcoe Muskoka: 45 * Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 20 * Niagara Region: 18 * Chatham-Kent: 15 * Southwestern: 12 * Thunder Bay: 10(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario health ministry's COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)At the province's daily news conference Wednesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario has "plateaued at a very high level." She also said case numbers went up after lockdowns were enacted in certain regions "largely because of some of the events in certain communities."The province should be seeing the results of lockdown period reflected in its case numbers in the next week or so, Elliott said."That's what we all want to see," she said.The health minister also said that the province's chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, is now talking with medical officials in communities that are seeing spikes in cases to see if they should be moved into different zones of the province's COVID-19 restriction plan.Also included in today's new cases are 166 that are school-related: 140 students and 26 staff members. Some 742 of Ontario's 4,828 publicly-funded schools, or about 15.4 per cent, currently have at least one case of COVID-19, while six schools are currently closed because of the illness.The new infections drive the seven-day average to a record high of 1,720.There are currently about 14,526 confirmed, active cases of the COVID-19 throughout the province, also a new high. They come as Ontario's network of labs processed 44,226 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a provincewide positivity rate of 4.7 per cent. Another 49,574 tests were added to the queue to be completed.The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased to 656, while the province reported 183 people are being treated in intensive care. Of those, 106 are on ventilators. Elliott acknowledged that some hospitals are feeling the strain of the virus."There's no question that many Ontario hospitals are under stress right now, particularly in the lockdown areas," she said.But, she added, "To say that they are in crisis is not the case."The 35 additional deaths push the official toll to 3,698. Twenty-two of the 35 deaths in today's update were residents of long-term care.Premier Doug Ford returned to the press conference after missing Tuesday's briefing. Ford said he had "zapped" his back, but is now feeling better.Ford was asked why he isn't forcing big box stores, which are allowed to stay open in Ontario while small businesses in some areas are forced to close, to cordon off non-essential goods, as is being done in other jurisdictions."What the health table is trying to do is limit the amount of visits when you're out there," Ford said. "I know it's not fair, but it limits people from going out and [making stops] on the way home."
The images of Mississauga in years to come are stunning. The city’s waterfront has been opened up to the public and painted with modern architecture, while the wasteland of parking lots around Square One has spawned gleaming glass towers that rise to the sky. Hurontario Street boasts a sleek and modern LRT, while Dundas Street has its own rapid transit corridor shuttling residents from east to west and back again. The air is clean and Mississauga has become a destination for everyone. Those renderings of Mississauga in the next ten to twenty years are exhilerating, inspiring and creative, but they’re relatively easy to conjure. A talented graphic designer and an urban planner with half an imagination can easily create the beautiful mockups, specifically designed to draw pre-construction down payments and other investments into the projects. In the short term, there is a huge obstacle to this vision. Years of underinvestment in rapidly aging infrastructure have taken their toll and the city faces a laundry list of urgent problems it must tackle before it can really embrace its future. Nowhere is this neglect more apparent than the fire service. At $122 million, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services (MFES) makes up 22 percent of the City’s net 2021 operating budget. The service is proposing a modest increase of two percent in its operating budget, driven largely by labour adjustments in its union contracts, which are already set. Despite its status as the single greatest expense Mississauga taxpayers bear, the service is woefully below its required response times and has buildings in a desperate state of repair. Difficulties as a result of COVID-19 mean education and enforcement plans designed to reduce call outs and offset terrible response times have also been delayed. Figures included in the 2021 budget refer to 2019, the last year for which a complete dataset is available. In 2019, the number of fires the City responded to grew, after falling slightly in 2018. Last year, there were 167 residential fires and 384 in buildings of all kinds. According to staff, a comparison of data from 2018 and 2019 shows a significant increase of 19 percent in unintentional fires related to mechanical or electrical failures. The risk of hard-to-fight fires will only increase in the years to come. Already, the city is home to 340 buildings exceeding a height of 18 metres, a point at which they are deemed “high risk” by firefighters. With massive high-rise projects on the planning horizon, such as Oxford Property’s 37-tower Square One development, that number is going to go up with every passing year. A risk assessment completed by MFES found industrial fires were another key worry for the city. Only 1.9 percent of property in Mississauga is industrial, yet 12 percent of fire loss takes place in these settings. “This is significantly higher than the provincial average and higher than expected given the actual number of industrial occupancies,” the budget says. Even with the increase in fires, the number of calls attended by the service was down in 2019. An unlabeled chart in the budget document shows calls significantly below 2018 levels, after years of consistent increases. Mississauga Fire’s central and well-documented failing is its response time. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets a target for the first vehicle to arrive at a fire within 384 seconds of a call coming in 90 percent of the time. To achieve this, the standard target is 240 seconds (four minutes) for travel time. For years, Mississauga has failed to hit this target. In 2019, the department admitted defeat and asked council to lower its target to 240 seconds 75 percent of the time instead of 90. On its internal metrics, MFES does better, but on both fronts 2019 saw travel times barely improved from the previous year and concerningly far from their targets. Mississauga’s plan to close the gap is two-fold. The first pillar is a capital program to add six stations over 12 years. The first of these was opened in 2019, with strategic locations identified to attempt to reduce callout times by targeting underserved areas and reducing how long trucks spend in traffic. The service’s 10-year capital plan includes $7.9 million to construct Fire Station 123 by 2023 and a further $14.9 million to build Station 124 by the same deadline. Further funds after 2023 will be set aside for Fire Stations 125, 126, 127 and 128. The Public Safety Reserve levy, designed to raise funds to buy land and build these new stations, was collected in 2020. For 2021, the City has put it on hold “to assist in managing the 2021 tax impact,” but says it will not have an effect on construction. A delay in acquiring land for Station 124 means the costs will fall into the 2022 budget instead. As The Pointer has previously reported in a three part investigation, the City’s problems go beyond its need for new infrastructure. Fourteen of Mississauga’s 21 fire stations are more than 20 years old and some are in desperate condition. Three cannot be upgraded to meet standards and will need to be rebuilt from scratch, while City documents also show at least nine stations have asbestos in them. The internal audit that informed The Pointer’s reporting estimated $31.4 million to get the 14 stations up to standard, excluding the cost of rebuilding the three unfixable stations. No money has been put into the 2021 budget for these projects, with promises to get to them eventually. The 10-year capital plan suggests funds will be put aside to renovate Fire Station 102, 108 and 115. However, Fire Station 108 is the only building included in the City’s damning audit slated for repair from 2022 onwards. Chief Nancy Macdonald-Duncan told The Pointer a plan to repair the other stations featured in the audit would be presented to council in January 2021. The move means funds can’t be set aside until at least 2022, when the City is already predicting a significant tax hike. “The plan is to return to Council in January on this topic,” Macdonald-Duncan told The Pointer by email. “The Fire Building Condition Audit study was completed in 2019, and with the disruption of COVID-19 in 2020, it was difficult to integrate the study’s recommendations into the capital plan in time for the budget presentation. This is still a work in progress.” The Pointer's Forgotten Fire Series: The second part of Mississauga Fire and Emergency’s plan is to increase targeted enforcement and education. The service hopes improved public awareness and safety can reduce the number of callouts, freeing up trucks and reducing response times as a result. This need for education and inspections is glaringly obvious. Data from the past four years show 62 percent of all fire calls are to locations that do not have a working fire alarm, despite it being a legal requirement to own one. Two elements are slated to make this change: a proactive fire inspection program and a public education program. The education program proposes 2 full time staff members for the 2022 budget, but does not draw on the 2021 finances. The proactive inspection element is set to hire seven staff in 2022 and have 13 in 2023. The Interim Chief says, while budget savings are a welcome bonus, the pandemic means the two programs would be difficult to deliver even if funds were flowing more freely. “COVID-19 closures and precautions did not allow for a normal public education program nor for the full implementation of proactive inspections,” she said. “Public education traditionally involves attending and hosting public events, meetings etc. Proactive inspections were difficult to conduct when businesses were closed or in the interest of limiting exposure between inspectors and the public. So this program would have been deferred or greatly reduced due to COVID19 anyway; the hiring deferral did help the City with its deficit situation, but the delays made sense from a program standpoint as well.” As strong as the pandemic justification may be, it doesn’t avoid the reality of the situation facing Mississauga fire. Response times remain well below their targets, fire stations are in desperate need of repair and inspections can’t yet take place. The plan? Wait until next year. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
