The Weather Networks Mia Gordon has more.
The Weather Networks Mia Gordon has more.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
À Laval, la Cité de la biotech abrite une société de recherche contractuelle qui est non seulement impliquée dans la moitié des projets de développement de vaccins contre la COVID-19, mais qui s’affiche désormais comme «le plus important joueur» mondial en matière de tests cliniques liés à l’approbation de nouveaux vaccins. Il s’agit de Nexelis, un prestataire de services auprès d’entreprises pharmaceutiques et biotechnologiques né en 2015 (sous l’ancien vocable NÉOMED-LABS) à la suite de la fermeture du centre de recherche sur les vaccins que GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) exploitait au 525, boulevard Cartier. Le 20 janvier, l’entreprise lavalloise annonçait une importante acquisition, la 5e à survenir au cours des trois dernières années. D’ici la fin du mois de janvier, le laboratoire de bioanalyse clinique certifié GCLP que détenait GSK à Marburg, en Allemagne, sera la propriété de Nexelis, qui gonfle ainsi ses effectifs à plus de 360 employés dont près de la moitié œuvrent à Laval. Composée de quelque 80 scientifiques et analystes, l’équipe allemande continuera à œuvrer étroitement avec le géant pharmaceutique britannique en soutien au développement de futurs candidats vaccins de GSK, et ce, en vertu d’un accord de collaboration stratégique d'une durée de 5 ans. «La sous-traitance stratégique permettra à GSK d'accroitre sa capacité de tests et son agilité [et] de continuer à accélérer le développement des candidats vaccins dans notre pipeline», a indiqué par voie de communiqué Emmanuel Hanon, chef de la R&D; de GSK Vaccins, rappelant au passage «la réussite du transfert d’activités de laboratoire à Nexelis» en 2015. Depuis 2017, Nexelis aura en moyenne doublé ses revenus chaque année pour atteindre le plateau des 100 M$ US en 2021, indique son président et chef de la direction, Benoit Bouche. «Le segment de la bioanalytique dans le domaine des vaccins est une niche de l’ordre de 250 M$ et notre part de marché mondiale est supérieure à 20 %», précise-t-il. Benoit Bouche souligne également que les quelque 150 employés affectés aux laboratoires de Laval sont actuellement mis à contribution pour les essais cliniques de 20 des 42 projets de vaccin contre la COVID-19 en développement à travers la planète. En clair, le mandat consiste à valider l’efficacité des candidats vaccins en vue de l’ultime homologation des agences réglementaires, tels Santé Canada et la Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aux États-Unis. Les méthodes analytiques et les plateformes technologiques de pointe développées par Nexelis lui assurent une capacité de tests d’échantillons cliniques à très haut débit. «Notre capacité d’analyse est de 10 à 15 000 tests par jour», illustre M. Bouche en évoquant l’ensemble des laboratoires que l’entreprise possède dans ses cinq installations en Amérique du Nord et en Europe. Entreprise détenue par la société de portefeuille Ampersand Capital Partners, Nexelis a le vent dans les voiles et entend bien poursuivre son expansion comme en témoignent les 80 nouvelles embauches projetées en cours d’année. «On s’engage à recruter au moins 100 nouveaux chercheurs à Laval dans les 3 années qui viennent, dont 40 en 2021», termine Benoît Bouche. Dans la foulée de cette expansion à très court terme, le patron de Nexelis est d’ailleurs à évaluer l’occupation d’un second site à la faveur d’un immeuble vacant de la Cité de la biotechnologie et de la santé humaine. Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
QUEBEC — The 24-year-old man accused in the Quebec City Halloween night sword attack appeared briefly before a judge Tuesday. Carl Girouard appeared by video conference in a Quebec City courtroom as the Crown continued to disclose more evidence in his case. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder after a man dressed in a medieval costume and wielding a Japanese-style sword went on a rampage Oct. 31 in Quebec City's historic district. Two local residents, Francois Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, were killed, and five others were seriously injured in the attack. Duchesne was the director of communications for the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec while Clermont worked as a hairdresser in the neighbourhood where she lived. Four of the five people injured have also been identified after the court lifted a publication ban on their identities: Remy Belanger, Gilberto Porras, Lisa Mahmoud and Pierre Lagrevol. Prosecutor Francois Godin told the court the Crown had almost completed disclosure, adding that some laboratory test results were pending. Girouard, from Ste-Therese, a suburb north of Montreal, remains in detention and is scheduled to return to court March 12. He is now represented by Pierre Gagnon, a defence lawyer who primarily practises in the Chicoutimi judicial district north of the provincial capital. On Tuesday, the court authorized the release of Girouard's seized vehicle as well as a cellphone belonging to a victim. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the cellphone released belonged to the accused.
BARRIE, Ont. — Public health officials say 99 more people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Simcoe-Muskoka region likely have a variant of the virus. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says most of the cases are linked to a deadly outbreak at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home that has killed 46 people and infected more than 200. But two cases have no known link, including one that’s part of a small outbreak at a regional hospital. The data came from an ongoing study by Public Health Ontario that’s screening all positive COVID-19 tests from Jan. 20 for three new variants of the virus. Local health officials say they are still waiting for results that will identify which variant of the virus has infected the 99 people but note that they expect it to be a variant first identified in the U.K. The U.K. variant has already been identified in some of those infected in the Barrie long-term care home outbreak. Dr. Charles Gardner, the region’s top doctor, says if the variant isn't already spreading in the community, it likely will be soon. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Out of 99 new positive cases discovered in the Simcoe Muskoka Region, health officials say 97 are linked to a long-term care home in Barrie and all of those people are likely affected by the fast-spreading U.K. variant. There are concerns the highly contagious strain of the virus is more widespread than initially thought. Miranda Anthistle has the details.
