The Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP) has transformed the centre of Calgary into an open-air art gallery, making it a perfect socially distant activity to do this winter.
The Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP) has transformed the centre of Calgary into an open-air art gallery, making it a perfect socially distant activity to do this winter.
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
The Better Business Bureau is warning British Columbians about a scam making the rounds offering one free year of Netflix. So far, BBB has received more than 100 reports via Scam Tracker about a text message tricking consumers by offering the streaming service for free. “You receive a text message that says: “Due to the pandemic, Netflix is offering you a free year of service to help you stay at home. Click the link to sign up.” The link takes consumers to a website where they are asked to fill out personal information and add a method of payment,” reads a release from BBB. However, the website is not associated with Netflix, and those signing up are sharing their personal information with scammers, running the risk of payment fraud and identity theft. “[The scammers] said no other money would be taken out of my account again,” one victim reported. “Then, about a week later, they took $51.02, and I called and asked for a refund. They told me three days at first. Then, after three days I called back, and they told me seven to ten business days. It’s been ten business days. And now I have no refund.” To avoid being scammed, the BBB recommends consumers do their research and take precautions. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
KENOVA, W.Va. — Griffith & Feil Drug has been in business since 1892, a family-owned, small-town pharmacy. This isn't its first pandemic. More than a century after helping West Virginians confront the Spanish flu in 1918, the drugstore in Kenova, a community of about 3,000 people, is helping the state lead the nation in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. West Virginia has emerged as an unlikely success in the nation's otherwise chaotic vaccine rollout, largely because of the state's decision to reject a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens and instead enlist mom-and-pop pharmacies to vaccinate residents against the virus that has killed over 399,000 Americans. More shots have gone into people’s arms per capita across West Virginia than in any other state, with at least 7.4% of the population receiving the first of two shots, according to state data. West Virginia was the first in the nation to finish offering first doses to all long-term care centres before the end of December, and the state expects to give second doses at those facilities by the end of January. “Boy, have we noticed that. I think the West Virginia model is really one that we would love for a lot more states to adopt,” said John Beckner, a pharmacist who works at the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Community Pharmacists Association, which advocates for pharmacies across the country. It's early in the process, but that has not stopped Republican Gov. Jim Justice from proclaiming that the vaccine effort runs counter to preconceived notions about the Mountaineer State. “Little old West Virginia, that was thought of for hundreds of years, you know, as a place where maybe we were backward or dark or dingy,” Justice said last week. Instead, it turns out that “West Virginia has been the diamond in the rough,” Justice said on CBS’ "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Rather than relying on national chains, 250 local pharmacists set up clinics in rural communities. The fact that residents who may be wary of the vaccine seem to trust them makes a difference. “As my uncle always told me, these people aren’t your customers, they’re your friends and neighbours,” said Ric Griffith, the pharmacist at Griffith & Feil in Kenova, a town near the Kentucky state line. A chatty raconteur and former mayor of Kenova, he can recall generations of patrons frequenting the shop, which is almost unchanged since the 1950s, with a soda fountain and jukebox in the front and prescriptions in the back. Griffith, 71, began taking over the pharmacy from his father in the early 1990s and was elected to the House of Delegates as a Democrat last year. His daughter, Heidi Griffith Romero, 45, followed into the family business and is also administering shots. Holding a vaccination clinic at the town high school, he recalled his uncle telling him he lost four classmates to the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed more than 50 million people worldwide. “And it was a tragedy that I thought I would never be involved with,” he said, taking a break from giving vaccines to teachers aged 50 and over. When Mark Hayes, a middle school guidance counsellor in Kenova, walked up to receive his first dose, he spotted Griffith, who holds local celebrity status for hosting an extravagant annual Halloween pumpkin-carving party that attracts thousands. “I recognized him right away,” Hayes said. “‘The Pumpkin King? Are you giving me the shot?’” Kevin Roberts, a 59-year-old school bus driver in Kenova, said “it makes a difference” for a pharmacist he knows to administer the shots. “I hope that a lot of these skeptics change their mind,” he said. Officials also credit a 50-person command centre at the state’s National Guard headquarters in the capital of Charleston. Inside a cavernous hall, leaders of the vaccine operation and state health officials sit between plexiglass dividers to oversee shipments of the precious doses to five hubs. From there, deliveries go to drugstores and local health departments. CVS has so far declined to work with state officials on vaccinating people at its stores, but Walgreens is participating and has joined in to hold clinics at some nursing homes, officials said. The federal partnership involving both companies would have allowed Washington officials to dictate the terms of nursing home vaccinations, said Marty Wright, the head of the West Virginia Health Care Association, which represents health care companies. “If the state would've activated the federal plan, the state would've had zero control over the situation,” Wright said. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised West Virginia's efforts to vaccinate the elderly. “Expanding eligibility to all of the vulnerable is the fastest way to protect the vulnerable,” Azar said Tuesday at an Operation Warp Speed meeting. He also highlighted Connecticut as a bright spot in the vaccine rollout. Given West Virginia's success so far, leaders are now seeking more doses so they can open vaccinations for more groups. The Griffith & Feil store has had to decline shots for out-of-state customers who caught word of West Virginia's success. The governor recently lowered the age of eligibility for members of the general public to 70. The efforts have not been without errors. The Boone County Health Department was barred from distributing the vaccine last month after it mistakenly gave 44 people an antibody treatment instead of vaccines. The state began vaccinating school workers aged 50 or older less than two weeks ago. The governor wants in-person learning to resume at as many schools as possible by Tuesday, long before teachers will have received their second vaccine doses. As of Sunday, over 130,100 first doses have been administered, and 23,066 people have received both shots in the state with a population of about 1.78 million people. Nearly 55,800 of the first doses have gone to residents aged 65 and older. Mitchel Rothholz, who leads immunization policy at the American Pharmacists Association, said other governors would be wise to enlist local pharmacies. “Especially at a time when you have vaccine hesitancy and concerns in vaccine confidence, having access to a health care provider like a community pharmacist provides a comfort level to the patients and communities,” Rothholz added. ___ Associated Press Writer John Raby contributed to this report. Cuneyt Dil, The Associated Press
Mono Council once again had to deal with the ongoing debate as to who is responsible for enforcing regulations in the matter of resident Mark Bates’ request to have Council enforce the Town By-law concerning lighting interfering with a neighbours enjoyment of their property. This issue was previously discussed at the last Council Meeting, where the consensus was that, as the issue involved neighbours in a condominium complex, the condominium board should be responsible to enforce their own regulations regarding the matter. At Tuesday’s Mono Council meeting, Mr. Bates returned and indicated that the board was unwilling to enforce the regulations and asked Council to enforce the Town by-law to correct the problem. CAO Mark Early, at that meeting, said that he would refer the matter to the Town solicitor for a legal opinion. Subsequently, the opinion provided indicated that the issue should be dealt with according to Provincial regulations, by the condominium board and not the Town. However, as the issue was not dealt with, Mr. Bates had once again con-tacted the councillors and Councillor Fred Nix raised the question to the CAO. Upon hearing the solicitors response, Mr. Nix appeared satisfied though he stated that they were still receiving emails from Mr. Bates.The latest of these emails was presented to Council during the Public Question Period and in it, he requested that as the neighbour was still in non compliance, could Council please notify the condominium board of the solicitors response and request that they deal with the issue. Mayor Ryan referred the question to the CAO and Mr. Early replied that the condo-minium board had been made aware of all of Councils discussions and decisions on the matter but that he could certainly notify them of the solicitors and Councils latest response. Councillor Nix then asked what the solu-tion would be should there be a conflict between the Town rules and by-laws and the condominium rules, who should pre-vail? Mr. Early responded that based on his understanding and the solicitors response, it would be the condominiums responsibility to resolve the matter so that there was con-sistency within their subdivision. Peter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
Merritt City Council has voted unanimously to join the Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention. The CMNCP is active across Canada as a network of communities who seek to share the best practices and build capacity to reduce and prevent crime, as well as fostering community safety and well-being. In Dec. 2020, the Merritt Community Policing Office requested that the City make a request to join the CMNCP. The fee, which amounts to approximately $650 for communities with populations under 500,000, will be paid for by the City. This network includes major centres such as Vancouver and Montreal, but also includes smaller communities such as Williams Lake, in total representing an estimated 40% of the Canadian population. Because the City of Merritt would be the official member of CMNCP, a resolution from council is required to join. The decision came at the regular council meeting of Jan. 12, where council voted to write a letter of recommendation for Merritt to join the CMNCP and pay the membership fee, the funds for which would be drawn from the unused 2020 conferences budget. “This membership will allow us to share ideas and best practices with many communities in Canada,” said Marlene Jones, Community Policing Officer Coordinator. “In the past our crime prevention partnerships were primarily with BC organizations, but we believe that there are many great programs throughout the country. Our team and subsequently our community can benefit from these shared ideas, training, and contributing to the conversations.” Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis wants to make it clear he does not begrudge Maskwacis the early vaccines the four First Nations received. His concern is about the process in Alberta. Alexis said three meetings last week between chiefs and staff with health officials from both the province and federal government gave no indication that any First Nation would see early arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine doses. They were informed that Elders 65 years and over on reserves would be the next to receive the vaccine. At this point, both long-term care facilities and front line health personnel on reserves had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Saturday, the third day of successive funerals on his First Nation, Alexis was told by one of his band members that Maskwacis had received the vaccine. He assured his community member that wasn’t the case, because it hadn’t been discussed at previous meetings. But it turned out that it was the case. “Everybody, whether you're Albertan or Canadian or some different part of the world, everyone is afraid. People are afraid and every leadership I know have been doing their best to keep things calm and try to eliminate the noise.” Alexis said “things like this create that noise. Experiences like this go back to examples like the residential schools, Sixties Scoop, leaving the Indigenous people out of that decision-making table.” A news release issued last night by Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson confirmed Maskwacis received a “limited number of doses” as they “are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases.” The combined population of the four First Nations—Louis Bull, Samson Cree, Montana and Ermineskin Cree—which comprise Maskwacis is 18,000. Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback told the media last Friday that nearly 10 per cent of the community were COVID-19 positive. More than five per cent of the population on Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation has COVID-19. Then yesterday, like everyone else, Alexis heard the announcement from Premier Jason Kenney that a cut by 20 to 80 per cent over the coming weeks in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meant a delay in vaccinating those in the next priority group, including First Nations and Métis Elders. “It’s disappointing. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis, both about the news and not being part of the discussion before the announcement was made. Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras was surprised by Kenney’s announcement. “In terms of the decisions, how things are rolling out, whose decision was it to put a hold on vaccines distribution to First Nations? We don’t know. I really don’t know. Like everybody else, I found out (Monday) morning. The First Nations are the most vulnerable population everywhere, so it doesn’t make sense to me,” said Poitras. Both Poitras and Alexis reference the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and say Health Minister Tyler Shandro needs to comply with it. NACI has “adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences” included in stage one of the COVID-19 roll out. Poitras points to Alberta Health statistics to emphasize the point: 7.1 per cent of First Nations in Alberta have been hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 4.3 per cent of Albertans generally. After Kenney’s announcement, Poitras began a text conversation with Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller. She said Miller said he was unaware of the decision and did not know how the province had arrived at it. Poitras said she requested information from Miller on the national roll out of the vaccine. “The numbers don’t pan out. That’s the issue,” said Poitras. “If we’re not at that decision-making table, how do we know how many vaccines are being rolled out? How many are actually being distributed to who? Who are the priorities? I know they sent out a priority list, but now they’re changing that, putting First Nations on hold. Without our direct involvement how are we to know exactly what kind of decisions are being made?” Wilson said in his statement that First Nations were “particularly vulnerable.” He points out that Phase 1 will see Indigenous Elders living on reserve and Métis settlements vaccinated at 65 years of age and up while the rest of the Alberta population in that phase has to be 75 years or older. The priority list for Alberta has phase one divided into three timelines beginning in December 2020, with Phase 1B to begin in February 2021 and including First Nations and Métis Elders on reserves and settlements. Phase 2, which spans April to September, says “work to identify sequencing … is underway.” “We value the leaders’ input and measures taken to date by First Nations,” said Wilson. However, both Alexis and Poitras believe that First Nations have not had enough input. “We’ve been trying to keep the people calm. Trying to be supportive, trying to provide proper information. When you hear information coming from the general public and they know more than we do, as leaders being told we’re sitting at this important table. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis. “There needs to be a coordinated response where First Nations are involved and that we’re making these decisions together,” said Poitras. Alexis would like to see not only chiefs directly involved with Alberta politicians in the decision making, but also First Nations experts, such as Treaty 6 physicians James Makokis and Alika La Fontaine, weighing in. “There are experts that the chiefs would listen to their advice and support them at the same time. They would echo where our communities are at. Whether it’s this or anything else in government, our people need to be at those tables and a fair process needs to be put in place that we’re following. Right now what it does, it actually damages that conversation because (the communities) will look at their leadership that they're not doing enough,” said Alexis. He added that if that process isn’t solid and transparent, First Nations may be further ahead by operating on their own and advocating for themselves. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
B.C.'s provincial health officer declared the COVID-19 outbreak at McKinney Place long-term care in Oliver officially over. Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the end of the outbreak, which claimed the lives of 17 McKinney Place residents, Monday during the province's regularly scheduled press conference in Victoria. A total of 23 staff members and 54 of the 59 residents who lived at McKinney Place at the beginning of the outbreak had tested positive. "We are very thankful that McKinney place has been under control. That was a very challenging outbreak in Interior Health and we know 17 people in the McKinney Place community lost their lives to COVID in that outbreak," Henry said. Interior Health announced residents at both McKinney Place and Sunnybank Retirement Centre received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 8 Minister of Health Adrian Dix touched on the end of four outbreaks in long-term care across the province Monday, including McKinney Place. "I can tell you from my own experience and the experience of every family member, every resident in long-term care, that the day an outbreak is declared is a very, very difficult day indeed and the day that it is declared over is a day of some relief," Dix said. "Not that the pandemic is over, but that this period, this moment in the pandemic has changed. I'm thinking of everybody who has lost someone at those care homes, everyone who has been through that experience even if they were not diagnosed positive with COVID-19, everyone who works in those care homes, we are thinking of them today on what is I would say a better day in all of those places, a day when those outbreaks have been declared over." An outbreak is declared over when two incubation periods, or 28 days, have passed from the last onset of symptoms in a resident. “I want to thank our staff for their commitment and dedication during this challenging outbreak at McKinney Place long-term care,” said Susan Brown, Interior Health president and CEO. “Everyone stepped up to ensure the people living at McKinney Place received the best possible care, and on behalf of everyone at Interior Health, we send our condolences to the families who lost a loved one during this difficult time.” All eligible residents and staff at McKinney Place have been offered their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Additional death at Sunnybank Interior Health reported Monday an additional death at Sunnybank Retirement Centre, marking the second COVID-19 related death at the facility. Sunnybank now has 34 cases: 26 residents and eight staff. Interior Health sees 257 new cases in three days The province reported on new cases over a three-day period Monday. From Jan. 15 to 16 there were 584 new cases province-wide, from Jan. 16 to 17 there were 445 new cases and in the last 24 hours 301 new cases have been diagnosed. Of the new cases, 257 are in the Interior Health region. Across B.C. there are 4,326 active cases of COVID-19, 343 in hospital, 68 of whom are in intensive care. There are 6,865 people under active public health monitoring province-wide. Over the last three days, 31 people died from COVID-19, four of whom in the Interior Health region. A total of 1,078 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began, a majority of which are seniors in long-term care. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
OTTAWA — The federal government says it is "deeply concerned" about the political situation in Uganda, but that it has no plans to stop deploying a Canadian military aircraft to the country to help UN peacekeeping missions. The African nation has been on edge following presidential elections last week, with longtime Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni declared the winner over the weekend. Security forces have since put the main opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, a popular singer better known as Bobi Wine, under house arrest after he rejected the election results as fraudulent. Ottawa says it is concerned about restrictions imposed by Ugandan authorities during the election, and that opposition figures need to be set free and investigations should be launched into reports of election violations. It also says there are no plans to stop the occasional deployment of a Canadian military plane to Uganda in support of UN peacekeeping efforts in the region. The government says that is because the arrangement, which involves transporting troops and equipment from the central Ugandan city of Entebbe to different UN missions in Africa, is with the UN and not the Ugandan government. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart addressed the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) Board of Directors at the first TNRD board meeting of 2021, which took place on Jan. 15. Tegart reflected on the past year, which she acknowledged has been a rollercoaster for many, not excluding those in office. “What a difference a year makes,” Tegart began. “I thought about going into the house last year in February, where our biggest challenge was the protestors at the front of the building, and the fact that we couldn’t get in for the Throne Speech. Then coming home for our March break, and we never went back until the summer. We did a short summer session and then in October we had a snap election and had a short session in December.” The lack of time spent in the Legislature translated to some frustrating times for Tegart, particularly when it comes to providing assistance to small businesses and communities. “We have issues around supports for businesses, and we look at the hospitality industry, lots of requests for a very comprehensive recovery plan coming out of COVID. I think many of us who have small communities are recognizing our mom-and-pop operations are in crisis, and how do we make sure that the programs provided by both federal and provincial government are actually getting to the people who need them? I think that those voices in tandem, our voice and yours at the provincial level are incredibly important.” Tegart touched on a few projects that are in the works for her riding, mainly regarding tourism and infrastructure. “We’ve got some exciting things happening in Fraser-Nicola, over the last year,” said Tegart. “Certainly, we will continue our work on the ‘Wake up the Fraser Canyon’ project, in partnership with the Village of Lytton and all the other stakeholders down the corridor, and we are reconnecting with the new ministers and making sure that they’re well aware of the project. And we are in the final throes of a tourism masterplan for the corridor section between Yale and Lytton, and we are excited about the project. Making sure that we have shovel ready projects for money that is going to become available, I believe this spring, as part of the recovery. Of course, the Ashcroft terminal is quite an exciting project, and when we look at the region that will bring significant employment opportunities and some challenges around how we house people and provide services for them.” Tegart opened up about how difficult it has been for her to serve in the MLA role while maintaining social distance and staying home rather than being out visiting communities and businesses and engaging with people face to face. “It’s tough in the MLA role to not be on the road and not be in communities and not meeting with groups,” Tegart said. “We miss that. That and the energy that you get in order to do this job sometimes when you’re pretty tired. I really encourage you all to be in touch and I’ll reach out when needed because it’s our job to keep that enthusiasm and that hope out there for our citizens. It’s been a long year and we’ve had incredible tragedies as we look at the death toll during COVID, and we’ve got some challenges around what the data is telling us and what kind of services we’re providing, and I think we all need to be open to look in a critical way about what we’re doing in community and in services provided and how we can improve that. We’ve learned a lot during COVID.” Tegart also touched on the fact that the provincial budget could be delayed until the end of April. “I’d be very interested to hear from the TNRD, as you take a look at the impact of that bill delaying the budget for two months, what impact that will have on you,” queried Tegart. “I’m sure you are well aware of the bill being passed, and we ask the questions about the unintended consequences. We’ve had a lot of organizations that will be affected with the uncertainty of what a two-month delay in the budget presentation means.” Tegart also encouraged anyone on the TNRD board to reach out to her if they had any questions or concerns regarding education, which she would address in her role as Opposition Critic for Education. “If there are issues within your communities or in your region that you want questions asked at estimate, please feel free to get in touch with me, because that is our opportunity to get answers from the Minister,” explained Tegart. “So, if you need new schools or are concerned about anything that’s happening within the education field, our one opportunity to get real answers is during estimate and I would encourage you to be in touch so that we can make sure that those questions are asked.” Tegart concluded her update by thanking the TNRD board for the work they had done during COVID, and her appreciation for the working relationship which all levels of government need to have, referring particularly to democratic strife Canadians are witnessing south of the border. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island's premier says public health orders should soon be eased across the province because of its low COVID-19 infection rate. "At a time when other jurisdictions are experiencing tightening restrictions and increased lockdowns, we are in the very fortunate and enviable situation to be looking at the days ahead to see an easing of restrictions within our borders," Dennis King told reporters Tuesday. But King said it won't be until at least mid-February before the Island re-enters the Atlantic bubble, which allows residents to travel freely between regional boundaries. "At this time, as a province, we are not comfortable moving forward with re-entering the Atlantic Bubble," King said. Health officials in Prince Edward Island reported two new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison said the new cases involved a woman in her 40s who is a contact of a previously reported case, and a woman in her 20s who recently travelled outside Atlantic Canada. She said there are now seven active reported cases on the Island. Morrison, however, said she's concerned by the situation beyond P.E.I.'s borders. "The situation in Canada remains concerning, with over 715,000 cases and 18,000 COVID-related deaths," she told reporters. "Since Jan. 1, New Brunswick reported 372 new cases, Nova Scotia 60 new cases, P.E.I. has had 12 since Jan. 1, and Newfoundland and Labrador reported six new infections. "Our friends and neighbours in New Brunswick are working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19, reporting 89 new cases in the last three days. They currently have over 300 active cases — the most since the pandemic began," she said. P.E.I. has reported 110 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. Indoor private gatherings are limited to members of a household plus ten people, while most businesses are still required to operate at 50 per cent capacity. The restrictions are scheduled to remain until Jan. 25. Morrison said that as of Monday, 5,910 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered on P.E.I., including 1,407 second doses. "By the end of this week, everyone living and working in long-term care and community care facilities will have received their first dose of the vaccine," she said. "They will start receiving their second dose next week." Morrison said the anticipated slowdown in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will have very little impact on the Island. "The Pfizer slowdown means that we may not get a shipment of the product for one week, on Jan. 25. That shipment contains 975 doses. However, we will get two shipments of that same amount in the middle of February," she said. "Given the fact that we have been holding back the second dose of vaccine, and we expect the increased supply in February, we are confident that we have enough vaccine to continue with our original plan." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. — By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. The Canadian Press
The annual Tongue on the Post music festival is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when. The festival is booked and ready to be livestreamed next week, but organizers are still waiting on an official green light to OK the festival. “We’ve talked to every level of government and we’re still waiting,” said festival organizer Rob Pape. “We’re stuck sitting in limbo with an entire festival booked and arranged. We even have the tepee rented to display colours to show appreciation for our volunteers. “Thursday is another deadline for restrictions to be lifted and we’re now waiting on that.” The festival happens every year at Medalta and will still be held there this year. The 2021 festival will not host crowds, as it will be streamed to different social media platforms. “We have the go-ahead for everything except for the Medalta portion of the festival,” said Pape. “Since it’s a museum, Medalta is still under restrictions. “Medalta is a big part of our festival and they need people booking out their space.” The festival is scheduled for Jan. 25-30 and Pape says it is just a matter of when, not if the festival will happen. “We’ll go ahead with the festival when we’re able to do it,” he said. “We hope that is next week, but we will have to wait and see.” Pape says announcements can be found on on the Medicine Hat Folk Music Club Facebook page. Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he plans to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office and it's welcome news to some activists in Canada's North, who have been part of the fight against the project for years. The pipeline is meant to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. If the permit for the project is rescinded, cross-border construction would be halted. The on-again, off-again project would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas. Bill Erasmus protested and lobbied against that project when he was the Dene National Chief. "It's huge," Erasmus said of Biden's plans. "Our people have been concerned about pipelines being built south of us for a long time. It's scientifically known that our waters are being contaminated from the tailings ponds." He says oil development generally has negative effects that have impacts all the way in the northernmost of the country. "Our people['s land] north of the tarsands are being contaminated," he said. "This goes through the water system all the way to the circumpolar Arctic." Erasmus says he thinks the world is moving away from oil and gas and, from an economic perspective, the jobs are short-term and not worth the environmental damage the project could cause. "I really think those short-term jobs are not worth polluting the Arctic and affecting our people in a negative way." Erasmus also says it's time for the Alberta and federal governments, along with industry, to invest in the clean-up of the tailings ponds — many of which he says are lake-sized and leak toxic substances. Halting of project 'vindication' N.W.T. climate activist Daniel T'seleie is also counting the announcement as a positive step. "Years ago — and even recently — I would have been really surprised by this type of action," T'seleie said. "I think it's an indication that the world, and the major political and economic forces in the world, are really accepting the fact that we have to transition away from fossil fuels if we're actually going to stop climate change." T'seleie was part of the protests in North Dakota, and was even arrested. He says Biden's apparent move is a "vindication" of that activism. "I made a lot of connections with people from that land … And I saw how hard they were working to try and protect their land and specifically protect their water," T'seleie said. "I think, if I had to guess, that would be one of the considerations of the Biden administration, is that if they moved ahead with the Keystone XL, they would get another Standing Rock." He says he's "cautiously optimistic" that the president-elect will follow through with the executive order to not go ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline. "I think that is largely due to the actions of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people on the southern side of the border who have really been fighting against this pipeline ... and have been making it very clear that this pipeline is not going to get built without their consent," he said. "I think the Biden administration realizes that that is a very real and significant barrier to progress on construction." Canada should shift away from fossil fuels: T'seleie Meanwhile, Alberta's premier has said the province has a strong legal basis for seeking damages if the Keystone XL pipeline expansion is killed. Canada's federal government is also pushing for the project to go forward. T'seleie says the federal government's climate policy doesn't "accept the reality that we need to transition off of fossil fuels." "If we continue to allow extraction to ramp up, we're not going to stop climate change," he said. "Canada's reaction to the cancellation of the permit for Keystone XL, I think it's really showing their cards, and their cards are that they're going to continue to try to do everything under the sun." Halting the project south of Canada's border is a good step, however, T'seleie said. "Over just the last few years, we're seeing some of these significant fossil fuel mega infrastructure projects actually stop," T'seleie said. "And I think that's significant."
WASHINGTON — On his way out the door, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit China with new sanctions by declaring that China’s policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang Province constitute a “genocide.” Pompeo made the determination on Tuesday just 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. There was no immediate response from the incoming Biden team, although several members have been sympathetic to such a designation in the past. Pompeo’s determination does not come with any immediate repercussions. Many of those accused of having taken part in repression in Xinjiang are already under U.S. sanctions, and Tuesday's move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken against China. Since last year, the administration has steadily ramped up pressure on Beijing, imposing sanctions on numerous officials and companies for their activities in Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. Those penalties have gotten harsher since the beginning of last year when President Donald Trump and Pompeo began to accuse China of trying to cover up the coronavirus pandemic. Just on Saturday, Pompeo lifted restrictions on U.S. diplomatic contacts with Taiwanese officials, prompting a stern rebuke from China, which regards the island as a renegade province. Five days ago, the administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labour. Xinjiang is a major global supplier of cotton, so the order could have significant effects on international commerce. The Trump administration has already blocked imports from individual companies linked to forced labour in the region, and the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Communist Party officials with prominent roles in the campaign. China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of concentration camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labour as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority. China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labour has been linked by reporting from The Associated Press to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic and social development in the region and stamp out radicalism. It also rejects criticism of what it considers its internal affairs. ___ Ben Fox contributed. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
«Ça va tellement mal dans nos hôpitaux qu’on va peut-être devoir trier les patients par chance de survie, mais au privé, on fait comme si la pandémie n’existait pas! Le premier ministre doit des explications aux dizaines de milliers de patients affectés par le délestage. Pourquoi les cliniques privées sont-elles exemptées de l’effort de guerre? Pourquoi est-il encore possible de se refaire les fesses à la brésilienne au privé, mais certains cancers ne sont même plus diagnostiqués et plusieurs traitements remis au public? Tôt ou tard, le gouvernement va devoir se rendre à l’évidence : négocier des ententes à gros prix, ça ne marche pas. J’invite M. Legault à mobiliser tous les renforts du privé avant que nos hôpitaux craquent», affirme Manon Massé en rappelant que plusieurs cliniques privées continuent d’offrir des opérations non urgentes et non nécessaires, dont l’augmentation des fesses, la liposuccion et l’ablation des hémorroïdes. «Pendant que le ministre Dubé fait semblant que le personnel des cliniques privées n’a pas l’expertise nécessaire pour intégrer le réseau public, on a une chirurgienne plastique de Bromont qui dit : à ma clinique et ailleurs, on est capables de faire des opérations mineures en dehors de l’hôpital, mais le réseau de la santé nous ignore. La CAQ n’a plus d’excuses. Nous ne pouvons pas laisser les ressources du privé sur la table, des vies en dépendent», ajoute la porte-parole solidaire. Par ailleurs, suite à la mort d’un homme en situation d’itinérance à Montréal, QS réitère sa demande d’exempter les personnes sans-abri du couvre-feu. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
The World Health Organization has raised "concerns" about the unequal distribution of coronavirus vaccines in the country.View on euronews
Skoflek Electric is a Merritt-based electrical company which offers both residential and commercial services. Company owner Bela Skoflek and Head Electrician Bryan Tolmie tackle electrical projects big and small in the Nicola Valley, providing quality workmanship at a price that won’t break the bank. Already a working electrician, Skoflek found himself feeling unfulfilled with the direction his life and career were taking. When he suddenly faced a huge personal hurdle, he decided it was time to make a change. “My goal in the trade was always to get to the point of having my own company,” said Skoflek. “The catalyst that actually made me follow through was getting sick. I was diagnosed with lymphoma a few years ago. At that point I re-evaluated where I was at and where I wanted to be.” Although Skoflek made a decent wage as a certified tradesman, he felt that there was more to life than punching a clock for someone else. “I was at a pretty good point in my career, had full time work with a local contractor, but still didn't feel fulfilled,” explained Skoflek. “Working long hours, making good money, but sacrificing time with my son and family. I was off work for nearly a year doing treatment and used that time to plan the company. I didn't have much money, but I had time. So, I got the extra education I needed, came up with a company logo and design, learned about bookkeeping, taxes, etc.” Skoflek beat lymphoma and was able to return to work after finishing his treatment period. It was at this time that Skoflek launched his company in Sept. 2019. “It was terrifying and exciting all at once,” said Skoflek. “It was a slow start but I had enough to make overhead. I had learned to live a bare bones lifestyle while sick. My first jobs were from friends and family who were supporting me, something I will forever be thankful for, and my focus was to provide quality work without price gouging.” Through word of mouth from satisfied clients and the use of social media marketing and advertising, Skoflek began to see requests for his services increase and his business become busier. “Word of mouth and Facebook marketing helped me start getting new clients and my mission stayed the same, quality work, reasonable rates. Everything snowballed from there, but I maintained the low overhead lifestyle,” said Skoflek. “This allowed me to pour all the income back into the company. Getting better tools and equipment to streamline work. Radio ads and better marketing to bring in more customers. Soon it became bigger than I could handle alone.” Suddenly, Skoflek Electric saw its first expansion, bringing in Bryan Tolmie to help shoulder the workload. “Bryan joined the team, and he was a perfect fit,” said Skoflek. “He had ample experience in the trade and is great with client interaction. We were very like-minded.” Both were of the same opinion that they should be a solid company providing reliable work at reasonable rates, and that family should always come first even alongside business responsibilities. “We are able to achieve this by streamlining workflow and keeping overhead low,” explained Skoflek. “The end goal of every job is to have the customer satisfied with the work performed, it has never been about money. I am able to take my son to school and pick him up every day. That's what it is all about. Going forward we want to sustain the same mindset and grow it. We want to help Merritt grow and give back to the community that fostered our company.” When it comes time to relax and blow off steam, the lifelong Merrittonian still keeps up with his favourite hobby – skateboarding. “I usually go around two times a week in the summer,” said Skoflek. “The non-competitive aspect is what drew me to it, I was never big on team sports. Skateboarding was a way to do something together with friends while everyone is doing completely independent things.” That ability to be successful and have fun independent of others has helped Skoflek build a business others have already come to trust in the less than two years since he started. If you are in need of an electrician, you can contact Skoflek Electric at 250-315-3507, or find them on Facebook at ‘Skoflek Electric’. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
Four people have been arrested in connection with the death of Amber Dawn Wood, 38, of Bienfait, Sask. Justin Julien Englot, 29, and Jayden Marie Sanford, 25, both of Regina, have been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. Sanford and Englot made their first appearance in Regina provincial court Tuesday morning. Two other people, both males, are also in custody. They haven't been charged, but police say an investigation is continuing. Wood died after being severely injured Saturday morning at a home on the 700 block of Athol St., police said. Police were called to the scene following a report someone had been shot. Wood was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead. It was the city's first homicide of 2021.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Tiger King" star Jeff Lowe, the former business partner at the private wildcat zoo featured in the hit Netflix series, has been ordered to surrender his cubs and their mothers after the death of two young tigers in his care. Lowe and his wife Lauren were also ordered not to put animals on public exhibit without a license in a federal court ruling issued in Oklahoma last week, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement on Tuesday. "The Lowes have shown a shocking disregard for both the health and welfare of their animals, as well as the law," Jonathan Brightbill at the Justice Department's Environmental and Natural Resources Division, said in the statement.
The Progressive Conservatives say a Tory government will cut payroll tax and introduce credits for hiring and relocation in Newfoundland and Labrador. After announcing the campaign promises Tuesday morning, PC Leader Ches Crosbie said changes to the province's tax structure would allow businesses to hire more full-time workers by focusing on lowering taxes on employers. "Targeted tax relief works to drive job growth. It's a tool in the province's toolkit the Liberals don't seem to know how to use," Crosbie said. The PCs have marked job creation as a key point in Crosbie's campaign to voters, speaking about the need for job creation at several events since the election was called Friday. The party says a hiring tax credit would allow businesses to hire more people, with the provincial government investing a portion of the income tax paid by new hires back into the business. The party also plans to introduce a relocation tax credit, which Crosbie says would make it easier to attract workers in targeted growth sectors like technology from across Canada and other countries to the province. Crosbie also outlined plans to progressively reduce the province's payroll tax on full-time workers, allowing hiring business owners to focus on creating full-time work over part time. He told reporters reducing the payroll tax would create an estimated 1,000 new jobs. "[Liberal Leader] Andrew Furey says sometimes you have to cut off a limb to save a patient. But I'm not going to cut off a limb; I'm going to cut taxes." he said. WATCH: Mark Quinn reports on Ches Crosbie's fiscal platform: Crosbie said cutting the payroll tax would cost about $10 million in revenue over four years, but claimed the other tax changes would be "revenue-neutral." "You either believe in growth or you don't," he said. "Our approach is to grow our way out of our problems. That's how we're going to get on top of our deficit." Crosbie called on the Liberals to be more open in their jobs plans, calling for "no more political games." The party says it will announce more of its job-creation plan later in the campaign. 'Jobs, jobs, jobs is a great line,' Furey says When asked about Crosbie's announcement, both Liberal Leader Andrew Furey and NDP Leader Alison Coffin said Tuesday the plan leaves something to be desired. "This does nothing for small businesses," Coffin said. "Essentially, they plan to cancel the fifth largest tax stream in government's budget in the hopes that the Loblaws of the world will create jobs instead of feeding the tax break back to their shareholders." "Jobs, jobs, jobs is a great line, but I would have liked to see more details on the plan," Furey told CBC News while campaigning in Port aux Basques. "We'll continue to roll out what we think is the best, most sustainable strategy for creating long-term employment in the province over the next couple of weeks." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador