This Quebec man added an icy twist to his workout.
This Quebec man added an icy twist to his workout.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
With restrictions still in place for large gatherings of people, the Tottenham & Beeton District Chamber of Commerce is making the best of the current situation by moving some of their events to a virtual format. By going on-line, the TBDCC can still keep people connected while promoting the local business com-munity. VIRTUAL HOME SHOW & ARTISAN MARKET The TBDCC’s annual Spring Home Show which usually takes place in March, will be going on-line. Since restrictions regarding gatherings will likely still be in place, it is not practical to plan an indoor show. Instead, the Board of Directors decided to move to a virtual format this year. Local businesses and vendors will still be able to showcase their prod-ucts and services, just in a different format. The good side of this means more businesses will be able to participate and members of the public don’t have to commit to a specific day to attend the show. Businesses and services will also be showcased for a longer period of time. Launch date for the virtual Home Show and Artisan Market is April 17.Registration information will be available on the TBDSS website. TBDCC ONLINE LEARNING SERIES The TBDCC is presenting an op-portunity for local businesses to share their expertise and promote their products and services. This gives members and non-mem-bers the opportunity to take part in workshops on a variety of different subjects. The first workshop will take place on Friday, March 12, at 1:00 p.m. and will feature Devin Merkac, from 92.1 myFM radio. He will discuss the benefits of radio advertising. Also featured over the next few weeks will be investment basics, with Horan & Associates, Wills & Power of Attorney with lawyer Jerry Switzer, Understanding real estate listing agreements with Peter Barbati of First Choice Realty, thriving after COVID with Tonia Salvaterra of DinoLand, Gypsy Moth Control with Meadowood Tree Services, and PLUS Lifestyle workshops on topics like photography and wellness. Fees are $20.00 for non TBDCC members and free for members. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
EDMONTON — The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn is to make a decision Friday. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge that his client can't follow a bail condition that forbids holding church services, because that would violate the pastor's conscience by disobeying God. "Imposing upon a pastor the condition of his release that he not pastor ... that is an embarrassment to the courts," Kitchen told Michalyshyn. "This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves, he believes, as are his congregants." Kitchen said it should be determined whether Coates's charter rights are being violated before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards," he said. If the pastor does not agree to bail conditions, he could remain in jail for two months until his trial begins in May, Kitchen added. The public health prosecutor, who asked the court to be addressed only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. "The one condition that was imposed is directly related to the behaviours that come under the prohibition of the Public Health Act orders," she said. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. More than 50 people were gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse with their family and children to pray for Coates during the hearing today. They held a banner that read #freejamescoates. GraceLife Church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in jail. Many gathered again on the weekend as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. "The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.'' Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will begin sending 40% of all vaccine doses to the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in the state to try to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state’s economy open more quickly, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday in the latest shake-up to the state's rules. The doses will be spread among 400 ZIP codes where there are about 8 million people eligible for shots, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health and human services secretary. Many of the neighbourhoods are in Los Angeles County and the central valley, which have had among the highest rates of infection. The areas are considered most vulnerable based on metrics such as household income, education level and access to health care. Newsom said that not only is this the right thing to do, it's critical to opening up more of the state's economy. “It is a race against the variants. It's a race against exhaustion. It's a race to safely, thoughtfully open our economy, mindful that it has to be an economy that doesn't leave people behind, that is truly inclusive,” Newsom, a Democrat, said at a news conference. He also encouraged people to wear two masks. The announcement is the latest change in an evolving approach to getting nearly 40 million residents vaccinated, adding to ongoing confusion among people clamouring for shots. The move to ease reopening also comes days after several Republican-led states lifted COVID-19 restrictions as the U.S. now has three vaccines available. Tying reopening to vaccination equity metrics was cheered by representatives of the legislative Black and Latino caucuses, as well as social justice and equity groups. Latinos make up roughly half of cases and deaths in California even though they are 39% of the population. Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, said the dedicated vaccine hasn't come soon enough given the disparate numbers of deaths and the lack of access to vaccines in the hardest hit communities. “They are living day-to-day, so they have to go and work in order to survive and they don’t have the luxury to take half a day to go where the vaccine sites are,” he said. The current standards for who can get a vaccine won't change. Right now that's people 65 and over, farmworkers and grocery clerks, educators and emergency service workers. Transit workers, flight attendants and hardware store clerks are among those clamouring to be added to the priority access list. “I wouldn’t say it’s not fair, but it should be thought out a little bit more," said Lee Snyder, assistant manager at Brownies Ace Hardware in San Francisco. Setting aside 40% of vaccine supply essentially means that hard-hit ZIP codes will be administering double what they are currently, Ghaly said. Data show that of shots given, only about 17% were administered in vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Double that amount was going to those in the top quarter of what California deems the healthiest communities, Ghaly said. Newsom has called equity the state’s “North Star.” Yet community health clinics that serve low-income and vulnerable Californians say they haven’t been getting enough doses and are hopeful that will change. Ghaly said Thursday that the administration will work with communities to make sure the vaccine gets to those patients, not to day-trippers from wealthier ZIP codes who have the time and tech savvy to schedule appointments online. Newsom said addressing the problem is like playing “whack-a-mole.” The health centres want to protect appointments for patients and others from underserved communities “to ensure those people we are targeting are coming, not the vaccine seekers" from wealthier neighbourhoods, said Andie Martinez Patterson, vice-president of government affairs at the California Primary Care Association. She said a recent South Los Angeles clinic recently found its appointments had been booked by people from Beverly Hills. Ghaly said that people with certain disabilities or underlying health conditions who will be eligible in mid-March will not be left out, as many live in some of the disadvantaged areas. He said he expects all communities to receive at least as many doses of vaccine as they're receiving now. As more doses are administered in the targeted neighbourhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through tiers that dictate business and school reopenings. Right now, counties can move from the most restrictive purple tier to the lower red tier based on metrics including the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day over a period of several weeks. The strict standard for that rate will be lowered, allowing businesses such as restaurants and gyms to reopen indoors at limited capacity. While race and ethnicity are not explicit factors in designating vaccinations, the 400 vulnerable ZIP codes overlap heavily with neighbourhoods with higher populations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian and Pacific Islanders, officials said. ___ Har reported from San Francisco. ___ Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to the story. Janie Har And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Capitol Police have requested that members of the National Guard continue to provide security at the U.S. Capitol for another two months, The Associated Press has learned. Defence officials say the new proposal is being reviewed by the Pentagon, and negotiations between the department, the police and congressional authorities are ongoing. The request to keep as many as 2,200 Guard troops in D.C. underscores the continuing concerns about security and the potential for violence at the Capitol, two months after rioters breached the building in violence that left five people dead. And it came as law enforcement was on high alert Thursday around the Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building. The potential plot was tied to the far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump would rise again to power on March 4, the original presidential inauguration day. There were no signs of disturbance Thursday, but the Capitol Police's request for extended Guard assistance appeared mired in confusion within various congressional oversight authorities, according to letters obtained by The AP. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said she learned that the request for a 60-day extension was made in the last 36 hours, and that the Guard is now seeking volunteers from states around the country to fill the need. Defence officials confirmed that the request is under review at the Pentagon, and that the Guard has started checking states for availability of their troops, in an effort to be prepared if final Defence Department approval is given. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. According to a memo from the Capitol Police to congressional leaders, the new draft proposal asks to keep up to 2,200 Guard members in D.C. initially, and reduce the number “incrementally and rationally” based on the threat. As part of the plan, Capitol Police shall employ readily available technology and utilize mutual aid agreements to reduce the Guard footprint to a battalion size of approximately 900 soldiers as recommended by the Department of Defence on February 22, 2021. The request got a sharp rebuke from Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. “It’s outrageous,” he said. ”That’s not what they’re supposed to be, that’s not their mission. We have the Capitol Police, that is their mission." The more than 5,000 Guard members currently in Washington, D.C., are all slated to go home March 12, ending the mission. Slotkin said some members of Congress have been concerned about whether there is a solid plan to provide security for members and staff going forward. “We want to understand what the plan is,” she said. “None of us like looking at the fencing, the gates, the uniformed presence around the Capitol. We can’t depend on the National Guard for our security.” She said there has to be a plan that provides the needed security for the buildings and personnel by the Capitol Police and local law enforcement. Slotkin said it was telling that House members hastened to complete major votes Wednesday so they wouldn't have to be in the building that violent rioters besieged in January. Lawmakers, she said, “don't feel totally secure” in the Capitol. Capitol Police officials have also told congressional leaders the razor-wire-topped fencing around the Capitol should remain in place for several more months. Slotkin said, however, that she was going to her office to work Thursday. “I'm not going to let these guys scare me away,” she said. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada and Alberta Parks have issued a joint avalanche warning for a large portion of Alberta’s mountain parks. As Jackie Wilson reports, recent warm weather has created the dangerous conditions.
Another step was taken in a roof replacement project as an engineering firm has been selected for the Ecole St. Mary High School roof plan at the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education meeting on Monday. The board selected Prakash Consulting of Prince Albert to oversee the engineering side of the replacement. Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen outlined the steps in the process before the board unanimously chose the firm. “We are commencing planning for replacement of sections of the Ecole St. Mary High School roof. The first step in the process was to solicit submissions from qualified engineering firms to provide project management and engineering services for that project. As a result of that process we did receive three submissions and evaluated those submissions,” McEwen told the board during Monday's meeting. McEwen explained that the project was approved as part of the three year Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan under three separate parts. Division administration sent out a request for estimates from firms in Prince Albert for engineering and project management for the project. Three firms submitted for the roof replacement and after evaluating the submissions Prakash was selected by administration for engineering and project management. The evaluation was made after applying board policy regarding purchasing of goods and services. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations. Tyler Shandro says those aged 65 to 74 and First Nations, Inuit and Metis people aged 50-plus can begin booking March 15. The province has been able to accelerate vaccinations due to a third one being approved by Health Canada, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Shandro says the first 58,000 doses of AstraZeneca will available starting March 10. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said while AstraZeneca is just as effective as the others, due to incomplete data it recommends it not be given to those over 64. Shandro says for that reason, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered to adults 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
BEIJING — New polling from the Pew Research Center shows strong negative attitudes among Americans toward China, with almost nine out of 10 adults seeing the country as hostile or a danger to U.S. interests. Negative feelings have increased over human rights, economic friction, China’s authoritarian Communist Party political system and perceptions that China wishes to supplant the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower, according to the survey results released Thursday. Respondents specifically cited Chinese actions in Hong Kong, where Beijing has been accused of demolishing freedom of speech and opposition politics, and in Xinjiang, where it has imposed a police state and detained more than 1 million members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups. China's growing military power, technological prowess and alleged cyberattacks on U.S. targets were also cited as concerns. It said 64% of respondents described economic relations between the countries as “somewhat or very bad." Respondents also said they had less confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden’s ability to handle China than on other foreign policy issues such as dealing with terrorist threats, climate change and decisions about the use of force. While Biden says he wants a more civil relationship with China than under his predecessor, Donald Trump, he has shown no sign of softening tough measures on trade, technology and human rights, along with U.S. support for Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory. Chinese officials routinely attribute negative perceptions about China to inherent prejudice, ignorance or political self interest. Pew said 89% of Americans “consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner.” A total of 48% responded that limiting China’s power and influence is a top priority, up from just 32% who felt that way in 2018. Opinions in the Pew survey were drawn from a random online sampling of 2,596 U.S. adults conducted from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7. The margin of error was given as 2.7 percentage points. Negative perceptions of China were especially pronounced among respondents who identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning, with 72% saying it was more important to get tougher with Beijing than to build a strong economic relationship, compared to 37% for Democrats. Many more Republicans also saw China as an enemy and wanted to limit numbers of Chinese studying in the U.S., although Republicans and Democrats were essentially united in their support for promoting human rights in China and in feeling that China's human rights policies are a “very serious problem for the U.S." On the issue of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, survey respondents gave the U.S. and China roughly equal marks, with 43% saying China had done a good job and 42% saying the same about the U.S. However, 58% said the U.S. had done a bad job of handling the outbreak, while just 54% said China had done a bad job. Pew said few Americans “put much stock” in Chinese President Xi Jinping. "Only 15% have confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, whereas 82% do not -– including 43% who have no confidence in him at all,” Pew said in a summary of its findings. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday said the Trump administration and “anti-China forces in the U.S.” had “grossly slandered and discredited China, wilfully provoked confrontation and division, spread political viruses, and seriously poisoned the public opinion of both countries." “We hope that the U.S. will look at China and China-U.S. relations objectively and rationally, adopt a rational and pragmatic policy toward China, move in the same direction as the Chinese side, do something to enhance mutual trust and co-operation with China, and bring the bilateral relations back to the track of healthy and stable development," Wang said at a daily briefing. The Associated Press
That’s it for hockey this year. After a short-lived time on the ice, minor hockey is throwing in the towel – and they have no choice. The TNT Tornados have announced the season is over. The decision to cancel the rest of the season comes after the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit decided the region needs to go back into lockdown mode. The kids were back on the ice on February 20, when the region went into a Red Alert situation. Teams were able to practice and do training drills with restrictions. Those restrictions included limiting the ice to ten people and having no contact during practice. Parents were not allowed into the arena to watch practices.No dressing rooms were available, so players had to arrive dressed for the ice with the exception of helmets and skates. The move back to a lockdown situation on March 1, means arenas will again be off lim-its. The TNT executive had no choice but to finally just cancel everything. Previously, they said they had hoped to continue playing through to the end of April with hopes that a move to a Yellow or Orange alert would allow more kids to participate and be on the ice. The on again, off again situation when it comes to lockdowns in the region has crippled most sports with many activities not tak-ing place at all this year. There is a lot of doubt whether spring and summer sports will even be allowed this year. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
The Ontario Police College has seen more than 90 positive cases of COVID-19 in a week since an outbreak was reported, the region's medical officer of health said. Last week, the college in Aylmer, Ont., halted all in-person learning for 14 days, in an effort to curb any further spread of COVID-19 at the institution. It also required all of its recruits who test positive to remain at the college to self-isolate. On Thursday, the outbreak had reached a total of 93 active COVID-19 cases. Dr. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health (SWPH), said while the number of cases is not alarming, it is a clear example of just how fast the coronavirus can spread through congregate settings. "This is a clear case of how easy the virus — and this is not even the variant, this is the routine virus — can spread when people live together," Lock told CBC News on Thursday. Lock said there is no concern regarding possible coronavirus variants among the cases at this time, as it would have likely come up in testing within the past week as cases emerged. "If it had been a variant of concern, we would've known by now," Lock said. "We expected the numbers to go up, and they still may go up higher." On Thursday, SWPH reported 83 new cases of COVID-19, with 66 logged in Aylmer. The number was a major spike in cases compared to last week when Aylmer reported no new cases of COVID-19. Lock noted that some cases have not yet appeared on the SWPH dashboard as some recruits may have returned to their own jurisdiction. She also noted that due to an outage on Wednesday, Aylmer's figure might not yet accurately reflect the outbreak. CBC News has reached out to the Office of the Solicitor General for comment on Thursday but has not received a response. Lock said given the number of students attending the college, the region had expected to see a rise in positive cases, which is why they conducted testing as quickly as possible. More than 700 people were tested for COVID-19 over two days when the outbreak was reported on Feb. 22, Lock told CBC News. The police college, which trains more than 400 recruits, has implemented a number of safety measures during the pandemic to curb further spread of the virus. The measures include mandatory screening, on-site testing, personal protective equipment as well as implementing isolation whenever necessary. "We knew that there was a significant risk that despite all the good effort put in into infection prevention," Lock said. "There was a high risk of spread once we got a virus into that organization." All staff and recruits were tested for COVID-19 as of Feb. 25, according to the ministry. Lock said most of those who have tested positive have mild illness, while many are asymptomatic.
BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota House on Thursday voted to expel a lawmaker accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol, the first time in state history for such an expulsion. Members voted 69-25 to expel Rep. Luke Simons, a Republican from Dickinson, for a pattern of behaviour they said stretched back to soon after he took office in 2017. The expulsion came with strong support from Simons' own party, which holds a supermajority in the chamber. Majority Leader Chet Pollert said Simons had been given "multiple chances to avoid being in this situation.” “There is only one way to make this behaviour stop and that is to expel Rep. Simons from this House,” Pollert said. Simons, who denied wrongdoing, was defiant before the vote. He blamed accusers for “twisting my words," said any other lawmaker could be in his position and complained that he wasn't being afforded due process. “I could make any accusation against any of you," Simons said ahead of the vote. “Under this circumstance we are under, you’re guilty.” Surrounded by his family and friends following the vote, Simons said he believed he would have had “a lot more support” from his fellow lawmakers. Lynn Boughey, his attorney, said he may argue the case in court but would leave that up to Simons “after he talks with his family.” Simons is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behaviour. Republican Rep. Emily O’Brien said his harassment was so pervasive that she switched desks to get away from him. “Prior to coming forward, I struggled with whether this was something I wanted to relive,” she told fellow House members. “It is hard to rehash the unwarranted, disturbing and uncomfortable experiences. I think ‘shame on you, Emily O’Brien, for not coming forward and being a voice for others.’” A 14-page document compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Council includes allegations that Simons made “advances” toward female staffers and interns, commented on their appearances and tried to give one staffer an unsolicited shoulder massage. One staffer described his behaviour as “really creepy.” The council this week released two additional documents alleging inappropriate and bizarre behaviour by Simons, a 43-year-old rancher and barber who is married and has five children. One woman said Simons referred to her as “that pretty one,” and insulted her husband, “saying that usually women who are classy dressers like myself are married to shmucks like my husband.” The woman, whose name was redacted in documents, also alleged that Simons once placed his lunch box in her office before leaving to use the restroom and said, “bet you hope there’s not a bomb in there, huh?” Republican Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, an attorney, said on the floor Thursday that the move to remove Simons is about inappropriate behaviour, not about targeting a political ideology, as Simons has alleged. Simons is a member of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights. Much of Simons’ proposed legislation over the years reflected that. “We have moved women away from him, we have limited his ability to work with them, but in doing that we are also punishing the women," Roers Jones said. "When we move women or restrict who they work with, we are limiting a woman’s ability to do her jobs, and thereby limiting her ability to advance because of the actions of one member.” Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee of Fargo, who co-sponsored the resolution, looked at Simons and said, “You have hurt people. You have hurt the integrity of the legislative assembly.” The North Dakota Constitution says either chamber can expel a member with two-thirds approval. That meant at least 63 members had to approve the resolution to expel Simons. Republicans hold an 80-14 advantage in the chamber. Opponents of the resolution said the process was flawed and that Simons was not afforded due process. Pollert said the process to expel Simons went “above and beyond what is legally required.” GOP Rep. Rick Becker, who heads the Bastiat Caucus, argued that Simons' behaviour didn't warrant expulsion and sought to amend the resolution to censure him instead. That failed, 66-28. James MacPherson, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — A Universite de Montreal education professor has been charged with a sexual offence involving an 11-year-old child. Police in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal, said Thierry Karsenti, 52, was arrested Feb. 23. He faces a single charge of sexual interference and is due in court on Friday. Karsenti, who is also the Canada Research Chair on information and communication technologies in education, allegedly committed the offence in 2015, according to a release issued by police. Police said Karsenti also goes by the name "Thomas." They said there could be other victims from a period between 2015 and 2017 and want people who may have information to come forward. Karsenti has been suspended indefinitely from his role at the university, according to Universite de Montreal spokeswoman Genevieve O'Mera. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the "geopolitical winds swirling around" Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng's legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. "With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians," Frater said Thursday. He made the comments in response to claims from Meng's legal team that Trump's words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings. Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary. Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny. Her lawyers allege Trump's comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings. It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater told the judge. "We're confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion." On Wednesday, Meng's team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China. Huawei's success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an "existential threat" to the United States and Meng's case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to "debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei," her lawyer Richard Peck said. Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a "threat to the security of the U.S.," Peck said. "This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today," he said. Frater, representing Canada's attorney general, sought to redirect the judge's attention Thursday. There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng's argument doesn't pass it, he said. The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused's right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn't a "powerless" person. Someone with "the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual," Frater said. Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng's celebrity makes her a "higher value target" for interference, adding that a person's resources shouldn't affect how they are treated by the court. Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump's failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. "This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there's been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it," Frater said. The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. "They've had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but it still needs to be determined which industries will be included. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and the B.C. Immunization Committee is developing a detailed plan of who should be immunized and when. She says she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities. Henry also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between first and second shots to four months. She says the decision was not taken lightly, but it did need to be made quite rapidly because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given. Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,376, and she also says two of those who died had variants of concern. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Martinrea International Inc. capped a difficult year in which it faced automotive plant closures with its net profit falling 12 per cent to nearly $45 million in the final quarter of 2020. The autoparts manufacturer says it earned 56 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter, down from 63 cents per share or $51.2 million a year earlier. The adjusted profit surged 30.7 per cent to $44.2 million or 55 cents per share, up from $33.8 million or 42 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2019. Revenues for the three months ended Dec. 31 increased 16.7 per cent to $1.07 billion from $917.6 million in the prior year. Martinrea was expected to report an adjusted profit of 52 cents per share on $1 billion of revenues, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv. For the full-year, it lost $27.3 million or 34 cents per share, compared with a profit of $181.2 million or $2.19 per diluted share in 2019. Adjusted profits dropped to $46.9 million or 58 cents per share, down from $187.7 million or $2.27 per share a year earlier. Revenues decreased 12.6 per cent to $3.37 billion, from $3.86 billion in 2019. "Looking at 2020, after a challenging second quarter where we generated minimal sales and an operating loss, our results rebounded sharply in the back half of the year, which saw us generate record adjusted diluted net earnings per share in both the third and fourth quarters," stated CEO Pat D'Eramo. "Our fourth-quarter results were characterized by continued strong volumes and an adjusted operating income margin above year-ago levels — a strong result despite renewed lockdowns and other public health restrictions in November and December as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impeded some integration and launch activities." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:MRE) The Canadian Press
Thursday was the first day Londoners 80 and older living in the community could get the COVID-19 vaccine. The shots — coming nearly one year since Ontario first announced COVID-19 lockdowns — mark a milestone in the battle against the pandemic. Here’s what some Londoners had to say after getting their first dose: “I feel secure,” he said after the jab. “I was most concerned about my wife,” who got her first dose just hours before. While it’s good news, Loubert knows life won’t be back to normal soon. “My biggest thing is following the health rules . . . Until everyone is vaccinated, we’re not safe.” “I’m relieved . . . I’d been trying for two days to get through” to book an appointment, she said. “I’m glad to get the process started. They’re doing a fantastic job.” “We’ve spent three mornings trying to book,” Maureen said, with the couple finally booking last-minute slots Thursday morning. “We’re really, really pleased. We need it.” As for Gary, how he's feeling was summed up in one word: “good.” “I’m glad. I’m so glad. And to get it so early.” “I was lucky. I saw a couple of blanks this morning (in the booking) and jumped in.” As for after the shot, Friesen said he was "feeling OK." But it's still a mystery what life will look like once he's fully vaccinated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll have to see what they say.” “I’m relieved. It was a long time coming,” she said. She doesn't expect life to change too much, even after she gets the second dose. “I’ll still keep my mask on and follow the rules.” “I’m delighted, relieved, excited,” he said. Henderson is eagerly awaiting the rest of the world to get inoculated so he can return to one of his favourite pastimes: travel. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press