The new Peggys Cove viewing platform will mostly replace a paved turning lane and won't be built over any important Mi'kmaw sites, the CEO of Develop Nova Scotia said Tuesday. Jennifer Angel leads the provincial Crown corporation building the platform. Angel said she listened to the protests against the platform over the weekend and understands how much people care about the area. "We're reclaiming that space for people," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning. Angel said 12,000 square feet of the deck will replace an existing paved turning circle. Another 2,000 square feet will extend beyond that, she said. "There's a portion we're calling the Nose that is cantilevered out over some of the rocks in a bit of a more dramatic experience," she said. People will still be able to walk over the rocks and paths to the lighthouse and enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean, she said. Some of the weekend protesters complained that they hadn't been consulted. A Mi'kmaw activist said it could block access to sacred sweet grass. Angel said they've been consulting widely since 2018, including with the 40 people who live in the village. "This is the largest and deepest public engagement we've ever done," she said. "But we do think the concerns raised are authentic and are rooted in a true desire to protect the place." Angel said she's spoken to the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre in Halifax and with the activist, and has planned a site visit with them and a botanist. "We're 99 per cent confident we're not in conflict with any sacred sites, but we're going to double check. And we will not be building a platform over a sacred Mi'kmaw site," Angel said. Angel said people can join a public webinar Thursday at 6 p.m. to learn more. 'It's what a kind society does' Paul Vienneau, an activist for people with disabilities and Halifax's accessibility consultant, said the platform will open up Peggys Cove to more people. "I've had a 30-year span where I haven't been able to take part fully in many things," said Vienneau, who uses a wheelchair. "When I hear my human rights and my right of access easily debated away, it kind of makes me feel like I don't count as a citizen." He said making the spot accessible to more people outweighs the changes to the area. "I think it's what a kind society does. I think it's what an enlightened society does," he said. "To have a safe place to sit in that air and look at all the rocks and the lighthouse and the ocean — I can't wait for that." Gerry Post, an accessibility advocate, also welcomed the changes. He praised Develop Nova Scotia for taking accessibility seriously and said they've done great work. "Before I became disabled — I use a wheelchair — I used to go frequently. Whenever visitors come from away, it's the first thing you do, right? You go to Peggys Cove and show it off and enjoy it," he said Tuesday. "Since that, I've been there once, but basically sat in the car in the parking lot. It's not a very accessible place to enjoy that wonderful space there." Post hopes the new public bathrooms will be fully accessible, including changing tables for young children and for adults who need support. "It's not a big expense when you design it in from the front end," he said. Work has not started on the platform, but it's due to open in June. MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin held their first phone conversation as counterparts Tuesday in a phone call that underscored troubled relations and the delicate balance between the former Cold War foes. According to the White House, Biden raised concerns about the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Russia’s alleged involvement in a massive cyber espionage campaign and reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. The Kremlin, meanwhile, focused on Putin’s response to Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control treaty. While the readouts from the two capitals emphasized different elements, they both suggested that U.S-Russia relations will be guided, at least at the beginning of the Biden administration, by a desire to do no harm but also no urgency to repair existing damage. The two presidents agreed to have their teams work urgently to complete a five-year extension of the New START nuclear weapons treaty that expires next month. Former President Donald Trump's administration had withdrawn from two arms control treaties with Russia and had been prepared to let New START lapse. Unlike his immediate predecessors, including Trump who was enamoured of Putin and frequently undercut his own administration's tough stance on Russia, Biden has not held out hope for a “reset” in relations. Instead he he's indicated he wants to manage differences without necessarily resolving them or improving ties. And, with a heavy domestic agenda and looming decisions needed on Iran and China, a direct confrontation with Russia is not likely something he seeks. Although the leaders agreed to work together to extend New START before it expires on Feb. 5 and to look at other areas of potential strategic co-operation, the White House said Biden was firm on U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, while Russia is supporting separatists in the country's east. Biden also raised the SolarWinds cyberhack, which has been attributed to Russia. reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 U.S. election, the poisoning of Navalny and the weekend crackdown on Navalny's supporters. “President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House said. Biden told Putin in the phone call, first reported by The Associated Press, that the U.S, would defend itself and take action, which could include further sanctions, to ensure that Moscow does not act with impunity, officials said. Moscow had reached out last week to request the call, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Biden agreed, but he wanted first to prepare with his staff and speak with European allies, including the a leaders of Britain, France and Germany, which he did. Before he spoke to Putin, Biden also called NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to pledge U.S. commitment to the decades-old alliance founded as a bulwark against Russian aggression. The Kremlin's readout of the call did not address the most contentious issues between the countries, though it said the leaders also discussed other “acute issues on the bilateral and international agenda.” It described the talk as “frank and businesslike” — often a diplomatic way of referring to tense discussions. It also said Putin congratulated Biden on becoming president and “noted that normalization of ties between Russia and the United States would serve the interests of both countries." Among the issues the Kremlin said were discussed were the coronavirus pandemic, the Iran nuclear agreement, Ukraine and issues related to trade and the economy. The call came as Putin considers the aftermath of pro-Navalny protests that took place in more than 100 Russian cities over the weekend. Biden’s team has already reacted strongly to the crackdown on the protests, in which more than 3,700 people were arrested across Russia, including more than 1,400 in Moscow. More protests are planned for the coming weekend. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s best-known critic, was arrested Jan. 17 as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent nearly five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Biden has previously condemned the use of chemical weapons. Russian authorities deny the accusations. Just from the public accounts, Biden's discussion with Putin appeared diametrically opposed to Trump's. Trump had seemed to seek Putin's approval, frequently casting doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including when he stood next to Putin at their 2018 summit in Helsinki. He also downplayed Russia’s involvement in the hack of federal government agencies last year and the allegations that Russia offered the Taliban bounties. Still, despite that conciliatory approach, Trump's administration toed a tough line against Moscow, imposing sanctions on the country, Russian companies and business leaders for issues ranging from Ukraine to energy supplies and attacks on dissidents. Biden, in his call with Putin, broke sharply with Trump by declaring that he knew that Russia attempted to interfere with both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. elections. ___ Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Matthew Lee And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
Tisdale town council is looking to change their zoning bylaws after a letter was sent to the council from a resident regarding potentially putting in a secondary suite at their home. During the Jan. 25 council meeting, the council discussed the possibility of allowing these suites for additional income for property owners, said Brad Hvidston, Tisdale’s administrator. The bylaw received its first reading during the meeting with the town hosting a public meeting in March to discuss the change further and allow the public to voice any concerns that they may have. There was little discussion going into the first reading of the bylaw with councillors not having many concerns regarding secondary suites at this time, Hvidston said. February might bring even more changes to the town’s zoning bylaws, he said, as the town will be taking a deeper look at their zoning and community plans. “We're just going to be starting our first meeting consultation process here in February. So we fully expected our whole zoning bylaws going to be redone by June or July for the whole town and the RM. We're doing it as a joint regional project with them.” The last time the zoning bylaw was examined by staff and council was 2005, Hvidston said, so it is time to have that deeper look and see that zones have been adhered to and that the current zones make sense. “We've done a ton of amendments to the zoning bylaw. Even just to follow the zoning bylaw now is getting tougher and tougher because you've got to follow up on all the amendments and changes.” Out buildings, like garages, shipping containers, and sheds, is one area that the town will definitely have to take a closer look at since that part of the zoning bylaw has faced many amendments over the years, Hvidston said. Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
When Isak Vaillancourt first began thinking of his short documentary, a project he would create with his team and the support of the guest curator of Up Here 6, Ra’anaa Brown, the global conversation on race had never been louder. At the time, it was shouting names like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. “People were suddenly realizing the urgency and validity of this movement,” said Vaillancourt. “Having difficult conversations in regards to their own complicity with systematic racism and their privilege. With the short documentary, I wanted to capture this unique moment in time from the perspectives of three Black community members here in Sudbury.” In the opening shots of the film, an introduction reads: “Black communities are having conversations about race that never make it to mainstream media. The collective consciousness rarely lends itself to amplify these voices.” With his documentary, Vaillancourt wanted to add new voices to the conversation. Not his, however: he decided to amplify the voices of three Black women in Sudbury and the struggles, racism and challenges to their own identity they have faced. And he called it, Amplify. Vaillancourt, a multimedia content producer and activist, is also from the area. He grew up in Chelmsford with his twin sister and younger brother, the children of a Franco-Ontarian father and a mother who found her way to Canada after leaving Somalia in 1991 to escape the civil war. He wanted to show that despite many believing that there are no issues with racism in Sudbury, the reality is quite the contrary. “It’s important to realize that racism and discrimination exist in Sudbury, as much as we like to pretend that Canada is a nation of cultural tolerance.” To him, the medium of a short documentary was the perfect choice to showcase his message. “We decided that a short documentary would be the perfect platform to shed light on the inequalities and discrimination that affects the lives of many racialized individuals here in Sudbury,” said Vaillancourt. “This project would not have been possible without the continuous support from the amazing team at Up Here. Behind the scenes, I worked very closely with my cinematographer, Shawn Kosmerly, and my editor, Riley McEwen, to bring this project to life.” The documentary itself focuses on the lived experiences of the three Black women it features: Josephine Suorineni-Zaghe, Shana Calixte and Sonia Ekiyor-Katimi, and their thoughts in relation to the current political climate, racial inequality and social justice. It is an opportunity for them to describe the challenges they have had to overcome and to educate those that perhaps have never had to consider the prejudice, both subtle and overt, that Sudburians of colour face. It is a chance to understand that if you have not experienced something directly, rather than deny or deflect, you should defer. “We as a society need to learn how to defer to people with lived experiences when speaking on issues that affect them directly,” said Vaillancourt. But also cautions, “Keep in mind that, amplifying Black, Indigenous, and POC (people of colour) voices does not mean placing the heavy burden on marginalized communities to educate you on the ways they’ve been oppressed. It’s the act of listening, self-reflection and continuous learning. It’s a commitment.” As the film lives on, Vaillancourt hopes viewers will find ways to show this commitment by getting involved locally. He quotes Josephine Suorineni-Zaghe from the film and says “Build up the movement locally. Be there for Black children. Be there for Black girls and Black boys. Be there for the Black LGBTQ+ community and when you do have that interaction, you do see the immediate change.” He also notes the many grassroots organisations that can benefit from more community involvement. “Within the City of Greater Sudbury, there has been a growing culture of community care and mutual aid all in the face of hatred,” he said. “This has not been cultivated by city officials but rather grassroot community groups such as Black Lives Matter - Sudbury, Sudbury Pride, Myth and Mirrors, SWANS Sudbury and The Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) just to name a few. I encourage viewers to take the extra step and learn more about how they can uplift these organizations and the important work they're doing.” The video is currently hosted by Up Here 6, and it is also available with French-language subtitles. For now, not only is Vaillancourt submitting this film to festivals, but he is currently working on multimedia projects that highlight “the amazing and diverse communities we have here in Sudbury.” For more of Vaillancourt’s work, you can visit his website at IsakVail.ca. You can watch the documentary below. Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
Ontario’s pilot COVID-19 testing program from travellers at Toronto's Pearson International Airport found that of the over 6,800 voluntary participants, 146 people or 2.26 per cent, tested positive.
Construction on Place des Arts began in earnest, then a pandemic set back. Work resumes once again, then a second lockdown — then the announcement of a sort-of third lockdown. The construction was supposed to continue, but then everything was shut down once again last week, with the building work ceasing on Friday. But then Monday it started again. There was an amendment to the legislation. It’s just another part of the journey, says Léo Therrien, executive director of the new Francophone arts and culture centre in downtown Sudbury. “The construction is expected to be done at the end of the summer, give or take, and again COVID willing,” said Therrien. “And then our hope is to open later in the fall. Even once the work is finished, everyone has to move in, we have to test all the equipment, you have to do a few shows, too.” But he’s pleased this timeline should coincide with the vaccination process in Sudbury. “I think everyone will be ready to get back to shows,” he said. It is also this specific, pandemic-related journey that has revealed an interesting way for the seven organisations behind ROCS (Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury) to offer planning and programming that is not only accessible in the pandemic world, but in the post-pandemic world as well: streaming. “Our hope is with streaming that we'll be able to stream internally to the various venues inside,” said Therrien. That includes the ability to watch a performance from anywhere in the building. “There's a performance in La Grande Salle (main theatre),” he said. “We can send it to the studio, we can send it to the Bistro, we can send it to other venues. We could split people in various places internally. “But we can also Zoom it, stream it externally, too, for conferences, for performances, and so on.” Whether you love a live show, or your life is more conducive to enjoying it in your pyjamas, there will be options for you. There will even be recordings, something in the works for La Nuit sur l'étang music festival. “Right now, they're planning the shows in March,” said Therrien, “But they might be able to get only 50 people right now because of COVID. So, their plan is to have various cameras and record the whole show and sell it later on at another date – present it as a recorded show.” And because of the occasional pause in the construction, there is the opportunity to consider these aspects: when you can’t build, you have the advantage of time while you work out the kinks of closed-circuit television. Silver Linings, as they say. “It's the right time for us to put the equipment in place because the walls aren't done yet. It would be too hard to do it if it was all finished,” said Therrien. “That's one of the only bonuses from COVID, is that we were able to adapt.” But also, they are not open. That means they are not bringing in revenue as of yet. Still, that may again be fortuitous (to be generous with the interpretation). Therrien said that while they wish the building was finished, it also prevented them from having to cancel or postpone. “We didn't have to stop any shows because we didn't have any shows planned,” he said. “So many of our partners had to cancel their season, then restart it and cancel it again. And it's been that nightmare for them.” He said that they hope the opening of the Place des arts will allow community arts and culture groups — both Anglophone and Francophone — to come together and pool resources, to use the knowledge and experience from every corner of the city to create programming to enrich Francophone culture and, by extension, Sudbury culture, as well as offer a home to Anglophone groups, like YES Theatre, which is currently in negotiations with the Place des arts team. There will not only be the headquarters of the seven founding Francophone organisations, as well as a gift shop, bookstore, bistro and multi-purpose studio space, but also a grand theatre and office space and rehearsal space. And there has never been a better time for art, said Therrien. Movies, television, books, puzzles, art galleries tours and musicals on Zoom — you name the medium, the world consumed content on it — and he’s hopeful this trend will continue. “Art and culture is healthy to our wellbeing, the health of ourselves,” said Therrien. “That’s why a place like this is essential to our community and to everyone in it.” Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden's administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president's promise of a “unity” agenda. “The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must," Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators. "Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We're keeping all options open on the table.” Unwilling to wait for Republicans who argue Biden's price tag is too high and his priorities too wide-ranging, Democrats are flexing their newfound power as they take control of the Senate alongside the House and White House. It is the first time in a decade the party has held the full sweep of power in Washington, and Democrats say they have no time to waste trying to broker compromises with Republicans that may, or may not, happen. They have watched Republicans use similar procedural tools to advance their priorities, most recently the Trump administration’s GOP tax cuts. The fast-moving events days into the new majority on Capitol Hill come as the White House continued meeting privately with groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in hopes of striking a bipartisan agreement. Biden's COVID-19 aid package includes money for vaccine distribution, school reopenings and $1,400 direct payments to households and gradually boosts the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. The next steps remain highly fluid. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of more than 50 House lawmakers met virtually Tuesday with top administration officials on the virus aid and economic recovery package. And the dozen senators emerging from a lengthy private meeting with the White House on Sunday evening are talking on their own to try to craft a more targeted bill. The bipartisan senators assembled privately again Monday evening. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday that Biden is still looking to negotiate on an aid package, while putting a priority on acting swiftly before aid lapses in March. “He laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback,” Psaki said. "He’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who led a bipartisan effort for the last $900 billion relief package, is working again with the senators on crafting an alternative package that she has said would be more focused on money for vaccine distribution and tailored economic assistance to the neediest Americans. Collins said Tuesday that the White House made good on its commitment to deliver a more detailed accounting of the proposed expenditure. But she said the group is still waiting for data on how much funding remains unallocated from past relief measures that, by her tally, totals a whopping $1.8 trillion still unspent. Congress has approved some $4 trillion in emergency aid since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stunning outlay and the largest rescue package in the nation's history. Senators from both parties who joined the White House call over the weekend agreed the priority needs to be standing up the country's faltering vaccine distribution system. With the death toll climbing, and new strains of the virus threatening more trouble ahead, ensuring vaccinations appears to be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 crisis. Several senators from both parties also said they want the $1,400 direct checks to be more targeted to those in need. They also want an accounting of what remains from previously approved aid bills. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the incoming Budget Committee chair, said he is already working on the budget package for next week and expanding it to include Biden's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. Raising the wage is a long-running Democratic priority that would essentially double the current $7.25 hourly wage set the last time the party was in control in the Obama administration. Advocates say the pay raise would boost millions of full-time workers from poverty. “There is a consensus,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol. “If Republicans are not prepared to come on board, that’s fine. We’re not going to wait. We’re going forward soon and aggressively.” Lisa Mascaro And Josh Boak, The Associated Press
Public health regulations in the Sudbury district could be made even more restrictive than the current lockdown and stay-at-home order if a variant of the COVID-19 virus somehow increases the number of infections. The issue was discussed in an online interview hosted by Science North on Monday with Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for the Public Health Sudbury and Districts. Staff scientist Katrina Pisani joined Sutcliffe for a 40-minute discussion on why the COVID-19 guidelines in Ontario keep changing. Pisani told the online audience the purpose of the discussion was to get a better understanding of why guidelines change and what the public needs to know about the current emergency regulations and the stay-at-home order currently in place. On Monday afternoon, the province decided to expand the order for an additional two weeks. Sutcliffe said despite some initial confusion, the order was simple and direct. "So the stay-at home order is exactly that for all Ontarians, to stay home unless it is really essential that you're not at home." She said it is intended to be as simple as possible notwithstanding some of the confusion about it. This is despite speculation and questions that people might have about every little excuse to somehow get around essential reasons for leaving home. Sutcliffe said essential reasons could include such things as picking up groceries, going to the pharmacy, getting health care or doing some essential work that cannot be done from home. "It's different from the lockdown, because the lockdown is one of the areas of the coded phases for management of COVID in our province. And so those that were in the gray or lockdown parts of our province meant that they had high rates of COVID-19 and there are specific requirements there, but not an overall stay-at-home order as we have now, really to protect our health and our health-care system as we have seen rates of the disease really increase across the province," said Sutcliffe. Pisani asked about the importance of one's mental health, because some people believe it is important to get out of the house for something like a walk around the block. Sutcliffe said it was an important point as the pandemic has left many people feeling isolated, not being able to engage with their friends or their families as they would normally. She added it has had an impact on people with addictions and risks associated with drug overdoses. Sutcliffe said the stay-at-home order does allow people to go outside for exercise. It allows you to spend time with members of your own household, but not to have more than five people when you are gathered outdoors and no gatherings indoors. Sutcliffe said from the public health perspective the order does recognize the importance of having time outdoors. She said it is understood the risk of the virus outdoors is lower, with fresh air and better ventilation by not being in an enclosed space, but it is still important to wear a face mask when one is close to others in the outdoors. When asked if the outdoor activities could be made more restrictive, Sutcliffe said that had more to do not necessarily with an increase in active COVID-19 cases, but more about the kind of virus that presents itself. "People will be aware that there are the variants of concern (VOC) or different variants; the UK Variant, the South African Variant, the Brazil Variant that we understand are more transmissible," Sutcliffe explained. It was revealed Monday afternoon that a variant of the COVID virus might have infected a Sudbury person who had been travelling. That person is now in isolation. "The big concern is, as those get more commonplace and spread in our communities, what additional public health measures might be needed to prevent transmission?" said Sutcliffe. "If something is so transmissible that it might require further restrictions outdoors then those decisions, based on science, will have to be made," she added. "But really I think that the kind of virus we are seeing and the transmissibility is a big factor in that. If we're finding that being outdoors people are still gathering together closely, then there might be additional measures and we know that's been the case in some parts of the province put in place." Pisani mentioned the situation of the North Bay Parry Sound district health unit, where it was decided earlier this month that snowmobiling, outdoor skating and tobogganing would be banned for the time being. Sutcliffe also acknowledged that the pandemic is indeed frustrating and people are having a difficult time with it. “I think we are tired of hearing that we are all in it together, but we are still all in it together. And that means Team Sudbury, or Team Northern Ontario or Team Ontario or Team World. You know we are all in this together and we need to support each other.” Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
Three years ago, filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West got a dream Sundance debut. They premiered their film “RBG” to a sold-out crowd with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only in attendance but seeing it for the first time. There was a standing ovation, a bidding war and a big sale. It also went on to be a major awards contender. It’s the kind of Sundance experience most filmmakers fantasize about. This year they’re returning to the festival with their follow-up, “My Name is Pauli Murray” about the somewhat obscure legal trailblazer, and while their excitement remains high, the festival itself will be quite different. Like so many in the past year, Sundance has had to reinvent itself as a mostly virtual experience. Still, the 2021 Festival which kicks off Thursday is shaping up to be a robust market for companies looking for content. More than 72 feature films are debuting over the seven days. It’s slimmed-down lineup from the previous years’ 118 and some already have ways to get to audiences, like Robin Wright’s “Land” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which will both be available to the masses in the coming weeks. But many this year are acquisition titles seeking distribution deals. “Buyers and sellers have found a rhythm for conducting business at virtual markets, to great success. And consumers are continuing to ask for more content,” said Deb McIntosh, an SVP at Endeavor Content. “I’m confident that we’ll find distribution partners for all of our films." Julie Dansker, an executive at Shout! Studios, is coming to the virtual festival looking for films to buy and Sundance, she said, always offers a variety of films from established and emerging talents. This year there are high profile projects from well-known names like actor Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut “Passing,” starring Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson as two light-skinned Black women who choose to live on opposite sides of the colour line in 1929 New York. Jerrod Carmichael is making his debut with the dark satire “On the Count of Three” with Christopher Abbott and Tiffany Haddish. Questlove is too with his opening night documentary “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” Zoe Lister-Jones also reunites with her “Craft: Legacy” star Cailee Spaeny for “How It Ends,” co-starring Olivia Wilde and Fred Armisen. And “CODA,” a day one film from Sian Heder about a child of deaf adults, is expected to be one of the breakouts. As always, the documentary sections are fertile ground for buyers. Cohen and West’s “My Name is Pauli Murray” is among the sales titles as is Mariem Pérez Riera’s “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It,” which examines how the entertainer battled racism to become one of the few performers to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Lucy Walker has a documentary about the history of wildfires, “Bring Your Own Brigade” and Jonas Poher Rasmussen will debut his animated refugee documentary “Flee.” And then there’s the more unconventional efforts like animator Dash Shaw’s psychedelic “Cryptozoo,” featuring the voices of Lake Bell, Michael Cera and Grace Zabriskie. Or Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Wong Kar-Wai produced drama “One for the Road” and Timur Bekmambetov’s social media age Romeo and Juliet riff “R#J.” There are boundless “discovery” opportunities for parties looking beyond the flashy names who might just stumble upon the next Ryan Coogler or Damien Chazelle. As Sundance programmer Kim Yutani said, “You don’t really know what these films are until you see them.” Audience enthusiasm for a particular film might be harder to judge virtually, though. “There’s all this energy that happens at a festival when you’re in person that is hard to translate to a virtual environment,” said Jordan Fields, head of acquisitions for Shout! Studios. “But on the upside, it gives us the ability to judge movies a little more objectively because we’re not necessarily influenced by a crowd who stands up to cheer it at the end.” And indeed, for better or worse, that in-person energy has often played a role in negotiating the price. Sometimes the hype is warranted, and you get a “Little Miss Sunshine.” But other times off the mountain, the glow fades and companies are left with a flop. Prices have also been going up steadily due to the influx of deep-pocketed streaming companies who don’t have to worry as much or at all about box office returns. Six years ago, Amazon and Netflix both struggled to get titles. Now, the streamers are some of the biggest players in the game. Last year saw Hulu and NEON pay over $17.5 million (a record) for the worldwide rights to the Andy Samberg comedy “Palm Springs.” “Boys State” also got a $12 million deal from Apple and A24. This year there is an added anxiety about content since many productions were put on hold because of the pandemic. But there’s also opportunity in the fact that there could be a bigger and more diverse audience seeing the films who may never have had the opportunity to attend the expensive festival. The cost of entry for the virtual films is $15 a ticket and many are sold out. “Taking Sundance off the mountain and to the whole country will be a beautiful way to commune together over our shared love and need for artistic expression,” said McIntosh. There have already been a few pre-Festival deals. RLJE Films on Tuesday announced that it had acquired the Nicolas Cage film “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” Magnolia Pictures took the rights to “A Glitch in the Matrix” from “Room 237” director Rodney Ascher, Bleecker Street snagged the Ed Helms drama “Together Together” and Juno Films picked up the documentary “The Most Beautiful Boy” about Swedish actor Bjorn Andresen. But many are holding back pre-screenings and waiting until the actual Sundance premiere. “I’m still excited,” said Hall, whose “Passing” premieres Saturday. “But would I rather that we were all together wandering through the snow, freezing cold and, you know, trudging down Main Street? Yes, I would, because that communal experience is part of it.” Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Some Tiny council members want some serious action being taken against big corporations that threaten the township's water supply. "We need to stop playing by the rules," said Coun. Gibb Wishart, addressing the question to appeal or not to appeal in the case of the renewal of the permit to take water (PTTW) for the Teedon Pit. "The reason the dump (Site 41) got stopped is that an old couple got arrested; First Nations were there and set up camp, nobody played by the rules. "I think if we play the game the ministry...," he was saying, when Mayor George Cornell cut him off to remind him that even at that time the council played by the rules. Even though Cornell was cautious about siding an appeal process in the matter, Coun. Tony Mintoff spoke his mind clearly. "Anything I’ve heard is overwhelmingly against any kind of operation there," he said. "I encourage council to put their concerns ahead of the province’s unwillingness to allow municipalities to decide what’s best for them within their boundary. "As members of council, it’s our obligation to represent the interests of our residents," added Mintoff. "My suggestion would be we clearly appeal every step." Another member of council, however, was a bit cautious about going the appeal route. "Maybe," said Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma.said, "the right course of action would be to break out some of our concerns around the EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) process reform and how we work with the MOECP (Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks) in future to make sure the municipality and adjacent landowners are notified of big decisions like this one. "Maybe this goes back to our flaws in the first appeal or commenting process with regards to monitoring water quality." Walma also suggested that if the council does plan on appealing the renewal, it should hold further discussions in-camera. "We have a community member that has made significant upgrades and worked with the township on our comments to date," he added. "There was no need for them to install that many wells. They could have gotten away with a lot less. I think that’s something we want to maintain. It’s a good working relationship so in the future we can share our concerns with them. I think going the legal route potentially cuts those options down." The discussion came forth after council had heard the united plea -- save our water --- from various residents of Tiny and beyond that made deputations to elected officials at Tuesday's special council meeting. Council had convened a special session after it became aware of the Jan. 14 decision by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to renew a 10-year PTTW for CRH Canada Group Inc., which operates the aggregate quarry. "The approval of the water taking permit may compromise the quality of this water," said Tiny resident Bonnie Pauzé. "As elected officials, we, the taxpayers are putting it all on your shoulder to stop this potential disaster. Every single voter drinks water. Do we want to go down in history as heroes that protected and saved one of the world's purest aquifers? Please don't disappoint us. We need you to step up to the plate. Protect the water." Similar messages were presented by others as well. "Our water needs are being undermined for the sake of a global business," said Erik Schomann, another Tiny resident. "The cost business analysis as I have been able to tell is incomplete. There was no announcement regarding the permit, no civilian insight." Even residents of Guelph had joined in the fight. "Matters of groundwater protection are of extreme concern to people across the province," said Karen Rathwell. "The community is asking for a pause; time to study this phenomenon. Once the overburden is scraped away and the digging eats away through the layers of protection, the groundwater is exposed to pollution." According to the township's legal counsel, Sarah Hahn, if the township decides to appeal, it has to clear a two-part test to seek leave to appeal. "First, you look at whether granting of the permit or any conditions within are unreasonable," she said, explaining that this means, "No reasonable person having regard for law and policies have issued the permit. It’s a pretty high test to have to reach. Secondly, could it result to significant harm to the environment. "It’s not a will, it’s a could, so I think there’s some grounds there," added Hahn. "The test for reasonableness is quite high. Having some evidence that what the ministry did was unreasonable is certainly something we would want to put forward if an appeal was brought." The township said they were satisfied with the conclusion drawn by the professional hydrogeologist, who said the ministry had addressed the municipality's concerns laid out in a 2018 letter to the ministry. "Staff’s opinion is that we rely on our experts and in this case it’s Burnside," said Shawn Persaud, director of planning and development. "Based on their letter, we recommend the township not file an appeal relative to the permit to take water." In his Jan. 25 letter, Dave Hopkins, senior hydrogeologist with R. J. Burnside and Associates Ltd., states that ministry has met and addressed the requests laid out by the township in 2018. "The new PTTW has a much more robust monitoring program than the original PTTW and addresses the Township’s request for additional wells," reads his conclusion. "The monitoring program will be completed, and the annual report is to be prepared by a qualified person (P. Geo. or equivalent). "The Permit requires that an annual report documenting the monitoring well results be submitted to the MECP (MOECP). This will allow the MECP to evaluate the impacts of pumping and make any necessary additions to the monitoring program/permitted rates as required. The PTTW also requires the monitoring of specific domestic wells, which is unusual. "Residents, who feel that their wells may have been impacted, may wish to contact CRH to have their well added to the monitoring program. It is Burnside’s opinion, that all of the Township comments have been addressed by the MECP and the conditions included in the new PTTW." Wishart, however, felt all concerns had not been addressed. "I think the major issue that the township is up against the wall with is that we’re talking about water quality, not the serviceability of a gravel pit," he said. "The province doesn’t seem to address that at all. They dance around saying that the various authorities, namely the gravel pit operators, operate within the guidelines that they’re given. "They’ve answered all the questions we had, but we’re talking about water quality and the potential," added Wishart. "We have no proof at all. All we have is the wish they not take away the filtering medium between the sky and the water." Based on that, he asked, does the province even want to hear us if we conclude that they’re not answering our questions? Mintoff didn't seem to think so. "The MOECP didn’t inform us," he said, "and gave us only 15 days to prepare with documented support, so clearly in their mind they didn’t want an appeal. I think they gave us scant time to prepare for these appeals because they’re not welcoming." Mintoff said he would like to see council adopt the two principles that it doesn’t support the taking of aggregate or washing it in an environmentally sensitive area. Further, he said, the municipality also asked that no further licences be issued until a water study by Dr. John Cherry, professor emeritus at University of Waterloo, has produced its findings. "One of the basic risk management principles is to weigh the risks and rewards," said Mintoff. "In my opinion, CRH gets all the rewards and the township and residents assume all the risks. If their experts are wrong, what are the consequences and who is going to live with them? I don’t think it’s going to be CRH." He said he was tired of hearing that ministries are understaffed or under-resourced and don’t have the wherewithal to operate effectively. "They cannot be, in my opinion, entrusted to protect our most valuable resource," said Mintoff. "We need to err on the side of caution. There’s nothing in it for us, only serious potential for impact on water quality and other environmental components." He also offered a somewhat long-term solution to the situation. "Perhaps it’s time for us to offer the purchase of these specific properties at fair market value and once rehabilitated by the current owners, we could create public-private partnerships to use this land to create more affordable housing," said Mintoff. "And if they choose to decline our offer, then we should look at the practicality of the legal feasibility of expropriating that property in order to do so." Unable to decide whether to appeal or not, council moved into an in-camera session around other matters, promising to reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday to further discuss the issue. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
One of Orangeville’s premier recreation venue has changed locations recently. Far Shot Orangeville has downsized their arena but hopes the added exposure, on 400 Townline Rd., will bring in more clientele. “Our last location was at a warehouse area,” said Benn MacDonald, owner of Far Shot Orangeville. It wasn’t the best place. It was great for what we had at the time. We had an indoor archery range as well of 40 yards.” Groups of 10, once lockdown restrictions are lifted, will be available to participate. Small groups for one hour cost $25 per person and large groups for two hours cost $40 per person. They also plan to obtain their own liquor license. With COVID, nearly every booking is a private one. Just you, your family & friends and one coach. Strangers never share lanes no matter how small your group size is. They take a minimum of two people. “We’ll only do one group at a time,” said Macdonald. “Unfortunately, we can’t do walk-ins with all the restrictions going on. This has affected us quite a bit. We’re hoping once all of this opens up again, our walk-in hours can return.” Macdonald admits they did lose their archery ring because of the smaller location, but he believes it was a good trade-off for the exposure. They are also able to provide a mobile service, bringing all their axe, knife and archery equipment to your backyard. “The furthest we have gone was Niagara Falls,” said Macdonald. “We charge that travel. For anyone local, we don’t charge a fee for that.” An eight-week league is also available for $140. It begins on Monday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. Practice begins at 7 p.m. and the game starts at 8 p.m. A week 4 light dinner is on them and on week 8 is the championship with a potluck supper. “We compete with the World Axe Throwing League,” said MacDonald. “Our club actually won the championship in 2017 and I served as the head judge. I travelled all across North America officiating on major tournaments on ESPN.” Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. Shortly after his confirmation, Blinken took the oath of office at a private ceremony at the State Department. Blinken was sworn in by the director general of the U.S. Foreign Service in the Treaty Room on the department's 7th floor outside the corridor known as “Mahogany Row" where his new office will be. He is expected to start work Wednesday. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Niagara Region big-box stores were pulled into the province’s enforcement blitz this past weekend. Announced earlier this month by labour minister, Monte McNaughton, the big-box store blitz focuses on proper masking, physical distancing and complying with health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Over 125 Niagara businesses were visited on the weekend by ministry inspectors, press secretary Harry Godfrey confirmed in an email on Tuesday. Of those stores, “only 54 per cent were in compliance,” McNaughton told Niagara This Week during a Monday (Jan. 25) phone call. The minister called the weekend result “extremely disappointing.” Coincidentally, inspections of 267 Niagara businesses by the province in a blitz this past December also found that only 54 per cent of the businesses visited were in compliance with COVID-19 safety measures. Walmart and Costco locations in Niagara were visited in the recent blitz, along with grocery store chains under the Loblaws banner. Godfrey confirmed that in Niagara, inspectors found 68 “total contraventions” with at least 22 tickets issued and five occupational health and safety orders. The three most common violations were inadequate pre-screening of workers and customers, exceeding capacity limits, and a lack of safety plans, according to McNaughton. Gone are the opportunities for education, said the minister. “We’re past that now. It’s about enforcing the laws that are in place; businesses at this point in the pandemic know what they need to do to keep COVID-19 from entering the workplace,” he said, adding that big corporations need to “take this seriously” and “step up.” Customers can also be ticketed by inspectors for refusing to wear a mask. “The ministry of labour has been given, as of a week ago, powers to actually ticket people if you’re not wearing masks properly and not physically distancing,” the minister said. On Monday, McNaughton was unsure exactly how many inspectors were involved locally, but said 107 were involved in simultaneous blitzes in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham over the weekend. In total, over 640 businesses we revisited resulting in over 80 tickets and 100 orders being issued. Earlier this month, Niagara Region staff completed their own inspections over seven days, visiting a total of 62 businesses, issuing seven formal warnings and three fines of $750 each. — With files from The St. Catharines Standard Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick reported 10 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday as health officials prepared to ease restrictions in the Saint John and Fredericton regions. Five of the latest cases were reported in the Edmundston region, which is under a 14-day lockdown that began Sunday. Three cases were identified in the Saint John area while the Moncton and Campbellton regions each reported one new case. The Saint John and Fredericton regions were scheduled to move into the lower pandemic-alert level of "orange" Tuesday at midnight. Gyms, spas and entertainment centres can reopen in those areas under strict guidelines. Officials said the province had 339 active reported cases and seven patients were in hospital with the disease, including three in intensive care. New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,161 infections and 14 deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Canada's main stock index suffered its worst drop of the year on a broad-based decline led by the energy and technology sectors. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 126.61 points to 17,779.41. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 22.96 points at 30,937.04. The S&P 500 index was down 5.74 points at 3,849.62, while the Nasdaq composite was down 9.93 points at 13,626.06. The Canadian dollar traded for 78.73 cents US compared with 78.51 cents US on Monday. The March crude oil contract was down 16 cents at US$52.61 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up 3.8 cents at nearly US$2.64 per mmBTU. The February gold contract was down US$4.30 at US$1,850.90 an ounce and the March copper contract was down a penny at US$3.62 a pound. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) The Canadian Press