NAIROBI, Kenya — In a breakthrough a month after deadly conflict cut off Ethiopia’s Tigray region from the world, the United Nations on Wednesday said it and the Ethiopian government have signed a deal to allow “unimpeded” humanitarian access, at least for areas under federal government control after the prime minister’s declaration of victory over the weekend.This will allow the first food, medicines and other aid into the region of 6 million people that has seen rising hunger during the fighting between the federal and Tigray regional governments. Each regards the other as illegal in a power struggle that has been months in the making.For weeks, the U.N. and others have pleaded for access amid reports of supplies running desperately low for millions of people. A U.N. humanitarian spokesman, Saviano Abreu, said the first mission to carry out a needs assessment would begin Wednesday.“We are of course working to make sure assistance will be provided in the whole region and for every single person who needs it,” he said. The U.N. and partners are committed to engaging with “all parties to the conflict" to ensure that aid to Tigray and the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions is “strictly based on needs."Ethiopia’s government did not immediately comment.For weeks, aid-laden trucks have been blocked at Tigray’s borders, and the U.N. and other humanitarian groups were increasingly anxious to reach Tigray as hunger grows and hospitals run out of basic supplies like gloves and body bags.“We literally have staff reaching out to us to say they have no food for their children,” one humanitarian worker told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.“We have been urging, waiting, begging for access,” another aid official, Jan Egeland with the Norwegian Refugee Council, told the AP. “We're ready to go tomorrow. ... It has been heartbreaking to be forced to wait."More than 1 million people in Tigray are now thought to be displaced, including over 45,000 who have fled into a remote area of neighbouring Sudan. Humanitarians have struggled to feed them as they set up a crisis response from scratch.Communications and transport links remain almost completely severed to Tigray, and the fugitive leader of the defiant regional government this week told the AP that fighting continues despite Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's declaration of victory.It remains almost impossible to verify either side’s claims as the conflict threatens to destabilize both the country and the entire Horn of Africa.“It is critically important to get objective information as to what is going on,” the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, told the BBC. “The active military phase is basically over. I’m not saying the fighting is over. So at this point, the humanitarian phase is the most important one.”Nagy added that “now the danger is this evolving into a long-term insurgency." He also disagreed with Ethiopia's description of the conflict as a “law enforcement operation” to arrest the Tigray leaders, saying that “it was obviously a military operation.” The fighting between two heavily armed forces has seen airstrikes, rocket attacks and tanks.For weeks, the U.N. and others have been increasingly insistent on the need to reach some 600,000 people in Tigray who already were dependent on food aid even before the conflict.Now those needs have exploded, but Abiy has resisted international pressure for dialogue and de-escalation, saying his government will not “negotiate our sovereignty.” His government regards the Tigray regional government, which dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for more than a quarter-century, as illegitimate after months of growing friction as he sought to centralize power.Amid the warring sides’ claims and counter-claims, one thing is clear: Civilians have suffered.The U.N. says food has run out for the nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea whose camps close to the Tigray border with Eritrea have been in the line of fire as the fighting swept through. Reports that some refugees have been killed or abducted, if true, “would be major violations of international norms,” the U.N. refugee chief said over the weekend in an urgent appeal to Abiy.These are “extremely vulnerable people” who fled persecution in Eritrea, Egeland said. “It’s been extremely frustrating to lose access and communication.”With infrastructure there and elsewhere in Tigray damaged, the U.N. has said some people are now drinking untreated water, increasing the risk of diseases.In the largest hospital in the Tigray capital, Mekele, staff had to suspend other activities to focus on treating the large number of wounded from the conflict, the International Committee for the Red Cross said.The ICRC, the rare organization to travel inside the Tigray region and its borderlands, has reported coming across abandoned communities and camps of displaced people.No one knows the true toll of the fighting. Human rights and humanitarian groups have reported several hundred people killed, including civilians, but many more are feared.Inside Tigray, and among the majority ethnic Tigrayan refugees in Sudan, people are exhausted.“The world hasn’t seen anything like this year. I have never seen anything like this,” said one refugee who gave his name as Danyo, standing on the edge of a river that people on Tuesday were crossing to seek safety.“When Dr. Abiy came, we saw him as a good thing,” he said. “Our hopes were fulfilled, because his talk in the beginning was as sweet as honey, but now the honey has gone sour.”___Fay Abuelgasim in Hamdayet, Sudan, contributed.Cara Anna, The Associated Press
Job cuts within Nav Canada, the company that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation service, could lead to as many as one in five controllers in central Newfoundland out of work, according to Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms.The private company warned air traffic controllers job cuts were coming through a confidential memo last week, in which Nav Canada reported a $518 million drop in revenue compared to its budget due to COVID-19.Simms said he's heard from several of the estimated 200 controllers in areas like Gander, where Nav Canada serves as an important employer in the region."They're very worried for several reasons. They don't know at this point what will unfold," Simms told CBC Newfoundland Morning Wednesday. "As far as we know it's around 40 positions. That includes most of the air traffic controllers."Simms said job losses could also go beyond air traffic controllers, saying local flight service specialists and IT workers could also be facing cuts."These aren't small jobs by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "These are high-paying jobs, highly skilled. And right now the question has to be asked, where does one go from here?"He said a loss of jobs in the air traffic sector could bring similar effects to the economy as the drop seen in the oil and gas sector, comparing workers in both fields as highly skilled but not necessarily in demand right now."It's going to be hard for the town of Gander first and foremost," Simms said. "Then you're looking at other places around the area that also involve people who work at the centre … Appleton, Glenwood, Benton and throughout central really."Simms said COVID-19 has not only impacted those currently in the air traffic industry, but those looking to enter it as well. Most air traffic training has been either cancelled or put on hold due to the pandemic, with workers needed once air traffic returns to pre-COVID-19 numbers."There are a lot of young people getting into this business, and these are lifelong careers that support families throughout central Newfoundland," he said."This is an essential, essential service. What Gander does, it looks after North Atlantic air traffic all over. So to say it's an essential service is an understatement. It guides us through basically what is [coming] from Europe over to North America."Lost jobs a provincial issue, Gander mayor saysGander Mayor Percy Farwell said although the impact of lost work may be felt most in Gander, the cuts could have a ripple effect across the province."It should be a major concern to the province," Farwell said. "It's millions of dollars in salary we're talking about that could be eliminated."He said the lack of training impacts the ability to bring in new workers, and may affect the industry's recovery when things return to normal."Because they have big numbers and they have a fair amount of attrition and so on, there's almost a continual state of training and new people into that workforce," he said."My fear is with the reductions that they've had to make now, the situation they're creating for themselves is that once air traffic does resume, they're not going to be positioned to respond to it and to provide services to ensure the safety of that traffic," he said."It's not something you can just throw a switch on and when the traffic returns you can just call over to the job bank."Simms said he wants to meet with the Minister responsible on Wednesday to voice his concerns, but hopes Gander and other Newfoundland locations will remain a priority for Nav Canada, becoming a "centrepiece for aviation" in the North Atlantic."In this particular case, there are two centres here: there's Moncton and Gander. And I hope they decide not to do a centralization where a lot of these positions get moved to Moncton," he said."I may be putting the cart before the horse...[but] you gotta jump on this stuff right away."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Quebec is tightening the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season in an attempt to limit the transmission of the coronavirus.Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said Wednesday she wants Quebecers to be able to shop for loved ones in a safe environment.The measures include: * A maximum capacity of customers based on floor space available to customers. The capacity must be displayed at the front of the store or shopping mall. * Signs about distancing rules to ensure compliance while shopping and waiting in line. * Clear markings so that shoppers can more easily navigate the store.Guilbault acknowledged that many shopping venues already have these measures in place. But she said those that don't risk being fined up to $6,000 or closed altogether.She said police and workplace safety inspectors would increase their presence in shopping districts during the holiday period.The province reported a record 1,514 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic, along with 43 deaths.Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said earlier this week that shopping malls have not been a major driver of COVID-19 outbreaks but he said stricter guidelines would ensure that remains the case.
ST. MARY’S – Stricter provincewide measures to protect people during the second wave of COVID-19 won’t derail at least some public displays of holiday cheer in St. Mary’s this year, say municipal officials. Plans are still afoot for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s Department of Community Development and Recreation’s annual carolling and fireworks event, though director Mallory Fraser says that could change at the last minute. “We will be monitoring the situation as it develops, and make a final decision closer to the date,” she says. For now, the event is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Dec. 19, starting at 6:30 p.m., at the St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy’s parking lot, followed by fireworks and hot chocolate at the Sherbrooke Ball Field. To ensure safety, carollers must register and maintain socially safe distances from each other – and each other’s respective bubbles – before heading through Historic Sherbrooke Village. Something new this year is the Holiday Light Extravaganza. Between Dec 1 and 15, St. Mary’s residents, after filling out an entry form, may submit photos of their home seasonal displays to the community and recreation department’s Facebook Page. Voting will begin on Dec. 10, and the winner will be announced before Christmas. “The Holiday Light Extravaganza will go ahead no matter what,” Fraser says. “This is something that people can do without having to worry about social distancing.” Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald is not expecting trouble despite the worsening infection rate elsewhere in the province. “We haven’t relaxed our protocols here at the office,” he says. “We were going to look into opening the fitness centre at the school, but we’ve just put that back on hold until the new year.” As for the Recplex, he says it is operating for hockey and curling. “When we made the decision to open the rink, it was always based on the idea that if COVID heated up again, we would see how it played out. We’re going to keep the protocols we have in place. If the situation gets worse, we are either going to tighten the protocols, or close some facilities down. But, right now, we are just watching and monitoring.” MacDonald confirmed that the municipality has not reported any cases since the pandemic hit the province earlier this year. Last week, the provincial government introduced newer, tighter controls on public gatherings to staunch an increase in the rate of infection mostly in the Halifax area. “We must immediately change course on COVID-19. The virus is circulating rapidly in Halifax, and we must stop its spread across the province,” Premier Stephen McNeil says in a Nov. 24 news release. The new regulations in the capital include: limiting public gatherings to five people (or up to the number of immediate family members of a household); requiring masks in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings; restricting restaurants to take-out service; limiting the number of customers and employees of retail outlets to 25 per cent of their normal capacity; and suspending organized sporting, recreational, cultural and religious gatherings. On Nov. 29, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the province stood at 125, up from 119 at the end of last week.Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
HALIFAX – Boylston residents won’t be rocking Netflix around-the-clock anytime soon, but they and about 1,000 other rural residents of Antigonish and Guysborough counties are set for unexpected upgrades to high-speed Internet by 2023 – adding to communities announced by Develop Nova Scotia in September. “They’re getting new coverage as a result of scope expansions,” Braedon Clark, a Develop Nova Scotia official, told the The Journal in an email last week. “The number of homes and businesses to be connected is 1,342.” The upgrades now include: Southside Antigonish Harbour, Monks Head, Kenzieville (Keppoch Mountain, Addington Forks, Ohio, Hillcrest, Ashdale, Pinevale, South Salt Springs, Beech Hill), Fairmont, Pleasant Valley, Caledonia Mills (Lower Springfield, Roman Valley), Brierly Brook (James River), Mulgrave (Aulds Cove, Pirate Harbour, Middle Melford, Hadleyville), and Guysborough (Boylston, North Riverside, Manchester, Glenkeen). Other rural communities scheduled for scope expansion along the Eastern Shore include: Musquodoboit Harbour (Lower West Jeddore, Quinlan Dr., Ostrea Lake Rd., Anderson Rd., Innis Cove, West Petpeswick), Lake Charlotte (Clam Bay, Upper Lakeville, Ship Harbour, DeBaies Cove, Southwest Cove, Little Harbour, Clam Harbour, Clam Bay), Goffs (Old Guysborough Rd., Devon), and Chezzetcook (Lawrencetown, Leslie Rd.). The new $24-million initiative through the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust (with an additional $9 million from other levels of government and the private sector) will connect 6,700 homes and businesses across the province with high-speed Internet at speeds higher than Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) targets by late 2023. “These scope expansions will reduce the number of remaining unserved or underserved homes and businesses by over half,” said a Develop Nova Scotia press release on Nov. 23. “Preparatory and engineering work will begin immediately on the contract extensions.” It’s not clear whether the scope expansions are part of a planned connection program or an ad hoc response to areas overlooked during the second round of high-speed rural Internet enhancements in the fall. “They (the communities) were identified as still needing connection after our Round 2 announcement in September,” Clark said. According to Develop Nova Scotia, since the first round began in February, more than 21,000 of a targeted 81,500 homes and businesses now have networks in place to provide new or improved high-speed Internet. It also says projects are being completed about 50 per cent faster than industry standards. So far, the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust, other levels of government and the private sector have invested about $263 million the initiative with a goal of hooking up 97 per cent of rural communities in the province with high-speed Internet by summer 2022.Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal